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Conference Presenters
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Sneak Peek at this years presenters... More to come. If you are interested in submitting an RFP to present, click here.


Cindy Bess is an Education Consultant, Author and a recognized National Professional Speaker. In addition to once being a College Instructor, an Early Child Educator, an Infant and Toddler Caregiver, the Director of a Nursery School, an ECERS-R Trainer and Rater, Cindy authored her first book entitled, The View from the Little Chair in the Corner: Improving Teacher Practice and Early Childhood Learning, which synthesizes her experience in all of the above listed areas. Currently Cindy is writing a book to support parents in raising their precious infant, entitled Daily Crib Notes.


Kathie Boe currently serves as Vice President of Quality and Accreditation for all Knowledge Universe brands including KinderCare, CCLC, and Champions. In this capacity, Kathie directs the quality initiatives for the leading provider in early childhood education in the nation. Kathie along with her team support over 2000 centers/sites in 39 states, among them over 1250 are nationally accredited. Kathie brings to the position over 35 years of experience with programs for young children. Kathie holds a M.A. in Early Childhood Education. She also serves on the Association’s Board of Directors.


Lorraine Breffni, Ed.D., is the Director of Early Childhood Institute at Nova Southeastern University, Mailman Segal Center for Human Development. Dr. Breffni has also served as Adjunct Professor and community Outreach Early Childhood Training Specialist with the Center. She has authored several articles and publications regarding early childhood education. Dr. Breffni serves on the Policy Council for the National Accreditation Commission.


Lori Buxton has been part of the early education community since 1995. She has served children and their families as a children’s pastor, classroom teacher, program director and child care administrator. Lori is a 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 an Executive Associate with Professional Early Education Associates; the founder of the Gulf Coast Director’s Network, serves on the Association’s Board of Directors and is the chair of the Ambassador Committee.


Miriam Dressler is Founder and Owner of Bloom Early Education. Since 1992 she has been teaching, training and developing both children and adults. She co-wrote Prove It! Achieving Quality Recognition for Your Early Childhood Program and provides consulting services to the early childhood education field for quality improvement and teacher coaching. Miriam has successfully guided many childcare programs through the accreditation process and serves as a Validator.


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.


Colleen Tracy Haddad 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.


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. Before joining the Association’s Board of Directors, Sally served the organization as an Ambassador for Florida and then as Ambassador Chair.


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


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


Disney Institute As the trusted, authoritative voice on the Disney approach to customer experience, Disney Institute uses business insights and time-tested examples from Disney parks and resorts worldwide to inspire individuals and organizations to enhance their own customer experience using Disney principles as their guide.
For nearly three decades, Disney Institute has helped professionals discover ways to positively impact their organizations and the customer they serve through immersion in leadership, service and employee engagement. Unique to Disney Institute is the opportunity to go behind the scenes in a “living laboratory” to observe firsthand how Disney methodologies are operationalized and how they can be adapted and applied to any work environment.


Karen Kraus has been in the early learning field for more than 30 years, beginning in Headstart in Minnesota. Following her time with Headstart, she has been a teacher, center director, a technical college department chair, Family Education Coordinator, and Family Literacy Program Director. Currently, Karen is the Vice President of Operations for Bright Horizons Family Solutions, overseeing child care operations in the state of Florida and in the Washington, DC area which includes more than 1,100 employees. Karen has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Southwest Minnesota State University.


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.


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.


Ron McGuckin has gained a national reputation as “The Child Care Lawyer”. He is a practicing attorney in Bucks County, PA, 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. Ron is co-author of a variety of publications including “Current Issues in Child Care.” Ron has volunteered on numerous boards including the Association for Early Learning Leaders.


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.


Cindy Perkins is Executive Director of Little People's Academy of Arts & Education in LaGrange, IL.


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 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 is Vice President of Education and Training at Lightbridge Academy in Roselle Park, NJ.


Erin Schmidt is currently 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.


Bob Siegel is president of Leadership Reigns, LLC and serves on the Association’s Board of Directors and as board president of the Early Care and Education Consortium. He has worked as a long-time child care director, early childhood education management consultant/trainer and national director of Easter Seals Children’s Services. He provides training and consultation in the areas of inclusion, staff development and supervision and business aspects of the childcare industry.


Emily Smith ihas been passionate about Early Childhood Education and development for most of her life and has been uniquely involved in the education and business side of the child care industry for over 9 years. She is currently the Solutions Manager and CRM Specialist of CRM Web Solutions, a company that has created the only Customer Relationship Management and Marketing software solution designed specifically for the child care industry. The Child Care CRM web-based system has been deployed in over 1,500 centers in the United States, Canada and Australia. Emily has served as an Executive Director for two national child care organizations and was actively involved with the marketing and enrollment of her centers for most of her career. She has extensive experience and a vast knowledge of successful sales & marketing systems, methods, strategies and techniques that she has brought to the development of Child Care CRM and to her consulting with child care centers on best business practices.


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 child care facilities in Texas.


Michael Swain is Senior Loss Control Specialist for Markel Insurance Company, creating and implementing risk management programs in support of child care, social service, 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.


Tiffany Torres has an extensive professional background in technology and content production. She began working with computers and the internet in 2000, and has been in love with it ever since. Following a successful six-year career with a worldwide leader in publishing and education, Tiffany moved into marketing full time in 2007. Since then she has enjoyed applying her expertise to our clients' projects, as well as taking advantage of her natural skills in communication, organization, and leadership to ensure that every campaign has the opportunity to reach its full potential.


Pamela Truelove-Walker, Ed.D. has served as the Director of First Presbyterian Preschool in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for 12 years. FPP is an NAEYC Accredited Program and is one of only two faith-based schools in the state of Alabama to receive grant funding as a First Class Pre-K Site. In addition to her work in early childhood, Pamela works part-time as a Group Facilitator for Family Counseling Services of West Alabama, providing intervention services for adults with court-identified anger-management and domestic violence issues. Pamela serves as an Ambassador for the Association.


Danielle Waite, Ed.D. is the founding director of the Early Childhood Education Center on the University of California, Merced campus since 2008. Over the course of her 30 year professional career, she has worked with different programs and their respective funding requirements and curriculum. In addition, she has taught online Graduate courses for Brandman University. Danielle serves as an Ambassador for the Association.


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