Gary Burris | Executive Director
As Assistant Director for Quality at the Department of Early Learning, Gary led licensing policy and continued quality efforts begun in the DSHS Division of Child Care and Early Learning. He worked to professionalize the early learning workforce by easing access to college courses, providing scholarships, and delivering wage enhancements tied to higher education. He worked to improve the quality of licensed homes and centers and school age programs through national accreditation efforts and facility grants and loans. At the Oregon Children and Families, Gary’s unit provided state level support such as best practices, staff training and program consultation for community home visiting, positive youth development, child care, family centers, court advocates and relief nurseries. He played a leadership role in carrying out the Oregon’s Children’s Plan – a comprehensive interagency effort to coordinate services for children and families. Most recently with EOI in Seattle, Gary researched and advocated on early learning, asset building, and retirement policy. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a BA from Evergreen.
Brian Cole | Director of Finance and Operations
I lived in several parts of the country, including Nevada and Oregon, before settling in the Puget Sound region in the mid-90s. My partner of nearly 25 years served on CCAC’s Board in 2008-2014, and we have remained supporters of CCAC ever since. Professionally, I have spent most of my career working in the agriculture industry in Finance and Administration. I look forward to working in the non-profit sector and continuing the great work and services CCAC provides.
Alison Ponder | Development and Communications Manager
I have significant experience in the nonprofit sector, both as an attorney and, over the last 8 years, as a development professional. A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, I worked as a public interest lawyer in California and as an Equity Compliance Specialist at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. My passion for nonprofit development began during my time as a Director of External Relations at New Leaders, a national education equity nonprofit. Since then, I have continued to work with other education and economic development initiatives where I crafted communications to engage stakeholders and the community as well as helped develop pathways towards financial sustainability. I am excited to join the CCAC team and support the organization as it continues its critical work to promote and nurture early learning communities.
Allison Woody | Office Manager
“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
Kristin Gomez | Early Achievers Regional Coordinator
I have been passionate about early learning ever since holding my first child in my arms back in 1993! Little did I know of the joys and challenges that lay ahead of me! Professionally, I have worked in the early learning field since 1999, beginning as a pre-school teaching assistant. Since then I have enjoyed serving in various roles: lead teacher, center director, CCAC trainer, CDA observer, Early Achievers coach and supervisor. I am thrilled now for the opportunity to advocate for children, families and early learning professionals here at CCAC in the Regional Coordinator position. It is such an exciting time of growth and recognition for our field! Our work IS important and hugely impactful in the lives and development of children and families. Let’s be proud of all the great work and progress we have made in partnership with our hard working child care providers but remember there is so much more to do!
Lee Ann Bryant | Early Achievers Consultation Manager
I am honored to be an Early Learning Consultant Manager. The benefits of high quality care and learning opportunities for our youngest children are profound and I love being a part of helping to achieve it. I bring over 20 years of experience in Early Childhood Education to my work here with CCAC. I have worked as an ECE Instructor, Parent Educator Advisor to Cooperative Preschools and most recently as an Education and Disabilities Coordinator for Head Start/ECEAP programs. By working together, we CAN make a difference in the lives and futures of children and families.
Sabrina Perry | Early Achievers Consultation Manager
I live, work in and love Grays Harbor County. I have been working in Early Learning for 15 years. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in early childhood education. My experiences include being a center based preschool teacher lead and agency trainer for preschool GLAD. I am passionate about the work that is happening with our youngest learners. I joined Early Achievers because I know that with the right supports in place for providers, the quality of experiences for children and their family’s increases. We may only have children in our care for a few months or years but the impact of that care lasts throughout their lifetime. I look forward to being a strong support to you as we work together throughout your Early Achievers journey.
Heidi Scott | Early Achievers Consultation Manager – Kitsap County
I joined CCAC in May, 2016, after nearly 17 years of working in the field of Early Childhood Education. After receiving my B.A. in Social Work in 1996, I almost immediately began working for a local Head Start program, which initiated my love for ECE. As a military family, my husband and I moved frequently. From Connecticut to Hawaii, and many places in between, I worked in various Head Start programs and private child care centers as a preschool teacher. I taught in traditional, as well as inclusive classrooms before spending a few years as an Early Head Start Home Visitor for Infants and Toddlers. As a Training and Curriculum Specialist for Naval Base Kitsap Child and Youth Programs, I spent 5 years training and mentoring teaching staff in all aspects of child development and curriculum. I am grateful that my travels gave me the opportunity to engage with families from many different cultural, developmental and socioeconomic backgrounds, and I gained a deep appreciation for the importance a child’s family and culture play in their development and education. I learned that wherever you go, families want the same thing for their children, which is high quality care and education. I am thrilled to be working for the Early Achievers program where I can use the skills I have gained to help child care providers in Kitsap County do exactly that, which is to ensure that quality care and education is available to all children.
