Cohort V 2023-2024

The MECLP Advisory Committee is delighted to introduce its Cohort V Fellows

Kellie Brooks is a passionate Early Childhood Educator with over a decade of experience. Her journey began as a Sunday School teacher during her teenage years, sparking her enthusiasm for educating children. She achieved an honors bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Human Growth and Development, equipping her with the knowledge of teaching best practices, child psychology, and valuable teaching experience. Kellie’s career began as a Head Start Teacher, where she explored children’s behavior and its impact on their social-emotional development.

Her dedication extended to roles as an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant and Early Childhood Technical Assistant in the local Child Care Resource Center, where she advocated for equitable educational experiences. Kellie later transitioned to the public school system as an Elementary School Teacher, broadening her expertise and gaining certifications relevant to family, educator, and administrator roles. She strives to enhance children’s outcomes by promoting equity, developmentally appropriate practices, and the significance of secure attachment in their educational journeys.

 

Emily Caine‘s diverse career spans roles as a direct support professional for disabled adults, camp counselor, international boarding school teacher, dorm parent, and early childhood educator in various settings. She holds a Bachelor’s in Philosophy with a minor in Leadership and Global Understanding from La Salle University, where her multidisciplinary program emphasized international relations and service through a social justice lens. Additionally, she recently earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Loyola University Maryland.

Her journey at The Loyola School has seen her progress from an assistant teacher to a lead teacher, and now to an Academic Support Teacher. In this role, she coaches teachers, implements professional development and curriculum programs, and undertakes various responsibilities within a growing school. Emily’s future plans include pursuing a terminal degree to explore the alignment of developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood education, child development, and K-12 programs, as well as addressing gaps in compensation and credentials between early childhood and K-12 educators. As an avid reader and writer, she is dedicated to researching and implementing proven pedagogies to strengthen and create a more equitable system for children, their families, and providers.

 

Katie LeMaire earned her PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development with an emphasis on Mental Health and Developmental Disorders from Fielding Graduate University in 2020. She has been the Child Development Specialist at Kent Family Center in Chestertown since it opened in 2016. She lives in Chestertown with her husband, two young children, and two dogs. She is passionate about early childhood because it is an opportunity to build healthy brains to help kids succeed and reach their maximum potential! She loves spending time with family, fishing, and reading in her free time.

 

 

Kim Mayforth is a 30-year educator and serves as the Teacher Specialist for the Harford County Infants and Toddlers Program. She holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Towson State University and a Master’s in Early Childhood Special Education from Loyola University. In addition, Kim completed Certificates of Study in The At-Risk and Diverse Learner and an Administration I certification at Goucher College. Kim began her career teaching fifth grade; however, after a personal experience with early intervention, she continued her education and found her passion in the special education field of early childhood. Kim witnessed early intervention’s impact on the lives of our frailest and most vulnerable children. She has advocated for equal opportunities for children with special needs and limited resources. Kim is excited to be a MECLP fellow to increase her leadership skills to provide equal opportunities for our youngest children.

 

Shannon McKenzie is the current 2023-2024 Montgomery County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. She is the existing Child Development teacher at Clarksburg High School within Montgomery County Public Schools.  She is also the Coyote Pup Preschool Director, Education Intern Coordinator, and CHS Chapter Educators Rising Teacher Leader.  She is very proud also to have served MCPS as an educator with the Preschool Education Program (Preschool SPED) from 2016 to 2021.

Additionally, since 2000, she has served children and families in Frederick County as the owner of Smarty Pants Preschool in Ijamsville, MD.  Shannon holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Towson University (2014) and a master’s in mental health and wellness from Grand Canyon University (2019).

 

Lauren McVicker is a highly effective Pre-Kindergarten teacher within Baltimore City Public Schools. She is dedicated to serving her early learners and leading the Early Learning team within her school building. She is passionate about creating positive learning environments that help students build confidence, leadership, and love. Lauren leads school and district-level professional developments on an up-and-coming educational philosophy called “Integrated Learning” within Early Learning. She advocates for developmentally appropriate, hands-on learning where students increase the depth of learning through integrated subject areas, activities, and learning objectives. Outside of the classroom, Lauren owns and operates Nanny McFit, an enrichment program that serves children Pre-K- 5th grade by building self-confidence through exercise and play. Nanny McFit applies “Integrated Learning” activities to promote the whole child’s growth, helping them excel in their communities and the globally competitive world. Lauren is eager to grow and apply her leadership skills through the MECLP program and is thankful to continue to serve Maryland’s children.

 

Lushonda Okoli has wanted to become a teacher for as long as she can remember. In 2006, she opened the doors of her first family child care program in Milwaukee, WI. In addition to being an early childhood educator, she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Community Engagement and Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has since opened family childcare programs in North Carolina and Maryland, working in the field for 17 years. Her career as an educator also includes tutoring junior high students and adults, an emergency preparedness instructor, and a certified Maryland Department of Education early childhood education instructor. In 2020, she returned to school to pursue a graduate degree, completing the program and receiving an M.Ed. in Learning and Technology. Just when she thought she was done with formal education, she was blessed with the opportunity to pursue an Ed. D., debt-free, which she accepted. She has completed the required two years of coursework for the Ed.D in Instructional Design and Performance Technology and will begin work on her dissertation soon. While she has done an excellent job as a student and educator, she is most proud of her work as a mom who homeschools her child. She gets a front-row seat to her son’s academic development, creativity, and curiosity; each day is filled with adventure.

