Header Image

Birth to Three

While all of early childhood requires a mix of approaches that help children within the context of family and community, this is particularly true when working with infants and toddlers.  On our staff we have people who have worked directly with infants, toddlers, and their families to provide care and services like Early On, home visitation, and high quality child care options.

You can learn about our Birth to Three work here.

Our Experts

Jordan Blough-Orr joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2012 as a Communications Specialist. In August of 2014 Ms. Blough-Orr transitioned to the role of Early Childhood Specialist.   Ms. Blough-Orr works across multiple projects at the Investment Corporation with a focus on school-age children and family engagement. She continues to serve as a resource to the Great Start Network in providing network-wide training and technical assistance in the use of social media and has a particular focus on enhancing the effectiveness of communications with vulnerable parent and family populations.

 Ms. Blough-Orr’s experience includes an internship at the Investment Corporation during the development of Michigan’s tiered quality rating and improvement system for child care and preschools (now Great Start to Quality) at a time when increased attention was being paid to the many systems impacting young children in the state.  Later, working as an intern and substitute teacher in Head Start, Great Start Readiness and elementary classrooms she saw and experienced the effects of systemic inequity in impacting even the brightest child’s potential.  Subsequent training in parenting leadership and the nationally recognized Adaptive Schools curriculum has continued to expand her knowledge base and is fueled by an intense personal determination to understand enlightened parenting practice – both for herself and on behalf of those children and families for whom a strengthened support system is essential.   She combines intense passion for her work with a sophisticated understanding of new and developing modes of targeted communication.

Ms. Blough-Orr received her BA in Elementary Education with ZA endorsement in Early Childhood from Western Michigan University.  She interned successfully in early childhood classrooms and as an early childhood substitute teacher.  She has completed Adaptive Schools Training.  Ms. Blough-Orr is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.

Lisa Bremer

Lisa Bremer joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Assessor in January of 2017.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  Previously, Ms. Bremer worked as an independently contracted Great Start to Quality Assessment Specialist.  In that role, she completed on-site observations of programs’ care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools. 

Ms. Bremer has worked in the education field on and off for the past 22 years.  She has been a substitute teacher, the lead teacher in preschool classrooms, and the assistant director of an early childhood center.  Her multiple roles allowed her to expand her knowledge of early childhood education not only from the teaching perspective but from the management aspect as well.  She homeschooled two of her four children through elementary school and has volunteered in her children’s classrooms throughout their education. 

Ms. Bremer earned her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood Endorsement from Western Michigan University, graduating with honors.  She held a Michigan's Teaching Certificate and is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor.

Early Childhood Specialist

Synthia Britton joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in July 2015 as an Early Childhood Specialist. Ms. Britton will be working across multiple projects at the Investment Corporation with a focus on Infants and Toddlers.

 Ms. Britton began her career at a before-and-after school program and in a licensed child care center in East Lansing, where she supervised caregiver staff and engaged children from 0-12 in developmentally appropriate activities. As a part of those experiences, Ms. Britton observed how stressors on the family impact a child’s life and was drawn to working with and advocating for children and their families who face a range of challenges.  For example, Ms. Britton has worked in a county health department providing assistance to refugee families and provided therapeutic services to adolescents in residential facilities.  Ms. Britton’s most recent experience has been providing direct home visitation services for young children and youth, from birth through age 17.  In her role as a home visitor, she has implemented abuse and neglect prevention/intervention services and served as a parent educator. 

To be effective in her service to Michigan’s most at-risk families, Ms. Britton has drawn upon a cross-sector set of resources and knowledge including in education, mental health, physical health, and child welfare.  Her strength-based approach to working with children and families is informed by her training in Infant Mental Health and in best practices when building relationships with clients within the field of Social Work.  Ms. Britton comes to the Investment Corporation with a wealth of knowledge in working with high-risk populations, administering assessment and screening tools with infants and toddlers, data collection and analysis, and program implementation and fidelity. 

 Ms. Britton received her Master’s Degree in Interpersonal Skills with Youth and Families with a minor focus in Social Policy and Evaluation from the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Community Services from Michigan State University.  In 2015, she was awarded a Level 2 Endorsement with the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health and is pursuing her license in Social Work.

Kelly Christman

Kelly Christman joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2013 as an intern.  Upon completion of her internship she became an independently contracted Great Start to Quality Assessment Specialist.  In this role she validated programs’ Self-Assessment Surveys and completed on-site observations of programs’ care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  In 2015 she was hired as a Great Start to Quality Validator.  Her work as a Validator focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing evidence submitted by programs and providers as part of their Self-Assessment Survey.  In December of 2015, Ms. Christman transitioned to the role of Early Childhood Specialist where she works across multiple projects.  Her current work focuses on providing support to the Great Start to Quality statewide network through quality improvement initiatives as well as supporting the work of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant.

Ms. Christman has experience working with young children within the classroom setting and through educational research. For the past eight years she has helped educate and care for children, applying her extensive child development knowledge and training to her interactions with children and early childhood professionals.  Her early childhood research experience is grounded in the time she spent as a Research Assistant at the Michigan State University Early Language and Literacy Investigation Lab where she worked on data collection, coding, entry and cleaning for several projects.  Her teaching experiences at Michigan State University Child Development Laboratories included preschool, Head start settings and inclusive classrooms. 

Ms. Christman received her Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Community Services from Michigan State University specializing in Early Childhood Education.  She is currently a Master’s Degree Candidate in Child Development at Michigan State University.  Ms. Christman is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor.

Heather Evans

Heather Evans became the Great Start to Quality Validation and Assessment Manager at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in February of 2015.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by making sure that both the self and outside assessment processes are implemented effectively and efficiently.  From 2012 - 2015 Ms. Evans worked as an independently contracted Validation Coordinator and as an Assessment Specialist.  In that role, she validated programs’ Self-Assessment-Surveys and completed on-site observations of programs’ care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  

For seven years prior to joining the Investment Corporation, Heather worked in a child care center located within a medical care facility.  During her time there she helped educate and care for children as an assistant preschool teacher and as a lead teacher in the toddler classroom.  She also participated in weekly intergenerational activities between the children and the residents who lived at the facility. 

Heather’s knowledge and skills of early childhood have allowed her to work and volunteer in various roles within her community.  She has worked in family child care programs, taught Sunday preschool, became the Youth Group Director at her local church, volunteered within her community’s elementary schools, and at her local Family Literacy Center where she is a certified child tutor. 

Ms. Evans received her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Ashford University.  She also received her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Baker College of Flint where she earned an honor graduate award.  She is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor. 

Bryn Fortune is the Projects Manager for Parent Leadership at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.  In this role, Ms. Fortune oversees a variety of projects and initiatives in areas related to parent education, involvement, engagement and leadership.  She joined the Investment Corporation in 2009.

For over 25 years, Ms. Fortune’s career in early childhood has focused on the area of authentic parent voice, engagement and leadership in a variety of state and community models.  She has extensive background and professional experience in leadership development, adult learning theory and curriculum design, training and facilitation practices and designing for change addressing social justice challenges. Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Ms. Fortune was the Director for Michigan’s Parent Leadership Program and its training initiative for Early On (the state’s early childhood intervention system).   From the winter of 2009 until the fall of 2010, in her original role with the Investment Corporation as Director for Great Start Parent Coalition Training and Technical Assistance, Ms. Fortune oversaw the growth and development of this statewide parent volunteer network from 900 members to over 10,000.  Ms. Fortune is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.

In her current role with ECIC, Ms. Fortune oversees the planning, development, design and implementation for the following projects:

  • Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting for parent representation and leadership in local leadership Groups
  • Great Start Parent Coalition Network for Training and Technical Assistance
  • Strengthening Families/Protective Factors for the statewide Great Start Network including Collaboratives, Parent Coalitions and Great Start to Quality

Ms. Fortune received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Indiana State University.

