Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

aRPy Ambassadors: Bios and Contact Information

aRPy Ambassadors

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



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.


Photograph: Phoebe Rinkel

Phoebe Rinkel, M.S.

I am incredibly fortunate to have worked with infants and preschoolers with special needs, their families, and the adults who support them for nearly 40 years. My career path has provided me with a diversity of experiences in early care and education, early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSE), in urban and rural programs and school districts, large and small, across the state of Kansas. Over the years I learned –and continue to learn—about the possibility and promise of our field through DEC conferences, journals, monographs, and especially the DEC Recommended Practices. I used the practices to guide my interactions with children, families and colleagues, and later, as a technical assistance provider, I used them to support others who were interested in improving their practices and outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families. With the 2014 revisions, I am so proud and grateful to our DEC leaders for making the practices we want everyone to use accessible to anyone who wants to use them. And moreover, I am so excited to be working with the ECTA Center, aRPy, and my fellow ambassadors to assist in the development and dissemination of of new products, tools, and training to support implementation of the RPs by adults who work with infants and young children in natural and least restrictive settings everywhere.

I will draw on my rich and varied experiences—as a home visitor, community and classroom ECSE teacher, program administrator, researcher, coach/consultant, and technical assistance specialist—to help develop, field test, evaluate and improve aRPy's products supporting our professional practices. I know I can count on the support and involvement of my talented and innovative Kansas colleagues!


Photograph: Toni Ledet

Toni Ledet, Ph.D., BCBA

  • Assistant Program Manager, EarlySteps
  • Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities
  • Louisiana Department of Health
  • Phone: 504.236.4410

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.


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.


Photograph: Serra Acar

Serra Acar, Ph.D

  • Assistant Professor
  • Department of Curriculum & Instruction
  • College of Education and Human Development
  • University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Phone: 617.287.3873

I am an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education and Care at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. My primary areas of expertise include culturally and linguistically responsive assessment, dual language learners and executive function, international perspectives on early intervention/early childhood special education, and preservice teacher preparation. As an aRPy ambassador, I look forward to the opportunity to collaboratively work with important stakeholders including families, pre-and-in service practitioners, and aRPy ambassadors across the country, as well as at the international level. Moreover, I would like to create opportunities to disseminate and train on the products in New England. I believe aRPy products will be very helpful for in-and-pre-service EI/ECSE practitioners and families who have young children.


Photograph: Nancy Surbrook

Nancy Surbrook Goins

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.


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.


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.

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.


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 privilege to teach and mentor 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 ambassador, 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.


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.


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.

  • IDEAs that Work: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

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 H326P170001 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.

Project Officer: Julia Martin Eile     © 2012-2019 ECTA Center

  • UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute