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Conference Presenters
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We are so excited to share this amazing line up of speakers and presenters for the 2018 conference!  Don't wait another minute to save your seat because space is limited and filling up quickly!  Early Bird pricing ends February 28th!




BECKY A. BAILEY, Ph.D., is an award-winning author, renowned teacher and internationally recognized expert in childhood education and developmental psychology. She touches thousands of lives each year through live events and over 1.2M of her top-selling books are in circulation, and Conscious Discipline has impacted an estimated 15.8M children.


STEVE GROSS, M.S.W., is the Founder and Chief Playmaker of the Life is Good Kids Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that partners with leading childcare organizations to positively impact the quality of care delivered to the most vulnerable children. Steve is a leader in the field of psychological trauma response and a pioneer in utilizing playful engagement and meaningful relationships to overcome the devastating impact of early childhood trauma. Steve’s talents have been called upon to respond to some of the greatest catastrophes of our time, including the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and the 2012 Newtown school shooting. At the heart of his work, Steve helps others discover the power of optimism so that they can build resilience and bring greater joy, connection, courage and creativity to their lives.


AMANDA BRINKMAN is a revolutionary brand marketer and passionate speaker, Amanda is the creator, producer and co-host of the acclaimed “Small Business Revolution – Main Street” series on Hulu and This critically program acclaimed has been named by INC as one of the "top shows entrepreneurs should be watching" and is the #1 performing Lifestyle show on HULU. She has held senior executive marketing roles at UnitedHealth Group, Allianz, General Mills and marketing agencies including Fallon, Cohn & Wolfe London and McCann on brands such as BMW, Reebok, H&R Block, Toro, Sony and Virgin Mobile. She currently serves on the boards of multiple non-profits. And she shares her “marketing for good” mantra before audiences large and small.




CARLA BIRO began her career in Education in 2001, completing her B.A. in Education in 2006 and Master’s Degree in Education Curriculum in 2009.  As an African-American female married to a Caucasian male, blending families, and escaping the cycle of poverty, I realized my gift to create a linkage between the cultural gaps that are around us, especially in the workplace.  My goal is to highlight the gifts we all bring to the table.  This presentation will be accompanied by research of various leaders such as Arthur Biglan (Nurture Effect) and Understanding the Framework of Poverty (Ruby Payne); as well as experience from her time as an educator, Early Childhood Ministry Coach, and current County Coalition Coordinator. She is enjoying her time rallying businesses, early childhood partners, and igniting the fire in a vibrant community that seeks to provide high quality early learning experiences for all members of our county.


DAWN BROWN is the Director of the Early Education Center.  Dawn has a Bachelor degree in Early Childhood Education from Washburn University and 27 years experience in the field.  During her career, Dawn has spent 20 years working with school age children.  She was also a home childcare provider for many years.  She is married and has three stepchildren and two step-grandchildren.  When she is not at work, Dawn enjoys reading, restoring antiques, being with her children and grandchildren (which are the apple of her eye.)  She also enjoys volunteering for Shawnee County 4-H and Capital Area Providers Organizations. Dawn is an active member of the Association for Early Learning Leaders and serves as an Association Ambassador.


LORI BUXTON has been part of the early care and education community since 1995. She has served children and their families as a children’s pastor, classroom teacher, program director, and childcare administrator. Lori is a dynamic leader who encourages and equips, challenges and inspires, and is deeply committed to serving those who in turn serve families in early education. She is currently the Managing Director for the Association for Early Learning Leaders, training leaders and teachers locally, regionally and nationally.


PAT CARTER is an innovative and dedicated individual with 38 years of experience in education who is highly motivated with a passion for education of young children. Pat has been serving as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher and has been teaching and training high school students and adults in the area of child development and early childhood education for over 30 years.  In 1994 she secured over $50,000 in grants to start the Elgin ISD Child Development Center.  The facility is designed and staff is trained to provide developmentally appropriate curriculum, environment, and care for the children of teen parents and Elgin ISD district employees and houses the 3 year PPCD (special needs) program. The center also provides a training lab for students enrolled in the Ready Set Teach program at Elgin High School.


