2022 Presenters

Check back often, new speakers are added weekly.

Futrell, Dr. Bernadine


Office of Head start

Bernadine Futrell, Ph.D., is the director of the Office of Head Start (OHS) at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families.  Dr. Futrell, a Head Start child, began her career as an assistant Head Start teacher in Richmond, Virginia. She came to OHS in the Biden Administration from the National Head Start Association (NHSA), where she was most recently the senior director for effective practice.  Prior to NHSA, Dr. Futrell led superintendent certification programs at the American Association of School Administrators.

She is co-author of the book ConnectED Leaders: Network and Amplify your Superintendency, and a regular contributor in research studies. Committed to service, she is a member of the advisory committees at George Mason University and Howard University.

Dr. Futrell holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University, a master’s degree in educational psychology from George Mason University, a Ph.D. in education policy from George Mason University and post-graduate certificates from Complutense University of Madrid and Harvard University. Dr. Futrell and her husband are the proud parents of two elementary-aged children. 

Confirmed Sessions:

Able, Harriet

Associate Professor

School of Education/UNC-Chapel Hill

Harriet Able is a parent of a young adult with high functioning autism.  She has been an advocate for promoting quality inclusive experiences for him from early intervention to college.  In addition, she is a professor of special education and early childhood at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

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Bailey , Harriette

Associate Professor, B-K Coordinator, Principle Investigator, and Co-Principle Investigator

University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Dr. Harriette Bailey is an Associate Professor, B-K Coordinator, Principal Investigator, and Co-Principal 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 a member of North Carolina’s State Interagency Coordinating Council, a Governor appointed position. She is a co-owner of Bailey, Pullis & Riggins LLC, providing professional development, consultation and support for individuals, agencies and organizations in the areas of cultural awareness, competency, and proficiency, racial equity and implicit bias.

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Baker, Ennis C.

Project Director

Building Capacity for Trauma-Informed Infant & Toddler Care: A Professional Development Framework

Ennis C. Baker, MSW, LCSW is the project director for the Building Capacity for Infant & Toddler Trauma Informed (ITTI) Care project, providing leadership for this collaborative project committed to leading with equity, using a systems approach and leveraging existing resources to craft a professional development framework focused on trauma-informed practice in infant/toddler child care. Baker is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in early childhood mental health and has served in a variety of roles serving children ages birth to 5 and their families. She began her career as a toddler teacher in California in 1988 and has lived and worked in North Carolina, focusing on children under age 5 as a child care provider, home visitor, program director, mental health professional and as a member of a multidisciplinary evaluation team.  From 1999-2018, Baker served as a manager and mental health specialist for Orange County Head Start/Early Head Start in Chapel Hill, NC. In this role, she provided leadership and early childhood mental health consultation to program staff and families around issues of culturally responsiveness, toxic stress, child abuse and neglect, best practice in infant/toddler child care, parenting, preventing and managing children's challenging behavior, adult and child mental health, and strengthening families by promoting protective factors. She has been a Board Member for the NC Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Association and serves in the role of child therapist at UNC Horizons offering parent-child therapy through home visits for mothers in residential substance use disorder treatment.

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Bender, Amy

Amy Bender is the Program Director for Northwest Center’s IMPACT Program (Inclusion Mentorship Program for Increasing Access in Childcare Team).  IMPACT is a multidisciplinary team that provides consultation and professional development trainings to early learning providers across King County, WA on how to offer high-quality inclusive environments so children of all abilities can thrive and are active participants in their classrooms.  Amy holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Childhood Psychopathology and Child Development.  Amy has over 14 years’ experience supporting children and families through early learning programs, day treatment preschool settings, and providing direct therapeutic services to children and families.  When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family, doing yoga, and getting outdoors.

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Berlin, Rebecca

Rebecca Berlin, Ph.D. leads the national knowledge transfer at scale work for Start Early. She oversees the Quality, Solutions and ImpactResearch and Evaluation, and the National Center for Parent, Family, and Community Engagement divisions at Start Early (formerly known as the Ounce).