Amalia Baker | Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant
I joined Child Care Action Council in January 2020. I grew up on the Olympic Peninsula and returned in 2010 to raise my two daughters. I have a master’s in social work with an emphasis in children and families and 17 years of experience working with youth in education and mental health. I became passionate about early childhood education when I worked as an infant teacher at a drug and alcohol treatment center for women. Since then, I worked to promote the healthy development of children as a parent educator with Parents as Teachers, a family counselor, a child therapist, and a mental health consultant for Head Start and ECEAP programs. I am excited to be part of the CCAC team!
Jessica Beckett | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Clallam & Jefferson Counties
I am a small town girl from Northwest Washington. My husband and I have been married for three years and have three amazing children. I have been in the child care profession for seventeen years. I started in high school taking a child care class for high school credits and it was then that realized working with and for children was my passion. I have been a child care facility director, preschool teacher and my greatest accomplishment is being a mommy! I was hired on with Child Care Action Council December 19, 2016 for Clallam and Jefferson counties. I look forward to working with our providers and helping them gain the tools needed to guide our children to be successful through life’s journey.
Beverly Barker | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Thurston County
I began working in Early Childhood Education (ECE) in 1987 as a Behavioral Health Specialist for autistic and emotionally challenged children. Through the years, I’ve had the privilege to work with children, youth, young adults, and families with a broad spectrum of gifts and challenges. Over the course of my journey, I have developed a deep appreciation of and respect for early childhood professionals who work so hard to influence children in positive ways. Supporting ECE professionals in improving outcomes for the children and families they serve is a privilege. I hold a BS in Psychology, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a MEd in Early Childhood Education/Special Education. I am thrilled to be a part of Child Care Action Council and the great work they are accomplishing in early childhood education!
Nattie Diaz | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Thurston County
My first experience with young children began in 1986 while working for the Board of Education in New York City. Since then, my experiences in early childhood have come from various job experiences to include Home family Childcare, public schools and the Armed Forces Child Youth Services. My husband and I are originally from New York City, but we have lived in many areas of the country including Europe. We moved to Washington State in 2001. My husband retired after 20 years of military service and we decided to settle here and raise our two handsome sons. I have recently completed my bachelors in Early Childhood. I’m grateful and honored to be working in an organization that focuses in quality work by training and mentoring teachers to help reach their full potential.
Kelsie Curtis | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Thurston County
Hi, I’m Kelsie Curtis and I joined the Child Care Action Council team in December 2015. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood and Family Studies from the University of Washington. My last position was as a Center Director here in Olympia and prior to that I taught Pre-K. I am an active school board member and church board member in my community and really enjoy being involved. I love learning and I believe in giving all children that same opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is safe and loving. I am proud to be a professional in a position where I can make a positive difference in the life of a child.
Shelly Knight | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Thurston County
“To love and teach our children is to care for our community” is an Alaskan Native proverb that I have adopted. I lived in Alaska and worked in the Early Learning field as a K-3 teacher for several years. After that I moved out to Kalskag, a remote Yup’ik village in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to work as the Head Start Lead Teacher. It was very rewarding living among the Alaskan Natives, teaching their children and serving the families of the Village. I moved back to Washington a couple years ago and enthusiastically continued in the Early Learning field with a Head Start/ECEAP program.With over 30 years of leadership in Early Learning, I am excited to serve my community as a member of the Early Achievers team. I am passionate about supporting providers and the children they serve in the early childhood years-a time that is so precious and so important.
Stacey Misener | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Thurston County
Nearly every job I have had in my 30-year education career, has been working with children, in both early childhood and elementary education. Being the lifelong learner that I am – I earned an AA degree in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education (with a K-8 endorsement), and finally a Master’s Degree in Integrated Teaching Through the Arts. My experiences include para-educator and elementary school teacher, preschool teacher in various types of early childhood programs, assistant director, director and most recently, Area Coordinator of Education and Disability for Sound to Harbor Head Start. The greatest joy I get from working with children is understanding that each child is unique in their own special way, and figuring what makes each one tick. I am excited to share my experiences and knowledge from my years in early learning, and looking forward to partnering with early childhood providers.
