Betsy Ayankoya serves as an Associate Director with the ECTA Center, as well as the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Officer for FPG. She helps to build capacity of state Part C and Part B Systems to improve outcomes for children with disabilities and their families. She leads the aRPy Ambassador Initiative to support the dissemination and implementation of DEC Recommended Practices and supports FPG efforts to bring an equity lens to its initiatives
Check back often, new speakers are added weekly.
Ayankoya , Betsy
Assistant Professor, B-K Coordinator, Principle Investigator, and Co-Principle Investigator
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
Dr. Harriette Bailey is an Assistant Professor, B-K Coordinator, Principle Investigator, and Co-Principle Investigator at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Dr. Bailey has extensive experiences in higher education, early intervention, early care and education, and child and family outcomes. She is passionate about preparing students to deliver effective and equitable services for diverse children and families. Dr. Bailey’s research interests include: appropriate services for infants and toddlers, cultural competency, family engagement, and designing effective policies and supports for young children and families. She is co-founder and owner of Bailey, Pullis, and Riggins, LLC.- a racial equity consulting organization. She is a member of North Carolina’s State Interagency Coordinating Council, a Governor appointed position.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Fellow, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
Dr. Karen Bluth is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Fellow at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and a certified instructor of Mindful Self-Compassion, an internationally acclaimed 8-week course created by Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer. Dr. Bluth’s research focuses on the roles that self-compassion and mindfulness play in promoting well-being in youth. As such, she is co-creator of the curriculum Making Friends with Yourself: A Mindful Self-Compassion Program for Teens, the teen adaptation of Mindful Self-Compassion for adults, and author of the book “The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are” (New Harbinger Publishers), and the forthcoming book “The Self-Compassionate Teen: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Skills to Help You Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice” (New Harbinger Publishers). Additionally, Dr. Bluth is Associate Editor of the academic journal Mindfulness, and founder of The Frank Porter Graham Program on Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Families.
North Tippah School District
Robin Brand graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Elementary Education. She started her career at East Webster Elementary where she taught Kindergarten for 11 years, 3rd grade, and 5th grade science. Robin is currently teaching Pre-K in the North Tippah School District.
Faculty of Psychology
Marga Cañadas is a Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and director of the Early Childhood and Early Intervention Service L´Alqueria- Capacitas at the Catholic University of Valencia Her research interests include family-centered practices and the inclusion. She supports the implementation of family-centered practices in Spain, Paraguay, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica and Brazil using the ECTA Center’s Practice Improvement Tools
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center
Debbie Cate is a technical assistance (TA) specialist with the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) with the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and the IDEA Data Center (IDC). Her current work supports states in collecting, reporting and using data to inform and improve state systems provision of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA) services for young children and their families.
Camille Catlett is a consultant based in Carrboro NC. At FPG, she worked to incorporate explicit emphasis on children and families of diverse cultures, languages, abilities, and life circumstances into professional development efforts in over 30 states. Her work on the Crosswalks project yielded an evidence-based model for enhancing higher education programs that has been replicated in 12 states. Camille is a frequent presenter and an ongoing contributor to print and electronic publications.
Distinguished University Professor, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning
Douglas H. Clements
Assistant Professor in Communication Disorders and Sciences
University of Oregon
Dr. Lauren M. Cycyk, CCC-SLP is an Assistant Professor in Communication Disorders and Sciences at the University of Oregon. She studies sociocultural factors that influence early bilingual language development, primarily in Spanish and English, as well as the development of culturally- and linguistically-responsive language interventions for young children. She is a nationally-certified speech-language pathologist who has served bilingual children and families in a variety of settings in the US and Mexico.
University of Washington
Em Dandridge is a current graduate student at the University of Washington in Early Childhood Special Education. They have spent the last 5 years working in inclusive model schools in toddler, preschool, pre-K, and Kindergarten classrooms. Currently, Em works as a special education intern at Kindering, an early intervention agency, helping teach cooperative parent-toddler playgroups and toddler preschool. A former gender nonconforming kid turned genderqueer adult, Em is passionate about supporting gender nonconforming youth and fighting for the rights of all trans kids by teaching about advocacy.