Previously, she was the chief strategy officer at Teachstone, setting the company’s strategic vision on assessment and professional development for birth through third grade. Rebecca has also worked in public and private schools as an early interventionist, an early childhood teacher, an early childhood special education teacher, an autism specialist and a school administrator. She holds a doctorate in research, policy, and administration from the University of Virginia, where she has also worked as a teacher preparation faculty member and researcher.

Rebecca lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband Brian, their two children, Samantha and Thomas, and puppy Bailey.

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Bluth, Karen

Dr. Karen Bluth is a research fellow at FPG, where she conducts research on self-compassion and its influences on the emotional wellbeing of teens. Dr. Bluth is the-creator of the curriculum Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens  and one of the creators of Self-Compassion for Educators, a self-compassion program offered through Mindful Schools. She the author of three books for teens on self-compassion and the Audible Original “Self-Compassion for Girls: A Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Coaches.” 

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Bryans, Amanda

Director Research Analysis and Communication

Office of Early Childhood Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Amanda Bryans has worked in the Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services since 1999.  During that time, she has led efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of program services through regulations, research, program monitoring and training and technical assistance.  She currently is the Director Research Analysis and Communication, Office of Early Childhood Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Amanda has a BS from Cornell University in Human Development and Family Studies and an MS from the State University of New York at Albany in Educational Psychology, Measurement and Statistics.  She has worked for Head Start for 25 years including five years as a Disabilities Services and Education Coordinator, and five years as the Director of the Head Start program in Albany, NY. 

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Cate, Deborah

TA Specialist

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. 

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Catlett, Camille

Camille Catlett is a Senior Technical Assistance Specialist at the FPG Child Development Institute and consultant based in Carrboro NC. As part of system change projects at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, she led efforts to incorporate explicit emphasis on children and families of diverse cultures, languages, abilities, and life circumstances in professional development efforts in over 30 states. Her work with talented partners on the Crosswalks project yielded a flexible and evidence-based model for enhancing higher education courses and programs. She supports early intervention and early childhood colleagues through technical assistance, research, presentations, writing, resources, and position statements. Her current projects and research efforts focus on incorporating an explicit and intentional emphasis on culture, equity, language, individual diversity, and inclusion in early childhood and early childhood special education coursework, field experiences, and program practices.

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Choo, Sylvia


Department of Child Development, KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Singapore

Dr Sylvia Choo is a paediatrician practising at the Department of Child Development, KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Singapore. Prior to this, she worked at the Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine at the Singapore General Hospital. She trained at the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne in 2003. She was a member of a team that was awarded a Ministry of Health Team Fellowship in 2016, looking at integration and continuity of care for children presenting with developmental and behavioural issues, at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Clements, Doug

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Curenton, Stephanie M.

Stephanie M. Curenton, PhD, is a tenured associate professor at BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development and the director of the Center for the Ecology of Early Childhood Development (CEED). She has led in the creation of the Assessing Classroom Sociocultural Equity Scale, which is a classroom quality measure focused on racial equity. 

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Dell, Penny


Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center

Penny Dell has been in the field of early childhood special education for over 35 years. Her experience includes classroom teacher, itinerant provider, early intervention home provider, regional Head Start consultant, college and university professor, local Part C Director, State Part C Training Coordinator, State Child Find Coordinator, and State 619 Coordinator. She currently is a consultant for the ECTA Center with the Inclusion Cohort and an adjunct professor at the University of Denver.

Confirmed Sessions:

DiSalvo, Christina

Christina DiSalvo, MPA is an Implementation Specialist with The Impact Center at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. As an Implementation Specialist, Christina translates implementation science through tailored design, consultation, and support to local and state partners based on local need and context. Focus areas include implementation support to local human services agencies and consultation to state partners supporting the statewide scale-up of evidence-based, evidence-informed programs and practices.  

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Donnelly, Nikki

Nikki Donnelly

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Everhart, Kris

Speech-Language Pathologist

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. 

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Figueras-Daniel, Alexandra

Alexandra Figueras-Daniel, Ph.D.

