Sophie Etchart

Founder & CEO
Governing Board Member, Read Better Be Better

Sophie Etchart was born in Connecticut, but raised and educated in England. She studied Spanish, French and German at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. As part of her degree, Sophie spent her third year of University living and working in Belgium and Spain.

Upon graduation, Sophie joined a financial services agency specializing in board-level strategic HR consulting. In 2009 Sophie designed and executed the Private Equity Foundation / Deutsche Bank Leadership Program: a series of instructional workshops and networking events in partnership with INSEAD business school, France. After spending a year on loan to the Private Equity Foundation as a strategic HR consultant, Sophie committed to a full transition into the non-profit sector.

Sophie moved to Peru in 2010 to run the education program at SKIP, an international development organization in northern Peru. For 2 years she managed a team of 25 staff and volunteers working with 330 young people aged 3-17. The key component of the program was a comprehension curriculum designed to complement the national public schooling system. This program received a commendation during a site visit by professional contacts at the Bill Gates foundation.

Sophie met her husband, an Arizona native, in Peru and moved to Phoenix in 2012. She spent 2 years managing the JA BizTown® team at Junior Achievement. Upon her departure, each member of her team had delivered “outstanding” performance according to standardized quantitative KPI assessments.

Sophie had identified the need for basic reading comprehension support during her 2 years at Junior Achievement. The JA BizTown® program serves over 20,000 students per year; an alarming number of whom had neither the focus nor the foundational skills to obtain the most value from the experience. When the “Move On When Reading” law was announced, she decided that the timing was critical to support those 3rd graders at risk of being kept behind. Read Better Be Better is based on the proven SKIP model and adapted to the current environment.

In 2017, Sophie was recognized as one of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 younger business leaders making an impact in the Phoenix area.

She lives in the Coronado District of Downtown Phoenix with her husband Andy, her son Cody and two dogs.

Artem Tretiakov

Finance Coordinator, Read Better Be Better
Audit Associate, BDO USA LLP

Artem Tretiakov is an auditor at BDO USA LLP. After graduating from university in Ukraine, he moved to Phoenix to discover the United States and once again pursue an accounting major at Grand Canyon University.

As he is advancing in his career, he now helps RBBB to address accounting and financial questions.

Suzanne Brimley

Operations Manager

Suzanne is an Arizona native who grew up in Mesa and her passion for nonprofits grew out of volunteering as a youth. Suzanne graduated from ASU in 2002 in Recreation Management with the particular emphasis and certification in nonprofit management from the American Humanics/Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. In 2002, Suzanne began an internship at Arizona Literacy & Learning Center (ALLC) and during the 15 years at ALLC, she held a variety of leadership roles in which she gained valued nonprofit management skills in operations, grant writing, fundraising, program evaluation, data collection and much more. Suzanne is excited about the results Read Better Be Better is achieving with students throughout the community and is pleased to be involved with an organization that feeds her passion to help kids master critical reading skills.

Suzanne’s passion to ensure Arizona children acquire the reading skills they need to become successful learners and find joy in reading is derived from her own personal struggles with reading as a young child and close family members who have struggled with dyslexia.

Suzanne lives in Mesa, Arizona with her husband Charles and son Ryan and a tortoise named Master Luke. Her hobbies include; photography, glass etching, and remodeling projects in her home.

Kelsey Pinckney

Program Coordinator

Kelsey Pinckney was born and raised in southern California. She moved to Phoenix in 2013, where she has had the opportunity to be a part of the community in many different ways. She is the Assistant Director of Four Chambers Press – a phoenix-based community literary magazine and small press whose mission is to give greater visibility to the literary arts and encourage their larger participation in the culture scene. Her role in the literary community in Phoenix has fed and intensified her love for writing, reading, and the huge role that literacy plays in human relationships and society in general.

Kelsey has worked with youth in schools, after-school programs, and church groups since 2011, and believes it is the most important work she will ever do. She is currently attending Arizona State University for her BSW (Bachelors in Social Work), and lives in downtown Phoenix with her cat, Truman (Capote).

Amy Rakes

Program Coordinator

Amy Lohman was born and raised in Iowa. She attended St. Ambrose University to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She also attended Saint Xavier University to obtain her Master’s Degree in Teaching and Leadership. Education and student learning has always been Amy’s passion. Amy has taught for 7 years as a Reading Specialist and also taught English to students in China. Amy has been a Literacy consultant for two publishing companies where she trained and coached teachers on reading curriculum. Amy is thrilled to join the Read Better, Be Better team to continue to help students improve their reading skills. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her fiancé (Corey,) dog (Trigger,) and cat (Kink.) She also enjoys learning, a good hiking adventure, time with friends, and staying active.