Michelle Golus

Michelle Golus joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in April 2015 as the Director of Great Start to Quality Professional Development.  She provides oversight and leadership for Great Start to Quality - program and provider participation, professional development and technical assistance. She oversees the planned programs of technical assistance provided to the regionally located Great Start to Quality Resource Center Directors, Quality Improvement Specialists and Consultants. She also works in partnership and collaboration with the Director of Great Start to Quality Assessment and Systems to ensure successful implementation and ongoing excellence of Great Start to Quality.

Ms. Golus has devoted the last 15 years of her career to promoting excellence in early childhood education programs. Ms. Golus has held many roles during her tenure in the field including: Classroom Teacher, Early Education Director, Trainer, Parent Educator and Liaison, Curriculum Developer, Program Evaluator, Consultant, Speaker, Coach and Mentor. She has worked with students, families, and educators in both the private sector and public sector and is committed to providing the highest level of quality standards and programming in early childhood education.

For over 8 years, Ms. Golus was the administrator of an early learning program whose foundation was based upon best practices, qualified staff, and collaborative relationships with the families and surrounding communities. This program was one of the first early learning programs in the state of Michigan to earn a 5-star rating through Great Start to Quality. As an educator and administrator, Ms. Golus demonstrated her commitment to linking hands-on learning to educational standards and is committed to creating culturally relevant and child centered, play-based early childhood environments.  Her experiences and education work in tandem to promote the importance of play, developmentally appropriate practices, and excellence in all facets of early childhood education.

Ms. Golus has also worked as a professional development trainer and a national lecture trainer educating adults all across the nation in topics such as: excellence in early childhood education, curriculum and best practices, assessment and observation, literacy and math foundations, professionalism in the early childhood field, parents as partners, as well as an entire collection of HighScope training modules.

Most recently, Ms. Golus served as a Quality Improvement Specialist for the Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Great Start to Quality Resource Center. Ms. Golus was instrumental in recruiting and supporting numerous home-based and center-based childcare providers’ participation in Great Start to Quality.  Ms. Golus attributes her successes with these providers to her ability to relate to them as one who had chosen to participate in Great Start to Quality and achieved the highest star rating. She was able to share first-hand knowledge, encouragement, and successful experiences with each of the providers she met and supported.

Ms. Golus continues to use her education and experiences to speak at conferences and lead workshops in hopes of helping to advance a culture of excellence in all of ECIC’s work. She is committed to educating parents, current and future educators alike in our pursuit of creating a better tomorrow for all children.

Ms. Golus received her Master of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute’s School of Child Development, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Rochester College’s School of Education, and an Associate of Science Degree in Early Childhood Studies from Macomb Community College.  She considers herself to be a student of lifelong learning and holds multiples training certificates in early childhood assessment methods, literacy foundations, and more. She capitalizes on every opportunity to learn something new and has plans to further her formal education.

Ms. Golus believes that we can all make a difference in the lives of young children. She believes we can achieve this goal through a commitment to excellence, collaborative utilization of resources, reflection of the past, and intentional practices and purposeful design for the future. Her motto stands, “It is time to be bold – there is always a solution”.

Tracie Guild joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Validator in January 2017.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs and providers as a part of their Self- Assessment Survey.

Tracie has worked in the field of early childhood for over eight years.  She has worked in a NAEYC accredited center, a child care center, a before and after school program, and also taught many youth athletic programs.  She has served children from birth to 12 years old.  Through her work and educational background, Tracie has gained knowledge and experience in early childhood best practice, program management, writing curriculum and family engagement. 

Prior to her work in early childhood, Tracie completed an internship at the Oak Park YMCA of Lansing, where she helped to develop and promote youth programs to the surrounding community.  She worked alongside the Youth and Family Director in learning about grant writing and how to educate families and children about programs available to them through the YMCA and community outreach. 

Tracie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Family Community Services, with minors in Youth, Program Management, Health and Kinesiology, from Michigan State University.  She has experience working with the Creative Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers, the Ages and Stages screening tool, and the Teaching Strategies Gold online assessment tool.  She has used her education and experience to present at early childhood conferences. 

