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 and Early Learning Community Conversation – 2K – Get in the Race.
Denise Pullano has over fifteen years of experience in early childhood education. Denise has a B.A. in Marketing from Florida State University and a permanent staff credential (C.D.A.) from Hillsborough Community College. She has worked for the Children’s Board as a consultant, conducting early learning assessments such as the Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills (K-SEALS) and the Early Literacy Skills Assessment (ELSA). Denise also served as a monitor for the VPK Program in Hillsborough County. For the past 13 years, Denise has been working for HCC as an Early Childhood Specialist and Trainer. She provides on-site support and county-wide training to early childhood teachers in developmentally appropriate practices with a focus on early literacy and social-emotional strategies. Denise has also taught early childhood classes for the Early Childhood Professional Certification Program at HCC.
Jean Flick has over 40 years of experience in Early Childhood. As a high school student working part time in a child care center, Jean was exposed to the joy and real need of quality environments for children. She furthered her knowledge in the field by obtaining her degree in Early Childhood Education. After college, Jean worked at Crispus Attucks Community Center in York, Pa. where she had her first real classroom experience. After several years of employment at the community center, Jean moved to Florida and opened 2 of her own Quality centers. The experiences of owning and directing these centers expanded her awareness of the everyday functions of a successful preschool. Her love for children continued. She accepted a position as an independent contractor for the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in partnership with Early Literacy Matters (ELM) assessing children using ELLCO’s, K-SEALS and ELSA tools. Her last 11 years have been spent working with the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County as a VPK Program Specialist. Jean delivered technical assistance to early childhood providers and planned trainings to strengthen the VPK programs in the community. Her last year with the Coalition was spent as a Provider Services Specialist; a position in which she assisted with the School Readiness and VPK contract approval process. Jean’s experience and education has brought her back to the Early Childhood Department at Hillsborough Community College and she is very excited to be a part of the CALM program.
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. She joins the CALM team in a similar role, with her years of experience using Conscious Discipline in the classroom.
Amy Rowe has over 20 years of public health experience with children and adults. Over the years, Amy has worked with the birth to 4-year-old population in various roles. Amy is a graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Child Development. Amy completed an internship with Head Start and was a special needs preschool teacher for The Florida Easter Seals Society. Amy also worked on raising awareness and promotion to the public of Pediatric Palliative Care during her time at Lifepath Hospice. As a family service coordinator/case manager for Early Steps, Amy worked closely with children and families to align children ages birth to three with appropriate services. Amy is so excited to join this dynamic team as a CALM coach. Working with children and teachers on social emotional well-being is a true passion and brings great joy to Amy.
Beth McClain joins CALM as an Early Childhood Specialist. Her career in early childhood education began over 30 years ago as an elementary school teacher with a concentration in Fifth Grade and Kindergarten. She has also worked individually with students, tutoring in reading, math and writing skills. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from Florida State University and completed master level coursework in Child Psychology from The University of South Florida. Beth is excited to bring her positive energy to CALM to promote social and emotional growth in the classroom.
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 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 CALM a dream job!
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.
Chloe has over 5 years of experience in the field of education. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master's in Curriculum and Design. With her previous experience as a first-grade teacher in Hillsborough County, Chloe understands the importance of a well-prepared lesson that incorporates social-emotional learning to set students up for success even after they leave the classroom. Throughout her time at FSU, Chloe interned at many schools in the Tallahassee area and worked as a social media content creator for the Florida State University Office of Faculty Development. Chloe has always been passionate about teaching and creating a positive learning environment for students and educators. She brings her valuable skills to the CALM and ELM team as an Early Childhood Specialist.
Haley Janeda is a curious, energetic, and enthusiastic individual who is also a passionate advocate for children. This passion is demonstrated by her non-profit work at Champions for Children where she spent 5 years educating children about child abuse, bullying, personal safety, and racism. She also worked in Early Childhood Comprehensive services preparing children for Kindergarten and has volunteered at Boys & Girls Clubs to help at-risk youngsters. Haley is a graduate from the University of South Florida with a degree in Theatre Performance. She is a fast learner, with a keen sense of humor and an indomitable work ethic. She brings her considerable skills to the CALM and ELM team as an Early Childhood Specialist.
Jill Wilkerson joins the CALM and ELM programs with over 30 years of experience in education. She holds a Bachelor of Science from USF in Elementary Education with a minor in Music. Jill spent the early part of her career teaching primary grades in Hillsborough County and Atlanta Public Schools. She found her way into early childhood as a Preschool Director in the state of Maryland. Jill also enjoyed serving many years as Children’s Ministry Program Director at churches in Indiana and Florida. Time spent working with the Head Start program stoked her passion for working with the most vulnerable population in our communities. Jill says, “It is my joy and privilege to equip teachers with new skills as they guide children and families with love and excellence."
After working as an aide at the Highland Park, Illinois Montessori School and as an early education counselor for the Deerfield, Illinois Park District; Marie Risch decided her passion was early childhood education and decided to pursue her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education and Communication. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, and began her career as a Pharmaceutical Sales Executive, before making the shift to education. She was a frequent volunteer at her children’s elementary school, where she was first introduced to the five-step self-regulation process of Conscious Discipline®. In her own classroom, where she served her parish as a catechist in an early education classroom, Marie found these principles transformative. She loves working with young children and is passionate about creating a classroom family where children feel safe, seen, and connected. Marie believes strongly in the Conscious Awareness Learning Model as the foundation for all learning. She integrates these skills and strategies while coaching and providing support for teachers, children, and families.