Texas Early Learning Council Members*positions determined by counting from left to right
**to see a council member's bio, click on his/her name
Cecilia Abbott (First Lady of the State of Texas) Not Pictured
Katherine Abba, Ph.D. (Faculty, Child Development Program for Houston Community College) Row 2, Position 6
Sarah Abrahams (Deputy Chief Officer of Prevention and Early Intervention for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services) Row 1, Position 7
Weldon Beard (President of the Texas Head Start Association) Row 2, Position 5
Terri Breeden (Section 619 Lead Coordinator for the Texas Education Agency) Row 2, Position 13
April Crawford Ph.D. (Co-Director of the Children's Learning Institute, UT Health Science Center at Houston) Row 2, Position 10
Alferma Giles, Ph.D. (Director of the Texas Head Start State Collaboration Office at the Children's Learning Institute, UT Health Science Center at Houston) Row 2, Position 12
Melissa Hoisington (Franchise owner with Primrose Schools and former President of the Texas Licensed Child Care Association) Row 2, Position 4
Becky Huss-Keeler Ph.D (Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake) Row 2, Position 3
Jerletha McDonald (Licensed home child care center provider and the owner and director of Kiddie Corner Learning Center) Row 2, Position 9
Stephanie Rubin (CEO of Texans Care for Children) Row 1, Position 4
Kierstan Schwab (Executive Director of the Texas Public Broadcasting Association) Row 2, Position 11
June Yeatman (Lead teacher at the Austin Community College Children's Lab School) Row 1, Position 2
Also pictured: Dana McGrath (previous Director of Early Childhood Intervention Program for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) Row 1, Position 1, Mike Morath (Commissioner of Education) Row 2, Position 8, Teresa Robledo (Early childhood teacher at San Antonio College Early Childhood Center) Row 1, Position 5, Julie Richards (previous Director of Field Operations for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) Row 1, Position 8
New members (not pictured above): Rachelle Daniel (Director of Daycare Regional Operations for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission), Reagan Miller (Director of the Child Care and Early Learning Division for the Texas Workforce Commission), Amber Scanlan (Senior Vice President and Director of Client and Community Relations for PNC), Kim Kofron (Director of Early Childhood Education for Children at Risk), Tori Lee (Director of Early Childhood Education for the Texas Education Agency), and Marisela Nava (Director of the Texas Southmost College Child Care Center).
Council Member Bios
Cecilia Abbott (First Lady of the State of Texas) Not Pictured
Cecilia Abbott’s story reminds us all that the American Dream is alive and well in Texas. The granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico, Cecilia was raised in San Antonio by parents who were both educators, and who instilled in Cecilia, her sister, and two brothers, a love of learning and helping others. Cecilia took their lessons to heart and studied at the University of Texas at Austin before subsequently earning three degrees from the University of St. Thomas in Houston: a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Theology. Cecilia then devoted her life to serving others. She has been a teacher, vice-principal, and principal at several Catholic schools across Texas. Most recently, she served as the principal of the Cathedral School of Saint Mary in Austin from 1996 to 2001. Cecilia then went on to another noble calling working in senior health care services, where she served as the Managing Director of Community Relations from 2004 to 2013 for a health care company specializing in senior adult health care facilities and services. But, Cecilia hasn't been devoted to helping others only in her professional life; she's done so in her personal life as well. She currently serves on the board of several educational organizations – the University of St. Thomas Board of Directors, the Huston-Tillotson University Board of Directors, the Saint Gabriel’s Catholic School Board of Trustees, and the Cathedral School of Saint Mary Advisory Board. Cecilia is also active in numerous philanthropic groups - she is a member of the Women’s Symphony League of Austin, the Dell Children’s Women’s Trust, and is a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Cecilia is a former member of the State Board for Educator Certification, where she served from 2001 to 2008, and also served on advisory boards for the Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas Chapter, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Texas Regional Office, the Holy Trinity Seminary, the Catholic Diocese of Austin Schools, Ballet Austin, and the Principals’ Center at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Cecilia believes strongly in giving back. Her signature initiative as First Lady combines the two things that she is most passionate about – Texas and philanthropy. She calls it Texanthropy, and through it she promotes volunteerism and service to others across Texas. Cecilia has also partnered with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on a similar initiative – Network of Nurture – to raise awareness about the ways Texans can support the children and families in the state’s child welfare system. Cecilia is a classical music devotee, having begun playing the piano at the age of six. Her piano training came in handy when she moved into the Castilian Dorm at UT, where she serenaded her future husband from behind the keyboard with music, the likes of which he had never heard. She is also a prolific animal lover, and has nurtured numerous dogs into their late teens. She has raised a variety of pets, including a Nubian goat named Petunia. Most importantly, Cecilia is a proud mother to her daughter, Audrey, and a devoted wife to her husband of 37 years, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. With her husband’s election as Governor, Cecilia made history by becoming the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas. The Abbott Family lives in Austin with the First Dog of Texas, Pancake, and the First Puppy of Texas, Peaches.