 

 

Kelly Kreider is Senior Director for Great Start to Quality at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC).  In this role, Ms. Kreider works across Great Start to Quality projects leading a collaborative team focused on promoting innovative, high-quality, research-based early childhood practices and policies.  She joined ECIC in 2012 as the Great Start to Quality Improvement Manager, leading the state-wide work of the Quality Improvement Consultants.  She has received training in Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools – enhancing her practices and increasing her desire to provide the most productive opportunities possible for adult-learners.  Following her time as Improvement Manager, she held the position of Great Start to Quality Systems Manager, guiding the development and daily operations of the on-line parent referral system and the on-line Quality Rating and Improvement System platform, the Great Start to Quality STARS platform as well as supporting data collection and reporting related to Great Start to Quality.  And most recently, Ms. Kreider lead the implementation and project management of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant activities at ECIC as the Senior Early Childhood Specialist.  

 

Ms. Kreider began her career in early childhood education as a Head Start teacher, sparking her interest in supporting children and families with high risks.  From there she became a child care center director and family service advocate, supervising staff and daily operations of a Head Start and tuition-based child care center, as well as assisting families to identify and achieve goals and become involved in their children’s education.  She later advanced to Head Start education manager, overseeing programming, classroom practices, and classroom staff training for Early Head Start, Early Head Start Home-Base, Head Start and tuition-based programs.  During her time as an education manager, she championed a focus on developmentally appropriate practices and nurtured a passion for developmentally appropriate approaches to science and math for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  Ms. Kreider subsequently worked for the Western Great Start to Quality Resource Center at Pathways, MI as a Quality Improvement Consultant, supporting child care programs and Family and Group Home providers in their work to improve quality of care.

Ms. Kreider serves on the Governing Board of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (MiAEYC) as President, formerly serving as Conference Volunteer Coordinator, Vice-President, Affiliate Representative, and Secretary.

Ms. Kreider earned her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Central Michigan University and her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Grand Valley State University.  She is also a certified Strengthening Families trainer and CLASS observer.

Nicole Kretzschmer is the Assessment Manager for Great Start to Quality at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.  In this role, Ms. Kretzschmer provides oversight and leadership to the Assessment Team in implementing the Assessment portion of Great Start to Quality by conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools. She joined the Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Validator in January of 2015.  This work was focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs and providers as a part of their Self-Assessment Survey.  Previously, Ms. Kretzschmer worked as an independently contracted Great Start to Quality Assessment Specialist.  In that role, she validated programs’ Self-Assessment-Surveys and completed on-site observations of programs’ care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools. 

For six years prior to joining Great Start to Quality, Ms. Kretzschmer worked in various early childhood programs with a diverse set of early childhood professionals, families, and children to support quality early childhood education.  She has experience working with children from birth through eighth grade in settings which include family child care programs, privately owned child care programs, religious-based programs, summer camps, and Head Start.  She has been a preschool lead teacher and has worked with elementary age children in out of school time settings.  During her time working in a Head Start program, she gained an in-depth understanding of preschool curriculum best practice, child development screening and assessment, and how to structure peer learning opportunities for fellow teachers. Ms. Kretzschmer also led a motor development class that was open to all families in her local community. 

Ms. Kretzschmer received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Great Lakes Christian College.  She is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor, has completed Adaptive Schools Training, and has continued to increase her knowledge through participating in trainings and professional development opportunities in early childhood.  

Kimmy McAuley joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Validator in September of 2017. Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs and providers as a part of their Self-Assessment Survey.

Ms. McAuley has worked in the field of early childhood since 2012. She has worked in two NAEYC accredited centers, and also taught many youth athletic programs. Ms. McAuley has worked as both an assistant and lead teacher. She has served children from birth to 14 years old. Through her work and educational background, Ms. McAuley has gained knowledge and experience in early childhood best practice, program management, writing curriculum and family engagement. 

