Child Development Center

Comal Staff

Listed alphabetically, by first name.

photo of afsaneh Afsaneh Arfa

Comal Teddy Bears Teacher (Toddlers)

Favorite Children’s Book: Curious George by H. A. Rey

Afsaneh has been working in the child care field since 1996, and has shared her talents with us since 2005. She fondly remembers the first time she took on care-giving responsibilities as a babysitter growing up, and since has become an active fan of children’s artwork who commits herself to encouraging young people’s creative processes.

Her fluency in Farsi enriches the linguistic texture of our community, and the San Jacinto Bumblebees love the way Afsaneh incorporates inventive lesson plans and her love of baking into the classroom. When not championing children’s creativity or baking new treats, she enjoys the art of making beautiful ceramic flowers.


photo of ana Ana Lerma

Comal Caterpillars Teacher (Pre-K)

Favorite Children’s Book: Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Ana joined the Child Development Center in December 2006, and she has more than 15 years of child care experience. She holds an associate’s degree in early childhood education from Austin Community College, and fondly remembers how she first became interested in the child-care field at the age of 12 when babysitting for her younger cousin.

A proficient Spanish speaker and avid storyteller, Ana contributes to our community’s linguistic diversity and delights the Comal Caterpillars when she reads aloud and helps them explore the world of language. She also shares her educational talents with the greater Austin community by volunteering at a church preschool program in her spare time, and enjoys coaching softball and spending time with family.


photo of Becky Becky Ryan

Comal Assistant Site Director

Favorite Children’s Book: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

Becky has over 13 years of teaching and administrative experience in the child care field and holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She became interested in child development when her first niece, Alyssa, was born in 2000. Helping to care for Alyssa and watching her grow inspired Becky to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development. She began teaching preschool to pay her way through college and has been working with children in one capacity or another ever since!

A native Californian, Becky enjoys outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, and beach-lounging. In her spare time you can find her cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband, John, and two dogs, Buttercup and Indy.


photo of carrye Carrye Latimer

Comal Owls Teacher (Toddlers)

Favorite Children‘s Book: Anything written by Sandra Boynton

Carrye joined UT CDC in February of 2010 as an assistant toddler teacher after working several years with other programs. Although Carrye has worked with various age groups, she reports that she has a special place in her heart for toddlers. Carrye received her CDA Credential through Austin Community College and is currently working on completing her associate’s degree in Child Development at ACC as well.

Carrye began her care-giving career babysitting for neighbors as soon as she was able. She loved it from the beginning. Away from the center, Carrye cares for and plays with her two dogs, Hershel and Delilah. She also enjoys working crossword puzzles, watching movies, reading, listening to music and attending the many outdoor events and festivals around Austin.


photo of christine Christine Martinez Serra

Comal Zebra Teacher (Toddlers)

Favorite Children’s Book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Christine joined the Child Development Center community in 2005, and she has more than 13 years of child care experience. She says the victories and challenges of raising her own children sparked her interest in teaching, and eventually led to her passion for Googling art ideas and scouring dollar stores in search of the classroom supplies that delight the Comal Zebras.

As a proficient Spanish speaker and an avid student of German, Christine brings linguistic diversity to our center and imparts a love of language to her students. She enjoys sharing the pastimes of reading and playing cards with her children, and spends the rest of her spare time keeping up with the latest movies.


photo of cindyCindy Pinto

Comal Super Stars Teacher (Threes and Fours)

Favorite Children’s Book: Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos by Susan Middleton Elya

Cindy first joined the UT CDC at the San Jacinto location in January of 2010. After a brief time with another program, Cindy returned to San Jacinto as an assistant teacher. In May of 2013, she took the opportunity to be a lead 3-year old teacher at our Comal Center. Cindy has completed her CDA work through the Children Niños Bilingual Education Organization (CNBE). Cindy reports that she is nine-years older than her younger sister and was “Mom #2” when the baby came home. 