LYNETTE GALANTE is the Executive Director and Owner of Future Generation Early Learning Centers. She has been a part of the Future Generation family for 17 years and has been in the early learning industry for 23 years. Lynette received her bachelor’s degree from Marist College. Post-graduation, she has received her National Administrators Credential. Lynette is a national trainer and consultant for early learning programs and serves as Secretary of the Association’s Board of Directors.


RYAN GWALTNEY has over 15 years of experience with Procare Software and has consulted with thousands of childcare providers, large and small.


COLLEEN TRACY HADDAD is the Director of Development-National Accreditation Commission. She began her career in early childhood at Florida State University’s Lab School and holds a bachelor’s degree in child development. While working with the Florida State Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy, she completed her master’s degree in early childhood education with a Pre-K handicap endorsement. Colleen has been both a teacher and director. 


SALLY HARRIS began her career as an Occupational Specialist/Career Counselor. Because of her strong training in team building, motivation and marketing, she utilized these skills to open Circle C Ranch Academy in 1986.  She has worked at Megan’s Circle of Hope, a 501(c)3 where she has served children with special needs. Sally is an elected official  for the Hillsborough County School Board in Tampa, Florida and sits on the Early Childhood Coalition Board. Sally is an AELL Ambassador and has served as a Board Member and Ambassador Chair.


CATHERINE REDDICK HENRIS is President/ CEO of Active Learning Centers, Inc., an early childhood private preschool company. In her 27 years in the industry, she has worked in all aspects of the child care field as teacher, director, program specialist at state level, owner and trainer. Catherine holds a BS degree in Early Childhood Education/Business. Cathy currently serves as the Vice President of the Association’s Board of Directors.


VICKY HEPLER has been an early childhood educator for over 35 years teaching Pre-K, Kindergarten, First Grade and self-contained Special Needs for children with Autism. This along with her position as a resource teacher for Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida enable her to understand what educators deal with day in and day out. Her classroom is a nationwide model for Conscious Discipline implementation and has been featured in professional development videos. In addition to being a contributing author to Dr. Becky Bailey’s book, “Creating the School Family,” Vicky is the creator of the “I Love You Rituals Literacy Packs” designed to strengthen those connections vital for optimal brain development while supporting language and literacy instruction.  Vicky graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.


MARY HORNBECK began her career in early care and education in 1989 when she became the owner of Special Beginnings Early Learning Centers. Her company has grown through the years with 5 locations that serve over 275 families. As Executive Director, Mary leads a 10 member management team and 75 staff members. Mary holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Life from the University of Kansas. As a national trainer and consultant, topics include: leadership & management, staff development, as well as early education policy & procedure. Mary is active in her local ECE community, is President of the Association for Early Learning Leaders, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Women Who Mean Business.


KATHY LIGON has 29 years in the education industry and began her career in public accounting, progressing through financial positions of increasing responsibility, becoming the COO for a growth-oriented educational organization. In 2003, Kathy formed Strategic Solutions Group Advisors (SSGA), and uses her experience to support the needs of buyers and sellers in the education industry. SSGA has successfully closed over 200 educational sites and focuses on providing metrics and training to support the improvement of the financial health of owners and managers.


SUSAN MACDONALD, M.Ed., is the founder of Inspiring New Perspectives, a consultancy focused on empowering educational leaders to create programs that respect and nurture the possibilities that lie within each child, parent, and teacher. Susan is currently on the faculty of The Center for School Transformation and holds a Master’s degree in Instructional Design as well as professional coach certifications. She has served as director of a Reggio-inspired preschool program, as adjunct faculty at Lesley University and Wheelock College, and as a licensing supervisor for the Commonwealth  of Massachusetts.


