Keynoter Biographies- 2019


Joshua D. Alvarez, MA, Education Consultant, Kaplan Early Learning Company, CA

Joshua D. Alvarez is an Education Consultant, Trainer and President for Los Angeles Co. Fathers and Families Collaborative and “On Air consultant for the TV show “A place of our own/Los ninos en su casa.” He has been in the education field for over twenty-four years. Twelve of those years, directly in the classroom and 10 of those years in administration. Joshua has also been a bilingual (English/Spanish) Education Consultant for the past 20 years. He has given trainings locally and nationwide. He has trained federal programs to state programs to Government base programs and families in the community. Joshua is part of the LACOE Policy Council.

Iheoma U. Iruka, PhD, Chief Research Innovation Officer, Center for Early Education Evaluation, HighScope Educational Research Foundation, MI

Iheoma U. Iruka is the Chief Research Innovation Officer and Director of The Center for Early Education Research and Evaluation at HighScope Educational Research Foundation. Dr. Iruka’s research focuses on how evidence-informed policies, systems, and practices in early education can support the optimal development and experiences of low-income, ethnic minority, and immigrant children, such as through family engagement and support, quality rating and improvement systems, and early care and education systems and programs. She is co-PI for the IES-funded Early Learning Network, Nebraska Site, a large scale and far reaching study aimed at identifying malleable factors that support early learning in preschool through Grade 3. She is also part of a team conducting evaluation on Educare, a consortium of schools focused on implementing high quality early education programs for young children placed at risk children. In particular, she has been engaged in addressing how best to ensure excellence for young diverse learners, especially Black children, such as through development of a classroom observation measure, public policies, and publications geared towards early education practitioners and policymakers. She has served on numerous national boards and committee, including the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council’s Committee on Supporting Parents of Young Children. She was recently appointed to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Applying Neurobiological and Socio-behavioral Sciences from Prenatal through Early Childhood Development: A Health Equity Approach. Dr. Iruka has a BA in psychology from Temple University, MA in psychology from Boston University, and PhD in applied developmental psychology from the University of Miami, Florida.

Stedman Graham, Chairman & CEO, S. Graham & Associates, IL

Stedman Graham is chairman and CEO of S. Graham & Associates (SGA), a management and marketing consulting company that specializes in the corporate and educational markets. As an entrepreneur, author and educator, Graham lectures and conducts seminars for businesses and organizations around the country. He is has written 11 books including two New York Times Best Seller and a Wall Street Journal bestseller.  Identity Leadership content is driven by his proprietary Nine-Step Success Process™. Clients have included Gulfstream Aerospace, General Dynamics, Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Vikings, Key Bank, Deloitte, CVS Pharmacy, AARP and various high school, colleges and military bases across the nation and internationally.

Speaker Biographies-2018


Allison Johnson, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist, Rebecca School, NY

Allison Johnson graduated from SUNY Downstate Medical center with her masters in occupational therapy. She currently works at the Rebecca School with neurodiverse students and is a licensed DIRFloortime provider. She utilizes a developmental approach and has additional training in sensory integration therapy to meet each student’s individual differences to enhance learning. 

Allison Wittenberg, Director of Member Services, American Camp Association, New York

In her role at ACA, NY & NJ, Allison connects with youth development professionals throughout the Northeast to learn about and help support their programs. She enjoys leading workshops that highlight the importance of teambuilding and growth within various learning environments. Her background in education and experience at camp has allowed her to develop engaging staff trainings and meaningful content for youth. She is passionate about sharing resources to enhance youth development and camp programs. 

Andrea Adelman, PhD, Professor, Florida International University, FL

The presenter has been teaching at the university level for 8 years, focused on the specializations of early childhood special education, teacher preparation, emotional intelligence, culturally responsive instruction, and assessment. Prior the presenter was a teacher for prekindergarten students with disabilities. Currently, the presenter is the co-PI of a multi-year grant focused on the impact of an emotional intelligence curriculum on curriculum, student outcomes, behavior, and teachers’ instructional practice. This curriculum has been presented at several national and international conferences to inform practice. 

Andrea Knowlton, MA, Director, Napa County Office of Education, CA

Andrea is the Director of Early Childhood Services at the Napa County Office of Education. She leads the department in designing and implementing 24 inclusive California State Preschool Programs and has been the lead within the state of California towards developing inclusion opportunities within B-5 system. Her additional passions include assuring all children receive high quality preschool programs which actively involve families. 

Anna Marie Dorelien, MSEd, BCBA, LBA, Clinical Director, A Friendly Face Autism Treatment Services, NY

Anna Marie is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) in the state of New York. She is the founder and the clinical director of A Friendly Face, an applied behavior analysis agency with clinics in Staten island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Bayonne and home services throughout the 5 boroughs and Hudson County, NJ. Anna Marie has over 15 years of experience servicing children with developmental disabilities and their families–and as of late–overseeing and training developmental doctors, interns, and other clinicians on the front lines. Presently, Anna Marie is spearheading an effort to construct the first ever autism classroom in Liberia in conjunction with local government and private citizens.

Anne Zummo Malone, MA, Chief of Growth and Impact, AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation, DC

Anne Zummo Malone is the Chief of Growth and Impact for AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation in Washington, DC. AppleTree is an entrepreneurial non-profit in Washington, DC whose mission is to erase the achievement gap for children before they enter Kindergarten. In her role, Anne focuses on the steady growth of AppleTree’s research-based early childhood approach throughout the Northeast region, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York City. Prior to this role, Anne served as Chief of Schools for AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School where she supervised the instructional and operational leaders both at campuses. 

Arefa Mohamed, MA, Head Speech-Language Pathologist, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, NY

Arefa Mohamed is a certified Speech and Language Pathologist with a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and Certificate of Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology at CUNY, Queens College. She has worked in a variety of school and clinical settings, including New York Center for Child Development. Arefa has held the position of Head Speech-Language Therapist for the past five years at LearningSpring School. Additionally, Arefa is trained in The Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding and DIR Approach. 

Ashley Lyons, MA, Speech-Language Pathologist, Rebecca School, NY

Ashley Lyons supervises the Speech and Language Department at Rebecca School, where she has worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist since 2010. She is also an Advanced DIR®/Floortime™ provider through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental Learning (ICDL). Ashley received her Bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and her Master’s degree from The George Washington University. 

Ashley Robertson, MA, Speech-Language Pathologist, Learning Spring, NY

Ashley Robertson is a graduate of Kean University’s program in Speech-Language Pathology. This is her fourth year at Learning Spring School where she works with students of various ages.  Ashley previously worked in New Jersey public schools with pre-school age children as well as in the hospital setting. She presented at the 2016 New York State Independent Schools Conference. Ashley has advanced training in play, social thinking, and literacy-based programs, including Lively Letters.  

Barbara Nemko, PhD, Superintendent, Napa County Office of Education, CA

Dr. Barbara Nemko has served five terms as Napa County Superintendent of Schools. She was appointed to California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s Technology Task Force. Before coming to Napa she was at the UC, Davis for 12 years as project director and principal investigator for 11 California Department of Education research projects. During her early years in education she taught in elementary and junior high schools in New York City. Barbara has been a frequent speaker at many local, state and national conferences. She is passionate about helping teachers and administrators to implement digital resources to help them. 

Bari Keller, PsyD, Clinical Director, Center for Autism, PA

Bari Keller is a Pennsylvania and NYS Licensed Psychologist. Her expertise in early childhood stems from working in the New York City Early Intervention system. She also has a specialty in diagnosing and treating autism-spectrum disorders and has worked in a variety of treatment settings. Dr. Keller is currently the Clinical Director of the Center for Autism in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Keller is a certified DIR/Floortime Trainer through Profectum. Dr. Keller implements play therapy and psychotherapy, supervises psychologists and psychologists in training, as well as teaches to a broader range of professionals who work with children and adolescents.

