YPAC Member Bios
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Graduate Research Assistant
Center for Women in Government and Civil Society
Katie Albitz began her journey in the field of early childhood education as a preschool aide and then toddler teacher at the Young Wonders Early Childhood Center in Binghamton, New York.
Her experience with young children also includes time spent as a co-teacher at Ithaca Montessori School and as an in-home informal child care provider. Katie is a passionate advocate for an empowered early education and child care workforce that embraces and uplifts its diversity. She seeks to promote better outcomes for children through a living wage and adequate benefits to teachers and providers, who often struggle to promote a thriving environment because of the stress they endure.
Currently, Katie is in her final semester of SUNY at Albany’s master’s in public administration program. Her concentration is in early learning and child care policy. Over the last two years, she has tremendous opportunities interning with the Early Care and Learning Council as well as with the emergency preparedness team at Child Care Aware of America. She spent six months as a Fellow at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services in the Division of Child Care Services. During this time, she took particular interest in New York’s use of the Pyramid Model to curb suspension and expulsion in child care programs. She worked on cross-state comparisons to understand states’ successes and struggles with implementing the new Child Care and Development Block Grant regulations.
Early Childhood Specialist
The Right Turn, Inc.
Shelby Bergeson is an Early Childhood Specialist at the Right Turn Inc. located in Pierre, South Dakota.
As an Early Childhood Specialist she provides trainings and technical assistance to providers in a twelve county region which includes three Native American Reservations. Shelby has 5 years of experience working in the field ranging from Center- Based childcare, Family Childcare, Elementary Special Education, and Home Visiting for Head Start.
Over the past years, Shelby has discovered her passion lies in special needs and inclusion of all children. This has led her to develop training on Autism in Early Childhood that she has presented at statewide conferences. She is currently working towards a degree in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Children with Special Needs.
Elizabeth 'Lizz' Cohen
Old Firehouse School
Mill Valley, CA
Lizz is a primary caregiver at Old Firehouse School in Mill Valley, CA, currently working with three year olds.
She formally began her path in early education as a Head Start volunteer in 2010, eventually becoming a teacher there, then later a family childcare provider. She knows that each child deserves high-quality early education experiences, and strives to both provide those and help others do the same. When she's not reading, writing, and talking early childhood, Lizz can usually be found exploring her new neighborhood and enjoying local theater performances.
Preschool Director and Pre-K Teacher
Kapua Hussey is the Preschool Director and Pre-K Teacher at Harris Preschool, near Downtown Honolulu.
She is responsible for supervising teachers and teaching the Pre-K (4-5 year olds) class while overseeing the program. Kapua graduated from Oregon State University in 2011 with two Bachelors of Science Degrees. One in Human Development and Family Sciences with a focus on Early Childhood Education and another in Public Health with a focus on Community Health. As a new NAEYC member, Kapua attended the 2017 Professional Learning Institute and was inspired to seek more opportunities to be involved. In addition to serving on the NAEYC Young Professionals Advisory Council, Kapua is also a member of Kia i Ka Ike, an association for Preschool Directors in Hawaii.
Prekindergarten lead teacher and an educational director
New York City, NY
Nadia Islam is a prekindergarten lead teacher and an educational director at Nadya Daycare, an NYC Early Childhood Center, since 2010.
She provides instructional leadership for the learning of 24 children, content collaboration among staff, and oversees the fiscal and operational matters of the program. Also, her priority is to work with the DOE and DOHMH to provide high-quality prekindergarten programming to the community. Nadia graduated with her Masters of Science in Early Education from Hunter College (2012) where she researched the effects of Computer Assisted Instruction for students with disabilities.
Currently, Nadia is a doctoral student for Interdisciplinary Studies at Long Island University. Nadia has been actively researching methods to improve instructional quality of prekindergarten programs, and public policies to make prekindergarten reach every child in the United States. Nadia is interested in data-driven instruction, universal design for learning, prekindergarten curriculum, funding, and assessment. Nadia is honored to be a member of the Young Professionals Advisory Council. She hopes to assist in attracting new early childhood professionals in perfecting their teaching expertise and shaping their passion for educating our nation’s youngest population. In her free time, Nadia likes to rides bicycles, paint, and travel outdoors with her family.
Atlanta First Day School
As an Education Coordinator at the NAEYC accredited Atlanta First Day School, Michelle Jackson spends most of her day developing strategies and steering her teachers and students toward educational excellence in the greater Atlanta area.
With more than 13 years of diverse experience in childcare, her passion for connecting with students, families and staff has allowed her to excel in training as well as marketing, while balancing compassionate and mission-driven guidance. One of Michelle’s primary goals is to help those around her reach their highest potential while providing direction along the way.
As a member of organizations like NAEYC’s YPAC she’s able to further make an impact on a larger scale and directly influence those who work with our children on a daily basis. Michelle also has both a Bachelor Degrees in History and Psychology with a Minor in English which she’s used to increase understanding and communication with the people she interacts with daily.
University of Montana
Clarke McGibben is a graduate student at the University of Montana. She is pursuing dual master’s degrees in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education with initial K-8 Licensure and will be graduating in May 2018. She earned her B.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Portland State University in 2012.
