Mary McCain


Hi, my name is Mary McCain. I am the Director of the Auraria Early Learning Center (AELC). I have been working in early childhood education since 1985. In August 1994, I joined AELC as a Supervising Teacher and was promoted to Assistant Director in 1996. I took over as Director in August 2005. I have my degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. I am also Director Qualified through the State of Colorado. In my career, I have been a home visitor, administrator, staff trainer, parent educator, and teacher for children ages one through eighth grade. I have really enjoyed the challenge of working with a variety of people in multiple situations. I cannot think of anything more rewarding than making a difference in a child’s life.

Emily Nelson

Assistant Director

Hi, my name is Emily Nelson and I am the Assistant Director. I have been with the Auraria Early Learning Center since August 2003 when I started as a student. I graduated from MSU Denver in 2007 with my bachelor’s degree in Human Services.  I then returned to school to attain my Director Qualifications. I was a supervising teacher for both the toddler and young preschool programs for a total of six years. I am happy to now be in my position as Assistant Director and contribute to the center in a different capacity. If you need help with DPP, Foster Grandparents, USDA food program, CCAP, billing, or if you have a general question about the center, I am your gal! I look forward to working with you to build a strong school-to-home partnership!

Rachel Ruiz

Program Coordinator

Hi, my name is Rachel Ruiz. I am the Program Coordinator at AELC. I worked in the Preschool Program with Denver Public Schools for the past six years, and am very excited to be working at the AELC. Because of my love for teaching and spending time with children, I completed a master's of Early Childhood Education at Grand Canyon University. Before entering the world of education, I earned a B.S. in Human Resources from the University of Colorado Denver. I am a Colorado native, and enjoy all that the mountains have to offer—especially during the summer! You will often find me camping, hiking, and fishing with my family, or relaxing with a good book. 

Danielle Cason

Operations Coordinator

Hi, my name is Danielle, but I love to be called Danny. I am the Operations Coordinator. I am originally from St. Louis Missouri. I have lived in Colorado for 17 years. I have worked in early childhood education for ten years. Prior to working here, I worked for Denver Public Schools. I earned my associate’s degree from the Community College of Denver in 2009 while working for the Head Start program. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, and my teaching license from the University of Northern Colorado in 2015. I have four beautiful nephews ages 7 to 14. My first nephew was born when I was just 15 years old. Being an aunt at such a young age taught me the importance of patience when caring for children. As I continue to grow in my career, I have found that my strengths are working with children with challenging behaviors and being knowledgeable in licensing, rules and procedures. I'm looking forward to starting this new journey.

Samuel Twining


My name is Samuel Samadhi Twining, and I am the Dietary Chef for the Auraria Early Learning Center. My personal mission is to provide the highest quality and care for every meal, provide appetizing food, and fulfill the children’s dietary needs. It is my pleasure to continue my culinary career serving the Auraria Campus. Providing home-cooked meals is my part in adding to the enjoyment and learning of each child. I was trained in classical cooking in 1999 and have been a chef in Colorado Springs and Denver. My experiences in the culinary arts have been in single chef-owned restaurants in Old Colorado City to high capacity restaurants like the Wynkoop Brewery. I also have 7 years’ experience in dietary cooking, serving the Denver community by working for non-profit assisted living and senior living communities. Growing up in a military family, I spent my childhood in Germany and finished my education in the Southwest. I'm married to Carl Meese, who is also an employee for the Auraria Campus. We have a Labrador named Diego, and two cats named Carla and Suzy. When I'm not working, I enjoy my vast collection of records, watching movies, hiking, gardening, as well as traveling (Mexico is my favorite vacation spot).