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Early Elementary

The cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development of early childhood extends through age eight.  Thus, our focus on programs, policies, and practices that impact young children includes an understanding of what high quality and best practice means in kindergarten, first, second, and third grade and in out of school time programs for those children. 

You can learn about our Early Elementary work here.

Our Experts

 

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.

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.

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. 

 

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.

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. 

 

 

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.

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.  

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.

Jennifer Rountree joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as an Early Childhood Specialist in December, 2015.  Her work focuses on professional development, specifically supporting quality improvement and offering consultations to the Quality Improvement Consultants and Quality Improvement Specialists across the state that are part of the Great Start to Quality Network of Resource Centers.  Ms. Rountree will be facilitating the Quality Improvement Professional Development Advisory group.  In her role, she will also oversee implementation and training of trainers in the Great Start to Quality Orientation.

Ms. Rountree began her career in early childhood education as a preschool teacher in 2000 and has taught in elementary settings too.  She has worked in Reggio-inspired, Head Start, and GSRP classrooms.  Ms. Rountree is trained in High Scope curriculum and assessment using the Classroom Observation Record (COR Advantage), is certified Program Quality Assessment (PQA) Reliable, Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Reliable, and has experience using Work Sampling and Project-Based Approach curriculums.  She is also trained in Adaptive Schools.

Ms. Rountree was a head preschool teacher at Early LCC (Lansing Community College’s Lab School) and has expertise in supporting adult learners as well. While at Early LCC, she served on the Ingham County Kindergarten Transition Committee working collaboratively on reviewing data and implementation of the Kindergarten Observation Assessment (KOA) and taking part of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Accreditation.  Most recently, she was an Early Childhood Professional Development Specialist with Child Connect for Family Success a non-profit that services Livingston and Genesee Counties.  During her time, she served as Co-Chair of Great Start Livingston, Project Director of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) initiative, oversaw the Ready, Set, Learn!; a 32p grant funded child expulsion prevention program, served as a Professional Development Specialist for the CDA Council, a contracted trainer for the Southeast Resource Center, instructed the Genesee County Child Development Associate (CDA) program, and facilitator of the Livingston County Directors’ Association.  Ms. Rountree is passionate about advocating for all children and families to have access to high quality early childhood education and for providers to feel supported in their roles.

Ms. Rountree earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from The Ohio State University and her elementary teaching certification from California Lutheran University.

Stephanie Scavarda joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Validator in December 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.  Ms. Scavarda has worked in the field of Early Childhood for the past seven years. She has worked in a private preschool, Head Start/ GSRP and informal education teaching summer camps.  Ms. Scavarda has worked as a Lead teacher, Assistant Teacher, Program Coordinator and a Home Child Care Provider. She has experience working with children from birth to 8 years old.  Ms. Scavarda has knowledge and experience with best practice, writing curriculum and family involvement.

Ms. Scavarda received a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Development, from Kaplan University.  She is working on a Masters in Art’s In Teaching from Kaplan University to increase her knowledge of Early Childhood and Education.

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.