Early Learning Network
Kris Earl is a Regional Consultant with Early Learning Network at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center at UNC Chapel Hill. She has a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership, with graduate and undergraduate certification in school administration, various areas of special education and early education. Prior to joining the ELN, she worked in a school district in various administrative, support, and teaching roles within the area of special education.
Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP)
Ms. Everhart has over 20 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist serving children and their families across the span of early childhood settings. While working at Family, Infant and Preschool Program, Ms. Everhart has contributed to the creation and development of several practitioner tools, assisted in the development of web modules, and co-authored publications. She has provided numerous presentations and trainings at the local, state, and national levels.
Early Intervention Technical Assistance Consultant
Jennifer Furness has been an educator for nearly twelve years with a primary focus in early intervention in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Furness served early intervention students as an itinerant teacher, a classroom teacher, a specialized preschool coordinator, an assistant program administrator, and a program supervisor. She is currently working as an Early Intervention Technical Assistance Consultant. In addition to pursuing a doctorate in education through Drexel University, Mrs. Furness earned a supervisor certificate in special education from Penn State University, a master’s degree in early childhood education from Millersville University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Bloomsburg University. Mrs. Furness is passionate about the state of morale for our early childhood special educators. Her current research includes assessing the current state of morale within these educators, finding ways to increase that morale, and supporting leaders in doing so.
Director of Research and Evaluation
Buffett Early Childhood Institute, University of Nebraska
Dr. Kate Gallagher is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska. An educational psychologist and early childhood professional, Kate has over 20 years’ experience teaching, home visiting, and leading early childhood programs. With an applied research focus on young children 0-8 years and their families, Kate examines practices, programs, and policies that align systems to support children’s development and learning, particularly in the contexts of adversity.
Adam Holland, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. He has worked on a variety of projects focused on improving the quality of children’s early childhood classroom experiences, including FirstSchool, the North Carolina Early Learning Network, the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center, and the Abecedarian Approach.
Kim Hughes is a 30+ year veteran of both inclusive and general education with a Master’s degrees in both Elementary Education and School Leadership / Administration. A former North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year, Kim is nationally known as a dynamic “teacher of teachers” weaving a teaching tapestry filled with colorful threads of understandable theory, practical knowledge and evidence-based best practices helping early childhood professionals better understand how all of these components fit together so they are motivated toward meaningful change. Kim excels in providing engaging, informative events for educators and administrators of children infant through elementary age.
UNC School of Social Work
Paul Lanier, MSW, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work, where he teaches courses in social policy and program evaluation. His research focuses on developing, evaluating, and scaling-up evidence-based prevention programs in child welfare, mental health, and early childhood systems. Paul serves as the Secretary of the North Carolina Infant and Young Child Mental Health Association and leads the Association Workforce Development Initiative.
North Carolina Infant-Toddler Program
Sharon Loza, MEd, MA is the Branch Head for the North Carolina Infant-Toddler Program and President of the North Carolina Infant and Young Child Mental Health Association (NCIMHA). Sharon has held various roles supporting systems building work in early childhood care, health and education. She has worked with early childhood initiatives dedicated to addressing issues of equity and access, early childhood workforce development, system transformation and policy efforts to improve early childhood mental health.
Senior Director of Early Learning
Public Health Management Corporation
MaryKay Mahar currently serves as the Senior Director of Early Learning at Public Health Management Corporation in Philadelphia, PA. In this capacity, she oversees a portfolio of programs primarily focused on building capacity of licensed child care providers in three buckets: business practices, shared services, and child health and wellness. Her 20 year career in ECE includes experience as an infant/toddler teacher, child care center director, Race to the Top Manager, and local QRIS implementation leader. Her diverse roles provided insight into the challenges teachers face in providing trauma informed and nurturing environments for young children. Her professional investment lies in ensuring the early childhood workforce is equipped to provide optimal interactions, particularly for vulnerable children where secure attachment, screening, and developmental supports can mitigate lifelong effects of poverty.
Martin Eile, Julia
Education Program Specialist
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
Julia Martin Eile is an Education Program Specialist in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the US Department of Education.
Julia has spent her career working in the field of early childhood special education. She began her career as a Vision Teacher at The Jewish Guild for the Blind in New York City. Julia earned her master’s degree in education in developmental disabilities administration from Columbia University Teachers College. After moving to Washington, D.C., Julia served as a State consultant for Part C in Virginia. She joined OSEP in 2001. She is the Project Officer for the new Early Childhood Systems Technical Assistance Center and works on early childhood special education policy issues in the Research to Practice Division of OSEP.