Bari Koral, Yoga Educator, Bari Koral: Kids Yoga, Music & Mindfulness, NY

Bari Koral is a beloved kids/family recording artist and kids yoga educator. Battling with anxiety soon after college, Bari turned to yoga and meditation. There she gained the tools necessary to help heal, get back on her feet and continue to walk in the direction of her dreams. To date, Bari has presented on kids yoga, music and mindfulness to well over 20,000 teachers (and counting). She is considered a pioneer in yoga for children. Essential Oils have become one of her most important tools to help educators, children and parents bring more well being into their classrooms and homes. 

Bridget Borsdorf, MA, LPC, Director, Bridge Center for Play Therapy, CO

Bridget Borsdorf is the founder and Director of the Bridge Center for Play Therapy. She is an expert in early childhood and social-emotional development. Through the Bridge Center, she has built strong foundations with preschools and early childhood communities in the northern Colorado region. Bridget has successfully brought more awareness to educator’s roles in supporting kids through feeling-based experiences.

Brigitte Desport, DPS, OTR/L, BCP, ATP, Interim Chair of the OT Program, SUNY Downstate Medical Center-College of Health Related Professions, NY

Dr. Brigitte Desport is a pediatric occupational therapist.  Her specialties are in early intervention and pediatrics with a concentration in the high-risk infant, and school-based practice.  Currently, she is the Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives, and Interim Chair and Assistant Professor of the Occupational Therapy Program at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.  Her primary focus as an academic and occupational therapist is ensuring that the underserved families of New York access the services they are entitled to and need, and are empowered to make informed decisions about their healthcare.  Dr. Desport is a noted lecturer pediatrics and assistive technology.

Boyd Mark, MBA, Director of Telehealth, The Scott Center for Autism Treatment at Florida Tech, FL

Boyd H. Mark is the Director of Telehealth at The Scott Center for Autism Treatment on the campus of the Florida Tech. The center is a world leader in evidenced-based autism treatment with a three-fold mission of clinical service, research and training. Mr. Mark leads an initiative to develop new models of scalable, sustainable telemedicine-based methods for autism intervention and aims to reduce geographic barriers to care and increase access for patients, care providers and partners. Mr. Mark is an experienced business leader, an entrepreneur and a Silicon Valley veteran focused on improving healthcare outcomes by leveraging technology. 

Carmen Sherry Brown, EdD, Assistant Professor, Hunter College, NY

Carmen Sherry Brown is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Hunter College, CUNY where she is the undergraduate program coordinator. She teaches courses in early language and literacy, early childhood mathematics, the student teaching seminar and supervises student teachers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Dr. Brown currently is working on the READ East Harlem project at Hunter College. The goal of this project is to improve the language, literacy and reading abilities of early childhood students by providing embedded professional development to teachers (K-2) in New York City public schools in East Harlem. 

Carrie Becker, MA, Early Childhood Specialist, Transforming Early Childhood Education LLC, NC

Carrie Becker is the owner of Transforming Early Childhood Education LLC which provides early childhood professionals training opportunities that are differentiated to meet their individual learning needs. Carrie Becker has a masters degree in curriculum and instruction which she uses daily as a kindergarten teacher. She is passionate about creating classroom environments that foster authentic learning opportunities. 

Chandi Edmonds, MPT, DPT, Founder, Alpha Kids Shine, NC

Dr. Chandi Edmonds is a board-certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist and Physical Therapist with 19 years of experience in a variety of settings including the school system. She was Director of Clinical Education and Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, which is also her alma mater where she earned both her Master and Doctorate degrees. She serves as an adjunct professor with Erikson Institute and was also adjunct faculty at the University of Southern California and Governors State University. As the founder of Alpha Kids Shine, a kid-inspired health and wellness company, Dr. Edmonds provides movement based programs to daycares and schools. 

Christine Roberts, BFA, IDME, Founder, Nurturing Pathways, Inc, WA

Christine founded Nurturing Pathways in 2001 to meet the sensory motor needs of developing infants, waddlers, toddlers and preschoolers. Her program reaches over 500 families annually offering Creative Dance Classes based on neuroscience and attachment theory. She has certified Instructors in her program since 2003. She travels extensively training early childhood educators across the country. Christine is an Infant Developmental Movement Educator and Infant Massage Educator. She has spent the last 25 years teaching, learning and growing! 

Courtney Bailey, LICSW, Clinician, Boston Medical Center, Child Witness to Violence Project, MA

Courtney Bailey is currently the Clinical Coordinator at the Child Witness to Violence Project at Boston Medical Center where she provides psychotherapy for children and their families. She has provided a number of trainings for professionals on trauma and its impact on young children. Some of Ms. Bailey’s presentations include the Massachusetts Child Trauma Project Birth Parent Training and Zero to Three National Training Institute, “Infusing Trauma-Informed Practices into Early Childhood Education Programs.” Ms. Bailey has worked on various trainings with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Association of Young Children. 

Courtney Latter, MS, Speech-Language Pathologist , Rebecca School, NY

Courtney Latter is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked at Rebecca School since 2014. She is also an Advanced DIR®/Floortime™ provider through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental Learning (ICDL). Courtney received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from New York University in New York City. 

Daniela Fenu Foerch, PhD, Professor, Florida International University, FL

The presenter is a Senior Instructor of Early Childhood Education within the School of Education and Human Development. Her research focuses on the nurturing of Emotional Intelligence in young children. The presenter is active in program and curriculum development and she has published several articles in the area of early childhood education. Aside from her teaching and research, the presenter serves as the Principal Investigator for the Developmental Assessment and the RULER Programs at FIU. 

Danny Darby, MS, Curriculum Coordinator, Georgia State University, GA

Danny Darby is a Curriculum Specialist, Educator, and Consultant at Georgia State University who trains and mentors childcare centers teachers and administrators. Danny is known for his love of children and animals.Danny has worked with the College of Education at Georgia State University for 38 years. Danny has worked as a Lead Teacher at the Lanette L. Suttles Child Development Center, after school Director Drew Charter School, and Trainer with the Best Practices Preschool Training Project. Early in his career, he discovered the importance of programs that teach young children. Danny has presented at many national and International Early Childhood Education conferences. When not traveling Danny enjoys working out and planning his next adventure with his family.

Darlene Estes-Del Re, PhD, TDOE Executive Director of Office of Early Learning, Tennessee Department of Education, TN

As the TDOE Executive Director of the Office of Early Learning, Darlene leads statewide efforts to build and sustain high quality early learning across programs in the birth to 8 space. Before coming to the state department, she directed and taught at Honeysuckle Montessori School for 16 years. She also served as a public school kindergarten teacher and as a primary teacher at Nashville’s first public Montessori school. Additionally, Darlene serves as online Adjunct Faculty for Champlain College and Pacific Oaks College preparing pre-service early childhood teachers and leaders. 

Davia Brown-Franklyn, MS, Senior Director of Partnerships, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Davia Brown Franklyn is the Senior Director of Partnerships for the Bank Street Education Center (BSEC), in her role she supports district-wide initiatives in examining their vision and change management structures to offer intentional professional development to improve instructional practices in early childhood settings. Franklyn’s 20-year career has centered on the critical work of building quality learning environments in under-resourced communities and coordinating professional development programs for teachers, community based organization leaders and community college faculty.

David Kisor, BA, MM, Creative Director, Growing Sound, KY

David Kisor is a multi-award winning songwriter, performer, playwright, teacher and specialty trainer who pens and produces songs that promote positive social-emotional learning based on the latest research in early childhood development. David tours all over the United States, and internationally, for GROWING SOUND and has trained over 85K teachers and parents on how to use music in the classroom and at home. DAVID KISOR holds a Masters of Music from University of Cincinnati and a Bachelors of Music from the University of Miami. David resides in Cincinnati, OH. 

Dominique Metze, MA, Kindergarten Teacher, The Lexington School, KY

Dominique has been teaching Preschool for 20 years. She served as secretary and president on the BAECE board, as well as held committee chair positions for an ISACS Self Study and a Strategic Board. She has previously presented at both ISACS and I Teach K Conferences. She has a masters degree in Early Childhood Education and currently teaches Kindergarten at The Lexington School in Lexington, Kentucky.

