Welcome! Our team of passionate early learning professionals work from offices located in Bellingham, Mt. Vernon, Everett, and Lynnwood. We work closely together and support each other to promote excellence in child care settings.
Wilanne Ollila-Perry, Quality Child Care Program Manager
My passion for the early learning field began 39 years ago with the birth of my oldest child. I wanted to know everything about what was happening with his development while researching to stay ahead of his endless curiosity and desire to learn. Since that time my journey has provided me with diverse opportunities that have included family child care owner, center director for families living in a homeless situation, supervision of administrative eligibility, recruitment, selection, enrollment and, attendance and child care partnership sections of Head Start/Early HeadStart/Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and educator for Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University. I have been with Opportunity Council for more than 25 of those years in the role of administrator for early learning programs which presently include USDA/CACFP family child care nutrition, Emergency and Homeless Child Care Subsidy, Child Care Aware of Northwest Washington /Early Achievers, child care/school district professional development alignment with new initiatives on the horizon such as Infant and Toddler Consultation.
I served as board president of Child Care Aware of Washington for eight years and have represented the western states on the national Child Care Aware of America Board. I firmly believe that everyday we have the ability and knowledge to support a child’s caregiver(s) in understanding the significance of their interactions with young children. I live in Bellingham and have two grown children who do not. My husband Craig and my father round out my household and my very favorite thing to do is spend time with my three amazing granddaughters!
Julie Wasilewski, Professional Development Manager/Family, Friends, and Neighbors Lead
I have been in the early childhood field since 1996 and have worked with Child Care Aware of Northwest Washington full time since 2007. I started working in early childhood education with my own family child care. In 2000, I began working as a contracted employee with the Opportunity Council as a STARS Trainer and consultant in 2000. In 2005 I was a mentor/coach with the ESD189 on the Regional Early Literacy Grant. I went back to school in 2006 and acquired my Early Childhood Education Certificate in 2009. Being able to support families, children, and early learning professionals with education and resources is something I deeply enjoy. My heart is with my husband and three children, our black Lab, Kate, and being active and outdoors as much as possible.
Michelle Arinaga, Bellingham Early Learning Coach Lead
My journey into Early Learning began in 2011; I have worn many different hats in the field. I started as support staff and worked my way up the ladder to Center Director. I learned early on the importance of early learning and how under-appreciated the field is to the outside community—causing my passion for growing within the Early Learning field and advocating for the improvement of quality of care, education, social-emotional development, inclusion, and diversity within programs.
In 2020, I completed my AA in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis on Special Education. I am currently completing a Bachelor of Education in Inclusion and Diversity, hoping to pursue a Master’s in Special Education.
I have spent some of my youth and adult life in Whatcom County and can’t imagine living elsewhere. I have a daughter who inspires me daily to be better and do better for future generations.
I aim to advocate for the importance of Early Learning and Special Education services in the Early Learning setting.
Jamie Ashton, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
Before joining Child Care Aware of Northwest Washington at the Opportunity Council in the Spring of 2014, I spent more than 20 years as a teacher and administrator in early learning programs and schools in Whatcom County, leading one program through NAEYC Accreditation. My childhood goal was to become a park ranger and share my love of the natural world with others. Working with young children became my avenue to do this and to watch with wonder as they approach learning with curiosity, joy, and tenacity. I am passionate about supporting teachers and administrators to be reflective learners and am committed tofurthering the early childhood education field through my volunteer leadership roles with Washington Association for the Education of Young Children and National Association for the Education of Young Children. I live in Bellingham with my husband I continue to remodel an old house and transform my yard into a “secret garden.” I am rewarded with occasional visits from my grown son and dream of one-day sailing to Alaska.
Sue Duncan, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I began working with children as a teenager through my local YMCA in Southeast Everett. Later as a parent I discovered the works of Maria Montessori and Bev Bos, and as I graduated with a Spanish degree from Western Washington University, I started my professional journey in the early childhood world. This is where I found my passion: working with children, supporting learning through play, discovery and meaningful context. I grew into a variety of roles: teacher, program coordinator, parent liaison.
Today in my role at CCA, I have the unique opportunity to serve even more children by providing support to their caregivers. I find it very rewarding to support both families and providers by connecting them to the right people and resources they need. I love talking with you, listening to your needs and finding out how we can best support you. Most recently I completed an AMI Assistants to Infancy certification program, which essentially is Montessori certification for working with infants and toddlers. I look forward to weaving that into the work that I do.
Estell Gallegos, Early Learning Coach
My journey in Early Childhood Learning started 20 years ago. I helped my mom start her family licensed child care from the ground up, from designing her space to translating WACs, writing her policies, and even attending trainings with her. My efforts had a domino effect! I ended up helping three of my aunts get licensed and open their very own family child care in their homes. My mom and aunt’s programs were the spark and the beginning of my passion for Early Learning.
I worked at the Washington State Migrant Council (now INSPIRE) in their Migrant Seasonal Head Start Program for a few summers, and I was hired to work in a child care center as the lead toddler teacher. After four months on the job, I was promoted to the director/program supervisor, where I worked for five years and was introduced to the Early Achievers Program. I worked hard on our program and was able to go through the process of getting rated a 3 with the support of an awesome Early Achievers coach! My aim is to be that for everyone that I get to work with.
I could not have achieved my job goals without the constant love and support of my husband, two boys, and my daughter. They have kept me grounded and show me what family is all about. My hobbies are curling up on the couch with a good book and taking out my camera on a nice day and snapping some photos.
Josephine (Jodi) Escalante, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I believe that working in the field of Early Learning, Care and Development is the most impactful way to serve and improve the world. There are many ways to serve in this field and I have had the privilege of working in a variety of capacities. I have been a kindergarten teacher, a preschool teacher, a public school early learning coordinator, a
school district math consultant, and a private non-profit early learning center director. With a Master’s degree in early childhood education, I am certified to teach both general and special education. I am a State-approved trainer and enjoy working with adults as well as children. Prior to working in early learning, I was an investment banker and I like to help early learning folks to develop business practices that will make it easier for them to improve the lives of young children and their families.
Urvasi Graham, Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant
I babysat throughout high school while working other jobs but did not find my passion for working with children until I started studying the evolution of parenting and child rearing while earning my Bachelors at the University of Washington. Though I had started on a different track, my studies and various jobs and volunteering lead me to finalize my degree in
Bio/Sociocultural Anthropology with a focus on parenting and child rearing across time and space. After my undergraduate degree was completed I took some time off from school and worked with children in various settings including working with those impacted by leprosy in Southern India where I was born and raised for the first couple years of my life, volunteering with DVSAS and doing their call line and children’s group, and becoming a lead teacher in early learning daycare centers. After spending several years working with daycare classrooms, some accredited and / or in Early Achievers and some not, I decided to return to school to pursue my Masters. I earned my Masters from Portland State University in ECE where I focused on Infant and Toddler Mental Health. I ran a before and after school program and was a lead infant teacher during this time. Upon completing my masters where I addressed how staff perceptions of self-efficacy directly impact social emotional development of young children, I returned to Bellingham, WA where I continued to work in daycare until I became a Family Resources Coordinator for about 2 ½ years. I spent time also earning my Infant Family Specialist Endorsement which has allowed to me work with our Nurse Family Partnership Program and our local Health Department in other capacities as well.
When I learned about the opportunity to be an Infant / Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant for the region, I knew I had to apply and that this is where I was being called to. I love working with children, families, and providers and hope to be a safe and stable support person for those whose work is critical in shaping the mental health and socioemotional development of young children throughout their entire lifetimes. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, reading, playing table top games, and spending time with my Fiancé, friends, family, and many many pets!
Jeannie Lamphiear, Child Care Nutrition Program Coordinator
I have devoted my entire career to early learning. I began as a family home childcare provider. I then earned a degree in Education from Western Washington University, and worked as a substitute teacher in Bellingham and Ferndale Schools. For the past 20 years, I have worked as the Program Coordinator for the Child Care Nutrition Program at Opportunity Council. I am a state approved trainer, and I work with a fantastic group of family home child care providers in three counties.
Ellie Brown, Early Achievers Lead
My passion for education and love of children started me down a path towards Early Childhood Education over 15 years ago! I’ve held many roles in our field including Program Supervisor, Site Supervisor, Preschool Teacher, Assistant Director and Early Achievers Coach. My experiences include preschool teaching, supervising afterschool and summer programs for children, and oversight of staff, curriculum, finances, and general management in corporate childcare. I earned a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education from Trinity Lutheran College and have since placed enormous value on strategic development and implementation towards helping children grow, learn, and feel cared for. My heart is in seeing children become lifetime learners and helping people reach and exceed their potential in providing quality educational environments. Born and raised in Snohomish County, I now live in Arlington with my husband, two sons and daughter.
Joshua Morales, Early Learning Coach
I have three years of experience working with the Early Childhood Education Systems. I worked as a Family Advocate and also helped manage a center at Inspire Development Centers for the ECEAP and Migrant Seasonal Head Start programs. Prior to that, I worked nine years with Conway School District as a Family Advocate/Paraprofessional for the Migrant/Bilingual programs, and I was Youth Pastor for five years. Originally, I wanted to be a Juvenile Probation Officer, for I enjoy working with youth and young adults, but now I really love working with children and families.
I was born in Los Angeles, California. As a child, I migrated to Mexico back and forth with my parent, two sisters, and three brothers until we all moved to Washington State when I was 12 years old. I graduated from Sedro Woolley High School, and then earned my Associates Applied Science in Criminal Justice at Charter College-Bellingham and an Associates in Theology at the Mount Vernon Apostolic Bible College. Now I am excited to join the Opportunity Council and Early Achievers team, and I can’t wait to start serving children/families in our communities of Everett and the Northwest.
Melanee Renfrow, Early Learning Coach
Over the last 10 years I have worn a variety of hats in the early education field. I started in the field as an assistant teaching Pre-kindergarten and as the children touched my heart I had a thirst for knowledge and education about these young human beings. I received trainings and mentoring from seasoned teachers around me and moved on to lead teaching Pre-kindergarten, Infants and then Toddlers. I received my Bachelors in Education in 2012. I wanted to share my knowledge and start teaching teachers so I became the Education Coordinator for a childcare center. I have been with the Opportunity Council/Child Care Aware since September 2015 as an Early Achievers Technical Assistant. Working closely with providers encouraged me to go back to school to gain more knowledge about early childhood. I will be returning to school for more ECE credits. My three children drive me to want the best care and education for young children.
Jaime Ruth, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I have been working in the field of early childhood education for over 19 years. My love for children and the creativity they embody began even earlier. When my oldest daughter began preschool in 2001 at the Concrete WA Cooperative Preschool, a parent involvement program, I recognized I was drawn to teaching. In 2004, I became the Lead Teacher of the Sedro Woolley Cooperative Preschool. I taught toddlers and preschool age children in the classroom setting for several years, earning my AA Degree in ECE. Alongside Skagit Valley College, the framework of the Co-op provided support, parent education, and promoted longstanding relationships between families and their community.
After my fourth child, I opened a licensed childcare for a period of eight years in my home. The children I served inevitably became part of my family. I relished the joys and challenges of supporting a mixed age group in an in-home atmosphere.
Additionally, I have worked as a substitute teacher for the SPARC and Head Start programs in Mount Vernon. Also, I worked as a Family Resource Coordinator in the Oak Harbor School District, connecting families of children birth to 3 years with developmental delays to services. I am passionate about the importance of early intervention across all early learning environments.
Currently I live in Clear Lake, Washington with my husband and our four children – a blended family made up of one young adult in college, two teenage boys, and a fourth grader – two dogs, two cats and two goats, and 14 chickens. A family of lifelong learners!
