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2018 Speakers

Keynoter Biographies

Holly Elissa Bruno, JD, Author, Holly Elissa Bruno Keynotes & Team Building, MA

Holly Elissa Bruno, MA, JD, award-winning and best-selling author specializing in emotionally intelligent leadership and preventing legal risks, is an international keynote speaker. iTunes ranked her radio program, Heart to Heart Conversations on Leadership: Your Guide to Making a Difference in its top 200 k-12 podcasts. She served as Assistant Attorney General for the state of Maine and Assistant Dean at the University of Maine School of Law. While working as Associate Professor and Academic Dean at the University of Maine-Augusta, Holly Elissa was selected “Outstanding Professor”. An alumna of Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management, she teaches leadership courses for Wheelock College, most recently in Singapore. Her first book, Leading on Purpose was published by McGraw-Hill in 2008. Its sequel, What You Need to Lead: Emotional Intelligence in Practice has been one of NAEYC’s best-sellers. Managing Legal Risks, Teachers College Press, is another best-seller. The Comfort of Little Things received the Living Now Award for books in any field that “uplift the quality of life”. Her current writing focuses on transforming childhood trauma into healing wisdom. Her article “Broken into Wholeness” was released by Exchange Press in early 2018. To “recovering attorney” Holly Elissa, life is too short to anything but enjoy it daily.

Dr. Abraham George

Ken Welsh, Customer Communication Coach, Australia

Ken is a business voice who works on the principle that “Language has the ability to create Physiological change which can result in Behavioural Change.” His work has lead him to over 50 countries pursing excellence in Business Communication, Team Building & Motivation, Change Management, Cross-Cultural Communication, Client and Customer Engagement, Emotional Intelligence and Creativity. His experience includes a diverse range of industries ranging from multinational IT, Education, Financial and Telecommunications companies, through medium sized corporations, to small businesses in developing countries including hotels & guest houses, entrepreneurs and retailers. His work applies simple techniques using language to influence human behaviour. In developing his unique skill set Ken has integrated many disciplines including: Emotional Intelligence, Creativity Generation, Transactional Analysis, Neuro-Psychology, Laughter Work, and Experiential Psychology.

Orly Wahba, Founder/CEO Life Vest Inside, NY

Orly Wahba is an educator, entrepreneur, speaker and community activist passionate about inspiring and motivating people to make the world a kinder place. In 2011, Orly founded Life Vest Inside, a non-profit organization with a mission to inspire, empower and educate people of all backgrounds to lead a life of kindness. Through Life Vest Inside, Orly encourages people to embrace the incredible power of giving and recognize that in times of hardship, kindness, like a life vest, keeps the world afloat. LVI gained international acclaim when Orly’s award-winning film Kindness Boomerang went viral, receiving over 100 million views and counting; landing her a spot to speak at TED2013 on the magic of kindness. Orly began her career in kindness as a Middle School educator at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in NY empowering children to embrace unity, build their self-value, and use their power to influence the world for good. As her kindness community grows by the thousands, more people are experiencing the addictiveness in the giving of kindness.

Speaker Biographies

Marcie Aboff, Children’s Author – Literacy Advocate, Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, NJ

Marcie Aboff is an award-winning author of picture books, chapter books, activity books, and magazine stories for children from preschool to middle school. Her books are included in the Jr. Library Guild, and have received Garden State Book Award Honors, Learning Magazine’s Teachers’ Choice Awards, and starred reviews in the School Library Journal. Marcie’s guided reading books are used in classrooms around the country, and her movie tie-in activity books feature Clifford the Big Red Dog, Shrek, and Looney Tunes characters. For more than 15 years, Marcie has presented lively educational literacy programs for educators, parents, and students.

Kristie Adams, MEd, Vice President Programs & Services, Family Scholar House, Inc, KY

Kristie Adams, MEd is the VP, Programs and Services at Family Scholar House, where she has been for ten years. Kristie has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. Her passion is working with and for children to have a safe and healthy childhood so that they may grow confidently into their dreams. Kristie has worked with families and children for over 20 years.  She has received training and/or certification in MusicTogether, Mindfulness, Conscious Discipline, MotheRead, Trauma Informed Care, Human Trafficking, Mental Health First Aid, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault.

Jennifer Asimow, MEd, Teacher, Virginia Preschool Initiative Expansion, VA

Julia Wilmouth teaches prekindergarten as a part of the Virginia Preschool Initiative Expansion program in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Julia has been a public school educator for 21 years and worked in children’s ministry for five years. As a part of her work with children’s ministry, Julia led the English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program for preschoolers and their families. She has been trained by her school division to lead Project Based Learning (PBL) as a Capacity Builder in her school.

Michelle Attardi, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, ASHA, NJ

Michelle Attardi, MA, CCC-SLP, has been doing clinical work for 18 years.  Michelle worked at The First Cerebral Palsy Center, her first introduction to AAC. She was an adjunct professor at Montclair State University, supervising students in training.  She spent several years supporting families in the New Jersey Early Intervention system and continues to go into the home while doing private consultation.  She is currently at Celebrate The Children, Denville, NJ. In this setting she fuses her DIR training to foster the development of language, utilizing AAC supports to empower the child to reach their maximum potential.

Whitney Barrera, MEd, Special Education Teacher, Colonial School District, DE

Whitney Barrera is a special education teacher, primarily working with students on the autism spectrum. She has degree in Sociolgy and Inclusive Education in addition to a degree in Curriculum & Instruction with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis. Whitney was part of a team in her district that developed and implemented a program for students with social learning and communication deficits.