Tracy Mitchell | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Thurston County
I am so excited to be working here! I come to Child Care Action Council with over 20 years’ experience in Early Childhood education. I began my career as a parent volunteer when my youngest son was in Head Start. That experience led me to a career opportunity where I worked as a teacher’s aide in a child care center/ Head Start and progressed into a position where I served as the bus driver, lead Pre-K teacher, education coordinator/trainer, and transportation manager for many years. I also took on the role of interim Head Start/Child Care director on several occasions. I have an AA in ECE and Administration and a BS in Child Development. I am passionate about learning new things and teaching others. I look forward to working in a new role and expanding my horizons and helping others reach their full potential in the ECE field!!
Kerry Sanders | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Thurston County
I began my Early Childhood career as a parent in a local co-op preschool. When they couldn’t find a toddler teacher, I was coaxed into taking the position. The fire was ignited…. and here I am 30 years later! I was a co-op toddler teacher and a child care preschool teacher for 10 years and have worked for Head Start/ECEAP the last 20 years as a Center Director, Area Coordinator/Ed & Disabilities Lead and a Child Care Partnership Manager. I have a BA in Elementary Education with endorsements in ECE, Special Ed (K-12) and ECE Special Ed. Joining CCAC feels like a natural progression and a sort of ‘coming home’ to where I began. I am very excited to be here.
Michael Snow | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Grays Harbor County
I started my journey in Early Learning back in 2012 as a Head Start classroom teacher and transitioned to the program’s coach and eventually Parent/Child Education Manager. After my time at Head Start was complete, I joined Child Care Action Council as a coach in 2016. After 3 years of service I joined the Early Childhood Special Education team at OSPI to work on state initiatives promoting inclusivity for about 1 year. I am also an instructor at St. Martin’s University; teaching courses in their teaching program. I am now back at Child Care Action Council as a coach and I am excited to work with child care providers and the families and children they serve. I believe that all children have the ability to learn to love learning and that providers play the most important role in our communities: nurturing children during their most crucial stages of development.
In my free time, my 11 year old son keeps me busy and helps me coach boys high school basketball. We enjoy rollercoasters, theme parks, and videogames. I currently hold a MA in Education, specializing in pedagogy.
Melinda Luark | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Grays Harbor County
My name is Melinda Luark. I come to Child Care Action Council with a varied background of Early Learning experience: teaching early childhood special education in Shelton, Olympia, and Lakewood. I co-taught at Yelm Head Start and helped open Old Town Tumwater center. I worked at two Olympia elementary schools as YMCA before and after school care director. In the very beginning I worked part-time as a teacher’s aide for Head Start at Lincoln Elementary and taught preschool at Olympia Childcare Center. Most recently, I served as Assistant Director at Keystone Learning Center in Aberdeen. I am very excited to join the CCAC team as a Coach/Consultant! I am so grateful to serve on a team that supports and nurtures children and families helping them to thrive. I enjoy walking/hiking in nature, swimming and collecting children’s books. I especially enjoy mailing books to my 8-year-old grandson Wyatt.
Natalie Chavez | Trainer/Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant
I am beyond excited to serve my community as a member of the Early Achievers team alongside caring and committed providers who strive to provide excellent care for children. I am passionate about supporting children in the early childhood years-a time that is so precious and so important. Grays Harbor is my home; I grew up here and returned after college to work hard to meet needs in my community. I currently live in Aberdeen with my husband, our baby girl, Fiona, and our fluffy dog, Roscoe. I look forward to working with the network of providers in Grays Harbor to support our youngest community members during this crucial period of growth and development. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Western Washington University with additional credits in Early Childhood Education. I served as a Center Director for nearly 5 years before transitioning over to Early Achievers in December 2016. I have also worked as a volunteer teacher in the 2-3 year old classroom at my church for the last 4 years. Hablo español y sería un placer trabajar con Proveedoras que se dedican al cuidado y a la enseñanza de niños en ambos lenguajes español e inglés.
Yvette Dear | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Kitsap County
I joined Child Care Action Council in October of 2015. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Services. I previously worked in various Social Services roles which include teaching The Incredible Years parenting class and working with foster children with behavioral aggression and developmental disabilities. Prior to that I volunteered at an adult day center working with adults and elderly with developmental disabilities. I enjoy working in this field because I enjoy having a hands on approach to making a difference in young children’s lives and how that connects with their families and the community I serve in. I live in Bremerton with my husband and two children- Stella, a precocious preschooler, and Harper, a sweet and tender toddler.
Alissa Murphy | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Kitsap County
I joined Child Care Action Council in 2017 after over 10 years in the field of Early Childhood Education. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Child and Adolescent Development and have vast experience working with children and child care centers. I have experience teaching and supervising in various licensed child care centers, and I’ve worked in positions to collaborate with teachers and directors to implement a range of new practices for continuous quality improvement. I enjoy living in Kitsap County and being able to assist local child care centers in achieving their vision.