Angie Scharbau, Early Learning Coach
While seeking a full time job teaching high school, I stumbled in to licensed childcare and I fell in love with the field. For ten years I supervised school age programs, half day and full day preschool and summer day camps. My focus became cooperative preschool for four years when I became a parent. From there, I have lead independent childcare centers with trauma supports for ten years of my career.
I received coaching over three years when my program went from Early Achievers’ Rating to Renewal. Setting goals for the program and with each staff member took our program to the next level. Early Achievers’ supports help create better program policies, increase teacher capacity, and made us more purposeful in supporting young children and their families. Coaching others in their Early Achievers’ journey is rewarding. This is an exciting time to be in Early Education and I can hardly wait to see the future we create.
I am a life-long resident on Snohomish County. My husband, child, and I live in the Riverside neighborhood of Everett with our dog, Chula. I love to read and am interested in local advocacy.
Elyssa Yunker, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I received my B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Fine Arts with the hopes of going into the field of social work. During this time I worked at the child development center on campus. This is where my love for early education was solidified. I added on a minor in Human Development with a focus on early education and family systems. Since completing my degrees I have worked as a teacher, program supervisor and director in the early childhood field. I have since earned a certificate from the University of Washington in Practice- Based Coaching. My passion is in learning, growth and development in any age and strengthening the awareness of the importance of early childhood education and professional development. I currently live in Snohomish County with my three lively dogs and husband.
Charlotte Zissel, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I have worked in Early Childhood Education for over 30 years and have never thought of doing anything different. My educational background includes, Psychology, Montessori Method, and ECE. I have experience in many aspects of Early Education. I have taught in Montessori schools, owned a family childcare, trained and mentored teachers and directed a childcare center. Since starting with Opportunity Council/Child Care Aware in 2014, I have seen so many educators reach goals they never thought attainable. I enjoy helping teachers create nurturing, rich learning environments for children. My spare time is spent with my husband, two grown sons and our crazy animals. I am in awe of the changes this field has made and I hope that as an Early Achievers Coach and Technical Assistant Specialist I can support teachers to help children be life long learners.
Elaine Larson, Regional Manager
I have been in the field of early childhood and school age care for over 30 years in a variety of settings. My career started out as a camp counselor which moved into being the director at a number of before and after-school age programs. I then was hired by Child Care Resources in King County as their first training coordinator and later became the director of provider services. After 13 years there, it was time for a change and I became a center licensor with DEL in Snohomish and Island Counties, where I worked with a great group of providers and on a team of licensors who believed that relationship-based licensing was paramount to helping providers make positive changes. When the opportunity arose to go back to the Child Care Aware/Child Care Resource and Referral world, I jumped at the chance and was hired in April of 2013 to be the Regional Coordinator for Early Achievers. I love working with the team we have here and seeing the dedication they all have to helping providers navigate the Early Achievers program. I live in Bothell with my husband, two cats and a dog, and two adult children who pop in and out every so often!
Kristen Bowler-Marere, MA, Early Achievers Lead/Trainer
I have worked with children since 1998. I began working in Early Childhood Education almost by accident. I was a new teacher with a Masters in Human Development who just moved to South Whidbey Island. The only work I found was as a substitute teacher at a preschool. I fell in love with the program and children and ended up working there for 12 years. I was a toddler teacher, preschool teacher, lead teacher, the Assistant Director, and have been a literacy coach for David Matteson’s Foundations in Literacy. Now I am a Technical Assistant Specialist, Rating Readiness Consultant, Coach and Trainer for Early Achievers. I live with my husband and daughter on beautiful Whidbey Island.
Kelly Clark, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
My name is Kelly Clark, and I have lived in Snohomish County with my family all of my adult life. I’ve coached with Early Achievers for just over 4 ½ years, and two years ago I became a state-approved trainer. Coaching has taught me that reflection is an essential part of goal setting, growth, and development. Without reflection, one cannot improve upon their skills or change their practices in an intentional way. I love training on topics I am especially passionate about such as issues of racial and cultural equity and inclusion, parent engagement, and behavior guidance strategies. Genuine respect is at the root of each of these topics.
