GECEF | Board of Directors

The Georgia Early Childhood Education Foundation is administered by a Board compromised of early childhood education professionals from business/industry, post-secondary institutions/secondary institutions,  representatives from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning,  Georgia Department of Education and Georgia FCCLA.  Many of these professionals are members of the Georgia Association on Young Children.

Tonia Renee Durden

Tonia Durden, Ph.D. is a Clinical Associate Professor and Birth through 5 Program Coordinator within the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Georgia State University. Dr. Durden’s professional work and scholarship can be categorized into three core areas of focus: Early Childhood Education (curriculum and program development); Cultural Diversity (research to professional practice); and Early Childhood Systems Engagement (strategic partnerships and equitable systems building). Dr. Durden is committed to using teacher education and research as an informative vehicle towards helping develop educators and leaders who become culturally responsive change agents in their classrooms and communities.


Thelma Hillmon

Mrs. Hillmon is a retired educator from the Georgia Department of Education. Her career started as a Family & Consumer Sciences Teacher/Coordinator with the Atlanta Public System. Here - she taught a variety of subject areas including: Consumer Home Economics, Occupational Food Service and Occupational Child Care & Development. After many years in the classroom, Mrs. Hillmon later became District Supervisor of Family & Consumer Sciences Education (7yrs) and Area Facilities Consultant (11Yrs) with GaDOE. She attained several awards & recognition for her services through the years. Her most prized accomplishments are becoming a Certified Family and Consumer Scientist and serving as President of the Georgia Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Mrs. Hillmon currently resides in Tifton, Georgia with her husband (Johnny) and is excited to be serving on the GECEF Board.


Leslie McKenzie, MEd

ECCE Instructor/Advisor
ECESA Faculty Advisor
Athens Technical College

Responsibilities include: Plan and implement lessons and labs for various classes in the Early Childhood Education Department. Classes taught include: Creative Activities; Exceptionalities; Social Issues and Family Involvement; Child Growth and Development; Exceptionalities; Paraprofessional Methods and Materials; Paraprofessional Roles and Practices; Health, Safety and Nutrition; Language and Literacy; and Math and Science. Supervise practicum and intern students. Maintain student records. Develop content for new courses in Classroom Strategies for Exceptional Children and Exploring Your Role in the Exceptional Environment. Advisement of ECCE students. Faculty Advisory for student organization.


Gena Sapp, MEd

Instructor, Augusta Technical College

Gena Sapp is a graduate of GSU with a Bachelor's Degree in Child
Development and a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education.  She is the
director of Southeastern Technical College Child Development for over 10
years as well as an Early Childhood Education Instructor.  Gena has over 25
years of teaching both at the high school and secondary levels.


Jennifer L. Waters, MEd

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
Quality Rated Assessor, Southeast Region

As an Assessor for Quality Rated, Jennifer assesses program quality using the Environmental Rating Scales. Quality Rated is Georgia's system to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early education and school-age care programs.


Linsey Shockley

Program Specialist,Family and Consumer Sciences
Georgia Department of Education

2007 Graduate from Irwin County High School
GA FCCLA State Officer in 2005-06, 2006-07
2009 Associate’s Degree from ABAC
2011 Bachelor’s Degree from UGA (FACS Ed)
Master’s Degree from Valdosta State (Career and Technical Education)
Member of and officer at ABAC and UGA
2010-11 --- served as the AAFCS National Chair for the Student Unit
Taught at Tift County High for 5 years
Pathways Taught: ECE, TAP, and Interior Design
Lead FCCLA Advisor
Member of GACTE, GATFACS, GAFCS
Served as an officer with GAFCS since becoming a professional
GAFCS President 2014-2015


Stacey Neuharth-Pritchett, PhD

Professor and Head of Educational Psychology
The University of Georgia

Stacey Neuharth-Pritchett is Professor of Educational Psychology with research interests that center on the contexts of early educational intervention, kindergarten retention, economically disadvantaged children's transition to school (particularly the Head Start population), and intervention for children with chronic health problems. She has served as the principal investigator, co-investigator on a number of externally-funded research projects on Head Start, early literacy, and teacher quality. Dr. Neuharth-Pritchett teaches courses in educational research methodology, applied educational measurement, and seminars on psychological issues for young children and families placed at risk.


Martha Staples, PhD

Martha Staples serves as GECEF Director, has 15 years of experience teaching in the classroom and 17 years experience as RESA CTAE Coordinator, Supervisor of Home Economics Education, local CTAE administrator, business and industry laison working with advisory committees, assessment coordinator for the  CTAE Resource Network and educational consulting.


Pamela Hall

Ms. Hall has been an early learning educator for over 15 years. Her first steps along the early learning career pathway were as a Montessori classroom directress at New Heights Montessori School, where she worked with children, ages 3 – 9, for five years; and as an early learning program director, leading her staff through national accreditation and state quality initiatives at the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. Transitioning from preschool learning to post-secondary education, Ms. Hall worked as a project manager at Clark Atlanta University’s School of Education, tasked with assisting the curriculum and instruction faculty with embedding STEM content into their curriculum, in preparation for an upcoming SACS accreditation visit; and as a grants writer and coordinator for the Technical College System of Georgia Foundation, writing proposals, which focused on funding scholarships for technical college students.

Presently, Ms. Hall works as the workforce development specialist for early learning initiatives at DECAL, where she leads projects designed to support Georgia’s early learning workforce, including financial support programs for future early learning teachers, coaches and professional learning facilitators, and leading initiatives supporting CTAE early childhood education students and early learning program administrators.

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