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Past Fellows

2020-22 Cohort

Working with NCPMI faculty mentors, they will be involved in a variety of activities including developing NCPMI documents, providing training, reviewing research, collaborating on research activities, and developing policy materials.

Gounah Choi

Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate in Special Education
University Washington

Mentor: Dr. Kathy Bigelow

Gounah Choi, MEd, BCBA, is a Special Education doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Washington. As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a former special education teacher, she has worked with young children with developmental delays/disabilities in various settings, including home, public/private school, and clinic. She currently supervises special education teaching candidates at the University of Washington and participates in research projects related to professional development systems for promoting children’s social emotional development. Her research interest is in parent-implemented interventions for social-emotional learning of children with disabilities/delays, particularly those from underrepresented communities.

Kelsey Clayback

Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science
University of Virginia

Mentor: Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter

Kelsey Clayback is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science at the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development. Kelsey’s program of research aims to enhance classroom and school environments to promote growth and learning across early childhood. She is particularly interested in strategies and interventions to promote young children’s social and emotional skills and prevent challenging behavior. Relatedly, Kelsey is interested in improving teacher well-being and determining how to best support educators to facilitate positive outcomes for both themselves and their students.

Tanika Johnson

Education Consultant and Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Provider

Mentor: Dr. Lise Fox

Dr. Tanika Johnson is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Provider, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, National Certified Counselor, Board-Certified Telemental Health Provider, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and Licensed Psychology and Special Education Teacher. She has a Doctor of Education and Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership with a specialization in leadership, curriculum and instruction, and social and emotional development. Furthermore, Dr. Johnson has a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling and Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She has previously completed a special education teacher education program and was granted special education and psychology endorsements. To add, she has acquired thirty additional graduate hours in Health Services Management. Dr. Johnson has a wealth of experience with education consulting and serving the special education community and the exceptional needs of children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities. Likewise, she works diligently to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations as it relates to individuals with disabilities.

Over the course of Dr. Johnson’s career, she has also served in the capacity of an Early Childhood Specialist, Early Childhood Teacher Mentor, Advisor, Evaluator, Education Consultant, and Contributing Faculty Member. As a practitioner and researcher, her expertise focuses on the social and emotional development and the psychological impact of children and adolescents.

Sharon Loza

Branch Head and Part C Coordinator
North Carolina Infant-Toddler Program

Mentor: Dr. Phil Strain

Dr. Sharon E. Loza is the Branch Head and Part C Coordinator for the NC Infant-Toddler Program (NC ITP) that provides early intervention supports and services for families and their infants and toddlers with varying abilities and special needs. She is also a CDC Act Early Ambassador and Board President for the North Carolina Infant and Young Child Mental Health Association. Dr. Loza participates in multiple cross-sector collaborations focused on practice and policies to support social emotional/early childhood mental health, equity and access to high-quality early childhood services, implementation of evidence-based practices using implementation science, early childhood systems improvement, early childhood workforce development, and family engagement and leadership. She is particularly interested in Pyramid Model implementation with families with infants and toddlers, the intersection of early childhood mental health consultation and competencies with Pyramid Model, data and measurement tools, and research and evaluation efforts focused on demonstrating improvement in child and family outcomes.

Jenny May

619 Coordinator
South Carolina Department of Education, Office of Special Education Services

Mentor: Dr. Judy Carta

Jenny May is the 619 coordinator at the SC Department of Education, Office of Special Education Services. She has been in this role for about 5 years and has been grateful for the opportunities for partnership that it brings! In this role, Jenny participates in many state level workgroups and task forces including: Pyramid state leadership team, SC Act Early, the Child Well-Being Coalition, the Home Visiting Consortium, in Part C Interagency Coordinating Council, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education Partnership among others. Before engaging in the work of early childhood special education, inclusion and social-emotional supports, Jenny worked as a researcher for the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children’s Issues. She completed her PhD in Educational Psychology and MEd in Educational Research from the University of South Carolina in 2015, and prior to that, worked as a special education teacher in Nashville, TN. Jenny completed her undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University and has degrees in Special Education and Human and Organizational Development. When not working hard, Jenny is playing hard with her 2 young sons and husband, Jim.