 

Kristen Paul has devoted over two decades to various roles serving children and their families. Her career includes experiences as a high school science teacher, an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at NASA, STEM Coordinator at Salisbury University, and family support positions in St. Mary’s County Public Schools’ Birth to Five Programs. Currently, she is the Director of Early Childhood Programs at The Parents’ Place of Maryland (PPMD) and serves as Maryland’s Ambassador for both the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. and DEC/ECTA’s Recommended Practices programs.

Within PPMD, Kristen oversees early childhood initiatives, including the Baby LEADers family training program and the Early Childhood Family Partners program. She actively contributes to numerous statewide committees and collaborative efforts aimed at improving outcomes for Maryland’s youngest residents and their families. She is the Vice-Chair of the State Interagency Coordinating Council for Infants and Toddlers, participates in the Pyramid Model State Leadership Team’s Family Engagement Subcommittee, and contributes to the newly-formed Suspension and Expulsion Workgroup. Living in St. Mary’s County with her husband and young son, who has multiple disabilities, Kristen is deeply motivated to ensure equitable outcomes for all of Maryland’s children.

 

Sarah Roebuck is an influential figure in early childhood education, currently serving as the Executive Director of The Goddard Schools in Gaithersburg, North Bethesda, and Silver Spring. In this role, she oversees operations for 700 students and 135 faculty members, impacting thousands of diverse graduates. As a founding member of her company’s Leadership Development Program (LDP), she’s dedicated to cultivating leadership skills among faculty through mentorship, coursework, collaboration, and active engagement in advancing the early childhood education community.

Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Child Development and Family Relations from East Carolina University. After six years of teaching in public and private schools, she transitioned into early childhood administration, managing programs across various settings. Additionally, Sarah spearheaded the development of a distance learning program, served as a mentor for Montgomery County’s Child Care Support Services, and contributed to the Goddard System’s Life Lessons Library, a social-emotional development program used in over 500 Goddard Schools nationwide. A committed lifelong learner, she is passionate about driving state-level change in early childhood education systems, policies, and programs, recognizing their significance in ensuring equitable, high-quality early childhood care and education for all children.

 

Kara Siegmund is the current director of a nationally and state-accredited preschool in the Baltimore area. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Services from Towson University and went on to receive her master’s degree in School Counseling from Walden University. She has worked in both the public and private sectors as a teacher, counselor, and administrator. She has a deep-seated passion for early childhood development and psychology, with her favorite child development theorist being Abraham Maslow. In addition to being a director, she is also an early childhood professor and has had various opportunities to write curricula to enhance the early childhood courses at the community college level. Outside of work, she enjoys being outside, exploring adventurous hikes, and dedicating time to health and fitness at the gym. In the MECLP program, she aims to delve deeper into the future of early childhood education and eagerly anticipates collaborating with fellow professionals to enhance the collective educational value they provide to the youngest learners.

 

Tamieka Thomasson holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Early Childhood Education from Howard University and a Master’s in Human Development and Special Education from George Washington University. She is affectionately known as the ‘Baby Whisperer’ by her friends and family. Tamieka began her education career at 13 as a classroom aide at a child care center in Washington, DC, and has remained in the field for over 25 years, holding various roles supporting and advocating for families and young children.  She serves as a Program Manager within Montgomery County, Maryland’s Department of Health and Human Services-Early Childhood Services-Child Care Support Services Unit. In this role, Tamieka oversees two programs that promote high-quality early childhood programming. Tamieka is a strong advocate for play-based learning and is passionate about educating stakeholders on the importance of play in all early childhood settings. She is humbled, honored, and excited to join Cohort V of the MECLP, where she looks forward to using this professional development opportunity to connect with and learn from other early childhood professionals.

 

Trina Tilghman-Dix is the Program Coordinator for the Wicomico County Judy Center.  After 25 years of success in the classroom and various early childhood programs, Mrs. Dix transitioned into her current position as the Program Coordinator for the Judy Center in Wicomico County.  Her primary focus in this role is to oversee the daily functions of the Judy Center operations and programming. As such, she works with many community organizations and early childhood programs to assist in providing services to families and young children who reside in the Beaver Run and Pemberton attendance areas.  Mrs. Dix also serves as a mentor and liaison for many young women in the community.  Mrs. Dix is a product of the Wicomico County School System.  As a graduate of Parkside High School, she continued her pursuit of higher education, earning an associate degree in Theology at Christian World College of Theology and a Bachelor of Arts in Human Growth and Development from Sojourner Douglass College. The passion for family outreach is evident in Mrs. Dix’s creative solutions, which make her an asset to colleagues, family, and friends.  Mrs. Dix is currently a resident of Salisbury, MD.  She is married with two daughters and eight grandchildren. She enjoys spending time with her family, playing softball, and serving in her church and community during her free time.