Katherine Beauchat, EdD, Associate Professor, York College of PA, MD

Katherine Beauchat, EdD, is an Associate Professor of Education and Early Elementary Education Coordinator at York College of Pennsylvania, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in literacy education. Her teaching and research interests include pre-service teacher preparation in early childhood literacy development and professional development for early childhood educators in the area of literacy and language instruction.

Mark Bertin, MD, Developmental Pediatrics, New York Medical College, NY

Mark Bertin is a developmental pediatrician and author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD and The Family ADHD Solution, which integrate mindfulness into the rest of evidence-based ADHD care, and a contributing author for the book Teaching Mindfulness Skills to Kids and Teens.  He is a faculty member at New York Medical College and the Windward Teacher Training Institute, and on the advisory boards for the non-profits Common Sense Media and Reach Out and Read.  His blog is available through Huffington Post, and Psychology Today.  For more information, please visit his website at

Lakisha Best, MEd, CEO Pre-K Consulting Firm, CDA Council, OH

Lakisha Best MEd has been in ECE over 15 years. She started her journey as a child home provider where she answered her calling for ECE. Lakisha Best completed her graduate work at Union Institute and University. During her career she has served as an Assessment & Development Coach for CHCCAA Head-Start. Lakisha Best continued with OCCRRA where she served as a CPDS Coordinator for the state of OH. She was responsible for delivering Ohio approved trainings to 5 counties and served as the head of District 5. Lakisha Best also started The BEST Pre-K Consulting Firm where she successfully instructed 85 candidates receive their CDA.

Danielle Fairbairn Bland, MSW, LCSW, Founder, Vision Transformation Firm, NY

Mrs. Bland is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 10 years of experience in psychotherapy, group work and administration. Mrs. Bland is the Founder of Vision Transformation Firm, a personal development firm that provides Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting services to Uplift, Heal and Inspire communities. Vision Transformation Firm is focused on enhancing the lives of culturally diverse children and families who have been impacted by trauma. Mrs. Bland uses her platform as a psychotherapist, speaker, advocate and educator, to explore intersectionality among culturally diverse groups and develop effective strategies to promote healing.

Katrin L. Blamey, PhD, Associate Professor, DeSales University, PA
Katrin Blamey currently works as an associate professor and chair of the Early Childhood and Elementary Education program in the Education Department at DeSales University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in education, supervises student teachers, and serves as the chapter counselor for Kappa Delta Pi. Together with her colleague Dr. Beauchat she has coauthored several professional texts, including the Building Blocks of Preschool Success, Effective Read-Alouds for Early Literacy, and Starting Strong: Evidence-Based Early Literacy Practices.

Randall Booker, MA, Superintendent, Piedmont Unified School District, CA

Randall Booker currently serves as the Superintendent for the Piedmont Unified School District.  With 20 years of teaching and administrative experience, he has held the roles of Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Piedmont High School Principal and Assistant Principal.  He has also worked in various teaching, coaching, and administrative capacities in the Albany USD and Cardinal Newman High School.  Mr. Booker received his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Mary’s College of California.

Erin Browder, MEd, MS, Education Consultant, CA

Erin Browder is an Education Consultant. She specializes in school transformation, developing leadership capacity, school emotional climate, and building staff capacity. Prior to becoming a consultant, Erin worked as a Project Director of Trauma-Informed Schools for Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP). She is an expert trainer who has trained thousands of professionals on Trauma-Informed Approaches and Self-Care in the Workplace. She has provided site-based support for school improvement efforts in comprehensive Los Angeles-area since 2011.  Prior to LAEP, she worked as a classroom teacher and teacher leader in K-12 public schools in NYC

Carmen Sherry Brown, EdD, Assistant Professor, Hunter College, CUNY, 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.

Mariah Bruehl, MS, Founder, Playful Learning, NY

Mariah Bruehl is an educator and author of the book, PLAYFUL LEARNING: DEVELOP YOUR CHILD’S SENSE OF JOY AND WONDER. With over 25 years of experience working in the field of education and a MS in Education from Bank Street College, she has worked as both a teacher and director at The Dalton School and Ross School in New York. Her second book is slated to be released in the fall of 2018. Playful Learning Studio opened its doors in the spring of 2015 in East Hampton, and provides playful learning experiences for children, ages 2 to 12.

Jade Burris, EdD, Assistant Professor, West Chester University of PA, PA

Jade Burris has been teaching in higher education teacher preparation programs for more than 10 years.  She is an Assistant Professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Early and Middle Grades Education.  She teaches courses and advises students in the Early Grades Preparation program.  Her most recent teaching has focused on Infant, Toddler and Preschool Methods courses.  In addition, she has worked with young children, birth to five years, as a teacher in various childcare settings.  Her current research focuses on quality in early childhood programs, the integration of technology in childcare programs, and family.

Vincent J. Carbone, EdD, BCBA-D, Carbone Clinic, FL

Vincent J. Carbone, EdD, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate and New York State Licensed Behavior Analyst.  He received his graduate training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, under the supervision of W.Scott Wood. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Penn State University and teaches in the graduate programs in Behavior Analysis at the European Institute for the Study of Human Behavior, in Parma, Italy, and at the Medical School at the University of  Salerno, Salerno, Italy.  His behavior analytic research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, Behavior Modification, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders and others.  He has provided the requisite university training and supervision to hundreds of board certified behavior analysts in the U.S. and overseas. He is the 2017 recipient of the “Jack Michael Outstanding Contributions in Verbal Behavior Award” from Association for Behavior Analysis International’s Verbal Behavior Special Interest Group. Currently, he serves as the director of the Carbone Clinics in New York, Boston, London, UK and Dubai, UAE.  All clinics provide behavior analytic consultation, training and therapeutic services to children with autism and developmental disabilities.

Megan Carolan, MPP, Director of Policy Research, Institute for Child Success, NJ

Megan Carolan is Director of Policy Research at the Institute for Child Success, a research and policy organization focused on a systems-based approach to improving outcomes for young children. She directs ICS’ research on early childhood policy issues, including education, welfare, and health. Megan was previously the Policy Research Coordinator at the National Institute for Early Education Research, where she managed the State Preschool Yearbook report on state-funded pre-K policy. Megan holds a Master of Public Policy from Rutgers University and a Bachelors in sociology and politics from Fairfield University.

Colleen Carroll, EdD, Author, Innovative Reading, CT

As a nationally recognized expert in reading for the past 20 years, Dr. Carroll delivers actionable steps in an easy-to-follow format that even the busiest teachers and administrators can implement to engage parents and help them get their children to put down the screens and choose to read. Dr. Carroll has been a teacher, principal, Director of Literacy and Asst. Superintendent of Schools. She works with both parents and school districts to support the parent’s role in developing their child as a reader. Dr. Carroll consults with school districts nationally to improve the home-school connection and increase student achievement.

Shazia Choudri, LLLB (Hons), Holisic Health Coach, CEO, 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 pre-school environment in its approach to food. She has spent many years working with pre-schools in New York 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. 

Tonya Cooper, EdD, Instructional Leadership Director, Shelby County Schools, TN

Tonya Cooper is a dedicated-instructional leader who has worked for over 23 years advocating for children within the educational community.  She has served as a teacher, instructional facilitator, assistant principal, school principal, and now holds the position of an Instructional Leadership Director within the Shelby County Schools District (Memphis, TN).  In her eleven-year role as a school principal, Tonya Cooper worked alongside faculty, staff, and other stakeholders to substantially increase student growth and achievement. In her current role, she mentors, coaches, and supervises elementary school principals.

Meryl Cullom, Professional Development Specialist, Education Through Music, NY

Meryl Cullom is a long time educator and presenter and is currently the Professional Development specialist for Education Through Music, a non-profit in NYC that partners with inner-city schools to provide music as a core subject for all children.  She facilitates engaging hands-on PD sessions for music teachers and academic teachers in the ETM partner schools as well as conducting workshops for administrators and parents.  Prior to her work with ETM she was the Director of Education for the metro-DC area’s longest running children’s theatre- Adventure Theatre.

Elizabeth Cummings, MSc, Authors, Australian Society of Authors, AL

Elizabeth is a Sydney based author and poet. With a background in psychology, business and teaching Elizabeth’s writing represents the world from the perspective of those who are marginalised, misunderstood or simply unheard. Elizabeth has presented and written on the topic of family health both in Australia and internationally, on mental and family health matters. Elizabeth believes in enabling young children to have conversations about matters that impact their lives.

Sandy Darveau, MA, Early Childhood Consultant, Heartland AEA, IA

Sandy recognizes that the most perfect day is a day spent playing with babies. As an Early Interventionist she spends her time building relationships with families and supporting them on their parenting journey.

Nermeen Dashoush, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Boston University, MA

Nermeen Dashoush is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University’s School of Education. Her work is focused on STEM education in Early Childhood and Teacher Education.  Aside from her work as a professor, Dr. Dashoush helps run early intervention preschool programs in the Boston area and designs digital science tools for young children.

Andre Eaton, New York State Director, The Parent-Child Home Program, NY

Andre coordinates program expansion, support, staff development, and training for New York state Parent-Child Home Program sites. He develops public and private funding streams, foster relationships with agencies, state policy makers, enhancing partnerships with business and other literacy and early childhood programs. Andre has a B.A. in Sociology from Brandeis University, a Master’s Degree in Social Work from The University of Pennsylvania, and Masters of Divinity Degree from Union Theological Seminary.  He is a member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council under Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Melissa Eger, MA-CCC/SLP, Speech Language Pathologist, Southern Elementary School, DE

Melissa Eger is a speech-language pathologist with more than 17 years experience. She began her career working with preschool students in New York. Since moving to Delaware, she works in a KN-5 building, primarily with students on the Autism Spectrum.

Katie Fallone, MEd, Program Director, Move This World, NY

Katie Fallone is the Program Director at Move This World. Katie facilitates adult wellbeing workshops, consults with our school partners and ensures a successful implementation of  school wide social-emotional learning programs. Katie works closely with administrators and school counselors to determine the needs of individual schools as well as school districts. Prior to joining the Move This World team, Katie completed her BA degree in Psychology followed by a MAEd in Counseling and Counselor Education at Providence College. She worked across elementary, middle and high school guidance departments in Providence, Rhode Island.

Lindsay Frank, MS, Science Specialist, Port Chester- Rye Unified School District, CT

Lindsay Frank graduated from Miami University with a degree in Early Childhood Education and certifications in both Early Childhood Environmental Science and TESOL.  Lindsay received her Master’s Degree from Mercy College in Childhood Education.  Currently, Lindsay serves as the K-1 Science Specialist for the Port Chester- Rye Unified School District in Westchester, New York where she actively engages students in hands- on science education weekly.  Lindsay’s science lessons offer a new approach to teaching science with the integration of multiple modalities, interdisciplinary activities and engaging lessons for all students to understand.

Lindy Gaudiano, MEd, Academic Program Manager, Grand Canyon University, AZ

Lindy completed her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and earned her Master’s degree in Reading with an Emphasis in Elementary Education. She’s certified in Elementary Education and also as a K-12 Reading Specialist. Lindy started teaching in a public school first grade classroom and transitioned to Higher Education in 2009 where she works within the College of Education helping to manage and develop courses and all teacher preparation programs.

