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2018 Speakers

Keynoter Biographies

Derek Volk, Author, D & A Publishing, ME

Derek Volk is the author of the internationally acclaimed Amazon best seller, Chasing the Rabbit: A Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Spectrum.  Derek is a Maine businessman, supporter of Autism awareness, volunteer and philanthropist who, along with his family, was recently named the 2015 Spurwink “Humanitarian of the Year.”   He is currently the president and co-owner of Volk Packaging Corporation, a third generation, family owned, corrugated box manufacturer in Biddeford, Maine. Derek actively participates on the Maine Business Leadership Network (BLN), a national organization that focuses on connecting employers with potential employees who have disabilities. He owns a company that currently employs those who are deaf, blind and on the autism spectrum. A speech communications major at the University of Maine at Orono, Derek has always been comfortable speaking to an audience. Since 2012, Derek has hosted a Saturday morning radio talk show on WLOB 1310AM in Portland, Maine. His show can be heard online at and through podcasts available on iTunes and Stitcher. Derek has been happily married to his high school sweetheart, Amy Volk, for 28 years. State Senator Amy Volk is currently serving her fourth term in the Maine Legislature.  Amy and Derek are the proud parents of four children. Their son, Dylan, is 26-years-old and the inspiration behind Chasing the Rabbit. They also have three daughters, Mariah (23), Lilly (19) and Serena (13). Derek’s book and more information is available at

Dylan Volk, Author, D & A Publishing, CA

After years of what his parents called “the diagnosis of the month club,” Dylan was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of eight. Life has always been challenging for Dylan. When he was little, he struggled with how to learn the rules and follow directions that often did not make sense to him. As he got older, he was challenged, especially socially, by a world that often seemed to go too fast for him to keep up. Even today, Dylan works hard to figure out what he needs to do in order to get through each day as a 26-year-old adult in a very fast-paced society. Dylan graduated from Scarborough High School in 2010.  Dylan is currently pursuing his goal of earning a living making people laugh. He is also has produced a series of satirical videos for his YouTube channel. You can watch them by searching Dielawn Comedy.  Dylan now lives in Los Angeles working as an intern for a nationally syndicated radio show, The Jesse Lee Peterson Show. Dylan hopes his work helping his father write “Chasing the Rabbit: A Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Autism Spectrum” will help families as they navigate through the difficulties of living life on the spectrum.  He also offers social skills coaching for young people on the spectrum.

Gabe Zichermann, MBA, CEO, Onward, CA

Gabe Zichermann is the world’s foremost expert and public speaker on the subject of gamification, user engagement and behavioral design and the Co-Founder of the behavior change software startup, Onward. Zichermann is the author of The Gamification Revolution, Gamification by Design, and Game-Based Marketing. Gabe helped co-design live-event gamification platform Liventium and co-founded strategy/design consultancy Dopamine where he works with leading brands to drive customer and employee engagement. Zichermann’s talks, workshops, books and courses have inspired an entire generation of marketers, customer loyalty experts, HR professionals, strategists and product designers to make the world a more fun and engaging place. When he’s not traveling around the world lecturing, Gabe can be found cooking, eating and photographing his food from his home base in Los Angeles. 

Monique Marshall, MS, Elementary Educator, Wildwood School, CA

Monique Marshall is an elementary school educator who has been working with young children in independent schools for 28 years. She is the founder of the Wildwood school’s K-5 student diversity group, and co-chair of the schools’ parent diversity group. Monique is also a founding board member of 19 year old SoCalPOCIS (Southern California, People of Color in Independent Schools).  The organization is dedicated to supporting students, families, faculty and staff of color in independent schools as well as offering a variety of annual professional development and programs for Los Angeles area independent school educators and families. Monique has presented workshops at numerous conferences including the annual NAIS sponsored POCC (People of Color Conference), the bi-annual Across Colors conference and at CES (Coalition of Essential Schools) as well as at Wildwood and other independent school communities.  Her workshops focus specifically on diversity work with young children and her presentation topics range from challenging gender stereotyping, inspiring activism, and creating multicultural curriculum, to building partnerships across difference (relationship building between public and private schools). Monique is dedicated to increasing awareness and competency around creating multicultural curriculum and inclusive school culture.

Nirvan Mullick, MFA, Filmmaker (Cain’s Arcade) & Founder,, CA

Nirvan Mullick, creator of the viral film Caine’s Arcade, shares the inspiring story of how a community came together to celebrate the creativity of one child, and how that has since sparked, the Global Cardboard Challenge, and a movement to foster the creativity of children worldwide.

