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 eleven 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 8 years, Denise has been working for HCC as an Early Literacy Coach and Trainer. She provides on-site support and training to early childhood teachers in areas such as early literacy and social-emotional strategies as well as developmentally appropriate practices. She continues to conduct early literacy assessments and delivers weekly small group literacy intervention to “at risk” schools in Hillsborough County. 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.
Brittany Largent graduated from the University of North Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. After graduation, she went on to teach Kindergarten and First Grade in Duval County and Pinellas County. It was during Brittany’s time in the classroom as a teacher that she recognized that her passion was not solely academics, that she was a better teacher when fostering genuine connections and positive relationships with her students. She noticed that many of her students were lacking very important skills that were over-looked in the classroom – the skills that CALM is based upon, such as self-awareness, relationship skills and self-control. Brittany made the transition from the classroom to a non-profit program in 2016 that focused on the social and emotional well-being of students in Hillsborough County Public Schools. During her time there, she trained over 500 teachers on program implementation in their classrooms, and the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) overall. Brittany also provided coaching support to middle school teachers in the county by assisting with the development of countywide Social-Emotional standards, collaborating with a national SEL program – CASEL. Brittany is excited that her experiences have led to CALM at Hillsborough Community College, and believes that this program can do great and powerful things for children and the community.
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!