Confirmed Featured Speakers:


andrea alexanderAndrea Alexander has a love for teaching the exciting side of science to young children through their natural enjoyment of cooking, music, math and art. She is the Senior Principal for Fun Science, Inc., science-based enrichment and resource program that develops and conducts age appropriate science curriculum activities that allow children to explore and develop independent thinking. Ms. Alexander has authored and published "The Frugal Scientist Book", a how to guide for educators and parents marketed nationally through science information and product conferences. She launched "Fun Science 1, 2, 3, Easy Steps Kits" which are self-contained science kits for use by educators. She has used her chemistry degree to support her work in conducting science camps throughout metropolitan Atlanta.

debbie clementDebbie Clement. BFA, is an Arts Enrichment Specialist, Author and Illustrator of Children's Picture Books and the creator and owner of Rainbows within Reach. She provides Event & Conference Keynotes, Seminars, Workshops on Arts and Young Children. Debbie writes and records original songs for children and creates traditional children's picture books. Her publications include Red, White and Blue a National INDIE Award Winner and Kweezletown: Let's Work Together a National DOVE Award Winner. Debbie is known for her creative and high energy presentations at state, national, and international conferences.

jana crosbyJana Crosby, M.Ed., is an independent early literacy and early childhood consultant and a trainer for Kaplan Early Learning Company, specializing in literacy training for the Frog Street Press Pre-K Curriculum, the Nemours BrightStart!, Curriculum, and other early literacy topics. She is also an Early Literacy Volunteer and Consultant for the International Reading Association. Jana is a member of NAEYC, the Tennessee Association for the Education of Young Children, the Southern Early Childhood Association, the International Reading Association, and an advisory board member of the Middle Tennessee Reading Association, among others. She is the co-author for Kaplan's Learn Every Day: Building Strong Foundations for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos guide for the Learn Every Day Infant and Toddler Program, a contributing author for the Learn Every Day Preschool Curriculum, and the author of the Kids Peak literacy curriculum for IRA. She presents at conferences in the southeast and has traveled internationally to train teachers in early literacy and project development in Singapore. Jana lives in Nashville, TN.

Lella Gandini Lella Gandini, Ed.D., currently serves as the United States Liaison for the dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach, a position she has held since 1994. Since 1997, she has been Associate Editor of the journal, Innovation in Early Childhood Education: The International Reggio Exchange. From 1998-2005, she also served as Public Affairs Officer for the American Academy in Rome.
Dr. Gandini is a graduate of Smith College, where she received an M.A. and B.A. in Education and Child Study. She received an Ed.D in Early Childhood, Human Development from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 1994, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters by the Erikson Institute and the Smith College Medal in 2009.

She has conducted research and held faculty positions at the University of Massachusetts, Smith College and is Visiting Scholar at Lesley University 2008-2015 She conducted many scientific research studies in Europe and the U.S. Since 1984, Dr. Gandini has led professional development sessions, lectures, and workshops for educators in the U.S.A, Canada, Mexico and other countries. Her numerous books for educators and parents, including The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education, videos on the Reggio Emilia Approach, articles and interviews, books for children and curatorial experiences have been widely published in The United States, Italy and other countries of the world.

jim foxJim Fox, Ph.D. is Professor in the Special Education Program Department of Human Development & Learning and the Research Director for the Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Learning and Development in the Clemmer College of Education at East Tennessee State University .His interests and expertise include the functional analysis of and interventions for challenging behaviors in students with or at risk for disabilities, social development and social skills training, effective instructional procedures for academic and social behavior development, and research and evaluation designs for educational-behavioral research. Prior to coming to ETSU, Dr. Fox was a professor in the Department of Special Education at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University and a Research Scientist with the Kennedy Center. He has extensive experience in grant writing and directing grant projects, having been the Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator of 9 externally funded projects and 13 internally funded projects.
Dr. Fox is the author or co-author of 70 professional publications and 200 professional presentations. Since 1995 he has been the Director of what is now ETSU's Positive Behavior Support Initiative Project. As Director, he is responsible for overseeing project activities, supervising project faculty and students and providing overall guidance for project training, consultation, evaluation, and dissemination activities.