Saroj Ghoting, MLS, Early Childhood Literacy Consultant, PA

Saroj Ghoting has been a children’s librarian for over 40 years, most of it in public libraries. For the last 15 years she has been an early childhood literacy consultant presenting face-to-face and online training on early literacy for library and early childhood staff around the country. As a consultant to the American Library Association for the Every Child Ready to ReadR initiative and the co-author of six books on early literacy in storytimes, she stresses the importance of reaching parents and caregivers to help all children enter school ready to learn. 

Alisha Griffith, AuD, Autism Parent Coach, ASHA, NY

Alisha Griffith is a trained educator, speech language pathologist, and audiologist.  She has worked in schools, homes, offices and in her own private practice for nearly two decades. In 2016, became a best selling author Au-mazing Gift: A Journey to Autism Acceptance.  She is a speaker, ignite coach, catalyst for change, and a great connector. A proud mother of Zachary, her bright and extra-ordinary son who is on the Autism Spectrum. Dr. Alisha launched two programs So SMART kids, Inc. and Smart Fit Fam, dedicated for  children and families on the spectrum learning more about wellness, fitness, and nutrition.

Chad Grossman, MS, CCC-SLP, Clinical Supervisor, TheraCare, NY

Chad Grossman is an early intervention speech-language pathologist and Clinical Supervisor at TheraCare. He received his Masters degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Teachers College, Columbia University. Chad has presented at major conferences, including the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing (NBASLH). He is a published author in the Journal of Voice and has co-authored a series of video modules on professional practice with Dr. Cate Crowley. His clinical and research interests are in family-centered practice.

Donna Grover, Educational Support Specialist, Goddard Systems, NJ

Donna is a 30 year veteran of the early childhood profession having taught everyone from infants to Pre-K.  She has a special place in her heart however, for the 0-3 population.  She has developed many training presentations for the teachers of this age group and has assisted in the development of many lesson plans to share.  Presently she spends her time training directors and teachers in brand new Goddard Schools to get them off on the right foot to success!

Michael J. Guralnick, PhD, Director, Center on Human Development and Disability, WA

Michael J. Guralnick, PhD, is Director of the Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD) and Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Washington. He has directed numerous research, professional training, and development projects in the fields of early childhood development and intervention, with a special interest in the design and effectiveness of early intervention programs, peer-related social competence, and early childhood inclusion. Current projects focus on the peer relationships of children with autism, the further development and application of the Developmental Systems Approach to early intervention, and international activities designed to integrate research and practice in the field of early intervention.

Helen Hadani, PhD, Director of Research, Center for Childhood Creativity, CA

As Director of Research for the Center for Childhood Creativity, Helen authors original research on creative thinking and child development to create evidence-based tools and resources for educators and parents. She brings more than 18 years of experience in research and education settings, including years in the technology and toy industries conducting research with parents and children to develop innovative learning products at Hasbro, Apple, Leapfrog, and LEGO. Helen received her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Stanford University and has taught at U.C. Davis and San Francisco State University.

Michele Hamilton, MA, Founder and Educational Researcher, Pear Tree Community Schools Oakland, CA

Michele Hamilton is an Educational Researcher & Founder of Pear Tree Community, an organization that trains, supports, & coaches schools, districts, and teachers. Michele has established two small PreK – 3rd grade schools in Oakland, to model best practices and support practitioners as an observation site for the organization.  Michele has been a classroom teacher- grades PreK-12th grade, a school administrator, adjunct professor & supervising teacher at Holy Names University in their Teacher Ed Department. Michele has studied trauma informed and somatic practices with the Living Arts Counseling Center, Gen Five, & Somatic Arts Foundation.

Rachael Harrington, BFA, Storyteller, National Storytelling Network, NY

Rachael Harrington is a storyteller whose work has taken her around the globe, presenting performances and workshops in schools, pre-schools, community groups, and as a guest lecturer at Rutgers University. In 2017 she won the NYC Department of Education Arts and Family Engagement Grant and presented “Our Story”, an English Language Learners project at New Jersey Association of School Libraries, New Jersey TESOL Conference, and the American Association of School Libraries Conference. She performs at festivals including The Uptown Arts Stroll and The Day of Water Festival on Governor’s Island and is a member of National Storytelling Network.

Megan Haupt, Founder, Hungry Education, PA

Megan has been a food educator for over 12 years, teaching adults and children in community-based settings. She believes that food education must meet people where they are in order to be effective, and that educating the entire family is essential to help kids become food-smart. Her areas of interest include: food history, food science, and food culture. She has professional experience in the performing arts, nonprofit community program management, and higher education.

Carolyn Harvey, PhD, Early Childhood Advisor, Shelby County Schools District, TN

Dr. Carolyn Harvey serves as Advisor for state’s largest Early Childhood Program which serves more than 5,380 children. The essential function of the Advisor is to ensure all District, Head Start and Community based Pre-K classrooms offer quality instruction by supporting the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices according to the standards of the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), coordinate Pre-K efforts with those of the district and the community in accordance with the Tennessee Early Learning Developmental Standards (TN-ELDS), and provide professional development for early childhood professionals.

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

Michele Havens received her EdD 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 works privately as an advocate for families of children with disabilities, and is also a private interventionist for children with special needs.  She has spoken at numerous conferences around the US.  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.

Celia Heyman, MA, Clinical Manager, Above and Beyond Learning Group, NJ

Celia L. Heyman is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has been providing behavior analytic services to learners ranging from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12. Ms. Heyman has experience conducting functional behavior assessments, implementation of Behavior Intervention Plans, social skills groups, sibling support groups, and various teaching procedures such as Discrete Trial Instructions and Natural Environment Teaching. As a clinician, Ms. Heyman has provided training to professional staff and families as well as providing tutoring services to individuals preparing for the national credential in behavior analysis.

Christine Holdren, OTD, Occupational Therapist, Southern Elementary School, DE

Christine Holdren has been an occupational therapist working in the schools for over 20 years.  She received her occupational therapy degree from Elizabethtown College and her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Chatham University.  She also has a Masters of Special Education Degree with a concentration in severe disabilities from The University of Delaware.  Christine was one of the original members of a team in the Colonial School District in New Castle, Delaware who developed the CASL (Communication and Social Learning) Program for students who have communication, self-regulation and social learning needs in school.

Brianna Holmes, MA, Technical Trainer, Nemours Children’s Health System, District of Columbia

Brianna Holmes is a Technical Trainer with Nemours Children’s Health System, providing professional development, training and technical assistance to early childhood providers and Early Childhood Specialists. She has worked in the early childhood field as a Center Director, Licensing Specialist, Accreditation Validator, Early Childhood Consultant and Content Specialist. Previously, Brianna co-led the development of Nemours’ National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative Project’s national curriculum, Taking Steps to Healthy Success. A curriculum designed around the Let’s Move! Child Care goals to support early childhood providers.

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. A Certified Teacher Trainer and Master Trainer with the Oregon Child Care registry, Natalie travels around the country presenting on a variety of topics relevant to children and families. Her speciality, however, is anxiety and trauma in the developing child. When she is not practicing clinical mental health or speaking at conferences, she teaches in the Human Development and Family Sciences program at Oregon State University.

Norah Jones, MEd, Associate Producer, WNET, NY

Norah Jones, Associate Producer, focuses on early learning initiatives at WNET. Norah conducts workshops on media use with young children for childcare providers, educators, and parents throughout New York City. She has also produced educational resources and managed national outreach campaigns to support programs like Thomas & Friends and Cyberchase. Her prior work experience includes teaching early childhood classes and outreach lessons for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Norah holds her M.Ed. from the Technology, Innovation, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Barbara Kaiser, MA, Author/Consultant, KS

Barbara Kaiser has worked for over three decades as a teacher and education consultant. She is the co-author of Challenging Behavior in Young Children: Understanding, Preventing and Responding Effectively 4th Edition (2016 Pearson). She has presented workshops and keynotes on the topic of challenging behavior and related issues throughout the United States, Canada, and in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Mauritius. She has developed a DVD series and workshops, Facing the Challenge (Devereux Center for Resilient Children) and a teacher training video program Challenging Behaviors: Where do we begin (Family Communications).

Andy Kleiman, MSEd, Advanced DIR/Floortime Provider, Rebecca School, NY

Andy Kleiman was a comedian with aspiration of being on SNL until one day he met a young adult with autism who changed his life.  He left the entertainment industry for the well respected (and even better compensated) teaching industry and never looked back.  Now this former comedian and current teacher works at Rebecca School where he uses his background in comedy to influence his interactions with children with special needs.  Andy has been trained under the DIR/Floortime model and holds an advanced certification in DIR/Floortime and MSEd from City College of New York.

Nicholas Kline, MSEd, NBCT, Manager, US Games, NY

Nicholas Kline is passionate about physical education and embraces the importance of remaining active for a lifetime.  Nick received a Bachelor’s of Science from Ithaca College where he majored in both PE and business.  He was awarded a MSEd from SUNY Cortland, majoring in special education.  Nick is a National Board Certified teacher and taught elementary PE for 10 years.  He works for US Games to manage the northeast region and continue developing the OPEN curriculum. Nick is also an adjunct lecturer at SUNY Cortland.

Lauren Kryzak, PhD, Clinical Director, Above and Beyond Learning Group, NJ

Lauren Kryzak obtained her Doctoral degree in Learning Processes and Behavior Analysis from the Graduate Center of CUNY. She has provided ABA services for learners for 10 years and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has worked with learners, ages 2-21 years, across home, school, and community-based settings to address social-communication skills, along with daily living skills. She is published in peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, and Developmental Neurorehabilitation.

Tara Liddle, MPT, Regional Director of Pediatrics, MOTION PT Group, NY

Tara received a BS in Physical Therapy from New York University along with a MS in Developmental Disabilities. Licensed to practice in New York for over thirty years, Tara is certified in Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT) and has gained extensive experience in various settings; including hospitals, private practice, early intervention and consulting. Presently, Tara is the Regional Director of Pediatrics at MOTION PT Group. Drawing from her experience working with infants and children, Tara is the author of Why Motor Skills Matter: Improve your child’s physical development to enhance learning and self-esteem.

Sascha Longstreth, PhD, Associate Professor, San Diego State University, CA

New research suggests that early childhood teachers experience chronic job-related stress, which in turn affects students well-being and achievement. Researchers at the University of Virginia, for instance, have found that teachers who showed higher levels of stress at the beginning of the year were more likely to use punitive forms of discipline and less likely to create a stimulating classroom environment for students, compared to teachers who reported lower levels of stress. These findings indicate a need for programs that provide teachers with concrete strategies for practicing self-care in the classroom. Teachers who practice self-care techniques (e.g., mindfulness) are more likely to be fulfilled in their work. The purpose of this session will be to introduce several evidence-based strategies shown to help teachers identify their feelings, strengths and challenges and regulate their emotions in a stressful context.