Cindy loves cooking with children and plans many cooking projects for her classroom. She also experiments regularly with projects from Pinterest. Cindy uses photos of the children in her classroom to capture them in action as well as promote self-awareness, self-esteem and mutual respect. She has observed that the children love to see themselves. Cindy is fluent in both English and Spanish allowing her to support our Spanish language exposure program with Maestra Jenny. She has also been studying Russian for a few years. Cindy loves exploring new surroundings and hopes to travel “all over the world” someday.


photo of diane Diane Duffer

Comal Busy Birds Teacher (Threes and Fours)

Favorite Children’s Book: Anything by Bill Martin Jr., Eric Carle, or Audrey Wood

Diane has 23 years of child care experience, and holds an associate’s degree in child development from College of the Canyons, Valencia, CA. Her extensive experience in her field stems from years of parenting her own children and serving on PTAs, and she has been with us for more since 2005.

The consummate student of child development philosophy, Diane devoted many years to boards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, focusing on hospitality and diversity programs. She spends her spare time gardening, playing cards, and participating in volunteer work and fundraising efforts.


photo of jadwiga Jadwiga Proga

Comal Sunshines Teacher (Twos and Threes)

Favorite Children’s Book: Anything by Eric Carle

Jadwiga has 17 years of child care experience, and holds a bachelor’s degree in economy from Poland’s University of Maria Curie, as well as two associate’s degrees in specialized fields of early childhood education from Vancouver’s Kwantlen University College and Burnaby College. She first became interested in child development when babysitting in Spain, and has shared her worldly perspective with us since 2005.

A fluent Polish speaker and avid museum visitor, Jadwiga brings a love of both language and visual arts to the center. When not viewing the works of master painters, she’s likely reading, cooking, or spending time outdoors.


photo of karynKaryn Machler

Comal Chickadees Teacher (Infants)

Favorite Children’s Book: King Bidgood’s In the Bathtub by Audrey & Don Wood

Karyn has been working with young children since 1987 and has been sharing her extensive knowledge and love of infants with us since 2014. Prior to joining us, Karyn worked for over 13 years in a quality accredited Austin school as a lead infant teacher. With a Bachelor and Master’s degree in early childhood education, Karyn knows the importance of providing a play based learning and nurturing environment for children.

When not caring for our little ones Karyn immerses herself in the Austin music scene. In 2014 Karyn became involved in the booking and production side of the industry and put out her first CD as an executive producer. If not at a music event, you will find Karyn reading, enjoying outdoor activities, arts & crafts and exploring the city.


photo of nasreen Nasreen Bhatti

Comal Rainbows Teacher (Infants)

Favorite Children’s Book: Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

Nasreen has more than 26 years of child care experience, and has shared her expertise with us since 2005. She became a care-giver at a young age when she babysat her younger brother and sister, and went on to earn a nursing diploma from University College Hospital of Lahore, Pakistan.

With her knowledge of Urdu and Punjabi, Nasreen contributes to the linguistic diversity of our community. She also brings her passion for arts and crafts to the Comal Rainbows’ classroom with her skills in knitting, sewing, baking, and gardening.


photo of sandra Sandra Hammer

Comal Great Exlorers Teacher (Threes and Fours)

Favorite Children’s Book: The Mitten by Jan Brett

Sandra Hammer joined UT CDC in 2012 as an assistant in the Caterpillars. She has more than 23 years of child care experience and is currently pursuing her CDA. She found her passion for children when volunteering at a church Mother’s morning out where she was employed for 17 years. She also taught at Hays ISD as a preschool teacher.

During her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband, Kenneth, and their two children. Her daughter, Kelsey, is in college and her son, Mathias, will be graduating from Bowie High School this year. Her children are the world to her.

Her hobbies are working in the garden, cooking, craft projects, and caring for her chickens and goat. She recently visited her home town Bremerhaven, Germany and hopes to return soon to see her family.


photo of sonia Sonia Robles

Comal Comets Teacher (Pre-K)

Favorite Book: The Story of Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf

I have had the pleasure of working with children for over 11 years and have an associate’s degree in design from Southwest Institute of Design. I became interested in child care when I volunteered at my own children’s preschool in El Paso and continued my early childhood education at San Antonio College. I have a love for the arts including the symphony, art museums, and movies. I spend my spare time with my family, cooking and baking.


photo of susanSusan Klein

Curriculum Coordinator

Favorite Children’s Book: Susan loves children’s books and has a very extensive collection. She cannot pick just one favorite. But some of her favorite authors include Patricia Polacco, Don & Audrey Woods, and Shel Silverstein.