 

Suzanne Tirado has worked for equitable access to high-quality education for young children for the last thirteen years.. Trained as a musician and actor at The Catholic University of America, Suzanne was inspired to start working with young children when she encountered DC public school kids and their incredible ideas while on tour with Young Playwrights’ Theater. Suzanne earned a Master’s in Teaching and Special Education while working as an educational aide for DC Public Schools in a Prekindergarten autism inclusion classroom. Later, she taught special education K-5 in an inclusion Pre-kindergarten classroom at DC Bilingual Public Charter School. Suzanne started working as a coaching specialist for the Literacy Lab in 2016. She trained and coached early childhood tutors and school-based coaches throughout The District of Columbia. For the past year, as the Director of Early Childhood Coaching at the Literacy Lab, Suzanne has led the coaching team across four regions, including Baltimore, MD. As a proud member of a bilingual and multicultural family, Suzanne advocates for educators to shift their perspectives and celebrate the unique opportunities and strengths each family brings to their communities

 

Chaquana Truitt earned her Bachelor’s in child development from The University of MD Eastern Shore. She has ten years of experience in various positions within the early childhood education field. She has worked with children aged six weeks to 5 years old in private childcare centers and served as a lead teacher at a Baltimore City Head Start. Additionally, she has worked with families of children from birth to school age as a childcare referral specialist. She is an Early Childhood Coach at the Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center. In this capacity, she offers technical assistance and MSDE-approved training to new and experienced childcare professionals in center-based preschool programs. As a mother and former teacher, Chaquana holds a deep passion for any work related to the development of early learners. Having grown up and worked in a city with high poverty levels, she fully comprehends the significance of ensuring affordable, high-quality childcare is accessible to all children. Her goal is to acquire more knowledge about public policy and actively promote quality in early childhood programs

 

Brandi Walker is a Technical Assistance Specialist/ Early Childhood Coach. She began working in the Early Childcare field over 20 years ago, holding positions as an Aide, Senior Staff, Lead Teacher, Education Coordinator, and now Early Childhood Coach for Family Care Educators. She obtained her AA from Baltimore City Community College. She received her bachelor’s in child development and master’s degree in teaching Adults in the Early Childhood Field from Walden University while working full-time and raising her five children. She holds CLASS certification as an observer for Pre-K- 3rd grade. Her passion for wanting to support others is what led her to Adult Learning. As so many have done for her, it was her way of paying it forward to other Early Childhood Educators. Now, in her role as Technical Assistance / Early Childhood Coach at Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center (BCC), she can do just that for the educators in Baltimore. As a participant in MECLP, she aims to transfer her passion for educating young children and supporting educators into a more defined understanding of advocacy in early childhood and public policy knowledge. She is excited to learn innovative ways to build her leadership skills and develop organizational capacity skills to better serve the educators she engages with in her current role.

 

Monica Wiedel-Lubinski is a dedicated nature-based education advocate with over two decades of experience. She initiated Maryland’s second licensed, NAEYC-accredited nature preschool during her 19-year tenure at the Irvine Nature Center. In 2016, she founded the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS), which has grown to nearly 1,200 members. Monica co-founded the Baltimore-area nature-based preschool programs and is a consultant for similar initiatives. Her contributions to the Council of Nature and Forest Schools led to the publication of the Nature-Based Preschool Professional Practices Guidebook in 2019. She co-authored the award-winning book “Nature Play Workshop for Families” (Quarto Press, 2020) and is working on another book on emergent, nature-based early childhood education. As co-chair of the Outdoor Preschool Licensing Advisory Team, Monica played a pivotal role in the passage of House Bill 525 in 2023, launching an outdoor preschool pilot in Maryland. Monica also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Goucher College, focusing on environmental studies. She holds degrees in K-12 Art Education and Early Childhood Education from Towson University and enjoys wild adventures in Maryland’s natural landscapes with her partner and children.

 

Stephanie Young holds a Master of Arts in Education from Regent University.  She believes in nurturing the abilities of all learners by diversifying the instructional content to meet the students at their level while empowering them to excel.  She has over 15 years of instructional and administration experience in higher education. She started her journey in early childhood education while in high school and working as a Teaching Assistant.  She continued her work by operating a home-based family childcare program, providing one-on-one instruction for homebound Head Start students in Southern Maryland, and serving as a Center Manager for Head Start in Howard County.  Stephanie is a Lead Instructor at local community colleges, teaching pre-service training content required for early childhood professionals.  She also teaches students with learning disabilities life skills and workforce development training.  She has gained success as a Master Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Trainer, facilitating training for community partners and private organizations.  Stephanie is best known for creating engaging course content and multi-level lessons that inspire students to optimize their learning abilities and achieve academic success.  She is excited to be a part of MECLP to learn, engage, and impact change.