Speaker Biographies


Ana Alvarez, MSW, Family Engagement Specialist, LAUP, CA

Ana Alvarez, MSW, is a passionate and qualified social worker with over 11 years of experience. She has had a consistent track record of working successfully with individuals, families and groups. Ana has widespread expertise of providing high quality support in the fields of mental health, child and family services, medical, workforce development and early childhood education.  Ana currently works with  early childhood educators/administrators in strengthening parent involvement in early childhood programs across LA County as a Family Engagement Specialist at LAUP.

Joshua Alvarez, Education Consultant, Kaplan Early Learning Company, CA

Joshua has been in the Education field for over 24 years, a bilingual Consultant the past 20 years with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education, Parent Engagement/Father Involvement/Family Support, and is a CLASS Certified, Multicultural Certified Trainer. Joshua has trained RR Agencies, EHS/ HS, Districts, HC Providers, Parents, Gov Air/ Navy Base Child Care Programs, national conferences, and state conferences. He has extensive experience in Performance Standards, Curriculum, School Readiness, CLASS, Transition, ECERS, DRPD, Self Regulation/ Best Practices. He is President of LA County Male Engagement Collaborative and an “On Air” consultant for Public TV Series “A Place of Our Own/ Los Niños en su Casa.” Joshua is also a previous HS parent and was a HS child.

Maria Jesus Ampuero, PhD, LMFT, Behavioral Counselor, Desert Mountain Children’s Center, CA

Maria Jesus Ampuero was born in Peru, South America. She started her career in Pharmacology. She immigrated to United States in 1984.  She received her Bachelors in Psychology in 2000 and her PhD in Clinical Psychology in 2014. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Maria has experience working with families and children for more than 30 years in different settings. Currently, Maria works for Desert Mountain Children’s Center in Apple Valley and has her private practice. Maria is Bilingual Spanish being her first language.  Maria has participated in different conferences national and international conference in her country Peru.

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

Dr. Andrews has been working with young children for over 30 years. She is an adjunct professor as well as a preschool director of a large (400 children) center. Her passion is understanding how the brain works so that educators can work more effectively with young children. She has been presenting conference sessions internationally for many years and sharing her expertise on how to effectively create environments that are most conducive to high quality learning for all students.

Luis Barajas, Family Engagement Specialist, LAUP, CA

Luis is a Family Engagement Specialist at LAUP for the past 4 years. As a Family Engagement Specialist, he has facilitated an array of presentations such as, Parental Resilience, Transition to Kindergarten-School Readiness and Nutrition, Male Engagement the importance of Physical Activity and Health. He is an active member of the Los Angeles County Male Engagement Collaborative (LACMEC) which promotes positive male involvement and programs across Los Angeles County.  Luis is currently pursuing my Master Degree in Social Work from California State University Los Angeles.

Rosalina Becerra, MS, LCSW, Behavioral Counselor, Desert Mountain Children’s Center, CA
Rosalina Becerra is a Licensed Clinician Social Worker and has worked in the mental health field for 10 years. Rosalina is employed with Desert Mountain Children Center as a Behavioral Health Counselor, SART (Screening, Assessment, Referral and Treatment) program. Rosalina has provided individual, group and family counseling services to address the needs of children who have prenatal exposure, neglect, abuse and experienced trauma. Rosalina has worked with young children to explore the impact of early development stemming from a trauma history. Rosalina has presented at the Children’s Network Conference in 2013 and the Young Child Expo and Conference in 2014.

Bailey Bunch, National Lecture Staff, Gesell Institute of Child Development, CA

Bailey Bunch is an early childhood educator, elementary educator, and child advocate. She is currently working on an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction at California State University of Fresno in Fresno, CA and earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY. Bailey started her career as an early childhood educator working with children ages 3-5. Since then she has held various roles including early education lead teacher and kindergarten science specialist. Bailey has consulted and trained parents, educators and administrators locally, nationally, and internationally with the Gesell Institute of Child Development.

Luz Castellanos, MSW, Family Engagement Specialist, LAUP, CA

Luz Castellanos, MSW, is a dedicated and passionate social worker with 19 years of experience of working with families, community organizations, and schools, in the fields of mental health, social work, and early childhood education.  Luz has dedicated her career to promoting resiliency, healthy social-emotional development, and community/family engagement.   Luz currently works with early childhood educators/administrators in strengthening parent involvement in early childhood programs across LA County as a Family Engagement Specialist at LAUP.

Petra Cervantes, Quality Services Specialist, LAUP, CA

Petra Cervantes is a Quality Services Specialist and Trainer. She has worked in the field of Child Development for fifteen years in the capacity of a preschool teacher, child development specialist/supervisor and site director. As a supervisor/site director she over saw preschool classrooms and provided support and trainings for teachers and parents in the area of child development. She has currently worked as Quality Services Specialist for LAUP conducting CLASS and ERS (Environmental Rating Scale) observations across the infant, toddler and preschool age groups. Petra Cervantes specializes in conducting STEAM, Early Literacy, and Report writing trainings and speaks, reads, and writes in Spanish.