We are fortunate to have such an experienced person work with us as our Curriculum and Training Coordinator. Susan’s career has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and their families for more than 30 years. She holds a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education and has been a teacher, director, mentor, consultant and validator for early childhood programs all across the United States. In the coordinator role Susan spends time at each of our locations to assist in providing guidance and inspiration in all aspects of our programs curriculum and staff training.

When not enjoying children and their families at the center she is enjoying her own family which includes a son (Ezra), daughter (Mardi) and many other children she and her husband have “adopted” from around the world.


photo of sylvia Sylvia Bravo Martindale

Comal Administrative Associate

Favorite Children’s Book: The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

Sylvia has been with us since 2001, and worked in local elementary schools for 14 years prior to joining our community. She first worked in an educational environment in the 6th grade when her aunt convinced her and a cousin to teach vacation Bible school, and currently adds to the linguistic diversity of our administration with her knowledge of Spanish.

Her son is a budding scientist, so Sylvia spends many hours with him experimenting in the art of making lovely, yet less-than-tasty, candy insects. She also creates her share of delicious baked goods that in no way resemble bugs, and enjoys reading and swimming whenever she gets the chance.


photo of tonieTonie Smothers

Comal Monkeys Teacher (Twos and Threes)

Favorite Children’s Book:

Tonie began teaching at UTCDC in 2015 after working in high quality area programs for 13 years. Originally from California, Tonie moved to Austin in 2001 and loves it here. Tonie is a nature lover and can be found getting messy, holding bugs, jumping in mud puddles and reading books. Tonie received her CDA in 2002, CDA renewal in 2006, and her Certificate in Child Care and Development in 2012.

As the mother of two boys, Tonie is used to being busy and surrounded by children. Watching children’s faces as they discover something new is one of her favorite things.


photo of tracy Tracy Dyess

Comal Site Director

Favorite Children’s Book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Tracy has been working with children and families since 1992. She holds a bachelor's degree in Child Development from Texas State University and has over 10 years of lead teaching experience. Several of those years were spent at our San Jacinto location. After 7 years as a center director in an Austin area school she decided to rejoin us as an administrator.

Tracy loves spending time with her husband and three children. Her oldest, Devon, is in college, her son Koby, now 13, attended our San Jacinto location years ago and Arden is enrolled at Comal. On the weekends she can usually be found at the soccer or baseball fields depending on the season. If it is raining expect to see her at the movies.


photo of wanda Wanda Davis-Watkins

Comal Frogs Teacher (Infants)

Favorite Children’s Book: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Wanda has more than 35 years of child care experience, and has shared her expertise with us since 2003. She began her career in early childhood education by working with three year olds in the Austin Community Nursery Schools agency, and earned her child development certificate from Austin Community College. In recognition of her excellence as an early childhood educator, the Austin Association for the Education of Young Children (AAEYC) awarded Wanda with the Sallie Beth Moore Award in 2007.

She is always creating exciting song cards for the Comal Frogs’ song box, and Wanda enjoys learning new sign language exercises for communicating with infants. A cooking enthusiast, she often caters family functions; when not whipping up specialty dishes and baked goods, she ushers at her church, and reads.


photo of yeseniaYesenia Prieto

Comal Dino Buddies Teacher (Twos and Threes)

Favorite Children’s Book: TODAY I FEEL SILLY: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis

Yesenia has 11 years of experience in the early education field. She began working with young children in an Early Childhood Professions course at Austin High school which involved volunteering at the school’s on-campus child development lab and being a teacher assistant to a first year kindergarten teacher at Mathews Elementary. Ms. Yesenia currently holds a CDA through Austin Community College awarded by the Council of Professional Recognition and is bilingual (fluent in Spanish).

Throughout the years Yesenia has worked with all age groups from infants to after-schoolers. “Working with the Travis County Head Start Program, where I also became an Infant/Toddler Parent Educator and Home-based Visiting Teacher, really broadened my expertise,” she says.

Most of Yesenia’s free time is spent with her family and 3 year old daughter, Mila, at sporting events and enjoying all of the family friendly fun Austin provides such as the Zilker kite fest.