Katherine Abba, Ph.D. (Faculty, Child Development Program for Houston Community College)
Katherine Abba is faculty for the Child Development and Teacher Education programs. She previously served as the Chair for the Department of Education at Houston Community College.
Sarah Abrahams (Deputy Chief Officer for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services)
Sarah Abrahams currently serves as the Deputy Chief Officer for Prevention and Early Intervention at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services where she oversees systems efforts and program initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for Texas children and families. She led the Home Visiting and Early Childhood work at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission as the Director of the Office of Health Coordination and Consumer Services, managing cross-systems programs and policy coordination efforts with a focus on children and families. Before joining HHSC, Sarah was a Systems Improvement Analyst with Casey Family Programs, providing strategic planning, implementation support, technical assistance, and policy analysis for systems improvement work targeting child welfare practices on national, state and local levels. Sarah has 15 years of nonprofit project management and program development experience in parent education and support, women’s health and family economic wellness. She holds an Masters in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
Weldon Beard (President of the Texas Head Start Association)
Weldon Beard the President of the Texas Head Start Association, the Treasurer of the Region VI Head Start Association, and a board member for the Stephen F. Austin State University Charter School. He is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin University and has completed the Johnson & Johnson Head Start Management Fellows Program and the ULCA Graduate School of Management.
Terri Breeden (Section 619 Lead Coordinator for the Texas Education Agency)
Terrie Breeden has more than 25 years of expertise in the field of Special Education. Her experience includes teacher, educational diagnostician, supervisor and she is currently working at Texas Education Agency as the Part B State 619 Coordinator. Her interests in special education include: Early Childhood, assessment, transition and Child Find. She serves on the Early Childhood Intervention advisory committee and provides guidance on topics related to Early Childhood and students with disabilities.
April Crawford, Ph.D. (Co-Director of the Children's Learning Institute, UT Health Science Center at Houston)
April Crawford, PhD is an associate professor and serves as the Co-Director of the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). In this role, Dr. Crawford conducts research and oversees implementation of CLI’s statewide initiatives focusing on early childhood education, including the Texas School Ready project and CLI Engage, the online platform serving more than 35,000 early childhood teachers, specialists, and administrators in Texas. She developed several research-based performance assessment tools and measures for use by pre-k teachers and served as the lead author of the Texas Core Competencies for Early Childhood Practitioners and Administrators. She serves as principal investigator and co-investigator for three federally funded research projects examining the effectiveness of professional development approaches. Dr. Crawford earned her doctorate degree in political science and public policy from the University of Houston.
Rachelle Daniel (Director of Daycare Regional Operations for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission)
Rachelle Daniel has served as the Director of Day Care Regional Operations for the Child Care Regulation program within Texas Health and Human Services Commission since July 2020. She has 26 years of continuous state agency experience across the Department of Family and Protective Services and the Health and Human Services Commission. Rachelle began her career as a Child Protective Services caseworker and spent 18 years in various caseworker and supervisor positions within that program before moving to Child Care Regulation. Before obtaining her current position, she most recently served as director of the Centralized Background Check Unit within Child Care Regulation. Rachelle has a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Texas.
Alferma Giles, Ph.D. (Director of the Texas Head Start State Collaboration Office at the Children's Learning Institute, UT Health Science Center at Houston)
Dr. Alferma Giles is the Director of the Head Start State Collaboration Office, located at the Children’s Learning Institute at The University of Texas at Houston. She provides leadership/management oversight for all initiatives of the Texas Head Start State Collaboration Office, including the Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System. Dr. Giles has been in the early childhood field for over 36 years working in various capacities. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Education Administration from Madison University.
Melissa Hoisington (Franchise owner with Primrose Schools and former President of the Texas Licensed Child Care Assocation)
Melissa Hoisington is the former President of the Texas Licensed Childcare Association, a Franchise Owner with Primrose Schools, and was recently elected to serve a 2 year term on the Primrose Advisory Council. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education, and the majority of her 20 year career has been spent in childcare administration.