Donna Volpitta, EdD, Director, The Center for Resilient Leadership, NY

As the founder of the Center for Resilient Leadership, Donna Volpitta, Ed.D. makes brain science easy to understand and apply. Her Resilient Mindset Model, which draws on the latest research in neurology, psychology and education, has been applied to areas of leadership from parenting to corporate management. Donna is co-author of the book The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive–Not Reactive-Parenting and co-creator of the Nametags Education Program. In all of her work, Donna provides practical strategies and numerous ways to apply the model. Dr. Volpitta holds Board positions for One Revolution Foundation and Kids Helping Kids, both of which develop resilience in youth. She is a Founding Member and Global Presence Ambassador for Parenting 2.0, the number one parenting group on LinkedIn. She is an expert for and Modern Mom. 

Donnie Welch, BFA, Creative Writing Teacher, Rebecca School, NY

Donnie Welch teaches creative writing at the Rebecca School. In that role he runs self-designed workshops entitled Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops. These sessions are grounded in social-emotional learning and based on the belief that movement can help us understand rhythm, rhythm can help us understand poetry, and poetry can help us understand each other. He is a published poet and children’s author and holds a BFA in poetry from Emerson College. 

Efrat Cohen, PT, MPT, PCS, C/NDT, Cert. Schroth Scoliosis Therapist,Owner, ProPostureUs, NY

With over ten years of experience working with patients of various ages and diagnoses in New York premier hospitals, including NYU Langone Hospital for Joint Diseases and Hospital for Special Surgery, Efrat has mastered the understanding of how the body moves and what it takes to improve one’s posture. Efrat values education and keeps herself abreast of cutting edge treatment and techniques. Some of her certifications include Board Certified Pediatrics Clinical Specialist (PCS), Neuro Developmental Treatment (C/NDT), and the Schroth Method. She currently is working towards her certification in NAIOMT manual therapy and is a member of the APTA. 

Eileen Johnson, MA, Director, Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools, NY

Eileen Johnson is the Director of the Little Missionary’s Day Nursery and the Sara Curry Day School. She is the author of two books: The Children’s Bill of Emotional Rights and Emotional Education. The Little Missionary’s Day Nursery has been operating with the philosophy designed by Ms. Johnson called: A.R.T. which means Accept Reflect and Teach, a method of emotional education for children. The school has expanded under her direction from 8 to 96 pupils over the last 17 years. The system works in that children are happy, articulate, good communicators, and academically successful. 

Elizabeth Klein, MS, Clinical Professor, Hunter College, NY 

Elizabeth Klein is a Clinical Professor in Childhood Special Education Behavior Disorders program at Hunter College. She has a wealth of experience in classroom management as a former teacher of Special Education, Dean of Discipline and school leader.  Her educational experience includes a Masters of Science in Special Advanced Certification in School Leadership from Hunter College, a Master’s of Special Education-Learning Disabilities also from Hunter College and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing and illustration from Pratt Institute.  She is currently writing a book on Classroom Management from the lens of Restorative Practices and culturally responsive discipline.

Elizabeth Montoya, MFHD, Adjunct Faculty, Brigham Young University – Idaho, UT

Elizabeth Montoya’s heart is in preschool education. After completing Bachelor and Master degrees in Family and Human Development at Utah State University, Elizabeth opened her own private preschool. She has been teaching preschool for 17 years. Elizabeth consistently seeks opportunities for professional development through study, attending and presenting at conferences and teaching at the university level as well. Elizabeth is passionate about early childhood development and advocacy and the influence that experiences in early childhood have on children and families, and therefore communities.  

Ellen Acuna, Early Childhood Music Specialist, Music Together Worldwide, NJ

Presenter has twenty years of experience as an early childhood music and movement specialist working with children birth through age five and their parents and caregivers. In addition to her teaching work, she is a mentor for other music and movement specialists at Music Together Worldwide. She also leads professional development workshops for music specialists and classroom teachers, presents live webinars on topics related to music and early learning, and has presented at national conferences, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). BA from West Chester University in Speech Communications. 

Ellie Friedland, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor, Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, MA

Ellie Friedland is Clinical Associate Professor in Early Childhood Education at Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. She created and teaches the course “Creating Welcoming Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families in Education and Human Services” and frequently provides professional development to early childhood educators on these topics, and on how to support children with gender expansive behavior. Ellie’s research, professional development work with early childhood educators, frequent conference presentations, and activism focus on anti-bias teaching, and integrating drama. 

Emily McCarthy, MS, CCC-SLP, Fine Motor Boot Camp, LLC, PA

Emily McCarthy is a nationally certified and licensed, Speech-Language Pathologist in Pennsylvania. In addition to holding her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in Speech-Language Pathology from The American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, she also holds an Instructional Level II Teaching certificate in Speech & Language Impaired K-12 through the PA department of education. Emily was employed by the public school system for 12 years and is now working in early intervention with the birth – three population.

Graham Hepburn, Co-Founder, Quaver Music, TN

Graham Hepburn has a passion for developing the whole child through music. Graham hopes to inspire self-expression through Music-Based Learning and help children develop in all areas. As co-creator of, he leads a team of teachers, developers, and artists to create engaging and innovative content for the PreK-8 classroom. An accomplished pianist, longtime music educator, and captivating clinician, Graham is paving the way to enhance the SEL learning experience with music. 

Haven Bernstein, PhD, BCBA-D, ABA Clinical Supervisor, Los Niños Services, NY

Haven Bernstein earned a PhD from the Learning Processes and Behavior Analysis subprogram in Psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has a Master’s Degree in Experimental Psychology from Brooklyn College.  He is a New York State Certified Special Education Teacher and a Doctorate level Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He has been working with children diagnosed with autism utilizing methods of Applied Behavior Analysis for over 15 years. For the past 10 years he has been an Early Intervention ABA coordinator and service provider in the state of New York, designing and implementing ABA curriculum for children under the age of 3 and training and supervising others. He also has experience utilizing methods of Applied Behavior Analysis to teach children up to the age of ten. Areas of expertise include teaching language through the use of Verbal Behavior methodology, functional assessments of problem behavior, design and implementation of behavior intervention plans, and treatment of feeding problems. Haven has co-authored a chapter on functional assessments an published doctoral research in two journals. Research topics include analyses of choice making, schedules of reinforcement, play skills, language skills, and social skills in young children diagnosed with autism. Research has been presented at the Association for Behavior Analysis International Convention and at the Queens College Behavior Analysis and Developmental Disabilities Conference.

Heather Sherwood, MA, Research Associate, Education Development Center, NY

Heather Sherwood is a Research Associate at Education Development Center with extensive experience in the field of educational technology and digital media for learning. She’s contributed to multiple projects at EDC that focus on the impact of media and technology in early learning environments, including the home and classroom. She has professional experience as a classroom teacher, and has presented at national conferences including ISTE and HASTAC. Heather’s experience also includes curriculum development and teacher professional development. Heather earned a BA in Education and Communications, and a MA in Digital Media Design for Learning. 

Hillary Marra, Educational Consultant, The Edible Gardenist™, NY

Hillary Marra, The Edible Gardenist™ ,, leads professional development workshops and has taught edible gardening and cooking to thousands of children of all ages, educators and families for over 20 years. Hillary trained at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and has received recognition by Cornell Cooperative Extension for rolling out the Pleasantville, NY elementary school garden with 700 children. Media appearances include FOX 5’s, “Good Day Street Talk” and speaker on Assemblywoman Sandra Galef’s, “Panel on Childhood Nutrition”. Hillary presented at Westchester Association of Young Children’s Annual Conference, Girl Scouts of the USA’s Annual National Directors Conference, and has published in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International’s, “Countdown for Kids” Magazine. For more information, contact Hillary and follow her on Instagram:, @theediblegardenist,

Holly Thomas, MS, CCC-SLP, Head of the Speech-Language Department, The Gillen Brewer School, NY

Holly Thomas is the Head of Speech-Language Pathology at The Gillen Brewer School, New York, NY. She is a Hanen certified therapist who has led numerous parent training workshops in the New York City area. In the past five years, Holly has presented Sounds In Motion workshops for teachers and speech-language pathologists for the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), the United Federation of Teachers, Everyone Reading and the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA). She holds a BS degree from Northwestern University’s School of Speech and an M.S. degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Jennifer Friedman, MS, CCC-SLP, Project Director, Trauma Smart, NY

Jennifer Weiss Friedman is currently Project Director for Trauma Smart in New York City, helping to train early childhood providers on becoming more trauma-informed through Thrive NYC. Prior to Trauma Smart, Jennifer worked as a bilingual speech-language pathologist in NYC public schools and a clinic setting, taught and supervised graduate students at Teachers College, and co-founded La Escuelita, a dual language preschool in Manhattan. She has also provided consultation related to education, diversity in schools, childhood development, and bilingualism. 

Jennifer Shonkoff, MA, Speech-Language Pathologist, Rebecca School, NY

Jennifer Shonkoff is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked at Rebecca School since 2011, and has recently been named the Head of Research and Professional Development for the Speech and Language department. Jennifer is also an Advanced DIR®/Floortime™ provider through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental Learning (ICDL). She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master’s degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. 

Jennifer Woodruff, EdD, Assistant Project Director, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Jennifer Woodruff is Assistant Project Director for a professional development collaboration between Bank Street College of Education and the New York City Department of Education Pre-K for All initiative. She also supports a variety of projects within the Bank Street Education Center, including support for the NYCDOE early childhood education initiatives. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with honors in Education from Stanford University, a Master of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College, and an EdD from Teachers College, Columbia University. Jennifer has presented at a variety of conferences. 

Jessica Leonard, PhD, Professor, Saint Louis University, MO

Jessica Leonard is committed to the well­being of all children and students. She is dedicated to authentic, developmentally appropriate, and reflective teaching as a means of creating and nurturing a lifelong love of knowledge in children and students. She is devoted to creating child centered environments and experiences that inspire delight, curiosity, and joy for teacher candidates as well as the children they teach. Her research interests are early childhood education, children’s literature, technology integration, and the advancement of literature in third world countries. 

John Scardina, EDM, School Psychologist, West Chester Friends School, NY

John Scardina has been working as a psychologist in Quaker schools for 30 years. He is trained as a mindfulness instructor using the practices of Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh with children and adults. John has dedicated his life’s work to the well-being of children and believes that mindfulness can be a path to personal growth, self-regulation, finding one’s voice, and standing firm in one’s sense of self. 

José Velilla, MA, Executive Director, HighScope Educational Research Foundation, NY

José Velilla is currently the Executive Director of the Bloomingdale Family Program, a Head Start in NYC. José has worked at Bloomingdale for 29 years as a Head Teacher, Education Director, and as Executive Director. He became a HighScope Field consultant in 1998 and continues to maintain that relationship with HighScope. He has an MA in Early Childhood Administration and Supervision from Pace University. 

Joy Voss, PhD, Professor, Saint Louis University, MO

Joy Voss received her MA in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Missouri and her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction focusing on technology in early childhood from Saint Louis University. She specializes in the following areas Elementary, Early Childhood, Special Education, Early Childhood Special Education at Saint Louis University. Her research interests include Early Childhood, Partnership Schools, Technology Integration, Differentiated Instruction and Early Childhood Special Education. 

Julia Feltus, MSEd, Educational Supervisor, Rebecca School, NY

Julia Feltus is an Educational Supervisor at the Rebecca School, a DIR-based program in New York City for children and young adults with neurodevelopmental delays of relating and communicating. She has worked at the Rebecca School for the past 6 years. Julia received her Master’s degree in Childhood Special Education at Hunter College. Prior to the Rebecca School, Julia worked in educational publishing in Boston, Massachusetts. Julia is certified as a Proficient DIR® Floortime Provider through ICDL. 

Julie Marzano, MS, OTR/L, Fine Motor Boot Camp, LLC, PA

Julie Marzano is a nationally board certified Occupational Therapist with certifications in early intervention and sensory integration. She is licensed in Pennsylvania and Delaware and is an employee of the public school system serving students 3-21 with varying levels of disabilities. She is one of the creators and owners of Fine Motor Boot Camp, LLC. 

Julie Wolf, Director, First Five Learn and Play, NY

Julie is a former actor and musician who found her way to early childhood education through Arts Integration. She worked with Lenor Blank Kelner as an Arts Integration Specialist with InterAct Story Theatre in Washington DC before moving to New York where she served as the lead trainer and staff development coordinator for all Manhattan Gymboree locations. Julie is currently the Director of First Five Learn and Play. 

Justine Chadly, MA, Director, In Harmony Music, CA

Justine Chadly is the owner of In Harmony Music in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been an early childhood and elementary music educator since 2003. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of California, Davis and a master’s degree in Music Education from San Francisco State University with an emphasis in early childhood and special needs. In Harmony Music offers private, in-school and outreach classes in the Bay Area as well as professional development for preschool and elementary school teachers nationwide.

Katherine Garner, MEd, Author, Learning & the Brain Research Consortium, NC 

Katie Garner is an international speaker, author, and literacy consultant with 25 years experience in primary classrooms and a passion for infusing neuroscience into literacy and learning! Katie is an annually featured and keynote speaker at education conferences across the US and abroad—including an ongoing keynote series with North American literacy leaders, Richard Allington (“What Really Matters”) and Anne Cunningham (National Early Literacy Report) for the International Early Learners Summits. Her “backdoor-to-the-brain” approach to accelerating phonics for reading and writing, via the social-emotional “feeling” domain, shifts the paradigms associated with beginning reading instruction, and has been shared in both lecture and panel discussions at Harvard University and MIT.

Kathy Boisvert, EdD, Early Childhood Educator, Blackstone-Millville Regional School District, RI

Dr. Boisvert was awarded 2016’s CEC Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Award and was recognized by President Obama at The White House Event to Honor Great Educators. In addition, she was awarded the 2014’s DEC Rose C. Engel Award for Excellence in Professional Practice. Dr. Boisvert received her doctorate in Health and Behavior Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught over 20 courses at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is also an Integrated Preschool Teacher and during the summer months, she is an International Educational Consultant for “The Hope Foundation for Autism Awareness.” 

Kim Black, Children’s Ballet Director, The Burlington School/Burlington Dance Center, NC

Kim Black, “Miss Kim” has taught dance and creative movement for 31 years. She is currently the Children’s Ballet Director at Burlington Dance Center and the Creative Movement/HL/Dance Elective teacher at The Burlington School. Miss Kim was awarded “Dance Teacher of the Year” by Discount Dance Supply this year. She also serves as a contributing writer for Dance Teacher and Dance Studio Life Magazines. She has brought one of her cherished skits to life by writing a children’s book “The Friend Garden” and created children’s DVDs “Move with Miss Kim” and “Dance with Miss Kim”. 

LaDonna Wicklund, MA, Early Literacy Specialist, I CAN READ INC, IA

LaDonna Wicklund taught children to read for 40 years as a classroom teacher, Title 1 Reading Specialist, and Reading Recovery Teacher. She is an educator, songwriter, author, and national presenter. Her literacy strategies are based on songs that harness the power of music and movement to teach children to read and write a few powerful, beginning high-utility words that ease them naturally into reading and writing. She founded I CAN READ, Inc. non-profit company in 2004 to gift teaching resources that boost all children, but especially at-risk and English Language Learners, into literacy. 

Lara Seligman, LCSW, MSEd, Instructor, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Lara has worked with children and families in a range of settings including their homes, schools, and community-based programs, as a therapist, developmental evaluator, and consultant. She has worked as a consultant in classrooms, 1:1 with providers, and developed and implemented training programs. Lara holds master’s degrees in social work from Columbia School of Social Work and in early childhood general and special education from Bank Street College School of Education. She is a licensed clinical social worker and early childhood general and special educator, with extensive training in relational and developmental models of thinking and intervention. 

Larry Kotch, MA, Contract Specialist, Workforce Solutions, TX

Larry Kotch is a Contract Specialist with the Workforce Solutions Central Texas. Additionally, he is a professional trainer and public speaker who has presented at early learning and education conferences and workshops throughout the United States, Texas, and internationally. He has presented on the following topics: Professionalism, Time Management, Public Speaking, Superior Customer Service, Advocacy, Protecting Children, Leadership, Diversity, Retaining Staff, Quality Child Care and Effective Conferences with Staff, NAEYC Accreditation, Outdoor Classrooms and Design, and Public Policy. Larry holds an Associates of Art, a Bachelor’s of Arts and a Master of Arts degree. He has spent his entire professional career dedicated to the care and education of children, their families, and in some area of social work and public policy in Texas. 