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

Justine Chadly is the owner of In Harmony Music in San Francisco and has been an advocate for early childhood music education since 2003. She has taught early childhood and elementary music in private, school and outreach settings as a partner with First Five California. She holds a BA in music from UC Davis and an MA in Music Education with an emphasis in early childhood and special needs from San Francisco State. She is a member of the National Association for Music Education and serves as a guest speaker in both the Special Education and Education departments at SFSU.

Maria Ciccone, MA, PD, Consultant, The Executive Leadership Institute, NY

Maria Ciccone is a veteran New York City educator.  She worked for the NYC Department of Education as a teacher, staff developer, coordinator of dual language programs, assistant principal, and retired as a principal of a model Early Childhood School in Jackson Heights, Queens.  She has developed a series of workshops that support supervisors in the supervision of ELLs and Early Childhood programs which has been her passion and expertise.  Recently, her workshops have shifted focus to address both the needs of supervisors and teachers as teams, who are directly impacting student learning.

Jennifer Cluley, Associate Project Director, Georgia State University, GA

As the Associate Project Director with the Best Practices Training Initiative at Georgia State University, Jennifer Cluley works with a dynamic team of trainers providing professional development for teachers, administrators and other staff working with the birth to five population throughout the state of Georgia.  Jennifer has spent her career in Early Childhood in Georgia working with the Georgia Pre-K program as well as Head Start programs in the state.

Ana Duarte, Family Engagement Specialist, LAUP, CA

Ana is a Family Engagement Specialist at LAUP. She has been a member of the LAUP team for 4 years. As a Family Engagement Specialist, her duties consist of facilitating presentations to families and educators all over LA County. Some of the topics include Concrete Support in Times of Need and Transition to Kindergarten.  She is an active member of the Los Angeles County Male Engagement Collaborative, which encourages and supports positive male involvement and programs across Los Angeles County. Ana  graduated in 2005 with a Bachelors of Art in Liberal Studies from CSU Dominguez Hills, Carson.

Steve Erwin, Child Development, California State University, CA

Steve Erwin has spent over 40 years working in a variety of capacities to promote, educate and advocate for young children and their families. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development and post graduate work in Preschool Special Education. His work experience includes being a family childcare provider, owner of a child care center, Head Start and State Preschool administrator. Recently he worked at the Child Development Lab at California State University, Chico (CSUC) and adjunct faculty for the Child Development Department at CSUC. He is currently the National Early Childhood Specialist for Kaplan Early Learning Company.

Laurel Francoeur, JD, Attorney, Francoeur Law Office, MA

Laurel graduated with a M.I.T. with a BS degree in Political Science and with a JD from Suffolk Law School.  She authored  “How To Advocate for Your Food Allergic Child” and “Flying with Food Allergies” co-authored the “Preschool Food Allergy Handbook.” She presented webinars for Food Allergy Research and Education  and the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation. She spoke for Nationwide Children’s 6th Annual Pediatric Asthma Conference, the Food Allergy Bloggers’ Conference, the Rhode Island Bar Association and other conferences. She has appeared on NPR  and ABC News, the Boston Globe, Allergic Living Magazine. Creator of the “Allergy Law Project.”

Judith Fuhrman, MS, SLP, Staff Development Specialist, Riverside Unified School District, CA

Judith Fuhrman is a licensed speech-language pathologist with varied therapeutic experience including rehabilitative, clinical, itinerant, and classroom settings.  Her expertise is in higher order language function and its relationship to literacy.  Ms. Fuhrman has presented at state, national, and international conferences, including the U.S. Department of Education’s National Comprehensive Literacy Institute, The European Conference on Literacy, and the Reading Association of Ireland.  She currently works as a Staff Development Specialist and curriculum writer for reading and writing intervention, preschool to high school, in Riverside, CA.

Cheryl Goldberg-Diaz, LCSW, Program Manager, Desert Mountain Children’s Center, CA

Cheryl Goldberg-Diaz, Program Manager has 28 years experience as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  Her experience has focused on working with at risk youth. Over the past 15 years Cheryl has worked with the Desert/Mountain Children’s Center, providing  clinical supervision, training, program development and implementation.  Experience in dealing with crisis management, prevention, intervention, including transdisciplinary team for intensive treatment to children ages 0-6 in the Screening, Assessment, Referral and Treatment program, assisted in development and implementation of CARE program serving children on the Autism spectrum. Her most current role is in development and over site of the DMCC Training Institute.