BOYD H. MARK is the Director of Telehealth at The Scott Center for Autism Treatment on the campus of the Florida Institute of Technology. The Scott Center is a world leader in evidenced-based autism treatment with a three-fold mission of clinical service, research and training. Mr. Mark leads the Scott Center’s innovative initiative to develop new models of scalable, sustainable telemedicine-based methods for autism intervention. This digital initiative aims to reduce geographic barriers to care and increase access for patients, care providers and partners. Mr. Mark is an experienced business leader, an entrepreneur and a Silicon Valley veteran focused on improving healthcare outcomes by leveraging technology.


DAWN MARTINI is a Child Care Specialist with Ronald V. McGuckin & Associates. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and has worked in a variety of early learning environments beginning as teacher. As a behavior therapist, Dawn worked with disabled children and played key roles in their integration into the classroom environment. She has co-authored numerous books and is Editor and Chief of “The Child Care Professional Experience”, a free online journal for child care professionals. Dawn is a “Certified Trainer” with Pennsylvania Pathways.


LYNNETTE MCCARTY has been serving in the Early Education field for many years and finds passion in starting children out with a strong background for their educational career. Her center is accredited.
Lynnette is a Past President of NACCP, now AELL, and trained nationally for over 10 years. She took
a break from training to start a Private School K-6. That school has since been closed, and Lynnette
stepping back into training once again to help those in the industry who want to grow as leaders.
She is the mother of two beautiful daughters and has four grand daughters ages 2-13. Lynnette is
currently serving as the President of the Foundation Board at the local community college in
Olympia, WA., working diligently to raise money for students to receive scholarships for their
ongoing education. She believes that education is a game changer in one’s life!


RON MCGUCKIN, J.D. is a practicing attorney in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with years of experience in child care law. He is a lecturer and consultant, training child care professionals on a variety of management and legal issues. He has co-authored a variety of publications, including "Current Issues in Child Care". Mr. McGuckin has volunteered on numerous boards and committees, receiving many awards and recognitions. 


DIANE NICOLET, Ph.D., is currently the Director of the E.L. Cord Child Care Center. The center is located in Reno, Nevada and is a teacher preparation laboratory for the Early Childhood Education program at Truckee Meadows Community College. Diane completed her  Ph.D. in December 2010 at the University of Nevada, Reno.


DR. PAMELA NORWOOD-TODD has 35 years of experience in the field of Education specializing in Early Childhood and Elementary School teaching, particularly in urban, cultural, and language minority classrooms.  She holds an Associate’s Degree in Humanities, a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Teaching, a Master’s Degree in Bilingual Education and a Doctorate in Curriculum Studies with Specialization in Teacher Education. She has served formerly as a trainer for her family’s private child care center, a classroom teacher, district curriculum writer, regional service center technical assistance specialist, early childhood program coordinator, and professional development consultant in quality improvement. She has taught at both the graduate and undergraduate level at a variety of institutions of higher education but has been employed with Houston Community College since 2003, teaching courses in Child Development, Teacher Education, and Student Success.  After having served in the leadership role of Child Development Program Coordinator for several years, Dr. Norwood now serves as Chair of the Education Department, with one duty being oversight of its Laboratory School.


LORI PICKLESIMER, along with her family, opened The Sanctuary Child Learning Center in Savannah, Georgia in 2001. The center is now recognized as a leader in the community offering exceptional child care services to 200+ families. Lori has served children and their families as a pre-kindergarten teacher, program coordinator, and currently serves as the Executive Director. She is a leader who has a passion and commitment for the ECE field and those who choose to make a difference in the lives of children. She is an active member of the Association for Early Learning Leaders, serves on the Board of Directors and chairs the Ambassador Committee.


DONNA THORNTON ROBERTS has more than 35 years of experience leading people, and developing child care programs with a solid record of accomplishments. Donna holds a MBA and undergraduate degree in Management of Human Resources and has developed over 40 child care programs employing thousands of employees over the past three decades. She served as president and Executive Director of the Association for Early Learning Leaders from 1994 to 2000 (when it was NACCP). She has appeared on CBS New this Morning, published in the Child Care Information Exchange and appeared on Family Net TV.