Lauren Lee, EdS, Director, Palms Preschool & Childcare Center, FL

Lauren Lee is Director of Palms Preschool & Childcare Center in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Youth and Community Sciences, a Master of Education degree in Elementary Education, and an Educational Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Lauren currently serves as co-leader of the North Florida Chapter of the Florida Association for the Education of Young Children and co-chair of the Duval Early Learning Directors Network. 

Laurynn Gould, MA, MT-BC, Music Therapist, In Harmony Music, CA

Laurynn recently graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Early Childhood Special Education. She received her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Berklee College of Music and has worked as a Board-Certified Music Therapist with young children in early intervention centers, special day schools, hospitals and hospice/palliative care. Currently, Laurynn is working in the San Francisco Bay area providing Music Therapy to patients in hospice care and leading family music classes.

Lesley Koplow, MS, LCSW, Director of Emotionally Responsive Practice Projects, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Lesley Koplow is the Director of the Center for Emotionally Responsive Practice at Bank Street College. The Center collaborates with early childhood programs and elementary schools to support the social and emotional well being of children, parents and teachers in the school setting. Ms. Koplow is the author of several books on child mental health in schools, including; Unsmiling Faces: How Preschool can Heal, Creating Schools That Heal: Real Life Solutions, Bears, and many more. She was the winner of the 2013 New York Zero-To-Three Emily Fenichel Award for Educational leadership, and the 2018 Thomases Faculty Excellence Award. 

Lianne Bassin, MA, Early Childhood Yoga Teacher, Little Flower Yoga, NY

New York-based children’s musician Lianne Bassin is an Early Childhood Educator at Rodeph Sholom School and is a certified and yoga and mindfulness instructor through Little Flower Yoga. Lianne has written and recorded two children’s mindfulness albums, Breathe In and Everything Grows. Breathe In has won a Parents’ Choice and a NAPPA Award. She performs her songs regularly at schools and at New York City venues and has taught workshops to yoga and mindfulness instructors on the topic of music and mindfulness. 

Linda Zane, EdD, Associate Professor, Slippery Rock University of PA, PA

Linda Zane is Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Slippery Rock University of PA. She has been working in the field of Early Childhood Education for over 30 years, and teaching at the college level for 18 years. Dr. Zane is the author of “Pedagogy and Space: Design Inspirations for Early Childhood Classrooms,” published by Redleaf Press (2015).

Lindsey Biel, MA, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist, Private Practice, NY

Lindsey Biel is an occupational therapist with a private practice in NYC. She is co-author of the award-winning Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues, with a foreword by Temple Grandin (expanded 3rd edition released October 2018). She is also the author of Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens which is targeted to clinicians. She is a popular speaker, presenting to teachers, therapists and parents across the country. Visit her websites at and for more information. 

Liza Bernabeo, MS, Speech-Language Pathologist, Rebecca School, NY

Liza Bernabeo is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked at Rebecca School since 2012, and is also an Advanced DIR®/Floortime™ provider through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental Learning (ICDL). She received her Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo and her Master’s degree from Adelphi University. 

Lynette Kohn, MSEd, Early Learning Specialist, Kids Hope Alliance, FL

Lynette Kohn is an Early Learning Coach at Kids Hope Alliance in Jacksonville, FL. She has a BS in PreK-Primary Education from University of North Florida and a MSEd specializing in Reading and Literacy from Walden University. She has over 15 years of experience in the field of early childhood education with a focus in early literacy and curriculum development. Lynette has presented at various workshops and consistently receives high praises for her fun, hands-on and energetic presentations. 

Maggie Lopez, PhD, Child Care Education Director, Child Care Resources of Monmouth County, NJ

Maggie Lopez has over 32 years of educational experience in both teaching and administration. Her experience spans from Early Childhood to High School. Maggie possess a wide spectrum of experience in leadership and professional development; as a result, she is eager and passionate about reaching this milestone of achievement in her life. She is an Infant and Toddler Specialist for the State of New Jersey. Maggie has written many curriculums throughout the years. She has also many years presenting at numerous conferences and workshops, including presenting in front of 89 countries at a World Forum. 

Marcie Beigel, EdD, Behavior Specialist, Behavior and Beyond, NY

Dr. Marcie earned her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is the best selling author of Love Your Family Again and Love Your Classroom Again. She has a thriving private practice in New York City that takes her around the country helping families. Dr. Marcie also provide school wide trainings for educators of all ages and has been a guest behavioral expert on nation media. For more information about her online programs and in person consultations visit 

Mariela Adams, MS in Organization Development & Industrial Relations, Regional Coordinator, Parent to Parent of NYS, NY

Mariela is mom to Luis, a 15 year old boy with severe Autism. Previous to being a mom to Luis, Mariela earned a Master’s degree in Organization Development and Industrial Relations. Her understanding of corporate communication, organizational cultures and workplace habits influenced her approach to working with the many professionals that have come through her son’s life. Mariela will present her model for the parent-professional relationship that focuses on specific action oriented building blocks that can be implemented by professionals who work with parents of children with Special needs. 

Marilena Drakopoulou, MSEd, ABA Director, Los Niños Services, NY

Marilena Drakopoulou has been working in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) since 1996. Since that time having held a variety of positions until moving to Los Niños in 2010 as the ABA Clinical Supervisor and later as Director of ABA services. She has worked with children ages 1-21 throughout all five boroughs of New York City from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Marilena received her master’s degree in Special Education from Long Island University (C.W. Post). She later went on to complete required course work for her BCBA at Hunter College.  Marilena has presented on the topic of ABA for several local conferences and is a member of multiple professional organizations that are devoted to the advancement of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Mary Ellen Bardsley, PhD, Associate Professor, Niagara University, NY

Dr. Mary Ellen Bardsley is an associate professor at Niagara University. She has taught a variety of early childhood and literacy courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. She has been extensively involved in the Niagara County Quality Improvement Project working with child care teachers and directors. She has presented at numerous conferences, worked with Head Start programs, and published several papers. She co-authored the book, Open-ended Art for Young Children: Moving Beyond the Basics, with Dr. Tracy Galuski. 

Megan Miller, MSEd, BCBA, LBA, Clinical Supervisor, Achieve Beyond, NY

Megan Miller is a NYS licensed General & Special Education Teacher (1-6), Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and NYS Licensed Behavior Analyst. Megan has over 10 years working with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders from birth through young adulthood. She has experience working as part of a multidisciplinary team in various home, school, and community based settings. She has contributed to 1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Boys: Everything You Need to Know About Diagnosis, Doctors, Schools, Taxes, Vacations, Babysitters, Treatment, Food, and More by Ken Siri and 1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls by Tony Lyons. 

Michael Scherer, Performer, The Awesome Squad, IL

The Awesome Squad is a high-energy music group focused on entertaining, educating, and motivating children around the world! Their vision is to positively impact the future of every child by developing and cultivating an “awesomeness” mentality. As music educators for the past 15 years, Awesome Squad founders Zach Garrett and Michael Scherer have a passion to see children live successfully from an early age. They teach and promote the “awesomeness mentality,” which motivates children to stay awesome by making good decisions, living a healthy lifestyle, and respecting others. 

Michele Havens, EdD, Educational Consultant, Imagine Academy, NJ

Michele Havens received her EdD degree from Rutgers University. She is currently a DIR/Floortime Consultant to the Imagine Academy, an Autism program in Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Havens is a Professor Emeritus from Kean University and Montclair State University. She is currently an advocate and private interventionist for children with special needs, and a facilitator of an Autism parent support group. Dr. Havens was previously the coordinator of the Verona, NJ Preschool Disabled Program. 

Michelle Harrison, MA, Kindergarten Teacher, The Lexington School, KY

Michelle has taught Kindergarten for 17 years. She has served on the Math, Language Arts, and Professional Development Committees as the preschool representative, as well as the hiring committee for positions in the Preschool at The Lexington School, which serves 2 year old-kindergarten age children. She has a masters degree in Early Childhood Education and currently teaches Kindergarten at The Lexington School in Lexington, Kentucky.

