Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

aRPy Ambassadors: Bios and Contact Information

aRPy Ambassadors

Illustration: aRPY faces scattered on a map of the United States

Ambassadors

Alabama

Photograph: Jeri Jackson

Jeri B. Jackson, M.A.

As an educational professional for the past 42 years, I am attentive to the need for the consistent use of evidence-based practices in the delivery of services statewide and nationally. I have a passion for personnel development and the development of state-of-the-art training materials and mechanisms that promote such practices. My experience is in supervision, grant management, coordination of professional development and direct resource development. As the coordinator of a statewide early intervention-preschool conference, and as project director for Alabama’s EI Comprehensive System of Personnel Development, I have a venue for field-testing and marketing training materials across the state of Alabama. I am also very interested in the evaluation component of such efforts, including effectiveness of training/materials and impact on child and family outcomes. Overall, I am certain that marketing and utilizing consistent, recommended practice is critical if we are to provide the best services possible for our children and families.

Illinois

Photograph: Chelsea Guillen

Chelsea Guillen, M.S.

As a member of the DEC RP Commission that recently revised the DEC RPs, I know how hard we worked to make the number of practices manageable so that we could increase the likelihood of their use by those who work directly with young children with developmental challenges and their families. I feel that reducing the number of practices and emphasizing the use of evidence-based practices in state systemic improvement plans are two important steps for increasing the use of the Practices. Through my work as a professional development and technical assistance provider in Illinois’ early intervention system, I hope to ensure that the professionals in our state are using proven strategies for working with young children and their families. As a family member of children who have benefitted from early intervention and early childhood special education, I will work hard to ensure that the important role families play in the intervention process doesn't get loss with the practitioner focus in the RPs. While I work in early intervention, I also understand the importance of critically and creatively thinking about how to share the RPs beyond early intervention. Many children with developmental challenges are involved in other programs, so as an aRPy Ambassador, I want to be sure that the professionals working in those programs are also able to utilize effective practices.

Kansas

Photograph: Phoebe Rinkel

Phoebe Rinkel, M.S.

Phoebe Rinkel, M.S., has been working with infants and preschoolers with special needs, their families, and the adults who support them for more than 30 years. Her career has been shaped by a diversity of experiences in early care and education, early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSE ). Professional experience includes administrative, research, direct services (center-based and home-based), coaching and consultation, and technical assistance. Phoebe has worked in urban and rural programs and school districts, large and small, across the state of Kansas. She is a frequent presenter at national and state conferences for early childhood and early childhood special education professionals and families (including DEC and KDEC).

Of particular relevance is Phoebe's recent experience of nearly ten years as technical assistance coordinator for the Kansas Inservice Training System (KITS Project), her role in working with the writing team that developed the new Kansas Early Learning Standards Toolkit, and her active membership in CEC/DEC/KDEC throughout her career. Phoebe is excited to be working in a new position as early childhood instructional specialist for the Shawnee Mission School District in Overland Park, KS.

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Other related experience includes working as administrator of a community childcare center, director of a homebased early intervention program for infants and preschoolers, community liaison for a federal research institute on infants prenatally exposed to drugs or alcohol, disability and mental health coordinator for a Head Start delegate agency, director of an innovative VI-B grant to develop training modules on evidence-based practices and a peer-coaching framework for implementing them across settings for preschoolers with significant disabilties, participation in federal demonstration and outreach grants to develop training to improve practices for children with autism spectrum disorders, and staff to the Kansas Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Childhood Disabilities.

Current professional memberships include CEC/DEC/KDEC (past board member), Kansas Association of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (KAIMH), and Kansas Pyramid Collaborative. Phoebe has previously served on the KSDE Early Learning Services team, the BEST committee of the Child Care Licensing System Improvement team, the Head Start Collaborative Council, the Kansas Early Childhood Mental Health Advisory Council, the Statewide Child Care and Early Education Advisory Committee, the Kansas Early Childhood Forum, the Governor's Conference on Prevention of Abuse and Neglect Planning Committee, and the Kansas Autism Task Force legislative sub-committee. Phoebe also served on the national advisory group for the Technical Assistance Center for Social Emotional Interventions (TACSEI). In 2010 Phoebe received the Award of Excellence from the Kansas Division for Early Childhood.

