Maegan Adams, CT Pyramid Partnership
Maegan Adams has been in this field for almost 20 years, she received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Connecticut in Human Development and Family Studies with a focus on Early Care and Education, and has a Master’s Degree from the University of Bridgeport in Education which includes a Teaching Certification for Kindergarten to Grade 6. She is a Preschool to Grade Three Leadership Fellow from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education. She is also the Co-President of the CTAEYC and a member of various Early Childhood workgroups throughout the state. During the day she is the Executive Director of the Bristol Child Development Center. In addition she is a master cadre, on the CT Pyramid Model Leadership Team.
Tiana Brown, Norwalk Housing Authority
Tiana is an Assistant Director for Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Center. As a leader, she supports the program director in daily operations, provides professional development training, shares PD opportunities, and leads our programs’ SEL initiative. Tiana’s background includes being a Therapeutic Support Facilitator for the Bridgeport Board of Education and managing both elementary and middle levels programs. Educational degrees include a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Virginia State University and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University. Tiana has a passion for teaching and encouraging others to learn concepts that directly impacts their life.
Noel Casiano, Casiano Clinical Services, LLC
Dr. Noel Casiano is a clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice and has a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Central CT State University (CCSU). Dr. Casiano also obtained a Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology from California Southern University. Dr. Casiano is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Human Services at the University of Hartford. He is also an Adjunct Clinical Professor with CCSU’s Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Program. Dr. Casiano is the author of three books, “The Fatherhood Crisis”, “Just a Kid from Park Street” and “Momentum”. Dr. Casiano also was featured as a Tedx Speaker titled “What Happened to You” which is available on YouTube. In 2017, Dr. Casiano was honored by State of CT General Assembly with Official Citations for Excellence in Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment and in 2021 for Excellence in Education. In 2021, he was honored as a Hartford Hero by SINA and by the City of Hartford as an influential Latino professional in the city. Dr. Casiano was also honored by the CT Institute for Community Development (CICD) with the Maria Sanchez Excellence in Education Award. He was also honored by Senator Murphy and Senator Blumenthal with Excellence in the field of Urban Trauma. Dr. Casiano was recently selected as a Humanities Center Faculty Fellow for his work in the field of intergenerational and urban trauma.
Tracey Cheney, Three Cheers Consulting with TLC
Tracy Cheney is a wife and mother, as well as a Grand-Ma! She is Vice President of Dr. Day Care Inc. and is a professional consultant who has been in the field of early childhood education for the past 33 years. For 24 years Tracy has been overseeing the management of a multi-site organization. In her dual role of VP of Education & Compliance she supports many levels of early learning professionals with a wide array of topics. In addition, Tracy oversees compliance with many regulatory agencies. A focus of Tracy’s career has been on supporting the professional development of Administrators and Teachers. Tracy presents to many private early learning centers in New England, and has presented at the NAEYC Conference multiple times, the NAEYC PLI, and the World Forum Foundation, as well as state AEYC affiliate statewide conferences. Tracy holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, is a member of NAEYC, and is also a CDA Specialist and a Conscious Discipline enthusiast.
MJ Chironna, Norwalk ACTS
MJ Chironna is the Manager of Community Engagement at Norwalk ACTS, a non profit cradle to career collective impact partnership that brings people together around common goals in a structured way to achieve social change. In addition to her work in the social sector over the past 25 years, she has been a parent for the past 30 years and has been passionate about improving the lives of children and youth in Norwalk. She has fostered valuable relationships and connected community members to support helping them improve their lives. At the present time, she manages a Community Advocate program where community residents are representative of the Norwalk community and where their lived experience drives the direction of the work.