Missy Ruth Brown, E-RYT 500, E-RCYT 500, YACEP, Founder, Deep Play for Kids, CT

Missy Brown, owner and founder of Deep Play for Kids, has been teaching DPK in schools for 20 years. She is on faculty at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Missy is a teacher in the Pranotthan School of Yoga, Assistant Director for Let Your Yoga Dance and holds numerous and diverse certifications in the fields of mindfulness, wellness, yoga, and meditation. Missy is a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider, has trained close to 500 professionals in the methods of DPK, and has published Affirm Your Awesomeness and Playful Pose Cards along with her first book published in November 2018. 

Misty Moody, EdS, Director of School-Based Support Services and Early Literacy Matters, Tennessee Department of Education, TN

Misty M. Moody is the Director of School-based Support Services and Early Literacy Matters for Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) where she has worked for the past 3.5 hours. In addition, Ms. Moody is an adjunct professor for Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, California, where she teachers master’s level early childhood courses. Prior to this work, she spent 10 years working with Nashville’s poorest children and families, utilizing after school hours to increase reading scores for school-aged children and teaching in the early childhood classroom.

Monica Levy, Director, Leapsmart, NY

A certified trainer through NYSAEYC, adjunct professor at Concordia College, Keynote speaker, CLASS observer and educational coach and consultant, Monica Levy is the founder of LeapSmart™, an organization dedicated to bringing kinesthetic educational programs to children. LeapSmart’s in-school programs provide movement based classes for hundreds of children each week throughout the NY area including in schools for children with special needs. In addition Ms. Levy has created exclusive products and on line trainings especially designed for educators that are available through the LeapSmart website. 

Monica G. Osgood, Executive Director, Celebrate the Children School/Profectum Foundation, NJ

Monica has worked with individuals with autism and other special needs and their families for over 30 years. She is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Celebrate the Children School (CTC) in Denville, NJ serving students from more than 70 school districts. CTC was the first school using the Developmental Individual Relationship-based (DIR-FCD) approach to be state approved for students ages 3-21. Monica is also the Executive Director of the Profectum Foundation, a global online DIR-FCD training and certification resource for professionals and parents. Monica enjoys teaching others how to use the DIR-FCD Model in educational settings all over the world. 

Myriam Aguila, PhD, Professor, Texas State Technical College, TX

Myriam Aguila is originally from Mexico City and is currently the Education and Training Department Chair at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, Texas. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from ENMJN in Mexico City (1988). Myriam obtained her first Master’s degree from Mexico City in Teaching Spanish through the UPN in 1995 and a second Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, from UTB in 2005. In 2017, Myriam obtained her PhD in Education and has been an educator for the 30 years in three countries: Mexico, USA, and United Arab Emirates. She is a member, participant, and presenter at local, state, national and international conferences in early childhood.

Naomi Hupert, MA, Senior Research Scientist, Education Development Center, NY

Naomi Hupert has worked at the intersection of technology, literacy, and STEM content areas for over 20 years. Her work focuses on the use of technology as a tool to support learning for children and the adults who work with them, and aims to provide all students with engaging and challenging academic instruction. She brings a special focus on improving outcomes for students who struggle to meet grade-level academic benchmarks due to inadequate access to quality instruction, disabilities, or other challenges to learning, and engages digital resources to support this population of students and their families. 

Natalie James, MS, Licensed Professional Counselor, Oregon State University, OR

Natalie James is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in children and adolescents with a private practice in Bend, Oregon. In addition to a busy practice, Natalie offers professional trainings and travels the country speaking to various audiences in the human service field. Natalie believes humor and drawing from real life cases/experiences is the key to connecting with her audience! She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Sciences, as well as a Masters in Community Counseling, and teaches various courses in the HDFS undergraduate program at Oregon State University. 

Natalie Luongo, Executive Director, The National Student Debt Forgiveness Center, NY

In the last five years, Natalie Luongo has been educating all federal loan borrowers on existing federal programs that give them instant relief. Natalie will spend time going thru every detail of their loan portfolio maximizing their forgiveness options. Some Public Sector employees don’t even know they qualify for multiple programs. She helps with loan servicer correspondence and review of all documents. Natalie, works with many school districts, hospitals, medical centers, communities and non-for-profits. 

Neena McConnico, PhD, LMHC, Director, Boston Medical Center, Child Witness to Violence Project, MA 

Neena McConnico is the Program Director for the Child Witness to Violence Project at Boston Medical Center and adjunct lecturer at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.  She was a consultant on the Boston Defending Childhood Initiative focused on planning and implementing city-wide responses to violence.  Dr. McConnico serves as core faculty for Futures Without Violence designing and disseminating national curricula.  She has provided numerous trainings to cross-disciplinary entities focused on the impacts of violence exposure, systemic trauma and promoting resilience.  Dr. McConnico has expertise in working with early childhood education systems to create and implement trauma-informed practices.

Paula Barnes, MS, Owner, Resource Connections, TX

Paula Barnes is the owner of Resource Connections, a training and consulting company. She has spent over 30 years in the field of Early Childhood Education. During that time she has had opportunities to work in a variety of positions including classroom teacher; center director; child development specialist; licensing representative; college instructor; consultant; trainer; and now as an assessor for the Texas Rising Star program and as a mentor for a NAEYC accreditation project. She holds an AA degree in Child Development, a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood, and Master of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies. 

Peggy McNamara, EdD, Senior Director of Student Learning Support and Community Initiatives, Bank Street College of Education, NY 

Peggy McNamara is currently the Senior Director of Student Learning Support and Community Initiatives, at Bank Street College of Education. Through this role she works with graduate students and faculty to differentiate teaching and learning approaches to make graduate school content and processes accessible to a range of learners. Peggy began her teaching career in early childhood and childhood general education and special education classrooms.  She teaches the course “Block Building and Dramatic Play as an Integral part of the Early Childhood Curriculum” at Bank Street. 

Rachel Harrington, Storyteller, National Storytelling Network, NY

Rachael Harrington is a storyteller whose work has taken her around the globe, performing and presenting in schools, festivals and as guest lecturer at Rutgers University. She won the NYC DOE Arts and Family Engagement Grant and the NYC DOE Arts for English Language Learners/Students With Disabilities grant, placing her in residence at Hamilton Heights Elementary School. She presented an English Language Learners storytelling project, “Our Story”, at NJ Association of School Libraries, NJ TESOL Conference, and published an article about this project in Voices, the NJ TESOL quarterly journal. She is a member of National Storytelling Network. 

Rae Leeper, MA, Educational Supervisor, Rebecca School, NY

Rae Leeper is the Educational Supervisor at the Rebecca School, a DIR based program in New York City, where she has worked for the past 12 years. Rae received her Master’s Degree from Columbia Teachers College in Early Childhood Special Education is now pursuing her doctorate at TC. Prior to the Rebecca School, she worked in Early Intervention in homes and centers in Western Massachusetts. Rae is certified as an Advanced DIR® Floortime Provider and Training leader through ICDL. 

Raquel Quiñones, MS, CCC-SLP, TSSLD, Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist, Rebecca School, NY

Raquel Quiñones is currently a bilingual speech therapist in New York City. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago before pursuing her masters in Speech Language Pathology from New York University in 2015.  Raquel holds her Certificate of Clinical Competency from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) as well as her Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities (TSSLD) certification. She earned her Bilingual Extension Certificate from Columbia University in 2014.  Additionally, she is PROMPTs for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets trained, as well as a proficient DIR®/Floortime™ provider.   

Rebecca Newman, LMSW, Coach, Guttman Center for Early Care and Education, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Rebecca Newman is the Coach at the Guttman Center for Early Care and Education at Bank Street College. Blending her background in Early Childhood Education and Social Work, Rebecca brings a developmental perspective and passion for mental health to educators, families and communities in service to young children. Before becoming a social worker, Rebecca worked as a teacher in a variety of early childhood settings. 