Susan Lovato, MS, Teacher, School Climate Consultant, Delran Board of Education, NJ

Susan Lovato is an experienced teacher, former administrator, and national speaker who understands that teachers matter. Susan recognizes the importance of supporting teachers and helping them stay positive, empowered, and connected to their school communities. Her experience as an educator and instructional leader includes over 20 years at the elementary and middle school levels, working with students with disabilities and regular education students. Susan’s passion and enthusiasm has helper her improve school culture and climate in Charter Schools and Title I districts while helping them decrease discipline problems.

Charles A. Maniglia, PhD, Education Consultant, Handle Associates, LLC, CT

Charles A. Maniglia, PhD is a retired biochemical pharmacologist. He has been a liaison between a pharmaceutical company and the federal government. A problem solver by nature, he has researched and found pragmatic solutions to unravel seemingly intractable problems in order to support classroom teachers and their students Developing practical solutions to important problems is his passion. He is a certified national trainer for the Center for Teacher Effectiveness system- Time to Teach.

Laura Maniglia, MA, Education Consultant, Handle Associates, LLC, CT

Laura I. Maniglia, MA, CAS, Sixth Year, is a professional educator with extensive experience as a teacher and administrator (both assistant principal and principal)in the tri-state area. She is the owner of a private learning center and also teaches at a community college. She is a national trainer for the Center for Teacher Effectiveness system, Time to Teach.

Julie Marzano, MS, Based Occupational Therapist and Owner/Co-Creator, AOTA, PA

Julie 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. Emily is a nationally certified and licensed, Speech-Language Pathologist in Pennsylvania. Emily was employed by the public school system for 12 years and is now working in early intervention with the birth – three population. She is one of the creators and owners of Fine Motor Boot Camp, LLC.  

Emily McCarthy, MS, Early Intervention Provider, ASHA, PA

Emily 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.

Santana Morris, MBA, Executive Director, Jamaica Intensive Reading Clinic, FL

Santana Morris is a passionate educator who taught at the primary school level for a few years with a portfolio as a Supervisor for her department. Morris is passionate about children development. Morris is the Executive Director at the Jamaica Intensive Reading Clinic which impacts over 2000 lives yearly. She is also an outstanding youth leader and philanthropist in Jamaica. Morris is a recipient of the Governor General Achievement Award for Excellence and Leadership (the highest award in Jamaica), and also a recipient of the 30 under 30 Emerging Leader Award issued in Washington DC.

Angela Nichols, EdD, Principal, Shelby County Schools, TN

Angela Nichols is a resourceful and experienced educator, administrator, and principal with over 20 years of instructional leadership experience. During her career, she has served as an Instructional Facilitator, Special Projects Coordinator, Area Academic Coordinator, Regional Academic Coordinator, GEAR UP Coordinator, Regional Instructional Facilitator, District Instructional Facilitator, and Principal. Dr. Nichols utilizes a myriad of resources to collaborate with students, parents, community partners and district personnel to communicate a vision that emphasizes high student achievement.

Candace Moore, MS, Speech-Language Pathologist, Shallowater and Lubbock Independent School Districts, TX

For over 17 years, Candace Moore has worked as a speech-language pathologist in the public school system serving students of all ages and with differentiated disabilities.   Candace also worked with families in the field of Early Childhood Intervention with children ages birth through three years.  She is currently the coordinator for Region 17’s Texas Women’s University Cycle 9 SLP program. Candace engages, inspires, and educates her audiences by combining brain-based research strategies with powerful stories of increasing functional communication, motivation, and engagement among students; surprise appearances from her ventriloquism partner.

Hester Paul, MS, National Director, Eco-Healthy Child Care®, Children’s Environmental Health Network, District of Columbia

Hester Paul, MS is the National Director of Children’s Environmental Health Network’s (CEHN) Eco-Healthy Child Care® (EHCC) program. She and her colleagues are responsible for expanding the EHCC program so that children throughout the nation benefit from the reduction of harmful environmental toxics within and around child care facilities. Prior to working for CEHN, Ms. Paul managed the nationalization of the EHCC program for Oregon Environmental Council (OEC). OEC, based in Portland, OR, originated the EHCC program in 2005. The program has received several awards for is innovative and effective approach.

Michele Parkins, MS, Occupational Therapist, STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, NJ

Michele Parkins is an occupational therapist, specializing in working with children with SPD and Autism.  She currently works with families at her practice – Great Kids Place – in Rockaway, New Jersey using the STAR and DIR model. Michele is an adjunct faculty of Temple University.  She is faculty of the Sensory Treatment and Research (STAR) Institute for SPD.  She has been teaching the DIR/Floortime model for over ten years and is faculty of Profectum.  She co-developed a unique handwriting program – Connect Experience Write® – highlighting the importance of affective engagement as well as sensory integration using music and movement.

Rachel Payne, MSEd, MLS, Coordinator, Early Childhood Services, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

Rachel G. Payne (MS Ed, MLS) is coordinator of early childhood services at Brooklyn Public Library, where she leads BPL’s award-winning First Five Years initiative. She is a contributor to Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos (Sourcebooks, 2013) and Library Services Birth to Five (Facet, 2015). She has written for School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Library Trends. She chaired the 2016 Caldecott Committee and she has presented on early literacy at conferences nationwide.

Cynthia Rainbow, MA, Elementary Educator, The Rainbow Affect, NY

Cynthia Rainbow is an elementary educator who began teaching 16 years ago in East Orange, NJ and transitioned to NYC where she currently teaches. Cynthia’s area of expertise is in classroom management and creating a culture in her classroom that boosts her students’ self-worth barometers and eliminates challenging behavior. Her teaching degrees are from SUNY Cortland and Adelphi University. Cynthia also has a certification in TCI-Therapeutic Crisis Intervention. She was a semi-finalist for the Big Apple Award Recognizing Teacher Excellence in NYC. Cynthia’s website, The Rainbow Affect, contains behavioral resources and teaching techniques.