Courtney O’Grady

Graduate Teaching Assistant and a PhD candidate in Special Education
University of Illinois

Mentor: Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter

Courtney is a third-year doctoral student at the University of Illinois where her advisor is Dr. Michaelene Ostrosky. She received her undergraduate degree from Saint Xavier University in early childhood education and her master’s degree from the University of Illinois in early childhood special education. She has over ten years’ experience teaching preschool in Illinois. She has also served as an adjunct instructor at Parkland Community College, the University of Illinois and the University of St. Francis, teaching courses in child development and early childhood special education. Her research interests include promoting equitable access to high quality early childhood education, perceptions of challenging behavior, and attenuating the use of suspension and expulsion in early childhood settings.

Hsiu-Wen Yang

Postdoctoral Research Associate
STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) Center

Mentor: Dr. Erin Barton

Dr. Hsiu-Wen Yang is a postdoctoral research associate at the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) Center whose work aims to ensure ALL young children are included and can fully participate in learning activities. Her research also focuses on early intervention, family-centered practices, parent coaching, and social-emotional development.

2018-19 PMI Fellows Cohort

Working with NCPMI faculty mentors, they have been involved in a variety of activities including developing NCPMI documents, providing training, reviewing research, collaborating on research activities, and developing policy materials.

Leslie McIntosh
Early Childhood School Psychologist
Jersey City Public Schools

Mentor: Dr. Lise Fox

Deliverable: A Practice Guide for Teaching Executive Skills to Preschoolers through the Pyramid Model

I worked under the mentorship of Lise Fox, who guided me in creating a Practice Guide to promote Pre-K teachers’ use of Pyramid Model practices to support the development of executive function in young children. I will also be providing professional development via webinar and contributing to the library of Backpack Connections to help spread the awareness that Pyramid Model practices are beneficial to young children in many, many ways.

Alison Mellott
Program Wide PBIS Facilitator
Supporting Positive Environments for Children (SPEC)

Mentor: Dr. Jolenea Ferro

Deliverable: Promoting Teacher Retention through Pyramid Model Practices

I was amazed by the doors that opened as a result of this fellowship. I was able to become more involved in Pyramid Model work within my state system, received support with research proposals and publications, participated in training design for other state systems, and made connections with fellows and researchers from across the country.I graduated about halfway through the fellowship and my work within the fellowship was, I believe, a key factor in acquiring a position in higher education.

Chelsea Morris
Assistant Professor
Department of Literacy and Special Education, University of West Georgia

Mentor: Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter

Deliverable: Trauma Informed Care for Teachers: Utilizing Pyramid Model Practices

My work with NCPMI has included research and collaboration for the promotion of the Pyramid Model in programs wanting to take a Trauma Informed Care (TIC) approach to early learning. Resulting products have been a presentation at the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Annual International Conference (October 2019), a manuscript describing the use of TIC in preschool classrooms (in progress), a program-wide plan for TIC implementation, and a document for educators created in collaboration with the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Consortium to discuss how the Pyramid Model aligns with TIC (in progress). Collaborative work with NCPMI has also included ongoing discussion of how to support coaches (presentation of research project at NTI 2019 and DEC 2019).

Ara Zeliz Reyes
Doctoral Candidate, ECEC PhD Program
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education and Human Development, University of Massachusetts – Boston

Mentor: Dr. Jaclyn Joseph

On a national level as a National Center for Pyramid Model Innovation (NCPMI) Fellow, my work focuses on inclusion evidence-based practices. This past year, in collaboration with NCPMI faculty members across several states, I presented at national professional conferences as an expert on parent engagement and family systems. As collaborators, we share insightful information about how to support the implementation of family coaching models within local and national research communities, nonprofits, government agencies, and community programs. My NCPMI work, in part, focuses on building effective school-family-community partnerships through practices for social emotional competence. With encouragement from NCPMI faculty, I have challenged myself to learn more at a national level about educators’ use of special education practices to reduce challenging behaviors and promoting inclusion in the classroom. Additionally, thanks to my NCPMI experience I currently also serve as the Mentoring Co-Chair for the Division of Exceptional Children (DEC) Consortium for Innovations in Doctoral Excellence (DECIDE) Mentoring Program, I work in collaboration with other DEC leaders to provide mentorship opportunities to students and junior faculty that fosters a collaborative spirit.

Jenna Weglarz-Ward
Assistant Professor in Early Childhood Education/Special Education
University of Nevada – Las Vegas

Mentor: Dr. Erin Barton

Dr. Weglarz-Ward is working on examining the inclusion of Pyramid Model in higher education to prepare professionals in early childhood education, special education, and early intervention and supporting state-wide TA in Nevada’s Part C system.

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