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2018 Fall Leadership Symposium Presenters
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2018 Fall Symposium Presenters


Lori Buxton - Houston, TX

AELL Communications and Event Manager

Lori has been involved in early care and education since 1995.  She has served children and their families on many levels, including classroom teacher, program director, executive administrator and training consultant.  Lori is a dynamic speaker who encourages and inspires; challenges and equips; and whose heart is deeply committed to supporting those who serve families in early education.  Lori currently serves the early childhood community as the Executive Associate for Professional Early Education Associates (PROEEA) as a trainer and consultant for early learning programs locally, regionally and nationally.


Margaret Collins - Richmond, VA

AELL Board Member

Margaret has been director of River Road Church Preschool for 25 years. A former Director of the Year, she has a Master's of Education in early childhood and has been a consultant for childcare centers and workshop presenter in the field of early childhood. Ms. Collins is founder and past president of the Richmond Association for Early Childhood Education.


Lisa Forrester - Princeton, NJ

AELL Board Member

Lisa is a life long educator, having started the first Harmony School in 1981 after teaching Music Education for seven years in the public schools. She has her certification in early childhood education and a Master's degree in Child Care Administration. Lisa is a past president of the New Jersey Child Care Association, past vice president of the New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children, and is proud to have been named Association for Early Learning Leaders’ Director of the Year in 2015.


Lynette Galante - Teaneck, NJ

Secretary AELL Board of Directors

Lynette is the Executive Director and Owner of Future Generation Early Learning Centers. She has been 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.


Colleen Tracy Haddad - Austin, TX

AELL Executive Director

Colleen is Executive Director for the Association for Early Learning Leaders. 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. Prior to her position as Executive Director, she served as the Director for the National Accreditation Commission.


Alix Hall - Sacramento, CA

AELL Board Member

Alix is a teacher, small business owner, and educational consultant with thirty-eight years of experience in the field of
early childhood education. She has taught and directed child development programs for thirty five years and tutored
privately for ten years. She has been with Discovery Tree Schools as a teacher, director and co-owner since 1979,
developing her own after school Discovery Club program (Kindergarten-Sixth Grade) in 1981, and becoming the sole
stockholder/Executive Director in 1991. In early 2017 she became Owner and Executive Director of Arista Schools with
two locations in the Sacramento area, blending Arista and Discovery Tree Schools as ‘Sister-Schools’.


Shannon Hendricks - Dallas, TX

AELL Board Member

Shannon is Director of Children's Care and Programs at Bryan's House in Dallas, Texas. In her role, Shannon administers the Early Childhood Education, after-school care, and Respite Care Programs. Bryan's House is a unique program that provides care for families dealing with HIV or AIDS and families with special needs children. Previously, as Director of Strategic Initiatives for Educational First Steps (EFS), Shannon educated the community about the importance of high-quality early education and lead the expansion of EFS programs into new strategic directions. She spearheaded the development of the first two generations of EFS's Four Steps to Excellence and Four Steps to Excellence 2.0, to better provide impoverished children access to quality early education. Shannon holds a BS in Education from Missouri State University.


Catherine Henris - Nashville, TN

Vice-President AELL Board of Directors

Catherine 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. In an effort to promote quality early education she has served on various committees and held offices in several organizations. 


Mary Hornbeck - Lenexa, KS

President AELL Board of Directors

Mary 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 a member of the Association for Early Learning Leaders, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Women Who Mean Business.


Ron McGuckin, J.D. - Bristol, PA

AELL Board Member

Mr. McGuckin 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.


Lori Picklesimer - Savannah, GA

AELL Board Member

Lori, 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 and chairs the Ambassador Committee.


Bobette Thompson - Brentwood, TN

AELL Past President

Bobette Thompson is President/CEO of Child Care Systems of America, Inc., an early education management and consulting company. In her 25 years in the industry, she has participated in the opening of 25 centers and consulted with numerous others. Bobette holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and CPA certification. She seeks to contribute to the industry by serving on state child and care committees and presenting at conferences. All company owned sites are accredited by the National Accreditation Commission.


Erin Schmidt - Austin, TX

 Director of Accreditation

Erin is the Director of Accreditation with the National Accreditation Commission. She has worked in the early childhood education field for over 15 years, giving her a wide range of experience from having been a teacher, director and early childhood education instructor.


Tym Smith - Flower Mound, TX

AELL Board Member

Tym Smith is the owner of Early Care and Education, a private preschool and after school program with locations in Coppell, Southlake and Flower Mound, Texas. Tym Smith has been in the Early Care and Education profession for over 25 years. With a strong focus on staff motivation and advocacy for young children, Tym has trained managers and staff on multiple topics in the field. His trainings are always full of energy and surprises.  Tym studied Early Childhood Education at Texas Baptist University, is an active member of several early education organizations including NCCA, NAA, NAEYC and serves on the Board of Directors for the Association for Early Learning Leaders.


Michael Swain - Glen Allen, VA

AELL Board Member

Michael is Sr. Loss Control Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Michael is responsible for creating and implementing risk management programs in support of child care, social service, youth camp and recreation programs, non-profit organizations, youth clubs, martial arts, dance and gymnastics programs for Markel. With 30 years industry experience, he has an extensive background in risk management. Michael, a 1984 graduate of Va. Tech, holds certifications as an Associate in Risk Management, a Senior Claim Law Associate, a Certified Playground Safety Inspector, and a Child Passenger Safety Technician. He also maintains certifications through the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators Safety Certification Program, USA Gymnastics Risk Management Safety Certification Program, Wilderness First Aid, American Red Cross Lifeguard Management and has certified as an Emergency Medical Technician.


Ryan & Shanon Taylor - Nashville, TN

AELL Board Members




This is going to be an exceptional week of learning, connecting and recharging and space is limited!  We encourage you to register and save your seat at the table and reserve your room at The Ace Hotel New Orleans!


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