Chelsea La Qua

Executive Assistant

Chelsea La Qua was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona. She moved to Phoenix to attend college at The Art Institute of Phoenix, where she obtained her Bachelors in Media Arts and Animation. While her personal education did not lead to teaching, Chelsea’s administrative experience allowed her to be part of the Arizona Schools for the Deaf and Blind, where she served as an Administrative Secretary for the Early Childhood Intervention team. Here she assisted in providing new parents with the tools needed to overcome the challenges of their child’s hearing and/or vision impairments. It was after seeing just how vital these services were to these families that she knew she wanted to be part of an organization that would make a change for the better in her community. She now works as the Executive Assistant at Read Better Be Better, where she is thrilled to be a part of the amazing work that Read Better Be Better does to help Arizonan children become confident readers and more accomplished students. As an avid reader herself, she values the positive impact a love of reading has on the enjoyment of learning and development of skills to be successful in life.

Chelsea lives in Phoenix with her husband John and son Michael. She also has 2 dogs, Moses and Max, and a cat, Mushi. She spends her free time working on artwork, learning new crafts, home improvement projects, or spending time outdoors hiking, fishing and camping.

Samantha DeRose

Social Media Coordinator, Read Better Be Better
PR Associate, McRae Agency

Samantha DeRose was born in Illinois and raised in Arizona. She graduated from Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business with a degree in Business Communication and a minor in Public Relations and Strategic Communications. Samantha currently works for The McRae Agency as a PR Associate and helps manage Read Better Be Better’s social media. She was recently awarded by The Arizona Republic as one of 23 young communications professionals helping Arizona find its voice. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling and of course reading!

Tamara Tirado

Social Media Coordinator, Read Better Be Better
School Media Specialist, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School

Tamara was born and raised in Rochester, NY. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in Photojournalism. As a staff photographer for a monthly community newspaper in Rochester, Tamara developed digital media skills and was charged with maintaining the paper’s website, social media, blog and multimedia projects.

Upon her move to Arizona, she entered the world of education, accepting a job as an elementary school librarian in Mesa. Inspired by the educators around her, Tamara went back to school and graduated with a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Elementary Reading from Grand Canyon University in February 2016.

She currently serves as an elementary school media specialist in Tempe and as a social media consultant for various organizations which allow her to combine her passions for photography, storytelling, reading, education and service to community.

Shannon Willoby

Blog Writer

Shannon was born and raised in Arizona (it’s not as rare as you think) and has a BA in English Literature from Arizona State University. She loves reading, writing short stories, animals of all kinds, brunching with friends, and traveling.

Payton Augustino

District Leader

What do you want to get out of this semester with RBBB? (a personal goal)
Learn some new skills, meet some new people, and change kids’ school experiences.

What is the last book you read? What did you like about it?
Savage Inequalities. I enjoyed the change of perspective and the depth it added to my knowledge on school history.

What keeps you motivated?
Knowing that I’m causing positive impact and have an opportunity to influence growth.


Kassandra Viers

District Leader

What is the last book you read? What did you like about it?
The last book I read was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. It is my absolute favorite book in the world; I’ve read it about 10 times. The main reason I love it is that I really identify with the main character on multiple levels. The other big reason is that I am basically in love with the narrator’s boyfriend.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
I would love to learn how to play the cello. I would also like the ability to understand statistics.

What’s your secret talent that you never get to share?
It’s not really a secret but I don’t get to do it too often — I’m really good at geeking out on medical anthropology and explaining it and how socioeconomic status affects health.

Mandy Christiansen

Site Leader

What keeps you motivated?
Seeing the progress in the students, sweet moments with the students, and also encouragement from staff.

What do you want to get out of this semester with RBBB? (a personal goal)
I want to improve my classroom management skills.

What’s your secret talent that you never get to share?
I love to organize things.

Venecia Dunlap

Site Leader

What do you want to get out of this semester with RBBB? (a personal goal)
To become more comfortable in classroom, have more fun, complete all required tasks as Site Leader, give students best experience possible on a daily basis.

What is the last book you read? What did you like about it?
I just finished House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I loved this book because it focused on the challenges of autism and was a super interesting read.

What’s your secret talent that you never get to share?
I can play the flute.

Amanda Melcher

Site Leader

Amanda Melcher is a native Arizonan and general gal about Downtown. As an enthusiastic student of the world – and, specifically, ASU – Amanda has a passion for learning through shared experiences and, of course, reading.

Amanda connected with RBBB Program Coordinator Kelsey Pinckney at the First Draft Book Bar at Changing Hands Bookstore, where they served as part of the inaugural bar staff. There, Amanda discovered her love of being part of organizations that care as much about uplifting their community as they do about their bottom line. This value her driven her to seek meaningful, engaging work in both the service industry and the non-profit sector.

This is Amanda’s first semester with RBBB, and she is excited to be a substitute in classrooms around the Valley as needed.