I have worked in the field of Early Education for over two decades, and I’m fascinated by the many discoveries research is teaching us about the complex minds of babies and young children. Educators owe it to humanity to continue studying and figuring out the best ways to support the youngest members of our communities, while allowing them the fullest experiences of curiosity and exploration-filled childhoods. In college I earned a Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a Master of Education in adult education, of which both have added to my perspective that all young children should be allowed to learn through play and exploration, while being supported by caring; nurturing adults and seen as future contributors to their societies and the world. This has become my life’s work, and passion, and I feel very privileged to engage in this endeavor within the Early Achievers program.
Katie Cunliffe, Early Learning Coach
I got started in the childcare field 15 years ago, as a nanny for a one-year-old and an eight-year-old. After getting married and having my own small children, I started working in licensed centers and ECEAP blended sites in Snohomish County. Over the years I have been a Waddler, Toddler, Preschool, Pre-K, and School Age teacher, as well as an Assis
tant Director, and running the USDA food program. My passion is for Pre-K and literacy. I love to read and to foster a love of reading in the children I work with.
I’ve been through the Early Achievers process in two centers in a managerial role. I loved how the coaches really helped to build the confidence in the teachers and program and really inspired the passion in everyone to take their work to the next level and improve their program. I’m very excited to now be a part of that process as an Early Achievers Coach myself, to help reach the goal of every child having the opportunity to receive the same quality of care, and give all of our children a brighter future.
I live in Arlington, with my two teenagers, and dog, where we spend as much time as we can hiking, biking, or kayaking.
Kristin Dachelet, Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant
I have always had a passion for working with children and families in various capacities. While getting my Bachelors in Social Work and Education Policy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison I worked as a Behavioral Treatment Technician utilizing play therapy with children who are part of the autism spectrum. I was also given the opportunity to partner with the Boys & Girls Club as a Social and Emotional Learning Counselor, and utilized my final year in Wisconsin working as an intern with American Family Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in their Child Protection and Prevention Program.
I then moved to Washington to pursue my Master’s in Social Work with a focus on Children, Youth and Families and
Fellowship as an Interdisciplinary Early Intervention Scholar. While completing my Masters I worked with an Early Intervention agency to evaluate children’s development, facilitate play and feeding groups and provide direct counseling
support services to families.
Upon graduating with my Master’s, I was given the opportunity to facilitate a research study with the University of Washington to support the mental health needs of young mom’s. As well as joining the remarkable team at Child Care Aware as the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant for the Northwest region. I deeply enjoy working with Early Achievers coaches, as well as the direct work with the providers and families we serve. I live in beautiful Seattle where I enjoy spending my free time hiking, cooking, and exploring the beautiful Washington state!
Shanti de la Peña, Early Learning Coach
Growing up I spent most of my time around young kids, and have always loved their curiosity and natural interest to learn. My first formal experience working with kids was through an after school program at my local Elementary school where I helped tutor children and helped them with their homework. There I realized the impact I could have on children’s learning and that is what launched me into education. In 2015 I graduated with my AA in Elementary Education and began working at Journey School Lynnwood in the infant room. There I continued on with my schooling while looping with my class up until they were in pre-k. Throughout my time there we went through the EA rating process twice, and each time I learned so much from. After finishing my BA in ECFS at the University of Washington I moved into a program supervisor role where I gained experience over seeing teachers as they create and implement emergent and outdoor based curriculum, and partnered with our EA Coach to ensure our teachers were as well supported as possible. I am passionate about helping people in any capacity, but get the most joy when I am able to help learn and grow in new ways they didn’t think were possible. I am excited to continue to support my community in my new endeavors.
Ashley Stalder, Early Learning Coach
My experience working with children started when I was very young babysitting my cousins. From there I worked in my aunt’s in home childcare, which later
lead me to work for the YMCA childcare department. I spent the last 13 years working in early childhood education with children birth to school age, but spent most of my time working in the toddler room. While working in the toddler room I had the experience of going through the Early Achievers rating process. I attended WSU graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science with a focus in Human Development, Sociology and Psychology. It was in June of 2017 when my center shut down that I moved north and joined the Early Achievers team as a coach, where I hope to continue supporting children’s learning and teacher professional development.