jack hartmannJack Hartmann M.A., BMI, is a nationally recognized children's singer, songwriter, author, keynote presenter and workshop leader. Jack Hartmann received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Florida and his M.A. in Child Psychology from Assumption College in Worcester, M.A. He started his work with children's music working with autistic children at University of Florida Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. As a counselor, social worker and trainer, Jack worked twenty-five years with children, families and human service professionals in Pinellas County, FL. Jack has written and recorded over 700 songs for children on 26 albums. He has also written a wonderful sea-life counting picture book for children titled Over In The Ocean. His highly regarded educational songs are used by teachers and sung by children in schools all across the United States and around the world. His wife Lisa, a kindergarten teacher for fifteen years was his motivation to write children's songs and now manages their successful children's music and book company, Hop 2 It Music and Press, Inc.

michael levineMichael Levine, is the co-founder of The Learning Groove (TLG), which offers music classes, preschool music curriculum, and an extraordinary line of educational music. He also is the music producer of the first four New York Times bestselling Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin and James Dean, and he regularly performs Pete The Cat stories & TLG songs at concerts, workshops & keynotes throughout the nation. As a singer-songwriter, he has won many awards and has opened for such acts as Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Live, Joe Walsh, and many more. As a performer for children, he plays guitar, bass, and percussion, and he uses the latest hip-hop technology to create live music loops and beats.

brian puerlingBrian Puerling, M.S., NBCT is a National Board Certified Teacher and author of, Teaching in the Digital Age: Smart Tools for Age 3 to Grade 3. He is a graduate of the Erikson Institute and is a former preschool teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. He is currently the Director of Education Technology at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago. Brian is on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Metro Association for Education of Young Children, has worked as an early childhood teacher coach, a curriculum reviewer, and a professional development facilitator for the Chicago Public Schools, the Erikson Institute, Rush University Medical Center Science and Math Excellence Network, Rochelle Lee's Boundless Readers, and United Way Miami-Dade. Brian is a former participant on the Sesame Workshop Teacher Council, and was a recipient of the PBS Innovative Educator Award and PBS Teacher's Choice Award in 2010.

carol russellCarol L. Russell, Ph.D. has a doctorate in Special Education; M.S in Human Development & Family Studies; and a B.A. in Art, minoring in Psychology. She has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for 38 years, and teaching in the fields of Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education for 33 years. Dr. Russell is currently Professor of Elementary Education/Early Childhood/Special Education, Director of Early Childhood Programs, and past Faculty President at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. She is co-creator and co-director of the ESU Children's Art Gallery. Dr. Russell is also the co-director of the Children Inspire Glass Educational Program at ESU. Her latest book, Integrating Arts in Inclusive Early Childhood Environments (Brookes Publishing) is soon to be published. She authored a book on the Sandwich Generation, entitled, Sandwiched! Tales, Tips, and Tools to Balance Life in the Sandwich Generation, and co-authored a children's book, I Like Rocks! She is co-creator and executive producer of I Can Move, an inclusive creative movement video series for children with differing abilities, produced in conjunction with South Dakota Public Television. She has been a facilitator for SIBSHOPS (supportive workshops for siblings of children with special needs). She has been awarded various project grants, as well as teaching, service and research awards. Dr. Russell has authored articles and presented regionally, nationally and internationally on various topics, including: artistic creativity, inclusive creative art, inclusive creative movement, children with special needs and their families, sibling issues of children with special needs, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, ADA and accessibility, Person First Philosophy, inclusion, curriculum adaptations / modifications, public policy, and advocacy.

