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.

Amanda Burross
Early Childhood Education Instructor, FCCLA Adviser, Douglas County High School

Mrs. Burross is a graduate of ABAC, University of Georgia and Walden University. She has been a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher for over 23 years. She began her teaching career at the middle school level teaching Exploratory FACS in Forsyth and Haralson County. She moved to Douglas County in 1999 as the FACS instructor at Douglas County High School where she is currently teaching. Mrs. Burross has a long history of working with FCCLA and FACS. She served as District IV State Vice President for FCCLA in 1990-91 and has been an FCCLA advisor for the majority of her teaching career. She serves a multitude of roles in Douglas County, she is the Education Pathway Leader, working with the county ECE and TAP teachers, mentor and trainer for all new CTAE Teachers to Douglas County and serves as the CTAE representative on many county committees. She is a member of ACTE, GACTE, GATFACS, NAEYC, and GAEYC. Mrs. Burross Industry Certified her program in 2019.

Charlisa Dixon
Business & Industry Partner

Charlisa Dixon started her career with Easter Seals of North Georgia as the Lead STEM Coach for STEM Project then into Education Coach Specialist to bring STEM into the entire organization. . Before then, she was an Education Coach with ChildCare Education Institute training ECE professionals all over the country. Charlisa has worked in the early childhood industry for over 20 years as a director, administrator, teacher, curriculum coordinator, and educational consultant. It is her desire to assist early child care educators understanding STEM by providing professional development and coaching. Charlisa holds a BS in Biology and a MA in Curriculum and Instruction.

Tonia Renee Durden
Post-Secondary Education

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
Retired ECE High School Educator & GaDOE FACS Staff

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.

Shannon Houk
Early Childhood and Teaching as a Profession Instructor, FCCLA Advisor, Rockdale Career Academy

Shannon Houk is in her 12th year as an Early Childhood Education Instructor at the Rockdale Career Academy. She received her bachelor’s of Family and Consumer Sciences Education from UGA and her Mater’s in Instructional Technology from Troy State University. Currently she is serving at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers, GA as one of the Teacher Leader’s for the CTAE program. She is also the Teaching as a Profession Instructor and Intern Coordinator for the ECE and TAP programs. She has been an FCCLA advisor for the last 16 years and is a proud advisor to an award winning FCCLA program. Her passions are teaching young teachers and serving as an advocate for the early childhood education and general teaching profession.

Leslie McKenzie, M. Ed
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.

Jennifer L. Waters, M.Ed., CPSI

Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
Quality Rated Standardization and Evaluation Manager

Jennifer Waters is the Standardization and Evaluation Manager for Quality Rated at the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. She has diverse experience with over 20 years in the early childhood field in Georgia, including teaching, administration, technical assistance, inclusion, accreditation, and assessment of early childhood programs. Currently, she leads the Anchor team that oversees quality assurance assessment and rating processes for Quality Rated (QR), including reliability training and testing for all Assessors on the Environment Rating Scales, developing support resources, reviewing observation reports, and rating programs. Quality Rated is Georgia's system to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early education and school-age care programs.

Vickie Rundbaken
Family and Consumer Sciences Program Specialist, Georgia Department of Education

Vickie Rundbaken is currently serving at the Program Specialist for Family and Consumer Sciences, Culinary and Education Pathways at the State Department of Education. She retired in 2021 after teaching for 30 years in the area of FACS in both middle and high school and also served for seven years as the Georgia FCCLA Executive Director. During her time in Hall County, she taught Early Childhood Education for seven years and received the Early Childhood Education Industry Certification.

Stacey Neuharth-Pritchett, Ph. D.
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, Ph. D.
GECEF Director

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.

Barbara McWelthy
Workface Supports Manager, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL)

Barbara McWelthy has worked in Early Care and Education for over 30 years, with extensive classroom teaching experience as well as Program Management. She was the Literacy Specialist for Kalamazoo County Head Start, Kalamazoo Michigan, where she worked closely with classroom staff and parents to engage young children in positive literacy learning experiences. Barbara also served as an Early Reading First Coach for an Early Childhood program in Cobb County as part of the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s education staff. She has served as an Early Learning Mentor Coach for Head Start Programs in both the Nashville, TN area as well as North Georgia. She has worked as a Trainer and Technical Assistance provider, supporting Early Care and Education staff in Professional Development and meeting Bright from the Start Requirements to enable them to apply for approval through the Quality Rated system.

Most recently she was the Program Coordinator and Instructor for the Early Learning and Development Program in the Tift College of Education at Mercer University. She is now in a new role as the Workforce Supports Manager for the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL).

Randall Wilder
Business Education Teacher

Work-Based Learning Coordinator, Youth Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Jackson High School, Butts County Schools

Will begin my 32nd year in education during the 2022-23 school year. I served 13 years at Montverde Academy (a co-educational, international boarding school near Orlando, Florida), and have completed 18 years at Jackson High School. I also have been working for two years with Foothills Charter High School in our community.

Former GACTE-Division Vice-President -- WBL Division

I am a 1989 Graduate of Auburn University and a 1996 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University.

Married to Lisa (Hawkins) Wilder and we have three daughters.

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