Louisiana

Photograph: Toni Ledet

Toni Ledet, Ph.D., BCBA

Toni believes that in supporting and furthering the use of the DEC RPs by both early intervention, Part C providers and special education, 619 teachers and related services providers, children and families will ultimately benefit by receiving effective supports and services that will enhance their lives. To accomplish this goal she will work collaboratively with staff in state level agencies, local agencies, and institutions of higher education, as well as independent providers through various professional development activities and initiatives in Louisiana. She also has a strong belief that working and collaborating with general education providers and community providers is necessary for all to be able to effectively use the DEC practices and resources as partners in supporting children and families. As an aRPy Ambassador she will work with the DEC Board and membership to put the information about the DEC recommended practices and its resources in the hands of all providers across the state of Louisiana. As a provider of professional development in the state across all areas of Early Childhood she hopes to infuse the DEC practices and resources into professional development opportunities both inservice and preservice, and to assist other professional development providers to do the same. As providers across Louisiana work together she expects that they will accomplish the goal of enhancing providers’ practices to better meet the needs of children and families. Toni has worked as an early childhood training and technical assistance provider in a variety of early childhood professional development initiatives within Early Childhood Care and Education, Head Start, and IDEA.

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She has conducted numerous trainings on the national, state and local level, and provided technical assistance to a variety of diverse early childhood professionals including child care providers, Head Start and Early Head Start teachers, kindergarten teachers, and early interventionists on such topics as language and literacy, authentic assessment, positive behavior supports, early intervention recommended practices and early childhood developmentally appropriate practices. Prior to working as a professional development provider she worked in the early childhood arena as a regular and special education early childhood teacher where she taught both children with and without disabilities in kindergarten and preschool as well as infants and toddlers in their homes and in community child care centers.

Maryland

Photograph: Janette Guerra

Janette Guerra, M.Ed.

Janette is an Early Childhood Specialist at the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services. In this role, she provides performance support and technical assistance to local Infants and Toddlers and Preschool Special Education Programs. She has a Masters Degree in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education and has worked in the ECE field for 30 years. She has extensive experience in Part C and Section 619 services as a direct service provider, program administrator, and in professional development roles. In addition, she currently plays an active role in the implementation of the Maryland Part C State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP). Janette has been a long-standing member of the Council for Exceptional Children, Division of Early Childhood (DEC) and Zero To Three and values the professional guidance these organizations and the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center provide. The DEC RPs have long been a valued resource for her personal professional development as well as a tool for supporting the growth and development of the personnel she supports. She is excited to be part of this initiative to roll out the new RP materials and support the State’s capacity for implementation of RPs to improve outcomes for young children and their families.

Michigan

Photograph: Nancy Surbrook

Nancy Surbrook

I am the Training and Technical Assistance Manager for the Part C Comprehensive System of Personnel Development and the Part B 619 Personnel Development system. I have facilitated and presented on the innovative approaches to conduct learning for Michigan. I am a leader in Michigan's Part C State System Improvement Plan and I am constantly moving the state Part C and 619 system in innovative practices. I actively advocate for children with disabilities in other state early childhood initiatives such as the Child Care and Development Block Grant Personnel Development project, the Great Start Readiness Program (our state preschool program) personnel development and Early Childhood Personnel Center Cohort, which includes Part B 619, Head Start and Part C. I have been instrumental in the growth of the Michigan Division of Early Childhood as Treasurer and a member of the Professional Development committee. By being an aRPy Ambassador I will focus on how the RP and the resources developed can be used in our early childhood system to support outcomes for young children with, or at risk for, disabilities and their families. By disseminating and promoting the use of the ECTA Center products and resources across early childhood systems I hope to improve our personnel development system and how Michigan integrates and supports young children with, or at rick for, disabilities and their families. I will use the resources and materials within every system of personnel development that I work in. I will also share the information and materials at statewide conferences and with the Michigan DEC membership through a variety of methods. I hope to learn from colleagues in my cohort and improve the knowledge and use of the RPs.

Minnesota

Photograph: Aaron Deris

Aaron R. Deris, Ph.D

My goal is to infuse the information that I gain from my involvement in both pre-service (with my students and other ECSE faculty) and in-service teachers. I am part of the MN Early Childhood Higher Education Consortium and know that I will be able to disseminate this information to impact not only the pre-service teachers that I work with at my university, but also the other Higher Education institutes across the state.