Emily Long | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Kitsap County
Hi there! My name is Emily and I joined Child Care Council Team October of 2016! I acquired my Bachelor’s degree in Human Services at Western Washington University, where I was able to work in a Montessori setting, and where built my passion for education for the “Early Achievers” that are constantly changing and deserve support through these years of impression. I recently came from an extensive background working with Foster Youth and Families in the Kitsap and Pierce Counties where I focused more on expediting goals case by case in order to ensure family preservation. I am currently an active instructor for the Incredible Years Parenting Program, and advocate for this curriculum. I also have a vast experience working with children and child care providers since I was 16 years old, to the present. My passion is children and their education, while supporting them through their mental and emotional growth. I believe that we are all constantly growing, no matter the age, and as much as we pour into these children, they are in return pouring into us! The more we foster this investment, will it be nothing short of beneficial and rewarding in future!
Sandy Kelley | Early Achievers – Early Learning Consultant – Kitsap County
My path in Early Childhood Development started over 15 years ago as a preschool teacher in a licensed center. I fell in absolute love with teaching and learning about how high-quality learning environments directly impact the development of young children. My education is in Human and Child Development and I have been working with young children and families for almost 20 years. I am the mother of one human and one Boxer who thinks he’s a human.
Beth Schilling | ECEAP Administrator
I have worked in early childhood education and family support for 34 years, including 12 years providing ECEAP services. I earned my AAA in Early Childhood Education early in my career, then returned to school to earn my BA in ECE, and my MA in Human Development just a few years ago. I am passionate about quality early learning, and believe family engagement, community involvement and staff support are key elements to quality, and I am glad to be part of a program and agency that shares these values.
Connie Dougherty | Professional Development Administrator
I am the Professional Development Coordinator and an instructor for the Child Care Action Council. I’ve been with the agency since 2008 and I love my job because our training and consultation programs allow me to empower early childhood professionals even as I learn from them. I believe everyone who works with children has something to offer others! My background includes time as a licensed family child care provider, a preschool teacher, and a private school principal.
Heidi DeVries | Infant & Toddler Mental Health Consultant/ Early Learning Consultant/ STARS Trainer
Hi my name is Heidi DeVries and I have just recently joined the Child Care Action Council and cannot say enough about how excited I am to be taking the next step in my professional career by working and learning from such an amazing staff dedicated to children and teachers. Previously I have worked as a preschool and toddler teacher, nanny, and I also lived at an orphanage in the Philippines for three years working with children of all ages. I have always had a passion for working with children and am especially passionate about students with behavior challenges. My role here at the Child Care Action Council will be to work as an infant/toddler mental health and early learning consultant. I will also be teaching classes at CCAC. I look forward to mentoring teachers to better support their students and provide high quality, meaningful learning environments and opportunities.
I currently hold a BA in ECE and Administration and a MA in Education with specializations in ECE and Special Education. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you!
Rose Tiller | Infant & Toddler Coach/ Early Learning Consultant/ STARS Trainer
Hi, my name is Rose Tiller. I have worked in the early childhood field since 1989. I was the first student to receive an Early Childhood Certificate from Centralia College. Since then I have achieved an AA in early childhood from Centralia College and a BS from Concordia University. For 25 years I was a lead teacher at the Centralia College Children’s Lab School. For three years I taught cooperative preschool. On the side, I mentored for the Bridges to Education Classes and taught workshops and parenting classes. I believe in early childhood education. I am passionate about social/emotional development for children. This gives them the tools to be successful for life. I have two children and three grandchildren.
Susan Burnham | Infant & Toddler Coach/ Early Learning Consultant/ STARS Trainer
I believe adults and children learn best through hands-on experiences. I strive to create a learning environment that is safe and stimulating, providing learners with many opportunities to practice new ideas and challenging each us to see multiple perspectives. I have worked as both a teacher and a manager in a range of education programs, including public schools, private preschools, museums, and community programs. In these setting I’ve created early learning environments that are child centered, play based, and developmentally appropriate. The curriculum I’ve developed focuses on creating a classroom learning community, building language and social skills, and integrating the arts and STEM learning throughout. As an early learning coach and trainer, I provide hands-on learning experiences, best practices and research, support, and appropriate challenges to help providers reach their goals.