Ruquiayah Muhammad

Site Leader

Ruquiayah was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Arizona and settled in the City of Surprise. she is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Social Work at Grand Canyon University, which She plans to utilize her degree with community outreach programs for at-risk youth, and have a career working with foster/adoption care agencies. She always had a passion for children in helping with their education. In her spare time, she enjoys reading a good novel. She also enjoys tutoring third graders to help with reading comprehension and fluency.

Alex Ozers

Site Leader

What do you want to get out of this semester with RBBB? (a personal goal)
I just want to do good work in the world around me.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?

What’s your secret talent that you never get to share?
I can spin pizza dough in the air.

Nick Pederson

Site Leader

What do you want to get out of this semester with RBBB? (a personal goal)
I want to build deeper relationships with my bigs and littles. Now that I am in my second semester as a Site Leader, I have a feel for how to run the classroom and handle situations, which I believe will make it easier to have even more fun with the students.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
Piloting. I think it would be awesome to have my pilots license and be able to fly small aircraft across the state.

What’s your secret talent that you never get to share?
Some know that I am heavily involved in rowing for ASU. But many don’t know that I recently won a silver medal at collegiate club nationals and was awarded All-American for the West coast.

Brandi Stewart

Site Leader

What do you want to get out of this semester with RBBB? (a personal goal)
I hope to bring everything I learned the last two semesters with me to this new school year and hopefully be a stronger Site Leader this year. I love working with these kids and to see how dedicated they are to learning how to read as we are to assist them. Team Read for the win!!

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
Grace. Or at least whatever skill it is that would mean I’m not injuring myself at least once a day, however minor.

What’s your secret talent that you never get to share?
I am not sure if this is a talent, but I think I’m pretty good at making unlikely ingredients into a flavorful dish. I’m just not confident enough to really share that with anyone because I always think my taste buds are weird and my dishes are rarely pretty to look at.

Sue Etchart

Substitute Site Leader

Sue Etchart was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan and attended Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Michigan. She has lived in AZ for the past 31 years. She and her husband have three grown children and three grandchildren.

Sue has been involved in many charity organizations over the past 25 years. She was a volunteer in her children’s schools for more than 15 years as well as a member of the PTA and PAC boards.

Sue has always enjoyed working with children and finds it particularly rewarding helping them reach their goals and discover the joys of reading. When not working for RBBB, Sue enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, and of course reading!

Kendra Smiley

Substitute Site Leader, Read Better Be Better
Literacy Program Manager, Southwest Human Development

Kendra Smiley is the Senior Literacy Program Manager for Raising a Reader and Reach Out and Read at Southwest Human Development. She earned her Masters of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and brings 13 years of first-hand experience working with children and families to her current position. Her experience includes teaching three and four year olds at Christ Church School for two years as well as teaching children ages four to five at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School. She also has experience as a Quality First Assessor. In this role, Kendra conducted ECERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale), ITERS (Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale), and CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scale) assessments in early child care settings throughout Arizona, providing unbiased feedback to improve the quality of services for children in child care. In addition, Kendra has been providing language and literacy professional development workshops for child care teachers and directors for the last four years. Currently, she is also an online instructor at ASU in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Rebecca Gray

Intern, Read Better Be Better

Born in scenic Sedona Arizona, Rebecca Gray was fortunate enough to have a few really wonderful educators in her Grade School education that instilled the joys of reading and a love for learning early on. She is now earning her Undergraduate Degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences at ASU in order to fulfill her goal to become a Speech Language Pathologist. She is passionate about the field because it will allow her to be able to help children gain the skills and confidence to communicate and learn to their fullest potential. Rebecca has been a volunteer with RBBB since October 2017 and could not love it more!

Paul Morrison

Grant Writing Intern, Read Better Be Better
Education Mentor, ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teacher's College

Paul was born and raised in Phoenix. He currently attends Arizona State University, where he is majoring in secondary education with a focus in chemistry, and hopes to one day teach high school chemistry in Phoenix. He is also an Education Mentor for the Teachers College, where he helps new freshmen transition into a university setting, and is involved with the Teachers College Council. Paul started with Read Better Be Better in January of 2017, and has helped in many areas, from data entry to packing program carts, and focuses mainly on writing grant applications.

Growing up, he was involved in Boy Scouts, where he discovered his love for hiking and backpacking. He also volunteered a lot of time at his church, both in the choir and working with children. In his free time, Paul likes to read, hike, play guitar, and try new things, like writing and art.

Alexandra Peck

District Leader

What is the last book that you read? What did you like about it?
I recently started reading the Harry Potter series again. I find that it brings me a lot of comfort in times of transition in my life.

What keeps you motivated?
My family and my friends. Also, seeing kids be successful and start to enjoy learning!

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
I would love to be better at math and all things technical/mechanical.