Special Education Department Chair and Professor
University of Alabama
Robin McWilliam is a professor and department chair in Special Education and Multiple Abilities at The University of Alabama, where he founded and directs the Evidence-based International Early Intervention Office (EIEIO). His research interests are child engagement, family-centered practices, and models of service delivery. His Routines-Based Model is implemented in 10 countries, where Robin can often be found sampling local food and drink.
Educational Equity Institute
Dr. Ebonyse Mead is an instructor at NC State University and president of the Educational Equity Institute. Ebonyse has worked to improve educational outcomes for children of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Since 2016, Ebonyse has provided statewide training on diversity, inclusion and equity with a particular focus on examining structural barriers to educational equity, implicit racial bias, and culturally responsive instruction to the early childhood workforce in North Carolina.
Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois
Dr. Hedda Meadan is a Professor at the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois, a Goldstick Family Scholar, and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Dr. Meadan’s areas of interest include social-communication skills and challenging behavior of children with autism and other developmental disabilities and intervention methods to enhance these spheres of functioning.
Toni Miguel is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has also served as a graduate research assistant for many projects at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, including the Early Childhood Recommended Practice Modules project (RPM), the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), and, most recently, Supporting Change and Reform in Preservice Teaching in North Carolina (SCRIPT-NC).
Region B PTAC Project Co-Director and Chief Operating Officer
Stephanie Moss more than 25 years of experience working with individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities. Stephanie joined Parent to Parent of Georgia in July 2007 as the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) Director and now serves as the Region B PTAC Project Co-Director and Chief Operating Officer. She also works at a Technical Assistance Specialist for the ECTA Center. Prior to 2007, she worked with the Part C system in Georgia for twelve years, including six years as the state Part C Coordinator.
Educational Equity Institute
Dr. Jen Neitzel is the Executive Director of the Educational Equity Institute, a non-profit based in Charlotte, NC. Jen works with schools, advocacy groups, and educational organizations to promote systems level change. She presents frequently at state and national conferences and is widely published in peer-reviewed journals. She also is the author of the book Achieving Equity and Justice in Education through the Work of Systems Change.
Clinical Associate Professor
School of Education, UNC-Chapel Hill
Dr. Palsha has 40 plus years experience working with children and families. Her most recent work was a a Clinical Associate Professor at UNC-CH for 16 years working to prepare undergraduate students as early childhood educators to teach young children, ages birth to 5. Sharon has made nine Study Group trips to Reggio Emilia to study the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood with a special interest in their inclusion practices of children with “special rights”.
Shivani Pandit is a Special Educator with a passion for early intervention. She worked at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Early Learning Services, where she led the creation of "MN Centers of Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities," a regional professional development initiative launched by the state department. Currently she runs her non-profit organization “Saamarthya Foundation” dedicated to working on issues related to inclusion of persons with disabilities worldwide.
Paradis , Nichole
Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health
Nichole Paradis, LMSW, IMH-E® is the Executive Director of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health where she works to promote infant and early childhood mental health through support and professionalization of the workforce. Nichole speaks and has written about relationship-based intervention that supports infants, young children, caregivers, and families. She is particularly passionate about families with young children involved in child protection proceedings and the provision of reflective supervision/consultation.
Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences at North Carolina State University
Dr. Jamie Pearson is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences at North Carolina State University. Dr. Pearson’s areas of research include: investigating disparities in the diagnosis of autism and access to services for minority families, and assessing the impact of parent-advocacy and empowerment training on family dynamics and child outcomes.
Arizona Department of Education (ADE)
Suzanne Perry, MA Ed., NBCT, is Arizona’s 619 Coordinator with Arizona Department of Education (ADE), Early Childhood Education Unit (ECE). Suzanne has worked as a preschool educator, residential treatment centers, and was a public school special education teacher for children with autism and other low incidence disabilities for 15 years. Suzanne has worke at the Department of Education for nine years in Compliance Monitoring, Comprehensive Systems of Personnel Development and as the 619 Coordinator for the past 4 years.