Angela Thatcher, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I have always loved working with young children. My first job was working in an infant center as an infant teacher, although at that time I didn’t know I would still be in the field almost 30 years later, I loved that job. After completing my AA in interior design I soon learned that Early Learning was where I belonged. I opened up a family childcare and continued my education in Early Childhood and received my second Associates degree in Early Childhood. After working as a center director for 15 years I wanted to learn more about early learning.
My commitment to being a life long learner has encouraged me to never stop pursuing more knowledge about this ever changing field. I completed my BA in Early Childhood Education/ Administration in 2010. I have spent the last 10 years working in Head Start, ECEAP and as a mentor/coach for Early learning professionals. In 2010 and 2011 I worked as an early learning coach as a part of Seeds to Success (Early Achievers Pilot program) since then I have worked in a variety of roles working with providers all over Snohomish County, mainly as an Infant and Toddler coach as a part of the regional Infant and Toddler project. So it was a natural transition to the Opportunity Council working as a Early Achievers Technical Assistance Specialist and an Infant and Toddler Coach. When I’m not at work I enjoy hanging out with my 3 boys and cheering them on at their football and basketball games.
Delenee Brugman, Early Achievers Lead
Joining our team is an honor. We ultimately empower our youngest learners to reach their full potential, and we do it through supportive relationships amongst people with the same heart and with the same goal of continuous improvement for early childhood professionals, and families. I like the forward thinking that Early Achievers embraces, and I strive to approach our work with respect, understanding, and kindness. Each child and each provider are unique and require individualized support and collaborative solutions. My “why” for advocating for children, families, and those that care for them is summed up in this statement from our Early Achievers Participant Operating Guidelines, “The early years in a child’s life are profoundly important. The social, emotional, physical, linguistic, and cognitive experiences a child has during this time lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning.”
Susie Manrique, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
My beginnings with early learning started right out of high school working summer programs. I was given the opportunity to work with parks and recreation programs serving underprivileged children. Coming from a migrant background I also hold close to my heart the migrant families and children and was able to work in summer migrant daycares year-round. I worked in a variety of roles, from bus driver to cook’s helper and teacher’s aide.
Then, I opened and ran a child care business for 25 years. I hope to bring to the table my experience. Recently, I completed the rating process and now understand more of the value (for our children, our families) and the privilege it is for me of being a part of Early Achievers. I feel I will be able to contribute to and help my fellow providers.
I was inspired by the video of Margarita Trejo, a provider from Eastern Washington. She ends the video with, “Si se puede!”(“Yes, we can!”) At that time, I was not sure about Early Achievers, but that is when I finally signed on, and now here I find myself in this new chapter of my life with the Opportunity Council. I believe that investing in our children is so important. One of my favorite quotes that I hold close to my heart says it like this,“Teachers plant seeds of knowledge that will grow forever.”
I have lived in Skagit County for 45 years along with my best friend and better half, Joe, my husband. I have three wonderful grown children, and three awesome grandchildren! I am so grateful for this opportunity of being a part of team that holds close to their heart a love and respect for children and their families as I do.
Ariana Santa Cruz, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I was born in Nayarit, Mexico, where I attended school until grade nine. My dad helped us (two brothers, one sister, and my mom) get our residency in September 1998, and I started attending Mount Vernon High School. When I was in high school it was hard to learn a second language because I spoke Spanish and all the students spoke English. It was a new world for me. I met a teacher who spoke my own language, and she helped me little by little to learn the second language. The first time that I worked with kids I was in high school, working a part-time job at Best Self at Madison School. Working with kids helped improve my English.