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Fung, Jennifer

Dr. Jen Fung is an educator, trainer, consultant, and researcher who has dedicated her career to ensuring that all young children, including those with disabilities, have a strong start to their educational journeys. Jennifer is a senior content specialist at Cultivate Learning at the University of Washington, and is the Inclusion Lead for the Office of Head Start's National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning. Jennifer’s background includes a master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Washington, with specializations in early childhood special education, infant mental health, and adult learning. Her professional experiences with young children with disabilities and their families include working as a special educator, behavioral consultant, parent educator, and family support coordinator. Dr. Fung has extensive experience in partnering with school, early care and education, and other community organizations to increase their capacity to create and sustain successful inclusive programs.

Confirmed Sessions:

Garcia, Dayana

Disabilities and Inclusion Specialist

Office of Head Start (OHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

Dayana Garcia is the Disabilities and Inclusion Specialist at the Office of Head Start (OHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF). She holds an M.Ed in Special Education. She is a former Special Education Teacher, Head Start Disabilities Coordinator, Head Start Content Specialist, and was the Director of the Head Start Information and Communication Center. Dayana has over 25 years’ experience working with children with disabilities and their families in the U.S. and her home country of Venezuela.

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Goldfarb, Kayla

Kayla Goldfarb is a Policy Specialist at Start Early, where she supports early childhood systems building and advocacy efforts on home visiting and inclusion issues in Illinois, including staffing the Inclusion Subcommittee of the Illinois Early Learning Council. Prior to joining Start Early in 2019, she worked on family economic security policy in Connecticut. Kayla holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

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Gonzales, Richard

Richard Gonzales is the Director of Interagency and Special Initiatives within the Department of Health & Human Services/Administration for Children and Families (HHS/ACF) working on various early childhood issues out of the Office of Child Care. 

Richard began his federal work at ACF in February 2010, continuing his life-long commitment to early childhood development and learning. In the previous 36 years Richard moved through the ranks as a child care assistant teacher and teacher, a Head Start education director, assistant director, delegate agency director, and NYC Head Start Grantee Director. 

Richard’s primary focus at ACF these past 10 years has included leading our HHS interagency team in all aspects related to Early Childhood State Advisory Councils, the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge, the Preschool Development Grants, and the Preschool Development Grants Birth through Five.

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Grove, Wendy

Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. She oversees a team who is responsible for licensing Ohio’s public preschool programs and other early childhood special education programs. Wendy is dedicated to strengthening the systems that support Ohio’s youngest citizens. She works closely with colleagues across state government, advocates, and associations whose programs benefit early learners.

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Holland, Adam

Research Scientist

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.

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Hong, Mina

Mina Hong is a Director on the Start Early Consulting Team, providing policy and advocacy consultation to states focused on high-quality, equitable early childhood systems. Previously, Mina worked at Michigan’s Children, an advocacy organization, where she played a key role in state budget and policy wins for families with young children. Mina also has experience supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. 

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Joseph Buzek, Jackie

Executive Director

The Rise School of Denver

Jackie Joseph Buzek, PhD, BCBA-D, MSW, is the Executive Director of The Rise School of Denver, an inclusive, therapeutic, non-profit child care center. Before Rise, Jackie was a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Denver, where her work focused on early childhood inclusion and young children’s social and emotional competence. When she’s not at Rise, Jackie’s at home with her husband, Jace, and their daughters, Juniper and Goldie. Juniper has a rare genetic syndrome (Cri du Chat) and autism. Raising Juniper has taught Jackie more than she’s ever learned through research or in a classroom about inclusion, belonging, and celebrating disability.

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Kern, Petra

Dr. Petra Kern, MT-BC, MTA, DMtG is a consultant, educator, researcher, and advocate for inclusion. A former research scholar at FPG’s Child Development Institute and President of the WFMT, she currently serves on DEC’s International Committee, as Editor-in-Chief of imagine and is the Scientific Committee Chair of the #WCMT2023. Dr. Kern offers support to organizations, child care providers, and families to embed effective music-mediated interventions for children’s development and learning.

Confirmed Sessions:

Kloo, Amanda

Dr. Amanda Kloo, is the Director of Inclusive Recreation at the National Inclusion Project.  She is an educator, interventionist, and developmental specialist with over 20 years of experience teaching individuals of all ages and abilities. She is a frequent presenter, widely published author, and educational consultant to research centers, community programs, schools, and universities around the globe.  Amanda is passionate about all things inclusion and believes in the power of play!