Prochnow Phillips, Laura
Certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher
Laura Prochnow Phillips is a Certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher for adults (MSC) and teens (MFY), a Teacher Trainer for the teen program, and she is trained to teach the adaptation of the MSC program specifically geared towards the healthcare community through the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion and University of California - San Diego Center for Mindfulness, Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute. Laura was in private practice as an Integrative Health Coach for more than five years in Chapel Hill, NC before devoting her time to teaching mindfulness and self-compassion to a wide variety of audiences.
Iredell County Partnership for Young Children
Lisa is the Program Director at the Iredell County Partnership for Young Children in Statesville, NC. She has worked in the early childhood field for over 24 years. She is an endorsed cultural competency facilitator.
Lisa believes it is time for us to stand up, step up, and speak up to support the early childhood workforce, and that we must recognize, respect, and support the field in every way. If the early childhood workforce is supported and thriving, families and children will also thrive and succeed. She is co-founder and owner of Bailey, Pullis, and Riggins, LLC. - a racial equity consulting organization. She holds an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Leadership & Program Administration.
Assistant Research Faculty
Positive Early Learning Experiences (PELE) Center at University of Denver
Alissa Rausch, EdD is an Assistant Research Faculty in the Positive Early Learning Experiences (PELE) Center at the University of Denver. Previously, she has worked as clinical faculty in ECE and ECSE graduate personnel preparation. Her work in higher education blossomed from 15 years of practice as an early childhood educator working in inclusive preschool classrooms serving young children and their families. Alissa also had the privilege of serving children from diverse backgrounds and their families in their homes and in community settings. Alissa is staff on the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) and the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA). Her work centers on technical assistance supporting leaders and practitioners to build their capacity for high quality early care and learning and inclusion of children with varying abilities in practice, systems and advocacy.
Riggins, Jr., Rhodus
Quality Enhancement Coordinator
Education Quality Improvement and Professional Development Project
Rhodus Riggins, Jr. is a grassroots advocate and early care and education professional with over 29 years of extensive experiences in research, technical assistance, professional development, and evaluation. He is a quality enhancement coordinator at Education Quality Improvement and Professional Development Project at the University of North Carolina -Greensboro. He is an Adjunct Faculty member at Alamance Community College. He is an endorsed cultural competency facilitator. He is co-founder and owner of Bailey, Pullis, and Riggins, LLC. - a racial equity consulting organization. He is most passionate about ensuring front-line workers have the respect, compensation, and supports needed to fulfil their roles. He holds an M.Ed in Educational Leadership, Public Policy, and Advocacy.
Senior Research Scientist
Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University
Katie Rosanbalm, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. Trained as a child clinical psychologist, Dr. Rosanbalm’s work focuses on program implementation and evaluation in the areas of self-regulation development and trauma-informed early care and education. She is currently involved in a number of projects to enhance long-term outcomes for children with trauma histories, including: (1) piloting a professional development infrastructure for trauma-sensitive care in infant/toddler classrooms, (2) self-regulation skills-building for low-income preschoolers, (3) implementation and evaluation of a K-8 trauma-sensitive schools model, and (4) integration of child mental health supports for children involved with child welfare. She has co-authored a series of white papers on Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress and served on a number of state-level task forces to strengthen the evidence-based implementation of programs for children and families
Dathan Rush, Ed.D., CCC-SLP is the Director of the Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP) in Morganton, North Carolina. During his over 30 years in the field, Dathan has consulted with early intervention programs in more than 30 states and co-authored three books, several book chapters, and a number of articles on the topics of coaching in early childhood and the use of a primary service provider approach to teaming.
Early Childhood Program Support Teacher
Karen Russell is an Early Childhood Program Support Teacher at CESA 2. Her educational background includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of Early Childhood and Special Education. Karen has taught in the field as an Early Interventionist in Birth to Three programs, an ECSE teacher, a 4K teacher and a 5K teacher for over 20 years. Her current work supports teachers and school districts in the CESA 2 area as they implement best practices for young children and their families. Karen is also the proud mom of 3 children one of whom is gifted in gymnastics, creates amazing slime and identifies as transgender.
Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Learning Technologies and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Denver
Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP)
Sarah Sexton, Ed. D. works as the Associate Director at the Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP) in Morganton, NC and has degrees in Early Childhood Education, Special Education, and Educational Leadership. She conducts research and provides professional development on evidence-based early childhood intervention practices (natural learning environment practices, resource-based practices, family-centered capacity-building practices, and coaching), experiential workplace learning, tools that support and measure practitioner adherence to evidence-based practices.
Sturdivant , Danyale
Leader, Trainer, Advocate
Danyale has served as a leader and trainer, often employing creative and innovative tactics to ensure clients receive the best possible services and care. In 2011, her son, Josh, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since, she has served as a tireless advocate for him to ensure his needs are seamlessly met. This intersection of professional and personal experiences has further prompted her to help families navigate the complex health and mental health systems that often impede the receipt of timely services. Having been faced with discouragement from seeking assistance due to budget constraints, untrained personnel, and a seeming lack of compassion, she is even more dedicated to effect change for the most vulnerable, and typically underserved, populations through the evaluation and implementation of policies that will afford them improved quality of life.
Candice Taylor has twenty-three years of experience in the field of Special Education. She graduated from Mississippi College with a degree in Special Education in the area of mild/moderate disabilities. Taylor taught in an inclusion program in Jackson Public Schools for two years. She spent seventeen years with Clinton Public Schools, first as a special education teacher, then Case Manager for the district. She has served as Parent Outreach Specialist in the MDE, Office of Special Education’s Bureau of Parent Engagement and Support and currently serves as the 619 Coordinator.
Van Delft Moffi, Bethany
Bethany Van Delft Moffi is a comedian, storyteller, emcee, and Parent Advocate who has been active in the special needs community since the birth of her daughter Lulu in 2011. She's completed leadership and advocacy trainings through Mass Families Organizing for Change, Interaction Institute for Social Change, and Federation for Children with Special Needs Parent Consultant Institute. She was awarded the FCSN Patricia Blake Parent Advocacy Award in 2017, given to an individual who exemplifies the belief in the potential of all children with disabilities to achieve, and earned a certificate from the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress in supporting best practices for educating students with intellectual disabilities.
She is a regular host for “The MOTH” live events. Her Mainstage story sharing her post partum experience after the birth of her first child garnered 15+ million views, and is also included in The MOTH’s 2nd book “All These Wonders”.
In the comedy world, Bethany has performed at the prestigious JFL Festival, SF Sketchfest, All Jane Festival, and on 2 Dope Queens podcast. She was named Boston Magazine “Best Comic 2019”, produces comedy shows in her hometown of Boston, all the while keeping her kids and husband alive, and very not unhappy. She also bakes pretty well.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA)
Megan Vinh, Ph.D., is an Advanced Technical Assistance Specialist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Dr. Vinh currently serves as the PI of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMI2E2) Center, the Co-PI of (ECTA), and the evaluation lead for the (DaSy). Dr. Vinh provides leadership, technical assistance, and evaluation support around improving state early intervention and early childhood special education service systems, increasing the implementation of effective practices, and enhancing outcomes of these programs for young children and their families. She also works to ensure young children with disabilities participate in and benefit from high-quality STEM teaching and learning. She specializes in program evaluation and systems change around access and equity issues, including reducing early care and education suspensions and expulsions and increasing high quality inclusive opportunities. Dr. Vinh also serves as President-Elect of the Executive Board.
Manager of Special Needs Child Care Department
Constance Walker is the Manager of the Special Needs Child Care Department at Starting Point, which is a Resource & Referral agency in Cleveland, Ohio. Constance is also the Manager and trainer for the Starting Point Boys Project which began in 2010; she travels across the country training and speaking to early care/education professionals on strategies to support boys in the early childhood setting.
Technical Assistance Specialist
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center
Kathy Thompson Whaley is a Technical Assistance Specialist for the Early Childhood TA Center (ECTA) and supports Part C and Section 619 Coordinators in implementing the IDEA requirements. She is the co-leader of the ECTA Inclusion Team and has been actively engaged in providing technical assistance and leadership in a variety of early childhood inclusion initiatives, including State Inclusion Cohorts and the cross-sector Expanding Opportunities Interagency Inclusion Initiative, which provided extensive supports to state-level interagency teams to improve inclusive practices. Currently, she co-facilitates the IDEA Early Childhood Inclusion Learning Community and the national Early Learning Consortium.