I serve on the MN DEC board and will share pertinent information with the other board members. Our current board includes area ECSE coordinators/supervisors, state department staff, and teachers.

My university has two campuses one in a first ring suburb of Minneapolis and one in the southern part of the state. I partner with both area districts and will be able to disseminate information to these groups.

In addition, with my work with Project PREP, I am involved with St Paul Public Schools.

I believe that my past experiences will allow me to be successful in my role as an aRPy Ambassador. I have worked on a statewide project in Louisiana in regard to evaluating early childhood classrooms (inclusive and self-contained) in regard to quality. I have assisted with NAEYC accreditation for early childhood centers, and have infused DEC RPs throughout coursework in my teacher preparation program. In addition, I am working with other to develop case studies in regard to DEC's RPs to be used at both the pre and in service levels. I presented with my colleagues on this topic at the DEC conference in Atlanta.

Minnesota

Photograph: Jennifer Moses

Jennifer Moses

I have been honored to be a part of the Early Childhood Special Education team at the Minnesota Department of Education for the past 3 years. I am a licensed ECSE teacher and have over 10 years of experience in the field of early childhood education. Our state team has been focused on positively impacting child outcomes for children birth to kindergarten entrance through the support of local Part C and 619 programs and their leaders. Minnesota is committed to embedding the RPs within the professional development innovations offered through our regional Centers of Excellence. Through our work as one of the first states to participate in the RP2 TA opportunity, we have already begun to embed the practices within our home-based innovation (Family Guided Routines Based Intervention) and our preschool innovation (Classroom Engagement model). In addition, I work very closely with partners at the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Department of Health through our quality rating and improvement system to ensure that all environments are ready to welcome and prepare all children for a bright future. Our state goal is to continue to ensure that the RPs are embedded in professional development provided to EI/ECSE practitioners as well as into other early childhood systems as appropriate.

Nebraska

Photograph: Catie Limbach

Catie Limbach

As the Nebraska aRPy Ambassador, I am ready to share DEC RPs and products with practitioners and families across the state of Nebraska. I am excited to provide support for implementation of recommended practices in order for all children to experience a quality learning experience. My educational background includes a BS in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood Inclusive endorsement and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Early Childhood. While my teaching career has taken me into every grade from preschool through sixth grade, for the last 25 years, I have focused on my true passion— preschool and kindergarten. I have participated in a variety of state wide projects such as the Kindergarten Early Learning Guidelines, Results Matter, and am currently a coach for the Pyramid Model. All these experiences have enhanced my knowledge of RPs and I am eager to share my expertise and offer support to practitioners and families as they promote learning for all children.

New Jersey

Photograph: Denise Gilroy

Denise M. Gilroy

I am a special needs educator who is trying to implement and support the current state standards and provide positive outcomes through utilizing evidence-based strategies for all young children.

I collaborate with various state offices including our New Jersey Special Education Early Childhood Team. I also support the Division of Early Childhood Education and our Head Start Office to promote professional development in our Learning Resource Center. I have also presented to our Division of Family Development and our Department of Human Services, which houses New Jersey’s QRIS known as GROW NJ KIDS.

As part of my responsibilities at The Learning Resource Center-Central, I am a member of New Jersey’s Office of Special Education Programs, providing a support system for administers, teachers, and parents. We utilize IDEA funds to enhance instructional training and professional development. This framework is set up to encourage and support efforts to improve our Preschool Special Education system by providing current research-based information across our early childhood programs.

New Mexico

Photograph: Alex Ruiz

Alex Ruiz, M.A.

Alex Ruiz is a New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) Focus Consultant. PED Focus TQRIS is the NM Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant. She provides direct support to rural schools and programs to provide high quality inclusion for preschool children in southern New Mexico. She has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in early childhood education from New Mexico State University and is fluent in Spanish. Prior to her current position, she served the Gadsden Independent School District (GISD) as a special education teacher for grades K-3, a PreK teacher, and as early childhood instructional specialist for the GISD Special Education Department. She has 17 years’ experience working with young children and their families.

Alex is eager to be part of ECTA Center's community of learners and provide feedback for the improvement of products that can be implemented and used in her state’s work with Section 619 school district programs, practitioners, and families. Her goals as an Ambassador are to bring the DEC Recommended Practices to bear on her continuous work in the development of high quality inclusion programs, specifically as it applies to New Mexico FOCUS: Essential Elements of Quality and preschool program's continuous quality improvement plans.

