MEET THE TEAM
Marni Fuente has over 16 years of experience in grants development and management, early childhood education, developmentally appropriate practice and assessment, teacher education and training as well as lecturing and consulting. During her tenure at Hillsborough Community College, Marni has secured and managed over $5M in grant funding to help cultivate innovative childhood education programs that provide targeted early literacy intervention, multi-generational literacy approaches, materials to strengthen the home-school connection and professional development to child care providers and families in Hillsborough County. In addition, she teaches college level courses in the early childhood departments at both HCC and Nova Southeastern University and is a certified trainer in multiple assessment tools. Her graduate degrees include an M.S. in Child Development and Education and an Ed. S. in Early Childhood Development with a concentration in curriculum and instruction. Marni has also consulted and collaborated on many state and local initiatives including the United Way’s Early Learning Campaign, Helios Early Childhood Education Theory of Change, Early Learning Community Conversation – 2K – Get in the Race and she is affiliated with several early childhood professional organizations (NAEYC, AACC, Zero to Three, NEA).
Denise Pullano has over 11 years of experience in early childhood education. She has worked for the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County as a consultant, conducting early learning assessments such as Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills (K-SEALS) and Early Literacy Skills Assessment (ELSA). She has also served as a monitor for the VPK Program in Hillsborough County. For the past eight years, Denise has been working for the Early Literacy Matters (ELM) Program at Hillsborough Community College as an Early Literacy Coach and Trainer. Denise provides on-site support and training to early childhood teachers in early literacy strategies and teaches developmentally appropriate practice. Denise conducts early literacy assessments on and delivers weekly on-site small group literacy intervention to “at risk” children in Hillsborough County. Additionally, Denise is the liaison between myON Reader staff and the children and families in the ELM program. She has taught early childhood classes for the Early Childhood Professional Certification Program (ECPC) at Hillsborough Community College. Denise is a graduate of Florida State University with a degree in business and specialization in marketing.
Lynn Mendelsohn has over 10 years of experience in early childhood education. She specializes in early literacy and is a professional trainer with the Early Literacy Matters (ELM) program, Hillsborough Community College. In her eighth year with the program, Ms. Mendelsohn has delivered both hourly in-service training and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to early childhood providers. She began her teaching, counseling and student development career as a college student affairs administrator, gradually shifting her career emphasis to early childhood development while raising her own young children. Lynn is the author of several locally published articles and book reviews focusing on the use of good literature in the classroom to reinforce early literacy skills and early childhood best practices. Ms. Mendelsohn has a B.A. in history and political science from Colorado College, a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University and a permanent staff credential (C.D.A.) from Hillsborough Community College.
Kellie Hales has been a literacy coach with Early Literacy Matters (ELM) for eight years. She has worked in early childhood education over 30 years as a teacher and administrator. She obtained 20 credits in Human Services from Elon College in North Carolina and obtained her C.D.A. and Director’s Credential from Hillsborough Community College in 2009. Kellie has an A.S. in Early Childhood from Hillsborough Community College and a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the State College of Florida. Kellie served as the Director of the Lowry Park Zoo Preschool for six years. During that period, she wrote and received a grant for a nature playground, developed a science-based curriculum and hosted the Hillsborough Community College Early Childhood Professional Credential (ECPC) program. Prior to her move to Florida, Kellie created the “Planet Earth Science Club,” a private program for preschoolers that brought animals into the classroom to enrich children’s knowledge about earth and our co-existence with its animals. Kellie’s passion remains teaching children to value our earth, our environment and its animals through literacy activities.
Natasha Williams has over 16 years of experience in the early childhood education field. She began her studies in business and marketing at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada and finished with an A.S. degree in Early Childhood Education from Hillsborough Community College in 2015. She holds a staff credential (C.D.A.) from Nova Southeastern University. The transition from business to early education occurred in 2001 when Natasha, who had worked in retail, was offered a preschool teacher position in a private school in Brandon, FL. She realized immediately that her true passion is working closely with children and families, building strong relationships and home-school connections to ensure optimal child development and learning. In successive years, she became a lead VPK teacher and ultimately a Preschool Specialist—overseeing curriculum and activities center-wide while teaching a VPK class of her own—at a private preschool in South Tampa. Natasha has been working as a Literacy Specialist for Early Literacy Matters (ELM) where she has provided on-site support to early childhood teachers and has delivered weekly small group literacy intervention to “at risk” three and four year-old children.