Anthony Gómez, Registry Outreach Coordinator, Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles, CA

Anthony Gómez is the Outreach Coordinator for the ECE Workforce Registry. Collaborating with local Resource and Referral agencies and child care programs, he conducts trainings across Los Angeles County to teach child care providers about the benefits of the Registry and support them in utilizing their profiles to achieve their professional goals. Previously, Anthony worked with first time mothers as the coordinator of a parenting program designed to increase attachment security in mother-toddler dyads. Anthony holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Pomona College and has co-authored journal publications examining the impact of parenting behavior on child psychological adjustment.

Carolyn Harvey, EdD, Shelby County School District Early Childhood Advisor, Shelby County Schools District, TN

Dr. Carolyn Harvey serves as Early Childhood Advisor and ensures all District and Community based Pre-K classrooms offer quality instruction by supporting the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices.  Additionally, Dr. Harvey has served as Director for Memphis City Schools.  During her purview, she managed the largest public school early childhood collaboration in the state of Tennessee, including Head Start, and non-profit and private childcare providers. She ensured the enhancement of school readiness for approximately 4,000 children and consistently surpassed academic gains of  skills in five developmental domains as measured by the Brigance Inventory of Early Learning Development Assessment.

Michelle Havens, EdD, Consultant, Imagine Academy, NJ

Michele Havens received her Ed.D. degree from Rutgers University. She is currently the DIR/Floortime Consultant to the Imagine Academy, an Autism program in Brooklyn, NY, (DIR-Floortime and ABA). Dr. Havens is also a Professor at Kean University and Montclair State University. She works privately as an advocate for families of children with disabilities.  Dr. Havens is also a private interventionist for children with special needs and has spoken at numerous conferences.  In addition, she currently works as a facilitator of an Autism parent support group.  Dr. Havens was previously the coordinator of the Verona, NJ Preschool Disabled Program.

Sherry Howard, MS, Project Director, Georgia State University, GA

Sherry P. Howard is the Project Director for the Best Practices Training Initiative in the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Georgia State University. She serves as the Principal Investigator contracted with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning to deliver professional development to approximately 10,000 Birth-5 teachers and directors across the state of Georgia since 1996. Best Practices delivers hands on developmentally appropriate training across a variety of content areas. She teaches Child Guidance to undergraduate students and serves on the B-5 Advisory Board.

Claire Hyland, MEd, R. Psych, Psychologist, Sturgeon Public School Division, Canada

Claire Hyland works as an Educational Psychologist and coordinator for early childhood education programs in Sturgeon Public School Division, in Alberta, Canada. She has been involved with teacher, parent, and educational consultant in-servicing for the past 20 years. She specializes in working with preschoolers with significant behavioral or emotional difficulties. Her presentations are always enlightening, humorous, and practical. Her background and expertise revolves around special education and differentiation of instruction for all learners.

Belinda Jauregu, LCSW, PPS, RPT-S, Clinical Counselor, Desert Mountain Children’s Center, CA

Belinda Jauregui is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Approved Instructor through the International Critical Incident Skills Foundation.  She is also a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor. Belinda has experience working with the Juvenile Justice system, Developmental disabilities and as a Hospital Social Worker for neonatal intensive care. Belinda has been employed as a Clinical Counselor for the past 25 years with Desert/Mountain SELPA and Children’s Center providing individual,family counseling and parent education to children and their parents.  She also provides staff development training to school district personnel including Critical Incident Skills Management for the development of school crisis management response teams.

Debbie Karaman, MPH, Burn Prevention Educator, Grossman Burn Center, CA

Ms. Karaman has worked in hospital-based community education for over 30 years.  She has been a Perinatal Instructor at Cedars Sinai for 17 years and at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital for 14 years.  Ms. Karaman has worked with the Children’s Burn Foundation for nine years, expanding the burn prevention program list to include senior, disabled, and teen audiences.  She also partners with the Los Angeles Fire Department on a prevention training program for children who start damaging fires.  She has her Master’s Degree in Public Health from UCLA.

Lana Kuntz, Headstart Teacher, Sturgeon Public School Division, Canada

Lana Kuntz works as an Early Education Headstart Teacher for Sturgeon Public School Division in Alberta, Canada.  She has been teaching in Early Intervention programs for over 15 years.  She is passionate about helping children and families have a positive first school experience and to help them build a strong foundation for their future schooling.  She loves to follow her student’s interests and build a sense of community in her classroom.  Lana believes that even young children can begin to learn problem solving skills that can help them solve conflicts, build language skills, and help them overcome behavioral or emotional difficulties.  She implements Social Collaborative Problem Solving in her Classroom on a daily basis.

