Meet our LEAD Staff

Vanissa Nienheuser: Executive Director and 8-10yo (Lectores) Teacher

Vanissa has lived in Gunnison since 2014 when she and her husband, Seth, purchased Mountain Legacy Veterinary Center. A registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies, Vanissa brings to LEAD a wealth of effective interpersonal knowledge and experience as well as several years of home educating her three children. Her natural ability to analyze, develop, and implement programs has served LEAD well in these early years of program development. Personable and out-going with a natural passion to help others, Vanissa’s self-motivation and goal-oriented focus has provided effective leadership for our staff and families as well as enriching educational opportunities for the children in her classroom.


Deborah Saunders: Master and 6-8yo (Lucidos) teacher

Deborah has lived in Gunnison since 1994 and has 21 years of experience working with children. Starting at age 15 she worked in pre-schools and after-school programs, and later as a camp counselor. After graduating from Western Colorado University with a degree in elementary education and Spanish, she was a reading specialist and ELL teacher for 2nd and 3rd graders at the Gunnison Elementary School. She taught 2nd and 3rd grade in Crested Butte as well. After having kids of her own, Deborah homeschooled her two oldest from preschool through 5th grade, and she is currently homeschooling her youngest, who is also in the LEAD Program. Deborah says, “I think my greatest asset as a teacher is my understanding of, and ability to relate to, kids. Also, I enjoy sharing the fine arts with children. This is my dream job!”


Carolyn Jones: 4-6yo (Listos) Teacher

Carolyn and her family moved to Gunnison in 2012 when her husband, Jonathan, assumed the pastorate of First Baptist Church. With a Bachelors degree in speech and a minor in music,  including several education classes, Carolyn has home-educated her three children for the past eleven years, during which time she also substitute taught in the public schools, and continues to teach private lessons to local children in flute, piano, speech and voice. In addition, she has taught in a variety of capacities through her church and other faith-based programs. Passionate about teaching, Carolyn excels at storytelling and keeping her listeners engaged. She enjoys encouraging students to do their best regardless of their abilities. She says, “I want to make learning exciting and fun…to use every second I have with the students to serve a purpose.”