Al deCant, The Singing Principal, Half Moon Music/ Music for Little Superstars
Al deCant is a critically acclaimed concert performer and educator from Connecticut, who has entertained and educated thousands of young people through his programs of music, literacy, and numeracy. Al’s early education interactive music classes as well as his literacy and social emotional programs are being used in schools and classrooms throughout Connecticut. Parents, teachers, and children immediately respond to the catchy tunes and lyrical wit of this veteran singer/songwriter/educator. Al’s original comic and soulful style is enjoyed as much by adults as they are by children. Al deCant has been an educator for over 30 years and has served as an elementary school teacher, principal, and director of curriculum and instruction. He holds a BS in Elementary Education, and MAs in Elementary Education, and Educational Leadership. Al is also a certified The Learning Groove Music and Movement instructor. He actively performs throughout New England for schools, libraries, hospitals, local fairs, fundraisers as well as private and corporate functions.
Doug Edwards, Real Dads Forever
Doug Edwards is a family services consultant who has designed and facilitated programs for thousands of family workers, parents, and men and women in hundreds of groups for over 25 years. He has consulted with most of Connecticut’s state agencies and many schools, non-profit human services agencies, and family development centers across New England. He is a Certified Family Development Credential Trainer and facilitator of Circle of Security, the Parent Leadership Training Institute, and Positive Parenting programs. He has been trained and holds certificates in Program Evaluation, Designing, and Implementation, Pastoral Counseling and Care Specialist, high conflict Family Mediation, and Men’s Trauma and Recovery. Doug is the founder and Director of Real Dads Forever, a Fatherhood Strategies Development organization. He is on the advisory boards of Prevent Child Abuse America, Boston Medical Center’s National Advisory Board for Innovative Health, and the Maternal Child Health Coalition. He is also a board member of Integrated Health Services and the CT Association for Infant Mental Health.
Eric Finland, The Blues and Beyond
Co-presenters: Adam Taylor and Noe Socha
The Blues and Beyond tells the story of African Americans from slavery to present day through music, narration, video and still images. Highlighting both historical and musical legacies, this engaging and entertaining program will leave students profoundly affected and with a new appreciation of how far we’ve come as a country and how far we still have to go. The interdisciplinary and culturally responsive program provides rich opportunities for connecting to history, literacy, social studies, social emotional learning, and the evolution of African American music in the United States. The Blues and Beyond has been developed for three different instructional levels: grades 3-5, grades 6-8 (middle school) and grades 9-12 (high school).
Dr. Stacey Heiligenthaler, Greenwich Public Schools
Co-presenters: Dr. Alina Agiurgioaei Boie and Dr. Fabian Agiurgioaei Boie
Dr. Stacey Heiligenthaler is the Chief Officer of Special Education and Student Supports for Greenwich Public Schools. Dr. Heiligenthaler has been a special education classroom teacher, Inclusion specialist, and program specialist before becoming a special education administrator. She has been in the field of special education for 25 years.
Tracey Madden-Hennesey, YWCA of New Britain
Co-presenter: Nicole Villanueva
Tracey is beginning her 40th year with the YWCA New Britain and has been Executive Director since 2019. In her YWCA roles, Tracey has been responsible for the development and supervision of grant funded programs; grant writing and monitoring, and supporting women by partnering with other agencies throughout the city. Tracey has held local and state leadership positions within many local youth collaboratives and coalitions, as well as board or advisory affiliations with The Connecticut After School Network The Connecticut Children’s Collective, The Connecticut Alliance To End Sexual Violence. She was named a New Britain Champion for the National Grade Level Reading Campaign.
During her tenure with the YWCA, Tracey played an integral part in the: establishment of the YWCA Youth Development Programming for Middle School Girls; expansion of early childhood services and the creation of a family literacy partnership at the YWCA. Most recently, she took on the principal leadership role to establish a Family Childcare Business Incubator in New Britain. The first of its kind in Connecticut, The Incubator is an economic empowerment vehicle for women and an innovative approach to increasing the supply of infant/toddler care in the community.
Tracey earned her bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University and a master’s degree from the University of Hartford.
Patricia Pugliese, New Jersey School-Age Child Care Coalition
Patricia Pugliese is a Technical Assistance Specialist for the Quality Coaching Team at NJSACC. Patricia began her career in out-of-school time (OST) programming while still in high school, working in an after school program as an activity specialist. A child of immigrants and native New Yorker, Patricia has worked in all five boroughs with vulnerable youth and their families. With over 20 years of experience in the field of OST programming and youth development, Patricia is passionate about opportunities and services being equitable for and accessible to all. Patricia has held a variety of positions including program director (21 st CCLC elementary school age program), program officer, multi-site supervisor and senior director of youth and community programs. Her love for professional development led Patricia to co-chair the Training and Development Committee while working with the Police Athletic League. As a seasoned trainer and facilitator, Patricia enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion for the field.
Marcela Ramos, Positive Discipline Educator
Marcela holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Licentiate Degree in English and Portuguese Language and Literature with a concentration on Bilingualism. She has been in the early education field for almost 15 years, having worked with Early Childhood and Elementary Education in bilingual and international schools both in Brazil and in the United States, and provided support and mentorship for families and educators in different settings.
With a passion for child development and family relations, Marcela believes that by connecting with children through love and compassion we can build strong relationships and teach valuable life skills, which she strives to do as a teacher and a parent.
Currently, Marcela is a parent, classroom, and early childhood educator certified by the Positive Discipline Association and is also an active member of her community as Region 5’s Parent Ambassador for the OEC’s Parent Cabinet Initiative.
Dr. Luz M. Rivera, Office of Early Childhood
Ronda C Thorington, MA, LPC, LPC Parent Coach
Ronda Thorington is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 20 years of experience providing mental health treatment to children, families, and adults in various roles and settings. She began her career at Family and Children Services of Central Maryland where she provided case management services to families impacted by HIV/AIDS. After returning to her home state of Connecticut she spent several years working as a clinical therapist at the Children’s Center of Hamden and then expanded her role to include that of clinical director of the facility’s crisis stabilization program. She currently runs a private practice specializing in the treatment of children and families. Ronda’s journey with rare disease began in 2012 when one of her three children was diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease at the age of four. She now uses her clinical knowledge and expertise to coach families impacted by life-changing medical diagnoses. She shares tools and strategies developed out of her own experience to empower families in self-advocacy, reducing overwhelm and living lives that are not defined by a diagnosis.
Elena Trueworthy, CT Office of Early Childhood Parent Cabinet
Co-presenter: Chenae Russell, Stephan Palmer, Mary McCallister, Caroline Austin, Christina Augliera & Carla Abdo-KatsipisElena Trueworthy is the Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood. Appointed to this role in February 2023, Elena oversees the programmatic areas of the agency including Early Care and Education, Quality Improvement, Birth to Three, Home Visiting, CCDF, and Head Start Collaboration Office. Previously she served as Governor Lamont’s appointee to lead the Head Start State Collaboration Office bringing the Head Start perspective to state system-level strategic planning and initiatives. Elena has over 20 years’ experience working on behalf of children and families doing direct service, professional development, systems design, and philanthropic grant making.
From 2011 to 2019, Elena worked at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving as the Associate Director of Early Childhood Investments helping to manage a multi-million dollar portfolio that focused on family support, early childhood education, and community engagement to improve outcomes for young children and their families. At the Hartford Foundation, Elena also served as the Director of the Hartford Area Child Care Collaborative, an initiative that focuses on improving and sustaining the quality of care child in the greater Hartford region.
Elena got her start in early childhood by working for Head Start for ten years with oversight of departments focused on health, mental health, nutrition, and parent engagement. Prior to being promoted to her supervisory role, Elena was a community organizer and provided leadership development to Head Start parents and residents that focused on reducing risk factors and promoting protective factors within families and communities.
Elena has an undergraduate degree in business administration from the University of Connecticut, and a Master’s degree in Human Services from Springfield College. She is married with three children ages 6, 15, and 17.