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Kneedler, Laura

Laura is the Chief Mission Officer at Northwest Center in Seattle, WA. Through her work at Northwest Center, Laura leads a talented team of nearly 200 direct service professionals who provide a wide array of services to children and adults with disabilities and their families. Through programs of early intervention therapy, inclusive early learning, training and consultation, transition services, job placement and job coaching Laura and her team provide a comprehensive approach to promoting the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in the classroom, community and work place. Laura holds a Master’s degree in Special Education and has over 15 years of experience working with individuals with disabilities and their families.

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Kozlowski , Jani

Technical Assistance Specialist

Early Childhood TA (ECTA) Center

Jani Kozlowski, MA, is a Technical Assistance Specialist for the Early Childhood TA Center at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She provides TA around topics such as early childhood inclusion, professional development, and collaborative partnerships. Previously, Jani served as the Inclusion Lead for the Office of Head Start National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching & Learning. Jani is the author of the book, Every Child Can Fly: An Early Childhood Educator’s Guide to Inclusion.

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Lathren, Christine

Christine Lathren

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LeGrant, Shana

Shana LeGrant

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Lim, Chih-Ing

TA Specialist

FPG Child Development Institute

Chih-Ing Lim, PhD, is a senior TA specialist at FPG Child Development Institute. Originally from Singapore, Chih-Ing started off as a math and music teacher and went on to work with early childhood practitioners to develop the national curriculum framework for Singapore. Her research and professional interests focus on personnel preparation and professional development, specifically in the content areas of equitable access and participation of children with disabilities in inclusive settings.

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Macy, Marisa

Marisa Macy

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McCullough, Katy

Associate Director

Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center

Katy McCullough, MA, is an Associate Director with the Early Childhood TA (ECTA) Center within the Trohanis Technical Assistance (TA) Projects. She provides technical assistance to Early Intervention/Part C and Preschool Special Education/619 Coordinators in states supporting system change in topics such as early intervention services, finance, and early childhood inclusion.

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Mead, Ebonyse

Dr. Ebonyse Mead is a Clinical Instructor in the Birth to Kindergarten program at Georgia Southern University and President of the Educational Equity Institute. Prior to this, she worked at the state level promoting racial equity in early childhood by providing training on diversity, inclusion, and equity with a particular focus on implicit bias, racial socialization, and culturally responsive instruction to the early childhood workforce in North Carolina. Ebonyse is a Certified Family Life Educator and holds a Doctor of Education in Early Childhood from Concordia University Chicago. She earned a Master of Arts in Human Service Counseling also from Concordia and completed a second Master's of Science in Family Studies from Texas Woman's University.

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Meaden, Hedda

Hedda Meaden

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Miranda, Lori

Lori Miranda is a certified teacher of 33 years in Florida and is currently the PreK ESE program administrator for the School District of Palm Beach County. Prior to this position, she has taught exceptional student education in the public and private sectors, owned/operated a large childcare center, and served as a regional facilitator for a statewide discretionary project supporting all early childhood stakeholders across the state. She is the proud mother of 4 grown sons and can be found in her spare time with her new grandson or playing golf, tennis, or standup paddleboarding.

Confirmed Sessions:

Neitzel, Jen

Dr. Jen Neitzel is the Executive Director of the Educational Equity Institute, which is focused on eliminating the educational and opportunity gaps within communities through systems level change. Prior to this work, Jen was a Research Scientist and Technical Assistance Provider at FPG Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill for 15 years. During her time at FPG, her work focused on implicit bias; disparities in suspensions and expulsions; trauma; and culturally responsive anti-bias practices. Jen 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.

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Pazouki, Tahereh

During her post-doctoral research, Tahereh Pazouki, PhD in Psychology and Master’s in Computer Science, observed children in Luxembourg’s public schools with migratory backgrounds and language disorders falling behind in non-language studies such as math. Her research led to the discovery that removing language as a barrier can lead to significant improvements in learning math. Today, her solution, Magrid is closing the math learning gap in all public schools in Luxembourg. 