Regina Folks, Consultant, The Early Childhood Education Director’s Network, GA

Regina Folks Amerson is the founder of The Early Childhood Education Director’s Network in Georgia, an executive coaching and leadership development consulting practice supporting program directors. She loves leaders so they can lead with loves as she has delivered the states 40 Hour Director Training.Regina’s has over 31 years of work as a trainer, and program administrator with boards and organizations. Regina’s a life long learner; currently she is continuing her education by obtaining a Masters in Human Resource, following a BA in Psychology from Chatham College. Regina is married to James Amerson and has one son Aaron Folks.

Ron Shuali, MEd, Transformational Speaker, Shua Life Skills, NJ

Ron holds a Master of Education specializing in early childhood. He has spent over 15 years presenting in the education marketplace. He is a best selling author, top motivational speaker and most importantly…He is funny. He presents keynotes, assemblies and workshops all over the United States. His study of martial arts, yoga, reiki and improv rounds out a powerful hero for what is right. When Ron is not presenting training experiences he and his team of instructors are teaching children his award-winning Yogarate® program at many preschools including the preschool at the United Nations. 

Sarah Blackburn, Associate Director, Bilingual Birdies, NY

Sarah Blackburn is the Associate Director of Bilingual Birdies. She graduated from Hunter College with a BA in Music. She spent three years living in France and is bilingual in French and English. Sarah Blackburn’s advanced musical aptitude and experience of six years teaching in early childhood has given her the experience and knowledge to ensure an outstanding Bilingual Birdies class experience. She has trained every existing Bilingual Birdies teacher in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Albuquerque, and LA, and has the ability to guide educators to give the most positive aspects of their teaching potential in the classroom. Her musical creativity led her to contribute the strongest components of the Bilingual Birdies curriculum and Culture Academy teacher training program. 

Sarah Grantano, MA, Assistant Superintendent of Special Education & Health Services, Stanislaus County of Education, CA

With over 23 years of experience in education, beginning her career in early childhood education and now as the assistant superintendent of special education and health services for Stanislaus county Office of Education. She is dedicated to pioneering ways to provide successful, meaningful and supportive educational practices for all children. She was awarded “Special Education Administrator of the Year” by the Association of California Administrators (ACSA), region VII, was also honored by Soroptimist International of Modesto as a “Woman of Distinction” and received a “Career Professional Service” award from Delta Kappa Gamma.

Saundra Day, MEd, Director III- Special Education, Stanislaus County Office of Education, CA

Saundra Day, Director III, Special Education Saundra Day earned her Administrative Credential in 2006 . She has devoted eighteen years serving as an ambassador for Special Education families and students as a paraeducator, teacher, and administrator. For the past five years, Saundra served as Principal of a comprehensive school site for early intervention students for 5 years, and continues to pave new paths for learning opportunities while implementing educational best practices. She has been recognized by her colleagues and peers at Stanislaus County Office of Education and has received the division’s most recognized award as ‘Bridge Builder of the Year’ in two consecutive years.

Scott Mesh, PhD, CEO, Los Niños Services, NY

Dr. Scott Mesh is the CEO of Los Niños Services, a special education company providing services to young children with autism and developmental delays and disorders. Los Niños Services is one of the largest Early Intervention programs in New York State. The program serves 1500 children a year. Los Niños has been recognized with Best Company to Work for Awards and is an employer of choice. Dr. Mesh has co-led Los Niños with Edita Diaz, MSEd, President, for 20 years. Dr. Mesh is the Director of Los Niños Training which presents the Young Child Expo & Conference in NYC and LA. Their conferences have been rated as one of the top 5 Early Childhood Conferences in the US. Dr. Mesh is a clinical psychologist and co-authored “A Practical Guide to Early Childhood Assessment.” His specialization is assessing babies and toddlers for autism and other developmental disorders, and he has trained many psychologists and early childhood professionals in this area. 

Shauna Woods, MA, Professor, First Presbyterian Preschool, GA

Shauna Woods, who has a love for children, has been teaching for over 15 years. “Teaching continues to enrich my life” is her mantra. She recently launched Pencils, Paper, Coffee, & Conversations™ with ShaunaTeaches. Pencils, Paper, Coffee, & Conversations™ with ShaunaTeaches. was founded in 2016 to help support teachers seeking educational guidance in the classroom & parents needing creative academic teaching ideas for their children. PPCC with ShaunaTeaches. believes in the importance of partnering with parents and teachers to connect the educational link that is missing to achieve positive academic success in the classroom. 

Shazia Choudri, CEO (Beetbox), Holistic Health Coach, LLB (Hons), NY

Shazia is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is a Jamie Oliver Food Ambassador and has a mission to positively impact the Early Education environment in its approach to food. She started beetbox with a mission to make food and STEAM based education accessible to all children and educators. She was a member of the NYU Edtech Incubator program and has been recognized by several organizations for her work. She has spent many years working with pre-schools to deliver a “Food Science” program that provides children with a seed-to-table understanding of food. She has also introduced edible “Learning Gardens” to schools and provides training to school staff and parents on children’s nutrition. 

Shirlene Law, MS, Director, Utah State University, UT

Shirlene Law is a lecturer and director of the Utah State University UB Child Development Lab. She has been teaching preschool for 27 years and has taught in both the private and university sectors. She has been lecturer at Utah State University for the past 17 years. She teaches courses in human development, early childhood development, preschool methods and curriculum and oversees the practicum experiences of students who are pursuing early childhood degrees. The USU UB Child Development Lab is a NAEYC accredited center that focuses on best practices for early childhood education. 

Sonu Sanghoee, MS, CCC-SLP, Clinical Director, Achieve Beyond, NY

Sonu Sanghoee is a NYS licensed Speech Pathologist with extensive experience in field of speech and language. Sonu has conducted many specialized workshops in the field of speech pathology. Sonu has presented to various professionals, teachers, parents, and county professionals. She is knowledgeable and has good expertise in feeding related disorders in infants and toddlers as well as in multidisciplinary professional topics. Sonu is the Clinical Director at Achieve Beyond and also heads the Early Intervention ABA department at Achieve Beyond. Sonu has been appointed to be a member of NYC EIP LEICC beginning September 2018. 

Sophia Z. Wastler, MSEd, Managing Director, The Starz Program, VA

Sophia Wastler is the creator of the Starz Program. After seeing the need to bring fun, fitness activities into schools, she founded the company in 2005. Prior to Starz, Sophia worked for the Virginia Department of Education as a health and physical education teacher. Sophia earned a master’s in education with a focus in exercise science and wellness in 2012. She firmly believes that exercise combined with proper nutrition play vital roles in our overall health and wellness. By providing children with foundational skills when they are young we not only improve their self-esteem but we also set them up for success for their future! 

Susan Griss, MA, Instructor, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Susan Griss is a dancer, educator, and curriculum consultant, is the author of Minds in Motion: A Kinesthetic Approach to Teaching Elementary Curriculum. She is on the faculty of Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, and she is co-director of the Arts and Curriculum Institute, part of Concerted Effort which works in the NY State capital region. Susan has been teaching creative movement to children in public schools for over 20 years. Ms. Griss has an M.A in dance and choreography from New York University and a B.A from Smith College. 

Susan Smith-Foley, OTD, MPA, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist, The University of Kansas Medical Center, NJ

Susan Smith-Foley is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in family-centered and school-based O.T. / DIR services.  She is passionate about supporting the integration of the DIR Model into public schools including working with multi-disciplinary teams and primary care givers.  Susan completed a post-professional doctoral degree in Occupational Therapy (OTD) at The University of Kansas Medical Center in December 2018.  She is the founder and owner of Avon Occupational Therapy, Inc. located in Avon, NJ.  Susan is an Associate Faculty member of Profectum Academy and a member of its International O.T. Working Group.

Tali Cohen Carrus, MSEd, Head Teacher, Rebecca School, NY

Tali Cohen Carrus is a head teacher at the Rebecca School, a DIR school for children with neurodevelopmental delays in relating and communicating. Tali received her M.S. in Special Education from Bank Street Graduate School. In addition to her work at the Rebecca School, Tali works as an educational consultant training educators and administrators to better integrate and support Jewish youth with disabilities in a variety of contexts including Hebrew schools, camps, inclusive youth groups, and day schools. 