I enjoy working with people of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. I have current and previous work experience with parents and students providing educational and parenting classes, and I have been working as an Early Learning Mentor Coach for four years. My BA degree is in Educational Administration. Little by little, I’m reaching my goals for myself and my family. By studying and working hard all the time, I will continue to succeed. I have one son, he is 14 years-old and my pride and joy. By setting and achieving goals for myself, I give an example for my son to follow. I live in Mount Vernon, Washington.
Jeanne Holdal, Early Learning Coach
My passion for education began as an outdoor education teacher and swim instructor working my way through school. After my daughter was born, I began attending library events, playgroups, La Leche League meetings and eventually a cooperative preschool. I immensely valued the time during toddler and preschool classes to learn from the teachers, the parent educator and other parents. I felt part of a such a strong, supportive community and I want all parents/families to have these opportunities to experience this level of support in raising their children.
My growing passion and curiosity for ECE propelled me into a career move to be a toddler and preschool teacher. I was fascinated with child development and brain research. I had a deep desire to learn more about the brain science and trauma informed care in early childhood.
In 2007, I began working as the Family Partnerships and Enrollment Coordinator for Skagit Valley College ECEAP in Anacortes and on Whidbey Island. I worked in marginalized communities with families experiencing homelessness, trauma, unemployment and health concerns. I formed partnerships with parents and developed communities of support for each site. I supervised recruitment, selection, enrollment, attendance, parent education and family support services for the program. In 2015 at the Starting Strong Conference, our team presented our meaningful “Kindergarten Study” with great success. In 2019, I joined Opportunity Council and became a Multi-Site Coordinator/Center Director with Head Start in Whatcom County. I have continued my education through Skagit Valley and Edmonds Community Colleges adding ECE and Family Support credits to my BA in Anthropology. I am now working on my Masters in Education through Woodring College of Education / Western Washington University. I feel very blessed to live in Washington State and work for Opportunity Council and Child Care Aware. I live in Mount Vernon with my two dogs, cat and an occasional visit from my adult daughter. I love the outdoors, my garden, kayaking and hiking. You’ll always find me in the water when it gets warm outside. One day I wish to live full time on the water and sail with the sun.
Maria Salazar-Velazquez, Early Learning Coach/Trainer
I was born in Mexico, my first language is Spanish, and I have lived in the United States for 20 years. My passion for education started when I was little because I come from a family where my parents and three sisters are dedicated to teaching. Since I was little, I admired my parents for the love and dedication they did through their work as educators. When it came time to decide what I wanted to do professionally, I became a teacher. I graduated in Mexico with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1999. Years later, I moved to the United States, where I began working as a leading teacher in early childhood education programs. In 2019, I had the great opportunity to become a part of the Early Achievers team as a coach, which has allowed me to support countless families, children, and individuals dedicated to early childhood education.
I am currently attending Skagit Valley College because my career goal is to have a Bachelor’s degree in ECE. I live in Mount Vernon, WA, and when I’m not working, I enjoy spending quality time with my husband and two children.
Toni Carter, Early Learning Coach
My first experiences working with youth were the natural consequence of my devotion to my childhood summer camp. When I became too old to be a camper, I couldn’t bear not to spend summer at my beloved camp. Little did I know, but being a camp counselor would be my entry point to career path that I cherish. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Graphic Technology from Purdue University in Indiana, but couldn’t find any passion for the work. After graduating, I took a chance on childcare and quickly found what I had been missing. I worked for several years as a lead teacher in Indiana before moving to Portland, Oregon. There, I had to opportunity to participate in a program designed for social-emotional and peer-aggression education that profoundly affected my practices. I returned to Indiana to pursue a Masters in Elementary Education and subsequently spent a year teaching 4th grade in rural Indiana. Much to my joy, I had the opportunity to return to early education and even be the co-lead teacher of my eldest child’s class at a center based on Indiana University’s campus. I am thrilled to at last be relocated to the Pacific Northwest near my family, to continue to serve children via supporting the amazing people who care for and educate them. Every caregiver (and every child!) can blossom when given the right mixture of “water, light, and soil.” I look forward to working with you to discover what support and skills will ensure you, and those in your care, can thrive.