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Perkins, Yolanda

Yolanda Perkins, M.Ed. is an Implementation Specialist with the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has nearly 20 years of experience working in the field of education in a variety of capacities.  Her research interests focus on providing professional development on the use of implementation best practices to improve the outcomes for students with marginalized identities.

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Peters, Mary

TA Specialist

Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center

Mary Louise Peters has been a technical assistance (TA) specialist with the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA). Mary’s work focuses on improving special education services for young children and their families. Her topical expertise includes professional development, collaborative system building, and inclusion. Mary Peters is also a Courage and Renewal Facilitator ® prepared by the Center for Courage and Renewal and has offered reflective experiences since 2009.

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Pitts, Danita

Danita Pitts, MS, serves as the Part B/619 Coordinator for the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Special Education, to provide guidance, support, and oversight of Arkansas Early Childhood Special Education (3-5).  Prior to coming to the Office of Special Education, Mrs. Pitts has served as an educator for over twenty-five years, teaching children across the age span from birth through eighth grade.  Her experiences in early childhood have involved directing an Arkansas Better Chance preschool, serving as a developmental therapist providing services for children with special needs from birth to three, and serving as an early childhood special education teacher in educational cooperatives within Arkansas for children ages 3-5. 

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Poon, Kenneth

Associate Dean (Education Research)

entre for Research in Child Development at the Nanyang Technological University

Dr. Kenneth Poon serves as Associate Dean (Education Research) and as Co-Director at the Centre for Research in Child Development at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research focuses on the developmental trajectories of children with neurodevelopment disorders, and how their development can be supported in optimized. Kenneth also serves on the Boards of Rainbow Centre (Singapore) as President and on the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities as Treasurer.

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Pretzel, Rebecca

Rebecca Pretzel

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Pullis, Lisa

Lisa Campbell Pullis, M.Ed., is the Program Director at the Iredell County Partnership for Young Children in Statesville, NC. She is a co-owner of Bailey, Pullis, & Riggins LLC. Lisa earned a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Leadership and Administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology, with a concentration in Child Development from Appalachian State University. Currently, she serves as the Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy on the NCaeyc Board and began her first term in the fall of 2017. Lisa also serves on the Public Policy and Advocacy committee, keeping current on legislative actions affecting the early childhood workforce and encouraging early childhood professionals to advance equity in their classroom environments.

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Ramsey, Jenna

Senior Administrator

Office of Early Learning - Preschool Programs

Jenna Ramsey has served as a special education professional for the last 20 years.  She graduated from Elon University in 2001 with a Batchelor's of Arts in Special Education and Elementary Education and worked as a special education resource teacher at the elementary level for the first 5 years of career in Alamance County and Wake County.  Jenna started working as a Special Education Coordinating Teacher at the elementary and preschool levels.  She received her Masters of School Administration in 2012 from Western Carolina University and started serving in her role as the Senior Administrator for Preschool Special Education Programs in Wake County Public Schools.  She has received several recognitions of her work including Teacher of the Year for Brooks Musuems Magnet School (2005), Support Staff of the Year for the Autism Society of Wake County (2013), and Employee Excellence award for the Wake County Board of Education (2017).  Jenna has served as co-chair of the Wake LICC since 2019.  

In addition to her professional roles, Jenna has an 8-year-old daughter, A'leeah, and was blessed to have 13 amazing years as a mother to her son PJ, both of whom have unique learning and medical needs.  Her role as a parent has provided her opportunities to dwell in communities with those caring for and loving individuals with complex medical needs, developmental disabilities, and those experiencing palliative care, hospice, foster care and adoption.  Her experiences have formed her perspectives and her work with families, as she strives to display actions and words that confirm, affirm, and align with a parent's voice in their child's educational planning and life path.  

Contact Jenna: jramsey@wcpss.net

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Rausch, Alissa

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.

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Riepe, Ben

Ben Riepe, MA is an Inclusion Coaching Specialist for the Positive Early Learning Experiences (PELE) Center at the University of Denver. He is on staff at the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations. He has over 20 years of experience teaching, coaching and providing TA in the field of Early Childhood.

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Riggins, Jr., Rhodus

Quality Enhancement Coordinator

Education Quality Improvement and Professional Development Project

Rhodus Riggins, Jr. is Quality Enhancement Coordinator at the Education Quality Improvement and Professional Development Project (EQuIPD) at the UNC- Greensboro. He is Adjunct Faculty member at Alamance Community College and UNC-Greensboro. He is co-founder and co-owner of Bailey, Pullis, & Riggins LLC, a racial equity consulting organization. Rhodus is a grassroots champion with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, Public Policy, & Advocacy in Early Childhood.

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Russell, Karen

Karen Russell is an energetic, passionate educator with 30 + years in the field of Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education. She has supported a wide range of learners in multiple settings, created a variety of community based options for students receiving special education support ages 3-5, and effectively teamed with community and school district professionals and families. She is currently engaged in supporting adult learners as an EC PST @ CESA2. A proud parent of 3, one of who identifies as transgender.  The story I have to tell is one of an educator and parent.

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Sarama, Julie

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Sexton, Sarah

Associate Director

Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP)

Sarah Sexton 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 intervention practices (natural learning environment practices, resource-based practices, family-centered capacity-building practices, and coaching), experiential workplace learning, and develops tools that support and measure practitioner adherence to evidence-based practices.  

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Smith, Lee Anne

Lee Anne Smith

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Smith, Paula Bendl

Paula Bendl Smith, OFFICE OF CHILD CARE 

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Soukakou, Elena

Honorary Research Fellow

School Education, University of Roehampton, UK

Elena P. Soukakou is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School Education, University of Roehampton, United Kingdom.   Her areas of interest include classroom practices that support inclusion in early childhood, quality assessment in inclusive programs, and models of professional development in early childhood. Dr. Soukakou is the author of the Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP), a classroom assessment measure designed to assess and support the quality of inclusive practices in early childhood settings.

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Spencer, Shanickwa

Project Coach

ITTI Care Project: Building Capacity for Infant & Toddler Trauma-Informed Care: A Professional Development Framework

Shanickwa is currently a Project Coach for the ITTI Care Project: Building Capacity for Infant & Toddler Trauma-Informed Care: A Professional Development Framework, a collaborative project focused on trauma-informed practice in infant/toddler child care and an early learning consultant. In her previous role with the Lourie Center Early Head Start/ Head Start program, she served as the Education Services Operation Manager. She was responsible for the education and early childhood development/early intervention service area which included providing oversight and leadership for the areas of school readiness, inclusion, developmental screening, ongoing child assessment and curriculum, teacher assessment, coaching, state licensing of new sites, and teacher/director professional learning. Before joining the Lourie Center and working in Head Start, Shanickwa served as a Teaching and Learning Facilitator at Georgetown University, where she provided coaching in community-based early childhood programs, charter, and public schools to promote early literacy teaching practices. She also held positions as an infant, toddler, preschool and kindergarten teacher and served in leadership roles in nonprofit, for-profit, a Reggio Emilia inspired program and an inclusive setting in the Washington DC area. Shanickwa Spencer holds a Master's in Organizational Management and Bachelor's in Psychology.

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Steinbrenner, Jessica

Jessica Steinbrenner is an associate professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill and a certified speech-language pathologist. She has been working with children with autism for over two decades, and has worked doing school-based autism research for the past 14 years. Her interests including professional development of community-based providers, supporting social-communication and engagement, and identifying and using evidence-based practices.

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Stevenson, Cami


Multnomah Early Childhood Program

Cami is an administrator at the Multnomah Early Childhood Program, Portland, OR, serving over 2,500 children and families birth-5. She is the associate director of the Routines-Based Model Enterprise with Robin McWilliam, in which capacity she directs the certification and endorsement of professionals in the model, worldwide.

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Strain, Phil

James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Urban Education

University of Denver

Dr. Phil S. Strain is James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Urban Education at the Morgridge College of Education and Director of the PELE Center, University of Denver. He is the author of over 300 scientific publications, has served on the editorial boards of 22 professional journals and has been Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator of grants and contracts totaling over 80 million dollars. He is particularly interested in expanding inclusive preschool options, comprehensive services for young children with autism and prevention and intervention for children with challenging behaviors.