Alongside working at centers, Ms. McAuley has spent the last three summers with children in a community outreach program in Lansing, building connections and community with underserved populations. 

Ms. McAuley received her Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Early Childhood Development, from Michigan State University. She has experience working with the Program Quality Assessments, Creative Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers, the Ages and Stages screening tool, and the Teaching Strategies Gold and COR Advantage online assessment tool. She has used her education and experience for guest lectures and presentations at Michigan State University and local Early Childhood Development conferences, while also collaborating with a team to create MSU's Infant/Toddler Curriculum. 

Melissa Mosley joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Validator in January of 2016.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs and providers as a part of their Self-Assessment Survey.

Ms. Mosley has worked in the field of early childhood for over ten years. She has worked in a NAEYC accredited center, a child care center, and a before and after school program.  Ms. Mosley has worked as both an assistant and lead teacher. She has served children from birth to 13 years old.  Through her work, Ms. Mosley has gained knowledge and experience in early childhood best practice, program development, writing curriculum, staff development, and family engagement.

Prior to her work in early childhood, Ms. Mosley completed an internship at the State of Michigan working for the Department of Human Services.  She participated in home visits, court appearances, parent-child visitations, and supported the work of Social Workers.  She gained valuable experience and knowledge of the work of Foster Care, Child Protective Services and the field of Human Services.  Ms. Mosley also studied abroad in Mexico where she worked with children at the orphanage, Casa Hogar Benito Juarez.  She supported the children of the orphanage with homework, arts, and developing their English language skills.  Her time in Mexico allowed her the opportunity to experience and become familiar with the local Spanish culture.  

Ms. Mosley received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development, with a minor in Personal and Community Health and Youth Studies, from Central Michigan University.  She has experience working with the Creative Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers, the Ages and Stages screening tool, and the Teaching Strategies Gold online assessment tool.  She has used her education and experience to present at early childhood conferences.

TaShanna Norrell

TaShanna Norrell joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Assessor in January of 2017.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  Previously, Ms. Norrell worked as an independently contracted Great Start to Quality Assessment Specialist.  In that role, she completed on-site observations of programs’ care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools. 

Ms. Norrell’s goal is to help provide quality education for children. She has worked in the Education field for over ten years, and in the Early Childhood Field for five years. She has worked in preschool settings, as a Head Start Teacher, GSRP teacher, Assistant Director, a Site Leader, and an Educational Specialist for GSRP. She has experience in implementing and training educational staff in the assigned curriculum.

Ms. Norrell received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a minor in Early Childhood Education, from Ashford University.  She also has a Masters of Art in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s of Science in Early Childhood Education with the focus of Teaching Early Childhood to Adults. Ms. Norrell also is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor. 

 

Hayley Norris

 

Hayley Norris joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Assessor in January of 2017.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  Previously, Ms. Norris worked as an independently contracted Great Start to Quality Assessment Specialist.  In that role, she validated programs' Self-Assessment-Surveys and completed on-site observations of programs' care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  MS. Norris has been completing on-site observations for Great Start to Quality since July of 2013.

Ms. Norris has worked in the Early Childhood field for eleven years.  After graduating college, Ms. Norris became a nanny for a family of two young children before taking a position as a preschool teacher in Bloomfield Hills.  From there, she moved out of state where she became a lead teacher in Georgia's state funded Georgia Pre-k program.  She also spent time as a lead toddler teacher while living in Georgia.  In August of 2009, Hayley moved back to Michigan where she began subbing at the ECC in Birmingham, where she then quickly became the lead teacher of their HighScope based preschool classroom.  From there she became an interim co-director of the ECC.  Through her work, Ms. Norris gained experience in best practices in teaching, assessment of programs and staff, and providing resources to improve the quality of the program.

Ms. Norris received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, with an emphasis on Early Childhood, from Western Michigan University and is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor.

Allyson Page, Assessor, Great Start to Quality

Allyson Page joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Assessor in September 2017. Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools. 