Becky Huss-Keeler, Ph.D (Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake)
Dr. Rebecca Huss-Keeler is a Professor of Early Childhood Education at University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, TX. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Early Childhood Education. She also has taught early childhood education courses at Berry College in Rome, GA and is a ten year veteran kindergarten and early primary grades teacher. She has a B.S. Ed from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania with certifications in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, a M.A. in Early Childhood Education from George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Language and Literacy Development from Georgia State University. She serves on the Houston Good Reason Coalition, advisory boards for Alvin Community College and San Jacinto College North and the Martel Awards Committee of the Houston Children’s Museum. Nationally, Dr. Huss-Keeler serves as a Peer Reviewer for National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) Associate and Bachelor’s degree program accreditation and is Region 6 representative and board member for the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE).
Kim Kofron (Director of Early Childhood Education for Children at Risk)
Kim Kofron is the Director of Early Childhood Education for Children at Risk. She has been in the Early Childhood field for over 25 years working after receiving her Bachelors of Science in Child Development for the University of Illinois. She was previously the Executive Director for the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children. Ms. Kofron worked in the for-profit child care setting for many years including Teacher, Director, Regional Education Specialist and Manager of Education for a multi-site company across Texas. During that time, she received her Master's degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Texas, became a Child Care Health Consultant, and served on the local Austin AEYC and Texas AEYC boards. Ms. Kofron served previously on Governor Rick Perry’s Commission on Licensing Standards.
Tori Lee (Director of Early Childhood Education for the Texas Education Agency)
Tori Lee of Oak Cliff is the Division Director of Early Childhood Education for the Texas Education Agency. She was previously an elementary and high school principal. Lee received a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Georgia State University.
Jerletha McDonald (Previous licensed home child care center provider and the CEO of the Arlington DFW Child Care Association)
Jerletha McDonald is social entrepreneur, event coordinator, consultant, trainer, and national speaker. Jerletha owned and operated Kiddie Korner Family Childcare Center in Arlington, Texas for 14 years. Jerletha is also the founder and CEO of the Arlington DFW Child Care Association and Radio Host of the Jerletha McDonald Show, Everything Childcare, where she and her co-host discuss everything childcare, and provide a platform for early childhood professionals to shine! Jerletha has a degree in Child Development and Family Studies with a minor in Early Childhood Intervention from Stephen F. Austin State University. In 2010 Jerletha interned with Camp Fire USA First Texas Council in the Work Family Division. There she gained and developed the skills to run and conduct early childhood professional development trainings and events. Jerletha is a proud member of the National Association for the Education of the Young Child (NAEYC) and proudly serves on the board of directors for the Dallas and Fort Worth TexasAEYC Affiliate Chapters. Jerletha is also a member of the National Family Child Care Association (NAFCC). Jerletha is a proud servant of her community and advocate for the field of Early Childhood Education. Jerletha has a special interest in the economic security and leadership development of women and girls. Her passion for business and the childcare profession inspired her to form the Arlington DFW Child Care Provider Association in February of 2014. Jerletha enjoys traveling across the county training and advocating for Children Early Childhood Educators. She is involved in the Early Matters Dallas Coalition (DEA) and the Ft. Worth Early Learning Alliance (ELA). Jerletha is also a proud member of the Arlington, Texas MLK planning committee. In April of 2016, Jerletha was recognized by the Grand Prairie NAACP as one of the Most Influential Women in Business. In 2017 Jerletha received the Early Matters Dallas Bright Spot Award. Jerletha has went on to receive numerous awards and recognitions for business and child care excellence. Jerletha is also a 2018 NAEYC Legacy Scholar recipient. Jerletha is on a mission to innovate and advocate for early childhood professionals all over the county, bringing much needed awareness to the early childhood educators who run this profession!
Marisela Nava (Director of the Texas Southmost College Child Care Center)
Marisela Nava of Brownsville is the Director of the Texas Southmost College Child Care Center. She is a Vice President of the Southmost Association for the Education of Young Children Chapter and a member of the National Coalition for Campus Children’s Centers, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children. She also volunteers at the Children’s Museum of Brownsville as a Focus Group Member and serves as Chair of the Texas Southmost College Child Development Program Advisory Committee. Nava received an Associate of Applied Science in Child Care and Development from Texas Southmost College, a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of Texas at Brownsville, and is currently pursuing a Master of Education in Early Childhood from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Reagan Miller (Director of the Child Care and Early Learning Division at the Texas Workforce Commission)
Ms. Miller oversees services funded by the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant. TWC and the state’s 28 Local Workforce Development Boards (Boards) are responsible for the administration of child care subsidy assistance to support eligible families. TWC also administers a quality rating improvement system for subsidy child care providers - Texas Rising Star. This voluntary certification recognizes child care programs who achieve higher quality standards. In Fiscal Year 2021, TWC has allocated approximately $770 million to Boards to support these efforts. In 2008, Ms. Miller was selected as a recipient of the Outstanding Women in Texas Government Awards, in the category of Outstanding Women in Management. From 2010-2015, she served as one of Governor Rick Perry’s appointees to the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care. Ms. Miller has 31 years of state service, 22 of those with TWC. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Studies, Economics, and Political Science from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and their two sons.