Clarke was published in the Spring 2017 issue of University of Montana Journal of Early Childhood Scholarship and Innovative Practice for an investigation on alone centers and the important role they play in supporting young children in the management of emotions and overstimulating environments. She has worked in a wide range of centers, serving birth to kindergarten, with philosophies including play-based, Reggio Emilia, and Montessori. Clarke has served in roles varying from teacher’s aide, lead teacher, and assistant director.
She currently serves as secretary for the Missoula chapter of the Montana Educators of Young Children (MtEYC) and is completing her practicum at the University of Montana’s Learning and Belonging Pre-School in the Phyllis J. Washington School of Education. Upon graduation, Clarke hopes to continue serving and advocating for children in rural areas and the pacific northwest.
Assessor and Training Specialist
The McComick Center for Early Childhood Leadership
Nasser Nabhan is an Assessor and Training Specialist at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University. Before joining the McCormick Center, he taught preschool in Chicago and Ramallah, Palestine. He then became the Education Director at CCC Head Start in Northwest Indiana and taught as an Early Childhood Education Adjunct Faculty Instructor at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Nasser’s diverse experiences and roles have led him to be a passionate advocate for high-quality early childhood education as he has witnessed it serve as a conduit for sustainable change both communally and globally.
Nasser received his B.A. from Indiana University Bloomington in History and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and his M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Dominican University. In addition to his deep love for the blocks center and everything Fred Rogers, Nasser enjoys traveling, reading, spending time with family and friends, and cheering other people on as they run long distances. Click here to connect with him on LinkedIn!
Prekindergarten & Kindergarten Teacher/Director
Leicester Central School
Christine Noonan is the prekindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Leicester Central School in Vermont. Her program offers half day prekindergarten for twenty hours a week, mixed with full day kindergarten in a rural public school. She is responsible for teaching four through six year olds based on the Vermont Early Learning Standards, the Common Core State Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards. Christine graduated from Castleton University in 2011 with a degree in Elementary Education. She is currently enrolled in the Masters of Education Program at Champlain College and plans to graduate in December 2017. In addition to these degrees, Christine graduated from the Vermont Early Childhood Leadership Institute sponsored by the Snelling Center for Government in 2017. As a member of NAEYC, Christine has had the honor of presenting at the Annual Conference twice; once in 2015 and again in 2017. Christine lives in the small town of Brandon. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and friends and walking daily.
Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children (RIAEYC)
Alyson Panzarella began her journey at RIAEYC/BrightStars/TEACH RI as a Program Assessment Intern in January 2014.
Following her internship, she began consulting for the agency in the assessment department. After gaining classroom experience as a preschool teacher in Warren, RI, Alyson joined the RIAEYC team as a BrightStars Navigator in December 2015. Since, joining the team, Alyson has worked with over 200 child care centers, family child care providers, and school- age programs to assist them in the T-QRIS process and help them improve the quality of care they provide to Rhode Island’s children. She was also named the chair of the Community Engagement Committee of the NAEYC Young Professionals Advisory Council in November 2017.
Alyson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a focus in child settings from the University of Rhode Island. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Jurisprudence in Children’s Law and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.
Lead Preschool Teacher
First Presbyterian Early Childhood Center
Santa Barbara, CA
I am currently a lead preschool teacher at First Presbyterian Early Childhood Center, an NAEYC accredited preschool in Santa Barbara, California. My program practices continuity of care, meaning that I have been with my students, who are currently 4 and 5, since they were as young as 12 weeks old. I was born and raised in Santa Barbara and first graduated from Santa Barbara City College with an A.S. in Early Childhood Education. Next, I attended Kaplan University where I graduated Magna Cum Laude with my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development. I currently attend Walden University and am working toward my Master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies with a focus on Working with Adults in Early Childhood. I am excited and honored to be a part of NAEYC’s Young Professionals Advisory Council.
Hannah Riddle de Rojas
Hannah Riddle de Rojas is a founder of SolBe Learning, a Spanish immersion early education center. She is also a bilingual educator, providing professional development opportunities through her company Semillitas Training. Hannah earned her Master's degree in Adult ESL Education at Hamline University in Minnesota and has a B.S. in Child Psychology and B.A. in Spanish Studies from the University of Minnesota. She has experience as a preschool educator and center director. For fun, Hannah travels with her husband and spends time with her dog, Mocha.
Normandy Schools Collaborative Kindergarten Center
St. Louis, MO
Hello! My name is Samohya Stallons. I am currently teaching kindergarten at Normandy Schools Collaborative Kindergarten Center. This is my fourth year teaching but my first year at Normandy.
Aside from my current position, I have taught for Cape Girardeau Public Schools and Riverview Gardens School District. In each school I have taught either kindergarten or first grade. I earned my undergraduate degree from Southeast Missouri State University in Early Childhood Education and am now working on my Master’s degree online in Educational Leadership! One interesting fact about me is that I love to play the piano. I’m not very good at it but it is certainly one of my favorite things to do.
Jordan M. Soto, J.D.