Alex is a member of the Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She lives in Las Cruces, NM.

North Carolina

Photograph: Sharon Lunn

Sharon Lunn

As an aRPy’s Ambassador, I hope to contribute to the expansion of professional knowledge around the DEC RPs and the products made available through the ECTA Center. It is my goal to help build state capacity to use these products to support implementation of RPs by early childhood practitioners and families.

Through my roles as Program Consultant and TA Provider, I intend to leverage partnerships with other stakeholders. I aspire to promote alliances amongst early intervention, early childhood special education and, early childhood provider agencies for the purpose of access to those dissemination channels for reciprocal training and professional development opportunities.

The knowledge acquired as an aRPy’s Ambassador will further allow me to assist other state consultants and TA providers in accessing the products and resources needed to adequately support local programs and service providers around the use of the DEC RPs. In keeping with the objectives of the federally mandated SSIP; I share in the commitment to enhance systems, services, and outcomes for young children with, or at risk for, developmental disabilities and their families.

As an appointed Ambassador, I aim to cultivate staff knowledge as it pertains to foundational principles and practices specifically known to promote positive outcomes for young children. I am highly motivated and intend to work collaboratively with partners at the state and national levels to further the use of the DEC RPs, including the development of cohort-determined products and tools. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve as one of the inaugural aRPy's Ambassadors!

Ohio

Photograph: Jennifer Ottley

Jennifer R. Ottley, Ph.D

One of the greatest benefits of serving as a faculty member is the opportunity to both teach and conduct research. As an Assistant Professor in Special Education at Ohio University, I have the priviledge to teacher and montor early childhood general and special educators in their work with young children with disabilities. Similarly, my research efforts focus on the use of professional development with coaching as a means to enhance educators’ knowledge of effective practices, beliefs regarding instructing children with disabilities, and implementation of evidence-based strategies. As an aRPy ambassador, I look forward to the opportunity to collaboratively develop high-quality materials that align with the DEC's recommended practices to support all early educators, practitioners, and family members to utilize the recommended practices in their daily interactions with children. The development of these resources is critical so that families and early educators are supported in their acquisition of knowledge regarding the recommended practices and their application of that knowledge into their respective contexts. By serving as an aRPy ambasasador I will have the most up-to-date knowledge about the recommended practices and be able to disseminate the information to relevant stakeholders throughout the state of Ohio including families, general and special education practitioners, teacher educators, administrators, and teacher candidates.

Oregon

Photograph: Serra Acar

Serra Acar, Ph.D

I am a project coordinator at The Research Institute (TRI) at Western Oregon University. I work on projects with an early childhood/early learning focus. I received my Ph.D in Early Intervention from the University of Oregon. My primary areas of expertise include family-centered practices in early intervention/early childhood special education (EI/ECSE ), developmental screening/assessment, personnel preparation, and program evaluation. I am the president of DEC Oregon and Member-At-Large at DEC Executive Board. When not working, I enjoy painting, reading, cooking, and spending quality time with my family. I would like to collaborate with fellow members of the first cohort to develop and share strategies and resources on new RP-related products. Moreover, I would like to create opportunities to disseminate and train on the products in Oregon. I believe RP products will be very helpful for in-and-pre-service EI/ECSE educators and families who have young children.

Texas

Photograph: Elizabeth Beavers

Elizabeth Beavers, Ph.D

I have over 25 years of experience teaching and working with school systems, preschools, and Head Starts in the field of early childhood special education. I have served as a classroom teacher, a program coordinator, a consultant, trainer, and teacher educator and am a mother of three who values the importance of play and interactions in early childhood. My areas of expertise include critical and reflective practices in teacher education, emotional dimensions of teaching and learning, and instructional and intervention pedagogy. I have been an active member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children for many years at local and state levels. I am also actively involved with the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Early Childhood and serve as President for Texas DEC as well as on the National Membership Council. My education and years of experiences in diverse settings have fueled my passion for advancing practices and policies regarding early childhood special education. It is my hope to enhance awareness of the RPs and the resources available to support quality experiences for young children and their families. I believe there is a significant need to bring together the early childhood worlds of public preschool programs, ECI, private early care and education, and related services (private and public) by bridging dialogue around the RPs. As an aRPy Ambassador, I aim to better cultivate collaboration through professional learning experiences.