Sue Dye is a passionate educator and advocate for early learning. Sue has an A.A. from the University of Florida and a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida. With her previous teaching experience as a kindergarten and first grade teacher, she understands all of the duties associated with administration and management of the classroom; preparation of lesson plans, securing resources, motivation of students, evaluation and monitoring of progress, interaction with administrators and working with other teachers. At ELM, Sue holds the Early Literacy Trainer & Special Projects position in which she teaches preschool aged children in under-served communities early literacy strategies (print concepts, alphabetic principal, phonological awareness and comprehension). She enjoys creating and implementing tools or books to enhance and support each child care center’s curriculum as well as the use of songs, poems and finger play to support a literacy rich environment in each classroom.
Rachel Kummelman has over 5 years of experience working in Early Childhood Education. She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2018 with her B.S in Child and Youth Studies. She has always had a passion for working with young children as she started her career working for the YMCA in their summer camp program for at risk youth. Throughout college she taught VPK full time as well as supervised the curriculum for her child care center. She is dedicated to enriching the lives of children, families and educators through her advocacy of diversity and inclusion. Currently, she serves as a Literacy Coach for Early Literacy Matters (ELM) where she prepares young children for Kindergarten in under-served communities throughout Hillsborough County.
Jourdain is a recent graduate from the University of Florida’s (UF) College of Agriculture and Life Science with a B.S. in Family, Youth, and Community Science. She also obtained a specialization in Nonprofit Management and a Minor in Communication Studies. Throughout her time at UF Jourdain developed a passion for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and began to apply her knowledge to all other areas of involvement. She participated in an organization at the UF where she worked directly with children and family ambassadors from the local children’s hospital. Jourdain also worked for an afterschool program in Gainesville that focused on character development and early literacy skills. Although quite different, interacting with children and families from both areas taught Jourdain lessons in compassion, effective listening, and kindness. Jourdain comes back to the CALM and ELM team after an earlier summer internship and is eager to continue to learn and grow. Her passion for early childhood development and the principles of Conscious Discipline® makes this position with QEES a dream job!
Naomi Rivera joins the Quality Early Education System (QEES) team as a Grants Communication Specialist and Early Childhood Trainer. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of early childhood education and because of this she places a high value on quality early education. As a former lead preschool teacher, Naomi has extensive experience in planning and implementing various activities that promote the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth in children using interactive teaching and play based learning methods. Her passion for educating young children led her to complete an Associate of Science in Early Childhood Management through Hillsborough Community College (HCC). She has also served as an intern at HCC for Early Literacy Matters (ELM), Conscious Awareness Learning Model (CALM), and Quality Early Education System (QEES) programs where she worked closely with the coaches and saw the positive impact they were making in the lives of preschool teachers and childcare centers in the community. As part of the QEES family Naomi is able to share her experience and passion with others, working towards a common goal of improving the quality of early education and childcare programs.
Paige received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Georgia Southern University and has over 13 years experience as a classroom teacher. She earned a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Tampa where Social Emotional Learning (SEL) was the theme of the graduate program including collaborative research. Most recently, Paige taught Early Education classes at UT, preparing teachers for their future classrooms. In addition, she has instructed and supported numerous elementary students throughout the last five years and found that creating relationships with children allows learning to become a more relaxed and positive experience. Paige is excited to bring her experience and enthusiasm to the CALM and ELM programs.
Yaritza Serrano has over 4 years of experience working in the education field. She began her studies at Hillsborough Community College where she got her associate degree in Liberal Arts and continued her education at the University of South Florida receiving a bachelor’s degree in General Studies with a concentration in educational foundations. Throughout college, Yaritza worked for the Hillsborough County Public Schools after care program, HOST, and served as a teacher intern at Cimino Elementary School. She also interned at Hillsborough Community College with the Quality Early Education System (QEES), Early Literacy Matters (ELM) and the Conscious Awareness Learning Model (CALM). These experiences of assisting teachers and children throughout the county developed her passion for early childhood and the education field. Yaritza found her home with HCC and QEES as an Early Childhood Trainer & Special Projects where she gets to fulfill her passion of helping teachers throughout Hillsborough County grow as instructors.