Tulsa County District Attorney's Office
I am assigned to the Juvenile Deprived docket which is dealing with families working through issues of child abuse and neglect.
I ensure that parents and families are completing plans provided by child protective service and ensure the best interest of the child is always being served. While my job does not directly dealing with early childhood education, I am working with populations who are most in need of strong early learning but may not realize its importance or may not have the resources to address those needs.
Families who are stuck in a cycle of poverty and abuse are symptoms I believe that may be combated with early learning in order to help these children become successful adults and avoid reentry to the system when they have their own children. So I am very much still passionate about early learning and its paramount importance.
My undergraduate degree is from Oklahoma State University in Human Development and Family Science, Pre-Law and throughout high school and college I worked as a classroom teacher in child care and Head Start programs. During law school at The University of Oklahoma I did internships at Legal Aid of Oklahoma and Child Care Aware of America. My time at Child Care Aware of America was a great experience and has caused me to want to dedicate my life to working on behalf of children and families. One of my long-term goals is to be an early childhood advocate in Washington, DC and I believe that my work at the DA’s office will support my abilities to testify on the Hill on behalf of children and families. A fun fact about me is that I love 90’s music.
GSRP Lead Teacher
Paddock Early Childhood Center
My name is LaToya Tingle. I currently work in Milan, Michigan as the lead in a GSRP classroom.
I attended Eastern Michigan University where I received my Bachelor’s in Elementary and Early Childhood Education with a ZS endorsement. I love to be the start for children to have a love of learning and an eagerness to know more. My favorite moments in the classroom are when I hear the children laughing freely and questioning everything. The children in the class will say that I am a silly teacher that dances, sings randomly and gives tons of hugs. I love to have fun with the children and play dramatically because learning is done best when we are smiling, being creative and thinking outside the box. In the words of Ms. Frizzle, "I my class, we take chances, make mistakes and get messy!"
Sunshine Early Learning Center
Hello! My name is Marquivious Thomas. I am currently teaching toddlers at Sunshine Early Learning Center. This is my first full year of teaching at sunshine. I will be completing my undergraduate degree from Bowie State University in Psychology in Spring 2018. Next, I will begin to pursue a master’s degree in Counseling psychology. One interesting fact about me is that I love to play sports. I volunteer coach for my former high school, KIPP DC:College Prep. .
Child Development Specialist
Grand Street Settlement
Gabriela Torres is the Child Development Specialist for Grand Street Settlement’s Early Head Start Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP), a federally funded program to support high quality programs for children 0-3.
She works with 12 partner family daycare’s and child care centers throughout Bedford Stuyvestant and Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York. As a Child Development Specialist, Gabriela works closely with teachers and program providers to lead professional development, provide coaching and lesson planning support.
Gabriela is a native New Yorker and is a graduate of S.U.N.Y. New Paltz with a BA in Communications and a MSEd in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College. Her favorite age to work with is 3s and 4s. When not at work Gabriela enjoys traveling the world, checking live music events and tasting new cuisines. So far it’s a tie between Barcelona and Italy.
Early Childhood Policy Fellow
All Our Kin
New Haven, CT
Natalie Vieira is the Early Childhood Policy Fellow at All Our Kin, a Connecticut-based nonprofit that trains and supports a network of more than 400 family child care providers.
As the Policy Fellow, Natalie advocates for programs and policies that recognize family child care as a critical component of an early care and education system, increase access to early learning opportunities for all children, and support the early childhood workforce. Natalie graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in Resource Economics and a minor in Political Science. She has a strong passion for using public policy as a vehicle to achieve equity and social justice, and empowering others to become change-makers.
In 2015, Natalie led twelve university students on an immersive learning and volunteer trip to Washington, D.C. with a focus on urban poverty and political action. At All Our Kin, Natalie organizes the Provider Steering Council, a group of providers who have stepped up as leaders within All Our Kin's family child care network and are committed to creating positive change for the profession. Before joining All Our Kin, Natalie was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at a foreign language high school in Bulgaria, where she taught students in grades eight through twelve and coached a speech and debate team. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and traveling.
Director & Lead Teacher, PreK Teacher
Rowan University Early Childhood Demonstration Center
Leah Walker began her career in the field of ECE while a senior in high school and is currently the director and lead teacher at the Rowan University Early Childhood Demonstration Center.
In her role as the head teacher of the prekindergarten classroom, she loves being part of the growing process of her students. Within the university, Leah also enjoys her role working with teacher candidates as the advisor for the campus Early Childhood Club and an adjunct faculty member. She earned both her undergraduate degrees from Rowan University in Early Childhood Education, with a special education endorsement, and American Studies as well as her M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership/ESL Education.
Leah’s involvement with NAEYC began as an undergrad student and includes several years of serving on the board of her local affiliate, serving as her local Chapter Representative to the state affiliate, presenting at the 2015 Annual conference, and participating in the 2017 NAEYC Policy Forum (something she hopes to continue doing in future years).
When not working, Leah enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and cat, Stella. She is an avid reader of both classical fiction and current events, tries to keep her promise to herself to leave the country every year, and takes advantage of every opportunity to dance.