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Thomason, Lauren

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Lauren is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor specializing in early childhood mental health. She began in 2009 as a private practitioner serving vulnerable families. Lauren served in the role of Mental Health Consultant for a Head Strat/Early Head Start program and a developmental day center. In this role, she worked with children, teachers, and family members to provide early childhood mental health consultation related to toxic stress and building resiliency. Lauren currently works at Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy as a Project Coach for the Infant/Toddler Trauma-Informed (ITTI) Care Project where she provides training, coaching and project support. ITTI Care is a collaborative project committed to leading with equity, using a systems approach and leveraging existing resources to craft a professional development framework focused on trauma-informed practice in infant/toddler child care. She is trained in a variety of evidence-based early childhood mental health practices including: Attachment & Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC), Theraplay and Triple P Parenting.


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Villines, Meredith

Meredith Villines

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Vinh, Megan


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 the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA), and the evaluation lead for the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (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 Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Executive Board. 

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Ward, Caryn

Caryn Ward, PhD, is the director of the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She provides intensive, informed implementation supports to state and local education systems nationally through her work as the director of the State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices Center and leadership team member for Region 7 Comprehensive Center.

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Ward-Williams, Doanne

Doanne Ward-Williams

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Williams , Catasha

Co-Principal Investigator/ Associate Director and Technical Assistance (TA) Specialist

FPG Child Development Institute

Catasha A. Williams, M.Ed. is a Co-Principal Investigator/ Associate Director and Technical Assistance (TA) Specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She provides technical assistance, professional development and data evaluation and systems supports to early childhood leadership teams around the delivery of evidence-informed practices for promoting healthy social and emotional development for young children. Ms. Williams’ current work also involves providing national TA to support Section 619 (Part B) programs in developing high-quality preschool special education service systems, with a focus on ensuring racial equity, culturally responsiveness and high-quality inclusive opportunities for children with disabilities and their families. She has 17 years of professional experience in early childhood systems serving in various roles including direct service provision, program planning and evaluation and statewide early childhood consultation. Sherri Britt-Williams Sherri Britt Williams, MPH, is a Principal Investigator/ Director and national Technical Assistance (TA) Specialist at UNC Chapel Hill Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. Her current work involves designing, developing, and presenting training content and ongoing professional learning support using evidence-based adult learning and learning design principles and providing leadership coaching and TA supporting statewide and local programs to implement successful and sustainable initiatives using an implementation science framework.

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Williams, Valerie


Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

Valerie C. Williams serves as the director in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing administration of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which authorizes formula grants to states under IDEA Part B and to lead agencies for the infants and families program under IDEA Part C. IDEA also authorizes discretionary grants under IDEA Part D to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support grants for state personnel development, technical assistance and dissemination, technology, and parent training and information centers.

Williams most recently served for six years as senior director of Government Relations and External Affairs at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. She has decades of experience, which include supporting state-level special education leaders by overseeing federal government public policy activities, federal regulatory affairs, public relations, and key initiatives to promote equity and guide positive systemic change, thereby improving outcomes for students with disabilities. She also served as the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Public Policy Fellow, on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee advancing disability policy and civil rights. Prior to that, she managed the budgeting and finances for numerous multi-million-dollar programs within the Departments of the Navy and the Air Force, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Williams was born in White Sands, New Mexico, and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy of Industrial Societies from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master of Arts in Public Management from Johns Hopkins University. She has a unique perspective, having worked with members of Congress and staff on Capitol Hill, with advocacy organizations, supporting state special education leaders, and most importantly, being the parent of a son with Down syndrome.

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Young, Lynn

Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor

Lynn Young has spent over three decades as a teacher, trainer, and coach. For 20 years, she taught in an inclusive preschool classroom.  She designed the classroom for children with hearing loss to learn and play alongside their peers with normal hearing. Home visiting and parent education were an integral part of this program. During her time in the classroom, Lynn was a demonstration teacher for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. She has also served as a cooperating teacher for countless student interns from Meredith College and was a mentor for beginning teachers in the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, NC. Prior to her work in the preschool setting, she worked as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at the upper elementary and high school levels. She retired from Wake County Public Schools in 2018, during the final five years she worked as a Preschool Coordinating Teacher supporting preschool Special Education and Title I teachers. Currently she works as a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor working with parents and teachers all over the country.

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