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Teachstone Selects 30 Early Childhood Professionals for Its Inaugural CLASS® Observers Fellows Program

June 30 2022 by Teachstone

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – In March of this year, Teachstone announced the launch of its new CLASS® Observers Fellows Program to maximize children’s learning potential through improved classroom interactions. Nearly 300 applications were submitted, and Teachstone has selected 30 professionals to participate in this prestigious program. Fellows will receive complimentary CLASS® training along with specialized support from Teachstone.

This inaugural group of CLASS® Observer Fellows encompasses a diverse background. Natalie Williams is the Director of Education for Miami Children’s Museum, while Katrina Brooks oversees Head Start and State Preschool programs in Southern California. Catherine Slade ran her own childcare program for the Department of Defense, and Isabel Blair currently runs an in-home bilingual child care program in Michigan. Candidates like Shaiasia Wannamaker own a private tutoring and research business in California, and Sofia Guichard is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Porto.

The experience level of the finalists is as varied as their professions. Princess Leggett has been a teacher for more than 30 years, and Margarita Feliz and Grace Perez McFetridge each bring over 20 years of experience to the program. Carolyn Thomas is a veteran educator who has worked as a teacher, school principal, and curriculum consultant. Tamara Shaheed has also spent two decades working with children and families, and Alethea Brown has worked as an early childhood professional for more than 15 years. Natalie Wistner has been a teacher for 10 years.

The Fellows program seeks to elevate racially and linguistically diverse observers who represent the communities in which they collect data. Recipients like Helen Cao help Chinese families acclimate to American culture while maintaining pride in their native culture. Rocio Muñoz is of Ecuadorian descent and works in various roles to promote the importance of early childhood education in New York. Jacqueline Cruz is bilingual and currently serves as Center Director in a New York Head Start program, and Maria Cristina Encinas, originally from Mexico, has worked in Montessori education since 2003. Noziglia Wilde has extensive education experience in Argentina and Uruguay, and Michelle Pérez Burgos brings a background in preschool education to her work as Center Manager in Puerto Rico. Sonia Di-Majo was born in El Salvador and is currently responsible for early childhood education programs at a children’s center in Washington, D.C. Robert Fillmore brings over 25 years of experience in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start and American Indian/Alaskan Native Head Start programs.

Participants like Melody McGuire are on a mission to promote awareness of the importance of early childhood education and care. Lettie Williams trains and supports Head Start and Early Head Start staff, and Delilah Blanca Worrell is driven to serve others in an educator and administrator capacity. Tomoko Wakabayashi’s professional interests include identifying early learning factors related to school readiness and success, educational equity, and trauma-informed environment and practices. Tara Rayers, a biracial member of the LGBTIQ+ community, seeks to better serve underrepresented populations.

Promoting literacy is a key focus for recipients like Dr. Velvet L. Smith, whose passion is teaching students to read fluently and improve their overall comprehension. Gina Bell’s tutoring service in New Orleans equips children with the literacy foundation needed to succeed in school and everyday life. Dr. Ka’Wanda Bell-Leggett has close to 20 years of experience as a teacher, reading interventionist, reading specialist, instructional coach, and secondary literacy training facilitator. Angelique Kirton served as a reading literacy coach before becoming an educational coach to mentor teachers on best practices within the classroom.

Even across the diverse backgrounds, qualifications, and interests, the ultimate focus for Fellows participants is the same: improve the classroom experience for children in their care. More information about the recipients will soon be available through the CLASS® Observer Directory. To learn more about the CLASS® Observers Fellow Program, visit https://teachstone.com/observer-fellows/.


Meet our fellows

Together, these 34 Fellows have self-identified as speaking the following languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Taishanese Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog. And of this group, 3% are multilingual, 50% identify as BIPOC, and 47% are BIPOC and multilingual.

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Where are our fellows from?

The group is geographically diverse, representing 11 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Portugal.


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