Stephanie Lester, MA, College Instructor, Antelope Valley College, CA

Stephanie Lester’s 35 years in education include: Preschool, Project-Based Learning Multiage K-1st program, Professional Development Speaker, author, Assistant Principal, Child and Family Education college instructor, Early Childhood Education Director, Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Director. She is currently a college instructor and  an Educational Consultant. Stephanie believes that children learn best when they are excited and engaged in the learning process while participating in developmentally appropriate Project-Based activities. Stephanie has published two books: Year Round Project-Based Activities for STEM and Science Through the Year. Stephanie is passionate about educating and motivating teachers to implement Project-Based Learning through science activities.

Viviana Longoria, MAEd, Quality Service Specialist, LAUP, CA

Viviana Longoria is a Quality Service Specialist with Los Angeles Universal Preschool. She is reliable in all three Environmental Rating Scales and CLASS assessment tools. Viviana recently became a certified CLASS Infant & Toddler trainer and has assisted/conducted various trainings which include: Science Technology Engineering Art Math (STEAM), CLASS Pre-k, ECERS, ITERS, and FCCERS.  Viviana has over twelve years’ experience in the education field and has worked with preschool to high school aged children. Viviana Longoria attended Azusa Pacific University where she earned her Masters of Education and credential in Elementary Education. Viviana Longoria is passionate about Early Education and stands firm with the mission of LAUP in providing Quality Education for all children because it is providing a strong foundation for our future leaders.

Leticia Malvaez, Program Coach, LAUP, CA

Leticia Malvaez has been working in the early learning field for over 10 years. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, both from California State University Long Beach. She was part of the Race to The Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT), working with the Quality Rating and Improvement System. Leticia is currently a Program Coach with Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) where she works collaboratively with early learning educators to help elevate the quality of their programs across a wide range of areas.

Eliana Mancilla, Family Engagement Specialist, LAUP, CA

Eliana Mancilla is a family engagement specialist with over 10 years’ experience in early childhood education and family development. She has dedicated her career to promoting quality education for children. Miss Mancilla has facilitated workshops with topics such as classroom management, positive communication, early childhood education and play based learning. Additionally, she has conducted STEAM based workshops for early childhood educators and specialized in creating developmentally appropriate STEM activities for children ages 0 to 13.

Dominique McMillan, Family Engagement Specialist, LAUP, CA

Dominique McMillan, has over 20 years of experience in parenting education, early childhood and program leadership. She is dedicated to providing dynamic training and helping childhood educators develop optimal learning environments to meet the cognitive and social-emotional needs of children. An overview of her professional expertise includes; providing project coordination and leadership, which results in increased awareness, accountability, and implementation of sound pedagogical practices that help providers better serve the unique needs of children. Ms. McMillan earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. She holds certifications in Parenting Education and Family Management.

Eloise Messineo, PhD, Executive Director, Executive Leadership Institute, NY

Dr. Eloise Messineo currently serves as the Executive Director for the Executive Leadership Institute. She earned her PhD from New York University, a MS from Springfield College, and a B.S. from Brooklyn College.  Dr. Messineo has been a Fellow in the Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished New York City Principals; a Fellow in the Education Policy Fellows Program; and a Senior Fellow in the Global Education Policy Fellows. She has provided leadership in the global educational community by making presentations at international, national and local conferences in China, Washington, D.C.  and New York City, respectively. 

Renee Metty, MEd, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer, With Pause, WA

Renee Metty, MEd, works with the preschool she founded, teachers, administrators and students in both public and private schools, families and businesses to bring mindfulness and compassion to the world.  It began with preschoolers and after seeing the importance of mindfulness for all, she expanded her work to reach adults. Her background also includes implementing an animal assisted therapy program into her middle school emotional behavioral disorder classroom over a decade ago.  Combining mindfulness and animal assisted therapy was a natural direction for her.  Renee has a passion for this work and its importance in social emotional learning. 

Tina Moglia, Supervising Producer, Sesame Workshop, NY

As a Producer, Tina Moglia supervises all digital production for Sesame Workshop’s Social Impact initiatives, including the Sesame Street in Communities initiative. Tina is an integral part of production at Sesame Workshop for many years, first as a Producer on Pinky Dinky Doo in 2007.  A creator of kid-directed media in multiple studios before joining Sesame Workshop, she’s contributed to both on and off channel development projects, and was a Production Manager, an award-winning Show Writer, and has worked as a Production Director for games and apps. She earned her bachelor of science in broadcasting and film from Boston University.

Jane Montgomery, MA, Director, Peachtree Presbyterian Preschool, GA

Jane is the Director of a large half day inclusion preschool in Atlanta, Georgia, for 25 years with over 25 children with special needs. She has worked strategic change for  school improvement as well as the development of a pedagogical master plan. She is a member of the Pedagogical Steering Committee of Inspired Practices in Early Education, Inc. Jane has presented at conferences including NAEYC, NAREA, Young Child and AdvancEd. She was the 2007 recipient of the Dare to Dream award by Adaptive Learning Center for her work with inclusion and children with special needs.

April Nakayoshi, MPH, Vice President Program and Evaluation, Prevent Blindness Northern California, CA

April has designed and implemented evaluation frameworks to ensure the See Well to Learn and Professional Education and Training programs are delivered efficiently and effectively. She is currently working on a research project with University of California San Francisco and Bay Area Head Starts to explore the effects of vision problems and vision correction on early development.  In addition, she is working to assess the cost benefit of our program’s interventions. Data driven decision making is critical to keeping us on course toward our mission and maintaining the integrity of our work.

Barbara O’Neill, EdD, Consultant, Transform Challenging Behavior, CA

Barb O’Neill, EdD helps early childhood program directors and teachers develop the confidence and skills necessary to support children who exhibit challenging behavior using a unique set of play and theater-arts based methods. She has previously worked as a preschool teacher, a special education teacher, early childhood professor and center director. She has studied and written about the use of improv-based play support and the theater arts as tools to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities and prevent children’s use of challenging behavior. You can find her at

Jocelyn V. Ramirez, MPH, Program Officer, First5LA, CA

Jocelyn V. Ramirez is a Program Officer in the Family Supports Department at First 5 LA. In her current capacity, Jocelyn manages a portfolio of Family Engagement investments through partnerships between legal entities and healthcare settings. Previously, Jocelyn spent five years leading place-based community engagement and capacity building in East Los Angeles through the Best Start Communities initiative at First 5 LA. Jocelyn holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Policy & Management and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Southern California. Jocelyn’s career has focused on policy and systems change to improve equity and health outcomes in underserved communities.

Katherin Freier Randall, PhD, Psychologist Consultant, Desert Mountain Children’s Center, CA
Dr. Kiti Freier Randall is a Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Psychologist with extensive experience, spanning over 26 years, with high-risk infant and youth populations; especially with pre and post natal substance exposure and childhood trauma. She is Director of Psychological Services, Department of Pediatrics, Loma Linda University Health Care and Medical Director for the Inland Empire Autism Assessment Center of Excellence. She works as a consultant expert for the San Bernardino County SART centers (transdisciplinary 0-5 high risk clinics), as well as to Desert Mountain SELPA (education). She is author/director of the Trauma, Loss & Compassion (TLC) bereavement support group for preschoolers.

Patty Randall, Director of Educational Practices, Peachtree Presbyterian Preschool, GA

As Director of Educational Practices, at Peachtree Presbyterian Preschool, Patty serves in the role of pedagogista. She sits on the school steering committee and is a member of Project Infinity, an educational project of seven schools working together. She has spent many years studying the schools of Reggio Emilia, including five study tours in Reggio. Patricia sits on both the Project Infinity steering committee and pedagogical team. She has presented at NAEYC conferences, Project Infinity Educator Exchange Days, The Young Child Conference, NAREA Initiatives, and Project Infinity Institute.

Staci Ratcliffe, MA, Lecturer, Federation University, OR

Staci Ratcliffe is an experienced social worker with 10+ years’ experience in the field specifically working with children, young people and families..  She is a lecturer at Federation University in both community and human services and social work and is currently working on the completion of her PHD titled, How parent’s manage the care of their children post ASD (autism spectrum disorder) diagnosis which is focused on increasing understanding for professionals, families, and parents in the gaps and potential supports required following a diagnosis of ASD.

Christina Rigsby, MAT, Senior Quality Services Specialist, LAUP, CA

 Christina Rigsby has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and her MA in Teaching. In addition to teaching elementary school, she has also taught preschool at a family child care center. She has had several roles during her five years at LAUP where she coached teachers that serve children ages 0-5, performed assessments, provided technical assistance, and given trainings. She has been trained by ERSI to reliability in ECERS and FCCERS. She is reliable in three CLASS tools (Pre-K, Toddler, and Infant) and certified through PITC (The Program for Infant and Toddler Care). She has developed and delivered trainings on the ERS and CLASS tools, Creative Curriculum, and helping children develop higher order thinking skills.

Cynthia Santana, Quality Services Specialist, LAUP, CA

Cynthia Santana has worked at LAUP for over nine years in various capacities supporting ECE programs including facilitating trainings for providers and parents on topics such as developmental screening, observation based assessment, dual language learners and health and wellness. She is a certified trainer for the DRDP 2015 and trains within the LAUP organization. She has also provided resources and on-site support to programs as requested on various areas of need such as working with children with special needs. Most recently, she has worked as a Quality Support Specialist conducting quality assessments in early childhood programs using the Environmental Rating Scales and the CLASS tools. Previously, she was a developmental interventionist and pre-kindergarten itinerant teacher.

Kristina Satchell, MSEd, Educational Supervisor, Columbia University Early Head Start, NY

Kristina is the Educational Supervisor at the Columbia University Early Head Start in New York City and is responsible for overseeing the curriculum needs of the center and for professional development of the staff. Kristina has done consulting work for the Center for Emotional Responsive Practice at Bank Street College and is currently consulting for the Bank Street Education Center. She previously worked at the Bank Street Family Center in an inclusion classroom for infants and toddlers. She earned her Master’s in Education from Bank Street College in Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special and General Education.

Karen Schumacher, Executive Director, Pawsitive Works, ID

Karen Schumacher is the founding, Executive Director of Pawsitive Works, a 501c3 nonprofit organization providing curriculum driven, canine assisted social emotional learning programs.  She began her career in the medical device industry in marketing and sales.  When presented with the opportunity to apprentice as a dog trainer, Karen invested time, passion and skills into becoming a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist. Her expertise in dog behavior, marketing and working with troubled youth led her to create Pawsitive Works in 2009.

Chelan Shepherd, MA, Coordinator of Elementary Curriculum and Intervention, Golden Valley Unified School District, CA

Chelan Shepherd is a passionate educator who believes that students thrive in a supportive and understanding educational environment. Her current position as Coordinator of Elementary Curriculum and Intervention for Golden Valley Unified School District allows her to coach teachers to create positive learning environments. Through her experience adopting her 8 year old daughter, Chelan realizes that increasing numbers of children are experiencing trauma that creates new challenges in the classroom setting and that all educators need to understand the importance of creating learning environments that support children who have experienced trauma.

Erin Shipley, MS, CCC-SLP, Celebrate the Children, NJ
Erin Shipley, MS, CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist with over ten years experience working within the field of special education, specializing in autism and emotional regulation disorders. She currently works at Celebrate the Children where she supports and educates children, families, and staff on the importance of AAC use. She works privately with families as well, supporting language development and AAC in the home. Erin has been a guest educator/mentor to Seton Hall students to support their knowledge on integrating AAC with the principles of DIR. Erin is passionate about her work and believes that everyone has the potential to create and use their own voice.

April Shoemaker, MA, Founder of Empowering Parenting, Home School Association of California, CA

April Shoemaker has a pioneering spirit in everything she does. In 2012, her 25-year old son asked her to write a book about how she empowered him, and together they wrote “Empowering Parenting” e-book, providing abundant resources and stories. Using her witty sense of humor, she sparks new ways of thinking that make a difference in the world. She is committed to all families being healthy, loving, joyful, and creative, as they hone their superpowers and take on life powerfully.

Katie Statman-Weil, MS, LCSW, Instructor, Portland State University, OR

Katie Statman-Weil holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a master’s degree in social work, her clinical expertise is trauma informed care. Katie has worked as a preschool teacher, a school social worker, and as the Executive Director of an inclusive nonprofit early childhood center. Katie currently speaks internationally on the topic of childhood trauma, while also teaching at Portland State University where her courses focus on equity and guidance strategies that improve social-emotional development and self-regulation for all learners. In her personal life Katie is a foster parent to children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

Christine Tran, MEd, Program Officer, First5LA, CA

Christine Tran is a Program Officer in the Family Supports Department at First 5 LA. Her work includes the design and implementation of programs, specifically to support and improve family engagement efforts in LA County. Her prior experiences include teaching middle and high school at the Los Angeles Unified School District as well as engaging in policy and program analysis work across various cities the country. Christine obtained her bachelor’s degrees in Asian American Studies and English, as well as a Master of Education from the UCLA. She also holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from Columbia University in the City of New York. Currently, she is a doctoral student at the University of Washington studying Educational Leadership, Policy & Organizations.

Charmaine Turpin, Educational Consultant, Zoo-phonics, CA

Ms. Turpin is an educational consultant for Zoo-phonics Inc in Sonora, CA. She conducts inservices across the US for Head Start, public and private preschool through first grade teachers. She is a member of NAEYC, SECA, NKA, NHSA and an affiliate member of SCAEYC, NCAEYC and VACE. She has been employed with Zoo-phonics for the past 26 years and has eight years early childhood experience. Ms. Turpin was Zoo-phonics’ creator Georgene “Gigi” Bradshaw’s SDC/RSP aide during the early stages of the program and saw first-hand how successful the methodology worked in the special education classroom. She is also the mother of twins with cerebral palsy.