fletch russellFletch L. Russell, Sculptor and Adjunct Professor of Art at Emporia State University has taught in the area of art over the past 35 years. He has a Master of Fine Arts as well as Bachelor of Arts in Sculpture, minoring in Photography. He is co-creator and co-director of the ESU Children's Art Gallery. Mr. Russell is also the co-director of the Children Inspire Glass Educational Program at ESU. He is co-creator and executive producer of I Can Move, an inclusive creative movement video series for children with differing abilities, produced in conjunction with South Dakota Public Television. Mr. Russell has co-presented regionally and nationally on various topics, including: artistic creativity, art appreciation, ADA and accessibility, and advocacy. Mr. Russell balanced all this, while being a pioneer of the stay-at-home dads in the early 1980s, as he was primary caregiver for the Russell's three daughters for over 25 years.

tally russellTally L. Russell holds a Bachelor of Integrated Studies, Magna Cum Laude, in May 2011 from Emporia State University, with a concentration in Sign Language and Early Childhood. Her career goals include becoming a Licensed Sign Language Interpreter and working with young children. Tally has co-authored a children's book, entitled I Like Rocks! This book expresses the love, diversity of, and lifelong pleasure of sharing rocks. Many photographs of younger Tally in her wheelchair, using other assistive technology are included; however, this is secondary to the fact that she has always loved rocks...and still does today. Tally also has a soon to be published book about her life story, Roll'n, Rock'n & Reflect'n: Living Life Beyond the Wheels. This book includes many lessons learned, with tips, suggestions and resources for individuals with Spina Bifida and other disabilities, as well as for families, friends and professionals who work with them. Since fourth grade, Tally has co-presented an Inservice on Spina Bifida and Nonverbal Learning Disability for her teachers, aids, therapists, and other service providers. This transitioned into co-presenting at conferences locally, nationally and internationally on various topics, including: ADA, accessibility and Creating Barrier-Free Environments, Understanding Nonverbal Learning Disorders in Children with Spina Bifida, disability awareness and equal access. Tally enjoys playing violin, Broadway productions, meeting celebrities, and creating clay koala sculptures.

jim weissJim Weiss has been a storyteller for over 25 years. In June, 1989, Jim decided to do something more with the craft that he had formerly practiced solely for pleasure. He and his wife, Randy, formed a production company, Greathall Productions, and have thus far produced forty eight (48) storytelling recordings with enticing titles from classical literature, such as Aesop's Fables, Grimm Fairy Tales, and many more. Jim's Greathall line is the recipient of more than 100+ major national awards from The American Library Association, Parents' Choice Foundation, NAPPA, the Parents' Council, The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, The Film Advisory Board, Parents' Guide to Children's Media Award and more. Weiss' newest releases are "Julius Caesar and the Story of Rome" and "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch." June, 2014 will mark the 25th anniversary of Greathall Productions. Jim travels extensively throughout The United States, giving live performances at stores, libraries, schools and community events. He has hosted and starred in a PBS television pilot that won a Northern California Emmy for "Best Children's Show," and has even performed at THE WHITE HOUSE Annual Easter Event. As a storyteller, Jim's performances have been described as exciting and enchanting. His connection to his audience is magnetic and interactive, proof positive that storytelling today rejuvenates one of the first and most personal forms of entertainment. Adults and children alike leave the performance feeling that they have really met characters from a wide range of classic literature and folk tales. Jim's presentations garner heightened respect for the art of storytelling and the literature itself.

john wheelerJohn J. Wheeler, Ph.D. is the Director of the ETSU Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Learning and Development. Recently he served as the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Previously, he was the Associate Dean and Director of Doctoral Studies, a Professor of Special Education, and Principal Investigator/Project Director of the Make a Difference Project at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee. Dr. Wheeler holds a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation (1985), an M. S. (1986) and a Ph.D. in Special Education from Southern Illinois University. His professional interests include children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Applied Behavior Analysis, Positive Behavior Support, and evidence-based educational and behavioral practices for children with disabilities. Dr. Wheeler has authored over 60 articles in professional journals, 11 book chapters and books, numerous presentations at professional conferences, and various federally-funded and state-funded grants.



Contact Information

Julia Herwig
Conference Coordinator

Phone: 423-439-7614
Fax: 423-439-7561