2020 Conference Speaker Bios

Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas

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Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas are partners in life and in EmbraceRace, and co-parents to two girls, ages 9 and 12.

Melissa is the first-generation American, biracial (black/white) daughter of a French Canadian mother and Dominican father, (the island of Dominica, not the Dominican Republic). She’s often seen as white but just as often gets the “what are you?” question or look. Professionally, Melissa has been most interested in supporting learning and life outcomes for underserved students and families, especially immigrant girls and girls of color. Those driving concerns have shaped her work as an educator, NPR producer, education technology strategist, foundation consultant, and now as a co-founder of EmbraceRace.

Andrew is a long-time racial justice guy, a black man of Jamaican origins in the United States, born on the 4th of July. He’s grateful to have been able to do work meaningful to him alongside people whose examples inspire him. He understands that, in myriad and sometimes unwitting ways, the most fortunate people in the US have built their good fortune largely on the backs of the least fortunate, just as the United States has built its cultural, economic and military preeminence largely on the backs of people outside our borders. He believes race has played a prominent role in both cases.

Kristen Hayes

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Kristen supports school districts, nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and cities/counties with managing federal and state grant-funded programs that provide critical education, health and family support services. As a consultant, Kristen serves as a strategic planning facilitator, grant writer, and coach for organizations to support organizations through change. Kristen started her consulting business following years as a Program Specialist with the US Department of Health and Human Services and Policy Analyst with the US Department of Education. Kristen holds a Masters of Public Management in Social Policy from the University of Maryland – College Park and is currently enrolled in a Data Analytics Certificate Program at Cornell University. She is a member of the Massachusetts Head Start Association Board of Directors and member of the Massachusetts Head Start State Advisory Council. In her community, she is an active classroom volunteer and coach, and teaches a social justice curriculum to middle school students.

Alissa Marotto

Alissa MarottoAlissa Marotto, M.S., is the Research & Evaluation Director for Kids Included Together (KIT), a non-profit that teaches organizations how to create inclusive environments. Alissa sets the research agenda at KIT, develops evaluation activities, and implements data systems. She has a BA in Psychology and an MS in Child and Family Development. She has facilitated research projects in university settings related to parent-child interactions, theory of mind, educator training, early intervention, and inclusion in school age programs. She also has direct experience as an early childhood educator, behavioral therapist, counselor, and in-home therapy clinician. Alissa has worked with Head Start programs for 10 years in various capacities including as a Disabilities Specialist, Data & Planning Director, and Consultant. She specializes in developing policies, training, and practice guides that support inclusion in early childhood and youth settings. Alissa has worked closely with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, military child care programs, youth development organizations, and Head Start programs to develop customized behavior support guidance and training.

Tiedra Marshall

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Tiedra Marshall is an Implementation Support Specialist at the Parents as Teachers National Center. She provides implementation support to PAT Affiliates in Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. She also supports the growing cadre of Early Head Start/Head Start program adopting PAT as Curriculum Partners.  Tiedra was first introduced to PAT seven years ago when she served as an EHS Home-Based Supervisor. That experience afforded her the opportunity to serve as a Family Support Coordinator at the Pennsylvania Parents as Teachers State Office. During that time she was honored to begin her journey as a PAT National Trainer. She has worked in the field of Early Care and Education for over 15 years. She earned a B.A. from Temple University and a M.Ed. from Towson University.

Dr. Jayne Singer

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Dr. Jayne Singer is a clinical psychologist with more than 35 years of experience working with a diverse array of children and families in hospital, school, and community-based settings. She has been with Boston Children’s Hospital since 1988 working clinically with families of children aged birth throughout childhood with a wide variety of medical, developmental, emotional, behavioral, and familial challenges. At BCH, she has been key to launching an early detection of Autism program and the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program. Dr. Singer is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is an International Trainer of the Brazelton Touchpoints Approach to development and parent-provider partnerships, and the Newborn Behavioral Observations system. She serves as the Director of Developmental and Relational Health; Outreach and Programming at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. At BTC, she spearheaded the Early Care and Education Initiative as an adaptation of the Touchpoints Approach, as a method of infusing preventive social-emotional health services into school settings. This developed into BTC’s Tribal Touchpoints Initiative as well as the Federal Office of Head Start National Center of Parent, Family, and Community Engagement. She is the primary author of the Touchpoints in Early Care and Education Reference Guide and the Touchpoints in Reflective Practice guides for practitioners and mentors. She is President of the Massachusetts Association for Infant Mental Health.

Kristin Tenney-Blackwell

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Kristin Tenney-Blackwell, M.A., LLP, IMH-E, has been working with children, families and educators for over twenty years and is passionate about promoting the well-being of young children and the adults who care for them. In addition to her private practice, she has been active in providing consultation and guidance for organizations such as Vanderbilt University, Georgetown University, ZERO TO THREE, the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, Erikson Institute, and Head Start. Kristin has also worked extensively with caregivers and educators helping to support young children’s social and emotional well-being, as well as efforts to prevent and respond to challenging behavior. Her portfolio includes work in national- and state-level early childhood education and mental health initiatives, in addition to coaching, reflective supervision, training, resource development, research, and evaluation of early childhood projects. Kristin is a national trainer for the Pyramid Model Consortium and the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. She co-authored the Devereux Infant and Toddler Strategies Guide and the Devereux CAREgiving Checklist for Families, in addition to the Pyramid Model Infant Toddler training modules.

Anat Weisenfreund

Anat WAnat Weisenfreund, MS has worked with at-risk infants, young children and their families for over 25 years and has a deep passion for engaging with others to develop responsive and effective policies, systems and interventions. As Chair of the Massachusetts Head Start Association (MHSA), she works to forge critical partnerships, and engages in State and Federal level advocacy on behalf of children, families and the early childhood workforce. Anat is the Director of Community Action Pioneer Valley Head Start & Early Learning Programs in Western Massachusetts, where she has made significant impact through improving the quality of service delivery, expanding services for infants and toddlers, overseeing a broad implementation of evidenced based professional development, and significantly reducing early childhood staff turnover. Prior to her work with Head Start, Anat developed and implemented an NICU-based early intervention and developmental follow up program for substance exposed infants and their families at Beth Israel Medical Center. She oversaw the delivery of Early Intervention services to over 10,000 children for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and then held the position of Assistant Commissioner for Child Care Contracts for the NYC Administration for Children’s Services. Anat holds a Master’s Degree in Infant-Parent Development and Early Intervention from Bank Street College of Education, and has taught infant development and early childhood policy as an Adjunct Professor at both Hunter College and at Bank Street College of Education. Anat is a National Touchpoints Trainer for the Brazelton Touchpoints Center of Boston Children’s Hospital, and also sits on the Board of the Massachusetts Association for Infant Mental Health.

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