Daysha Underwood, Family Engagement Specialist, LAUP, CA

Daysha J.P. Underwood is a Quality Services Specialist who is reliable in early childhood education assessment tools including ECERS-R, FCCERS-R, ITERS-R, CLASS PK, CLASS Toddler, and CLASS Infant. She is also a Teachstone Affiliate Trainer for CLASS PK and CLASS Infant. Prior to working for LAUP, she worked in a family child care preschool. She also worked at a public charter school with K-7th graders teaching and assessing children in reading, math, math-art, and science.   Her approach to training is engaging and interactive with a splash of humor to keep the time together fun. Her goal is to ensure that multiple learning styles are included, participants feel valued, and that the content is made relevant to the participants’ experiences and needs. She views each training as not only a time to share her expertise, but also as a time to learn from the experiences of the participants.

Anna Vagin, PhD, Speech Language Pathologist, Private Practice, CA
Anna Vagin, PhD, is a licensed speech/language pathologist with over 30 years experience. In her private practice she provides individual sessions and social learning groups to children through young adults. Her particular interest is using media to support social thinking in students with diagnoses such as ASD, ADHD, NVLD, Language Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Social Communication Disorder or Twice Exceptional. She provides consultation to parents and schools, and is a frequent speaker in the US and Canada on topics related to social cognition. Author of Movie Time Social Learning (2013) and YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning (2015).

Carolina Valdovinos, MA, Senior Quality Services Specialist, LAUP, CA

Carolina Valdovinos has over 17 years of work experience in the field of early childhood education, the last being a role as a Sr. Quality Services Specialist at LAUP, where she conducts CLASS and ERS assessments, develops and facilitates trainings in various ECE topics. Prior to LAUP, Carolina was an Infant/Toddler teacher before becoming an assistant director for a child development center and an adjunct professor teaching child development related courses at a community college. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology, Specialization in Early Childhood. She is certified in all four of the Program for Infant/Toddler Care Modules. She is also a Desired Results Certified Trainer (DRDP 2015).

Ilene Val-Essen, PhD, President, Quality Parenting, CA

Dr. Ilene Val-Essen has been passionately serving parents for decades. Recently, she has devoted attention to training educators. An innovator program developer, she blends Western psychology with Eastern philosophy, bringing a unique voice to the global community. Val-Essen leads workshops in the USA and Europe and is a featured speaker at international conferences. Her books and Quality Parenting/Quality Teaching program invite parents and teachers to enter a new paradigm, which dramatically improves how we relate to children. Family and classroom life becomes so much easier and more rewarding. Val-Essen practices as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA.

Ruby Velasco, MS, Counseling Concentration MFT, Mental Health Specialist, CAMFT, CA

Ruby Velasco is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She received her BA in Psychology from CSU Long Beach and MS in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy from the University of La Verne, CA. She has over 10 years of experience in the field of Psychology, working with children, teens and families in a clinical setting. Ms. Velasco presented Cultural Competency Trainings to clinicians and case managers before joining LAUP, and currently develops and delivers trainings in English/Spanish for Early Childhood Professionals on various topics, focusing on Mental Health and Wellness, Cultural Diversity, and Child Development.

Tenise Wall, PhD, Mental Health Clinician, Institute For Family Health, NY

Dr. Tenise Wall, Ph.D works as a Mental Health Clinician in a community-based clinic where she assesses, provides clinical diagnoses, and treats a variety of mental health disorders and specializes in the treatment of ADHD and conduct disorders. She worked 11 years as a school social worker. She shares her knowledge and expertise on the topic of ADHD as a professional speaker for school personnel, parents, and community stake holders. Her research on ADHD has greatly contributed to the psychological community and experience with school children is making an impact on how school personnel are intervening with children with ADHD.

LaDonna Wicklund, MA, Early Literacy Specialist, I Can Read Non-Profit, IA

LaDonna Wicklund MA taught children to read for 40 years as a classroom teacher, Title 1 Reading Specialist, and a Reading Recovery Teacher.  She is an educator, song writer, author, and national presenter.  Her I Can Read Songs harness the power of music and movement to teach children to read and write a few powerful, beginning sight words that ease them naturally and joyously 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.

Lisa Wilson, MEd, Owner/CEO, Professional Education Development Technology Corporation, CA

Lisa Marie Wilson is the Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Professional Education Development Technology Corporation (PEDTC). PEDTC includes: Lisa M. Wilson Consulting, Teachers On-Call, Innovative Tutoring Services and Early Bird Learning Centers. Lisa is an adjunct faculty member of the Early Childhood Education department at College of the Canyons and also teaches at Santa Monica City College in the Early Childhood Education department. As the Professional Development Coordinator for Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge pilot in Los Angeles County, Lisa was able to extend her passion for quality programs for all children.