Jessica Ralli, MA, Early Literacy Programs Coordinator, Association for Library Service to Children, NY

Jessica Ralli is the Early Literacy Programs Coordinator at Brooklyn Public Library, and coordinates grant-funded programming for children 0-5. She received her M.A. in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, specializing in play-based, emergent and integrated curriculum development for infants and toddlers. Jessica has written about early learning for School Library Journal, Library Trends Journal, and other publications. When not writing or coordinating, she is practicing the art of play with her two children Jack and Cleo, ages 4 and 1.

Dawn Ricci, MA, Clinical Supervisor/BCBA Supervisor, TheraCare, NY

Dawn Ricci has been working in the New York City Early Intervention for over 20 years. In addition to her Masters in Special Education she is a BCBA and LBA. Dawn’s professional experience in Early Intervention has focused primarily on children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and ABA. Her current role as Clinical Supervisor at TheraCare allows her to continue to oversee and supervise home based Early Intervention services throughout Queens and Staten Island. She also provides BCBA supervision for those seeking certification.

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

Christine founded Nurturing Pathways®, a creative dance program for babies to four years. Her work is endorsed by biologist and educator, Dr. Carla Hannaford and Vaughnetta J. Barton, Executive Director of the Foundation for Early Learning. She has been a featured speaker with NAEYC, NHSA and ZEROTOTHREE National Training Institute. Christine consulted with Creative Curriculum to write 50 Mighty Minutes for Infants, Toddlers and Twos and ZEROTOTHREE to develop the online course, Mentoring Infant and Toddler Teacher Project for Head Start. Christine is an Infant Developmental Movement Educator. She conducts a Certification Program for NP.

Nancy Rowe, MS, CCC/A, Audiologist, Neuronet Learning, FL

Nancy Rowe, MS, CCC/A has been a featured speaker at educational conferences in cities throughout the US, Europe, Central, and South America. NeuroNet Learning programs are used by tens of thousands of students in schools and by therapists in more than 17 countries.

Claire N. Rubman, PhD, Professor, Suffolk County Community College, NY

Claire Rubman is a cognitive, developmental psychologist with a specialization in early literacy.  She has presented at numerous conferences here in the USA and internationally.  She has given multiple radio interviews and published magazine articles on literacy, brain development, parenting and early childhood education based on 40 years of solid research in the field.  She gives practical advice to parents and educators that can be easily implemented in the classroom or home.

Stacy Rucker, MEd, MS, Program Lead Instructor, Higher Education Educator, AZ

Stacy received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood education and her two Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Organizational Growth and Leadership. She’s certified in Early Childhood Education and is also a K-12 Reading Specialist. She spent 10 years teaching in pre-k through third grade classrooms in the public school setting. She is currently developing education programs, teaching in the higher education classroom environment, and working toward earning a PhD in cognition and instruction.

Christen Russo, MD, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, NY

Christen Russo specializes in the nonoperative and operative care of pediatric orthopaedic patients, from pre-natal to adolescent care and consultation. Dr. Russo is a Brooklyn native, graduating Stuyvesant High School in 2000. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2003 and then earned her Doctor of Medicine from the State University of New York – Downstate. Dr. Russo completed an internship in general surgery at Brown University, and returned to SUNY Downstate for her residency in orthopedic surgery. She then pursued a fellowship in pediatric orthopedics at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

John Schacter, PhD, Professor, San Jose State University, CA

John Schacter has worked in all levels of education as a teacher, principal, researcher, and foundation executive.  A frequent presenter on issues pertaining to early math instruction, and teacher effectiveness, John has been invited to testify to numerous state legislatures. He has appeared on National Public Radio, NBC News, Radio Disney, and his research has been cited in USA Today, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun and other national newspapers and magazines. Dr. Schacter has published over 40 research articles, and is the author of three books.

Kathleen Sheridan, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL

Kathleen Sheridan, PhD, is an associate professor in the Educational Psychology Department in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  In addition, she is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. She received her PhD in Child and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MA from Washington University in St Louis. Dr. Sheridan regularly presents and publishes on a variety of topics related to education and is the lead Principal Investigator on the Early Math Matters: Math at Home CME Group Foundation grant funded project at UIC.

Mindy Small, Coordinator of Autism Services, Birch Family Services, NY

Mindy Small has been working in the field of ASD for over 35 years beginning as a classroom teacher.  In her role as Coordinator of Autism Services she provides training and classroom consultation for a variety of school districts and agencies in the metropolitan area. She has been known to transform the physical environment of struggling classrooms so they make sense to students with ASD. Mindy co-authored Everyday Solutions: A Practical Guide for Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and was a contributing author to Top Ten Tips: A Survival Guide for Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum.

Cathy Surowka, MEd, Specialist, Virginia Preschool Initiative Expansion, VA

Cathy Surowka leads the Virginia Preschool Initiative Expansion program in Chesterfield County, Virginia. She has also served as the Family Engagement Coordinator within the program and has networked with community members and numerous agencies. Cathy has been a public school educator for 34 years and has been a teacher, curriculum consultant, university adjunct professor, and PreK program specialist. She has been trained by the Buck Institute of Education as a Project Based Learning (PBL) Capacity Builder in her school division.