JENNIFER ROMANOFF has MA in ECE and has been in the field of Early Childhood for 24 years, starting as a teacher and working her way up to where her passion lies--in training others in a fun, interactive and humorous way. Jennifer has been a CDA instructor as well as the creator of various trainings on developmentally appropriate practices for teachers of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. On the administrative side, Jennifer trains child care center owners and administration on a quarterly basis through live sessions, webinars and recorded “at-a-distance” trainings in the ways of owning, operating and running a child care center.   In addition to being a member of the advisory panel for Becker’s School Supply, Jennifer recently is a published author with Red Leaf press, writing a three-book series on behavior with Gigi Schweikert.


TYM SMITH has been in the Early Care and Education profession for over 20 years. His career has included positions as an After-School teacher, as well as Pre-K and private Kindergarten. In the Administration arena, Tym has served as Director of a large program, and then multi-unit management, operating programs across the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. In 2006, Tym started Early Care and Education Training and Consulting, a training company dedicated to quality and diversity in all programs. His training for staff  and managers has a strong focus on motivation and advocacy for young children. Tym is the owner and operator of three licensed childcare facilities in Texas.


RACHEL SUPALLA  began her career in Early Childhood 20 years ago as teenage teacher assistant in San Diego. After moving to Montana, she started a part time preschool in her home with 5 children. Rachel was Montessori certified in 2010. Shortly after, added full day care and moved the center out of her home. Rachel began second and third schools and now is the Executive Director of three centers serving 180 students and 47 employees. Rachel was Reggio trained and developed a unique curriculum for her program. In 2016, Rachel became a professional development specialty trainer for Early Childhood. She has since presented at local and state conferences. Her specialties include: creative approaches to curriculum and environments, inspiring positive leadership and staff retention.


MICHAEL SWAIN is Senior Loss Control Specialist for Markel Insurance Company, creating and implementing risk management programs in support of childcare, social services, youth recreation programs, nonprofit organizations, youth clubs, and other industry groups. With 30 years’ industry experience, he has a broad background in risk management. Michael also serves on the Association’s Board of Directors.


SUSAN TESTAGUZZA is Founder and CEO of LifeCubby, the online student management system. She is also the CEO of multiple early learning programs. Susan has been a technical writer, trainer and project manager and has received the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Service Corps of Retired Executives.


BOBETTE THOMPSON is President/CEO of Child Care Systems of America, Inc., an early education management and consulting company. All company-owned sites are accredited by the National Accreditation Commission. She has participated in the opening of 25 centers and consulted with numerous others. Bobette serves on state child care committees, presents at conferences and actively participates with the Association. She was president of the Association’s Board of Directors from 2011-2012.


ANDREA VILLA began her career in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Intervention programs.  After moving to Texas in 1995 she began working for the Head Start program and later opened her own home child care in order to be home with one of her children who is on the Autistic Spectrum.  When her daughter was diagnosed, Andrea started exploring alternative health methods for her entire family. She was introduced to essential oils and oil infused supplements and it changed their health and lives in more ways than one. Andrea now teaches classes on essential oils, health and wellness. She travels across the United States and helps Early Childhood programs incorporate essential oils into their facilities and train staff on how to use them correctly.


ALICIA WILLIAMS, M.S.L, Education Specialization is the owner and founder of Training Source One, Inc. – a child care service educator that serves child care directors, leaders and teachers through training and technical assistance . With over 12 years experience, Alicia is most known for her ability to bring energy and excitement to each of her trainings.


SARAN SAVAGE WINTERS is currently completing Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation, has a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership, Bachelors Degree in Business and Economics, and has taken additional master level coursework in Early Childhood Education.  Experience includes Professor of Child Development and Administration for 7 years with Houston Community College; Director of a million dollar Childcare Center for 6 years, Investigator with Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and Public Elementary School teacher for 3 years. Moreover, Presenter has conducted workshops for the Learning Care Group, Houston Community College Childcare Center, and Family Child Care training.













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