Virginia

Photograph: Dana Childress

Dana Childress, M.Ed.

Dana has worked in the field of early intervention for over 20 years as an early childhood special educator, service coordinator, supervisor, trainer, and writer. She currently works as part of Virginia's early intervention professional development team developing resources and conducting web-based and in-person training. She manages content for the Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center and writes the Early Intervention Strategies for Success blog. Dana is the co-author of the book, Family-Centered Practices in Early Intervention: Supporting Infants and Toddlers in Natural Environments. She is a member of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and co-chairs the Early Intervention Special Interest Group. She is also a doctoral candidate at Old Dominion University in Special Education. Her interests include adult learning, family centered practices, supporting family implementation of intervention strategies, and finding ways to help bridge the research to practice gap through interactive professional development for in-service early intervention practitioners. She is excited to be a part of the aRPy Ambassadors initiative to encourage students and service providers to reflect on their current perceptions and practices, consider how they align with the DEC RPs, and evolve their work to match what we know about how to best support children and families.

Steering Committee

Deana Buck

Photograph: Deana Buck

Deana Buck is responsible for the overall implementation of the ITC contract, including budget management. She has worked in early intervention in Virginia since 1985 at the state and local levels, including serving as a Local System Manager in the city of Richmond for 15 years. She is involved in a variety of early childhood initiatives, including serving as the CDC's Learn the Signs. Act Early Ambassador to Virginia. She also serves as the Partnership's Content Group Leader in Early Childhood.

Susan Connor, Ed.M.

Photograph: Susan Connor

I’m excited to be on the ground floor of this work and to be partnering with ECTA Center in this way. I am looking forward to continuing to help to shape the aRPy Ambassador initiative to promote the use of the DEC RPs across all levels of systems which support families and young children. As the Director of the Early Intervention Training Program at the University of Illinois, I am responsible for ensuring that the program provides quality professional development opportunities that are reflective of evidence based practices in the field. In my role, I partner with the Lead Agency to respond to the needs of the larger system. I lead collaboration initiatives with a variety of stakeholder groups including early intervention, education, child care, home visiting, and advocacy partners to meet the needs of local areas of the state and represent the Training Program on state and national planning committees and workgroups. I lead a team of committed, dedicated early intervention professional development specialists in developing curriculum, facilitating professional development activities, and collecting and analyzing data related to the quality and effectiveness of professional development activities and early intervention supports and services in Illinois.

ECTA Center Staff

Joan Danaher, Ph.D

Photograph: Joan Danaher

I am more excited by the aRPy’s Ambassadors than anything I’ve done in my 37 years of national TA. I’m getting back to my roots in direct services and I am so energized by the Ambassador cohort who responded to our call. The inaugural cohort of the Ambassadors is our "dream team." My role is: to facilitate their growth into a community; to make sure they have the information and products they need; to provide opportunities for them to generate and share their own plans and product ideas; and, to collaborate with them to develop new strategies, activities, and materials to make an impact in their states and across the country. We want all EI and ECSE service providers have the tools to use the DEC Recommended Practices which are, as aRPy says, "the things we do to make sure all the little ones develop and learn the best they can."

Alex Lazara

Photograph: Alex Lazara

I am a former teacher, and have ten years experience in national TA provision efforts at FPG. In addition to animating and voicing aRPy, I assist with the production of the print and web versions of products related to the DEC RPs. I am passionate about develping and improving products using practitioner feedback so we can more effectively encourage the understanding and adoption of the practices to improve outcomes for young children with disabilities nationwide.

Evelyn Shaw

Photograph: Evelyn Shaw

Evelyn Shaw has 32 years experience in research, demonstration, and TA in autism and early childhood special education. As a TA Specialist at NECTAC (22 years) she has provided TA to C/619, specializing in early identification, including CAPTA, and ASD. For 5 years she has divided her time between NECTAC and NPDC-ASD and other national autism research and TA projects. She has co-developed: evidence-based practice (EBP) modules, a program quality tool, coaching manual, and a state application process for partner states; and, provided TA, training, and coaching to states' model and expansion sites.

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

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  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email: ectacenter@unc.edu

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

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