Cindy Terebush, CYPFC, Early Childhood Consultant, Independent Early Childhood Consultant, NJ

Cindy Terebush, author of “Teach the Whole Preschooler:  Strategies for Nurturing Developing Minds,” has worked with children for almost 20 years. She has experience teaching and directing in early childhood and school age programs. She is a sought-after workshop facilitator, speaker and consultant. She is a Child Development Associate (CDA) Professional Development Specialist and instructor.  Cindy was an online reporter for “The Shriver Report:  A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink.” She has been a guest writer and interviewed expert for podcasts, print and other media including the PBS show “Caucus: New Jersey with Steve Adubato.”

Faith Thayer, EdD, DIR and Mental Health Director, Imagine Academy, NY

Faith Condon, LPC, LCAT, ATR-BC is a Board Certified Art Therapist and ICDL approved Training Leader & Expert DIR® Floortime™ Provider. Faith is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT). She holds an MA in creative arts therapies from Pratt Institute, completing her doctoral studies at Lesley University. She is the Director of Mental Health and DIR® Floortime™ at the Imagine Academy for Autism in Brooklyn. She is the co founder of SidekicksNYC in Brooklyn. She was previously the Director of Creative Arts Therapy Center and Overnight Camps for The Connecticut Institute for the Blind/Oak Hill.

Aubrie Therrien, MPH, Program Manager, Common Threads, NY

Aubrie Therrien is the Program Manager for Common Threads in New York City. She holds a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from New York University and has been working as a leader in youth wellness for five years over five-years. Recently, she received the honor of New Yorker of the Week from News 1, for her work in NYC communities.

Patricia Towle, PhD, Senior Psychologist, Westchester Institute for Human Development, NY

Patricia Towle has been practicing, teaching, and conducting research in the area of early intervention and developmental disabilities for the last 30 years. She is a child clinical psychologist currently the Co-Director of Psychology Training at the Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD) University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), where she has been the recipient of several grants for training and research in pediatric disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.

Carlena Vaden, MEd, Education Consultant, Divine Illumination Agency, LLC, VA

Carlena holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree in the area of Political Science from Morgan State University, a Master of Education (MEd) Degree from Strayer University, and is pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Education Leadership and Management (EdD) from Capella University. She has provided leadership training and professional workshops for educational organizations public and private and at national conferences. Ms. Vaden has been highlighted in the Early Childhood Report, February 2017 issue on leadership and professional development.

José Velilla, MA, HighScope Field Consultant, HighScope Foundation, NY

José Velilla currently serves as Executive Director of the Bloomingdale Family Program, a Head Start in NYC. José has worked at Bloomingdale for 27 years as a Head Teacher, Education Director, and as Executive Director. He has two children who both attended Bloomingdale. He became a HighScope Field consultant in 1998 and continues to maintain that relationship with HighScope. He has a MA in Early Childhood Administration and Supervision from Pace University.

Lori Volpe, PhD, Coordinator of Autism Services, Birch Family Services, NY

Lori Volpe has over 30 years’ experience working with individuals with ASD in educational, residential and vocational settings. She has worked at developing and opening programs for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, as well as providing consulting services to agencies and schools in the New York Metro area. Lori has presented The Hug Machine as Part of a Sensory Diet and A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words :Visual Supports. Lori was trained in TEACCH at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also trained in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and Social Stories

Deborah Weber, PhD, Director, Fisher-Price, CA

Deb is the senior manager for the Fisher-Price Child Research Department. As the in-house infant-toddler development expert, Weber plays a crucial role in the Play Lab, observing children with products for size, scale, ergonomics, interest and appropriateness. Her observations, both in the Lab and in homes with real families, have helped define some of the favorite toys and products on the market today. Dr. Weber has devoted over 20 years to the study of childhood development, education and trends. She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Association for Childhood Education International.

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

Donnie Welch teaches creative writing at the Rebecca School for Autism. He holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, & Publishing from Emerson College. His writing has appeared in Gravel; Passages North; The Emerson Review; War, Literature, & the Arts; and elsewhere. He has a micro-chapbook The Post Atomic Sonnets (Origami Poems Project 2016) and a collection of children’s poetry Who Gave These Flamingos Those Tuxedos (Emerson College Wilde Press 2013).

Christopher Willard, PsyD, Faculty, Harvard Medical School, MS

Christopher Willard (PsyD) is a clinical psychologist, author and educational consultant specializing in mindfulness with young people.  He has been practicing meditation for nearly 20 years, and leads workshops internationally on the topic of mindfulness with young people. He currently serves on the board of directors at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and is the president of the Mindfulness in Education Network. He is the author of Child’s Mind (2010) Growing Up Mindful (2016) Raising Resilience (2017) and three other books. He teaches at Harvard Medical School.

Travis Williams, MAT, Curriculum Specialist, Kaplan Early Learning Company, NC

Travis Williams is a National Board Certified educator with over 15 years of experience as a classroom teacher, curriculum coach, school administrator, and educational consultant. He currently is a curriculum specialist with Kaplan Early Learning Company. Travis speaks, trains, and coaches early childhood professionals around the country on a variety of topics including interdisciplinary curriculum, emergent writing, science and math strategies and social emotional development. He also specializes in the Connect4Learning Interdisciplinary PreK Curriculum. He lives in Winston-Salem, NC with his wife and two children.

Julia Wilmouth, MEd, Teacher, Virginia Preschool Initiative Expansion, VA

Julia Wilmouth teaches prekindergarten as a part of the Virginia Preschool Initiative Expansion program in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Julia has been a public school educator for 21 years and worked in children’s ministry for five years. As a part of her work with children’s ministry, Julia led the English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program for preschoolers and their families. She has been trained by her school division to lead Project Based Learning (PBL) as a Capacity Builder in her school.