Tamar Andrews, EdD, Preschool Director, Temple Isaiah Preschool, CA

Dr. Tamar Andrews has been in the field of ECE for over 25 years. Her areas of specialty are administration and curriculum. Trained in High/Scope, Montessori and Reggio Emilia approaches, Dr. Andrews is currently the director of Temple Isaiah Preschool in Los Angeles, a preschool of over 300 children that follows a philosophy that integrates all of these methods. She is also the director of the MA of ECE at the American Jewish University and adjunct at UCLA and Santa Monica College. Dr. Andrews has been working with Linden Education, training ECE teachers and administrators in China to integrate STEM into programs in Shanghai and across China.

Tara Gordon, MA, Speech-Language Pathologist, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, NY

Tara Gordon is a certified Speech and Language Pathologist with a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and Certificate of Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities (TSSLD). She obtained her Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Queens College. She has been a staff Speech-Language Pathologist at LearningSpring School for the past three years. Tara has experience working with children with a variety of ages and disorders. She has advanced training in play, social skills, reading, and phonological disorders. She has previously presented at the 2016 ASHA Convention, 2016 NYSSHLA Convention, and 2015 ASHA Convention. She is the 2015 recipient of ASHA’s Students Preparing for Academic Research Careers Award. 

Tarima Levine, MSEd, Director of Content Development, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Tarima Levine began her career 20 years ago as an early childhood special education teacher. Over the course of her career, Tarima has worked with diverse groups as a trainer, early childhood specialist, graduate school instructor, and family engagement consultant for early childhood programs across the U.S. In her current role, she is the Director of Content Development for the Bank Street Education Center at Bank Street College of Education, where she researches, designs, and develops professional learning series for teachers and leaders in school districts to enable system-level instructional improvement.  Her interests include culturally responsive early childhood practices and systems. 

Tenise Wall, PhD, Clinical Director, Dr. Wall’s ADHD & Wellness Center, NY

Dr. Tenise Wall is an international speaker, ADHD expert, and a Clinical Director. She has extensive experience working with children & adolescents with ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorders. She is a Certified Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), a licensed social worker, Certified School Social Worker, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. She provides speakers resources to school districts, organizations, and at national/international forums. She has conducted research on the topic of ADHD and is a published author. She has counseled 1,000+ children/adolescents with many success stories to share. 

ToniAnn Gambella, MS, Speech-Language Pathologist, Rebecca School, NY

ToniAnn is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked at Rebecca School since 2011. She is also an Advanced DIR®/Floortime™ provider and training leader through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental Learning (ICDL). ToniAnn received her Bachelor’s degree from Meredith College and her Master’s degree from Seton Hall University.

Tori Conicello-Emery, MA, Music Therapist, Music Together Worldwide, NJ

Tori is a board certified music therapist. She has worked with children and families for her entire career. Her experience includes the pediatric hospital, education, and community-based services. Tori specializes in mentoring teachers and therapists seeking to deepen their knowledge in working with diverse populations to create opportunities into successful music-making for everyone. Tori is a Music Together teacher and Music Together Within Therapy® provider of services in an outpatient clinic of a children’s hospital. 

Tracey Stoll, MEd, BCSE, ACAS, Executive Director, Learning Solutions, LLC, MA

Tracey is the Founder and Executive Director of Learning Solutions, LLC; a Social-Emotional Learning Center located in Norwood, MA. As an Educational Consultant, Tracey offers more than 20 years professional experience and is professionally licensed in Special Education PreK-9/ Elementary Education 1-6, Board Certification in Special Education, and Advanced Certified Autism Specialist. Tracey is the Creator of The Social Fit ® Program and S.N.A.P. Social Notes about People® templates. Her work has been awarded the #1 Family Favorite Best of Boston: Boston Parents’ Paper ™; and Outstanding Early Intervention Provider Award for Excellence. 

Veronica Benavides, MA, EdD, Director of the Center on Culture, Race & Equity, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Aware of educational inequity at a young age, Veronica has always been deeply committed to improving schools in underserved communities. With a sense of purpose and urgency, Veronica began her career in education as a social studies teacher at Essex Street Academy (ESA), a Coalition of Essentials Schools high school. For the past four years, Veronica has engaged in the work of lead learner. She has partnered with educators, from teachers to superintendents, to develop their capacity to lead classrooms, schools, and systems. At the NYC Leadership Academy (NYCLA), Veronica worked to design, build, and launch comprehensive engagement strategy that develops principal capacity to improve educational outcomes for boys and young men of color. In collaboration with expert educators in NYC, she developed adult learning experiences that are aligned to research-based standards for leading equitable school environments. In her current role, Veronica partners with communities across the US to create strengths-based learning environments that are responsive to the needs of students and their families. Veronica earned her doctorate in education leadership from Harvard University, and holds an MS in Teaching from Fordham University. Her research interests include racial identity development, family engagement, community organizing, adult development, and organizational change.

Victoria Simmons, MA, Speech-Language Pathologist, Rebecca School, NY

Victoria Simmons is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked at Rebecca School since 2015. She is also a certified DIR®/Floortime™ provider through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental Learning (ICDL). Victoria received her Bachelor’s degree from New York University and her Master’s degree from Brooklyn College. 

Wendy Ostroff, PhD, Associate Professor, Sonoma State University, CA 

Wendy L. Ostroff, Ph.D. is a developmental and cognitive psychologist, and an award-winning professor in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University. The author of the books, Understanding How Young Children Learn: Bringing the Science of Child Development to the Classroom (2012, ASCD), and Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms: How to Promote and Sustain Deep Learning (2016, ASCD), Dr. Ostroff has been designing and teaching interdisciplinary courses on cognitive science and neuroscience, learning, and education for the past 20 years. She is passionate about innovative and emergent pedagogies, and state of the art teacher education.

Wendy Pollock, EdD, Instructor, Bank Street College of Education, NY

Wendy has worked extensively in the field of early childhood education and early childhood leadership. She has served as a teacher, principal of an early childhood urban Public School, and Director of Early Childhood Programs in a large urban district. She as taught and served as an advisor in the Early Childhood Leadership Program as an adjunct. She worked in the Education Center with coaches promoting social and emotional development for the PreK for All program in 2014 2016. She continues to teach in the Continuing Professional Studies Program designing professional Development in early education settings. 

William Mosier, EdD, MD-Retired, Professor, Wright State University, OH

Dr. Mosier is a professor of early childhood education at Wright State University as well as the director of research at the Lynda A. Cohen Center for the Study of Child Development in Dayton, OH. He is also a licensed Independent Marriage & Family Therapist. After working ten years with Head Start & Migrant Head Start programs in California and being a teacher in a kindergarten through 3rd grade Looped classroom in the St. Louis Public schools, he completed a doctorate at the University of Southern California where he specialized in early childhood education & counseling. 

Zach Garret, Performer, The Awesome Squad, IL

The Awesome Squad is a high-energy music group focused on entertaining, educating, and motivating children around the world! Their vision is to positively impact the future of every child by developing and cultivating an “awesomeness” mentality. As music educators for the past 15 years, Awesome Squad founders Zach Garrett and Michael Scherer have a passion to see children live successfully from an early age. They teach and promote the “awesomeness mentality,” which motivates children to stay awesome by making good decisions, living a healthy lifestyle, and respecting others. 

Zsuzsanna Kiraly, PhD, RYT-500, Clinical Assistant Professor, Fordham University, NY

Zsuzsa Kiraly is a clinical professor at Fordham University Graduate School of Education and the director of the Hagin School Consultation Centers. She is a licensed psychologist with 28 years of clinical, teaching, and training experience, both in school and university settings. Her areas of expertise include: child development; childhood learning and emotional disorders; and psychoeducational assessment. Dr. Kiraly is also a certified yoga teacher and has been dedicated to integrate mind-body practices into her work to support children’s attention capacity, self-regulation skills, and social-emotional adjustment. Her work focuses on utilizing yoga and other meditative practices in building coping skills and solid foundations for self-development. Dr. Kiraly has done numerous trainings and workshops for professionals as well as parents on utilizing mindfulness-based practices, including yoga, in the school and home environments.