Stephanie Rubin (CEO of Texans Care for Children)
Stephanie Rubin joined Texans Care for Children as CEO in 2015. Previously, Stephanie was Senior Officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she coordinated multi-state children’s initiatives focused on early education, home visiting, oral health and juvenile justice. She also oversaw more than 20 state policy campaigns for Pre-K Now, a $10 million initiative supported by Pew and other funders to increase access to quality pre-k across the country. Before moving to Austin, Stephanie served as Deputy Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, Legislative Director to a California State Senator, and Counsel to the California Senate Select Committee on Higher Education. Stephanie received her B.A. from Princeton University and her J.D. from UCLA.
Amber Scanlan (Senior Vice President and Director of Client and Community Relations for PNC)
Amber Scanlan is Senior Vice President and Director of Client and Community Relations for PNC. In her role, Amber leads numerous work streams on behalf of PNC’s North Texas Regional President to include local marketing, communications, client and community relations strategies, branding, sponsorships, partnerships and client entertainment. Her most significant work is leading all philanthropic giving on behalf of PNC and the PNC Foundation in Dallas-Ft. Worth. Amber is charged with developing the strategy for and deploying PNC’s financial resources for programmatic and quality excellence, professional development, systemic improvement, and local and state advocacy on behalf of PNC Grow Up Great, a $500 million national initiative dedicated to high quality early childhood education. This workstream is also replicated by Amber for PNC’s extensive support of arts and culture across the region. Originally from Naples, Florida, Amber earned a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Master of Business Administration from Florida Gulf Coast University. She joined PNC’s Florida market in 2009, and by way of PNC’s 2012 expansion into the Southeast U.S., relocated with her family to Birmingham, Alabama as the state Director of Client and Community Relations. As part of PNC’s expansion to Texas in 2016, Amber was tapped to relocate once again for the firm and moved with her family to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She and her husband have two young boys, ages nine and four. She currently serves on the Boards of Directors for Texans Care for Children (Board Vice Chair), First3Years (Board Chair), the Dallas Foundation, and the Early Matters Dallas Governing Board and Policy Committee. She also serves on the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Education & Workforce Council, Leadership Programs Council, the Leadership Dallas Alumni Association Programs Committee, Dallas Summer Musicals Corporate Committee, and Dallas Theater Center Government Affairs Committee. She is a member of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Women of Tocqueville Society, Executive Women’s Roundtable at the Dallas Regional Chamber, Texas Leadership Council on School Readiness, and is a graduate of Leadership Dallas Class of 2019. This year, Amber is a member of the Carroll Leadership Academy for Supporting Success Class of 2020 and is a current Fellow of Leadership ISD’s Legislative Voices program. Amber is a sought-after advocate, panelist, moderator, public speaker and social media voice on many issues to include corporate philanthropy, early childhood education, arts and culture, and policy and economic mobilization.
Kierstan Schwab (Executive Director of the Texas Public Broadcasting Association)
Kierstan Schwab serves as executive director of Texas PBS. Under her guidance, the 11 Texas stations collaborate to sustain public media. For more than 40 years, PBS stations have partnered with parents, childcare providers and community organizations to get kids ready for school and a lifetime of learning. Texas PBS partners with the United Ways of Texas to assist communities build a learning ecosystem with an initiative called Start Smart Texas(startsmarttexas.org). This statewide effort was designed to develop and expand early learning coalitions in partnership with the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading. It empowers parents and caregivers with knowledge about child development through free weekly, text messages about fun, effective activities. In 2016, Schwab produced the Emmy-nominated documentary The National Parks of Texas: In Contact With Beauty. Before joining Texas PBS, she worked for KLRU, the Austin PBS station. Schwab has a Master’s Degree from the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She lives in Austin with her husband and daughter.
June Yeatman (Lead teacher at the Austin Community College Children's Lab School)
June K. Yeatman is an Arkansas native who found her way to Texas via Hawaii, Labrador, South Dakota, North Carolina, and Minnesota. She is a proud alumna of Yankton College (once known as “the Harvard of the West”, now housing a minimum security federal prison), where she earned her B.A. (History and Pre-Theology) in 1980. June completed her M.Ed. (Curriculum and Instruction, Early Childhood Education Specialization) in 1994, after 10 years of study at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 1995, she has served as a Lead Teacher at the Austin Community College Children’s Lab School. June believes that play is paramount, life is better outdoors, and travel is happiness. She admires auto mechanics, public librarians, and all those who question authority – including the toddlers and college students she teaches and learns with each day.