Jennifer Cox | Family Services Program Manager
I recently retired from twenty years of active-duty Army service. I served as a Military Policeman where I participated in combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan where I had the opportunity to coach and mentor police and security forces of these countries. I have held many leadership roles and supervised Sexual Harassment, Assault Response and Prevention, Equal Opportunity, and Security Programs at various levels. I am currently pursuing my MA in Clinical Counseling and hold a BA in the interdisciplinary studies of Government, Psychology and Fine Arts. We have a great CCAC team to help manage all our wonderful programs. Quality early learning and childhood experiences help children and families thrive. I feel blessed to have been chosen to serve in this role and am excited to see where we go from here.
Carolyn Fry | Kaleidoscope Play & Learn Facilitator
My educational and professional background are in Musical Theatre Performance. Unsurprisingly, many of these same skills translate well to working with young people! In addition to working as a children’s theater director, choreographer, and music/theater/dance teacher, I have also worked as a nanny, YMCA Site Director, and Elementary Para-educator. Other notable life experiences include volunteering with the Child Life Department at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, co-leading (with my husband) a year-long children’s theater tour targeted at rural communities in South Dakota, and spending a summer in India working with Artists Striving to End Poverty. I am also currently a staff member of Creative Theater Experience. I am especially passionate about Arts Integration, (using the arts to teach academic subjects and build socio-emotional skills), and I rely heavily on music, dance, storytelling, and visual art in my Kaleidoscope Play and Learn Groups. I strive to help children and families see the possibility in everything!
Patricia Granison | Kaleidoscope Play & Learn Facilitator
I started working in Early Child Development over 25 years ago. Serving military families from Colorado, Louisiana, Washington DC, and finally Join Base Lewis McCord. It is wonderful to me to see a child grow up and develop in all major domains of development. To be part in helping a child be successful is a blessing. I have a CDA Certification. I feel fortunate to be a member of the Kaleidoscope Play & Learn program and the Family Services team at Child Care Action Council.
Dominga Antonio-Nolasco | Parents as Teachers – Parent Educator
I started working at Child Care Action Council in the Spring of 2019 as the Parents as Teachers Parent Educator. Prior to joining CCAC, I worked as a trilingual Interpreter in Mason County and supported families and children from diverse backgrounds. Since I was a little girl, my passion has been making a difference in child’s life and I look forward to supporting families through home visits in the Parents as Teachers program. I join a team of people dedicated to assisting children and families and it’s my pleasure to work for Child Care Action Council!
Hola, me llamo Dominga Antonio. Me uní a Child Care Action Council en 2019. Antes de venir también a trabajar con Child Care Action Council. Anteriormente trabajé como intérprete trilingüe en Mason County. Al trabajar con diferentes culturas de familias y niños, trate de apoyar con todo lo que pude. Mi pasión desde pequeña era marcaba una diferencia en la vida de un niño. Mi tarea de trabajo como padre como maestro será apoyar a las familias, incluyendo las visitas al hogar. En este momento, tener el placer de trabajar con Child Care Action Council es más un entusiasmo para mí trabajar con personas entusiastas, he notado que todo el personal que trabaja aquí dedica tiempo y esfuerzo a ayudar a los niños y las familias.
Nancy Hobson | Provider Services Coordinator
I have worked at Child Care Action Council Resource & Referral for over 16 years. Before that I had worked in child care centers in the Olympia area for over 25 years. I started out as an aide and worked up to being a director. In my present position I work with parents and providers through Margie’s Crisis Nursery and the Homeless Child Care Program. I keep our NACCRRA provider data base up to date. I enjoy helping people and if I don’t know the answer I am willing to try and find the answer for you. I enjoy working with providers and helping them get excited about training and now Early Achievers and QRIS. It will help us all do a better job for children.
Danielle King | Safe Kids Thurston County Coordinator
I have been the Safe Kids Thurston County Coordinator since 2011. I have many years’ experience with children: first, with my own; then years volunteering at school; and also as a preschool teacher and director. I would tell the preschool staff that our top priority was to ensure our students were in a safe environment – then we could get to our vital work. This is essentially why I love coordinating the Safe Kids Coalition in Thurston County. No child should be harmed due to the lack of knowledge or funds to provide safety devices – whether it be car seats, life jackets, bike helmets, or smoke detectors. I have a degree in Art and Art History. Besides painting in my spare time, I care for my three boys, my husband, and Max – the world’s most perfect dog.
Melissa Sampson | Raising A Reader and Block Fest Coordinator
I joined Child Care Action Council in 2018. I have an MBA and a BA in Economics. I have over 10 years’ experience in Project Management and two years’ experience in Program and Event Management. I am the mother of two perfect little girls and am passionate about advancing equity and equality in Early Childhood Education to help all children achieve their full potential. I enjoy spending quality time with my friends and family, event design, storytelling using a video medium and reading.