Ms. Page's goal is to help provide quality education for children. She has worked in the Education field for over ten years, and four of those years were working in Early Childhood. She has worked in infant, toddler and preschool settings, as a Substitute Teacher, a Paraprofesional, an Athletic Coach, and as a Private and Public School Teacher for Young 5's though 12th grade. Through her work and educational background, Ms. Page has gained knowledge and experience in assessment and curriculum tools, organization and planning, and adaptation and collaboration. 

Ms. Page received a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education with a minor in Health, from Grand Valley State University. Ms. Page is also certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tool assessor. 

Candice Torrealba

Candice Torrealba joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Validator in January of 2015.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs and providers as a part of their Self-Assessment Survey.  Previously, Ms. Torrealba worked as an independently contracted Great Start to Quality Assessment Specialist.  In that role, she validated programs’ Self-Assessment-Surveys and completed on-site observations of programs’ care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools. 

Ms. Torrealba has worked in the field of early childhood for the past 14 years.  She has worked in private elementary schools and preschools, child care centers, and summer camps.  Ms. Torrealba has worked as an assistant director and a lead and assistant teacher.  Within these capacities, she has served children from birth through sixth grade.  For example, she has been a lead teacher in infant, toddler, and preschool child care classrooms, has taught both kindergarten and first grade and worked with upper elementary and middle school youth in out of school time programs.  During her time as a child care center assistant director, Ms. Torrealba gained experience in program management, family engagement, and staff development.   

Ms. Torrealba received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Brigham Young University-Provo, has earned a Michigan Provisional Teaching Certificate, and is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor.  

Renae Visscher joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant Project Manager in January of 2017.  In this role, Renae oversees a variety of projects and initiatives in areas related to Race to the Top with a focus on Pathway to Potential Counties throughout Michigan.

For two years prior to joining the Investment Corporation, Renae worked at Child Care Resources, the Great Start to Quality Resource Center for Southwest, Michigan.  She worked for six months as a Quality Improvement Consultant, working directly with Child Care Providers to develop plans to improve the quality of their programs.  After a few months of working at the Resource Center, Renae was offered the role of Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Project Manager in Kalamazoo County.  She managed the work of the Race to the Top Quality Improvement Specialist and Quality Improvement Consultant in Kalamazoo with Home Child Care Providers and a Subsidized Provider Cohort.

In addition to experience with Great Start to Quality, Renae worked for fifteen years with Lakeshore Head Start on the west side of the state.  She transitioned through the years from a Center Administrator role to that of Training and Volunteer Manager.  In this role, she managed the professional development of all employees, including continuing education and high quality training. She also recruited, trained and oriented volunteers, including parents, high school students, bachelor and graduate level interns. Working with children and families in need and seeing the change a Head Start experience could make sparked her passion for all children to have an equal chance for a quality Early Childhood experience.

Renae received her Bachelor in Psychology with a Child Development emphasis from Grand Valley State University.  She continued her education in 2009 and graduate with her Master’s of Business Administration from Cornerstone University in 2011.

 

Amber Vanderzalm joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Assessor in January of 2017.  Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  Previously, Ms. Vanderzalm worked as an independently contracted Great Start to Quality Assessment Specialist.  In that role, she validated programs' Self-Assessment Surveys and completed on-site observations of programs' care and education processes and practices using the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.  

 

Ms. Vanderzalm has worked in the Early Childhood field for eighteen years.  She has been a lead teacher in preschool classrooms in child care centers and in a Head Start program.  Ms. Vanderzalm spent eleven years as a lead teacher in a Head Start preschool classroom and was promoted to the Education Specialist.  As the Education Specialist, she was responsible for mentoring eleven preschool teachers, as well as providing training and resources.  Through her work, Ms. Vanderzalm gained experience in best practices in teaching, assessment of programs and staff, and providing resources to improve the quality of the program.

 

Ms. Vanderzalm received her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, with an emphasis on Early Childhood, from Western Michigan University and is certified as a reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor.