DEY National Advisors

DEY National Advisors
National Advisors enhance the work of DEY by sharing their professional expertise, energy, passion, ideas, support, and connections to local, national, and international resources, institutions, and colleagues, as needed.
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Suzanne Axelsson

Play Activist. Pedagogical Consultant. Teacher Trainer at Stockholm University

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Suzanne Axelsson works as a pedagogical consultant using experience, inspiration, and research in listening, philosophy with children, and Indigenous Knowledge to guide creating democratic learning and play spaces in early childhood education. She holds seminars on intersectional approaches to inclusive play as part of the Preschool Teacher Programme at BUV, Stockholm University. Suzanne is published in books and articles in English, Swedish, Turkish, Hebrew, Italian, Croatian, etc, covering topics such as risky play, art, and the Reggio Emilia Approach™; and has written two books – The Original Learning Approach, Weaving Together Play, Learning and Teaching; and Risky Play and Teaching (in Swedish).

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Heather Bernt-Santy

Early Childhood Education Program Chair, Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette

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For over 30 years, Heather Bernt-Santy, M.A. Ed., has been living her commitment to children, their families, and their teachers. You may know Heather from her work as the host of the popular podcast “That Early Childhood Nerd,” but she also loves her work as a professor, speaker, and writer. She has held just about every position possible in the field of early care and education: teacher, director, family child care provider, education director—you name it, she’s probably tried it! Heather is an enthusiastic believer in children’s right to play and of the research that tells us play IS right.

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Samuel Broaden (he/they)

Founder, Honoring Childhood

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Samuel is an early childhood advocate and author who believes in the power of childhood and showing children the power they have within themselves. He has worked in the early education field for 20 years-from a teacher, to administration, to quality coach, to author and speaker. He believes in the importance of creating safe spaces for ALL children to discover who they are and be celebrated for that. He is the author of “Gender Expression and Inclusivity in Early Childhood: A Teacher’s Guide to Queering the Classroom” and “Re-Thinking Weapon Play in Early Childhood: How to Encourage Imagination, Kindness, and Consent in your Classroom”.

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Takiema Bunche

CEO and Founder, Anahsa Consulting

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Takiema Bunche Smith has been an executive coach, leader, adviser, and curriculum designer for nearly three decades. Her approach is guided by racially- and identity-responsive perspectives, and culturally responsive leadership frameworks. As CEO and founder of Anahsa Consulting, she’s served as an executive coach and equity consultant to numerous organizations, including Little Sun People, African-centered preschools, and Carnegie Hall early childhood and education programs. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at NYU Wagner, co-teaching a course on strategic leadership. Takiema’s Journey to Nia Curriculum™: Centering Black Joy and Eradicating Anti-Black Racism in Early Childhood was a finalist in Harvard’s Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge in 2023. She received her BS from Mount Holyoke College and Master’s degrees in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College, in Urban Education Policy from the CUNY Graduate Center, and in Leadership and Management from NYU Wagner School of Public Service.

Erika Christakis
Erika Christakis

Early Childhood Educator and Author

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William Crain

Professor Emeritus of Psychology, The City College of New York

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William Crain is a professor emeritus of psychology at the City College of New York and co-founder of Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary in Poughquag, NY. He is the author of three recent books: Forever Young: How Six Great Individuals Drew upon the Powers of Childhood and How We Can Follow Their Lead (2021); Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications (7th edition, 2024); and Animal Stories: Lives at a Farm Sanctuary (2024), a book written for all ages.

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Rixa Evershed

Beginning School and Auxiliary Programs Director at Charles Wright Academy

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Rixa is a long-time early educator who is passionate about centering children’s humanity and believes that the role of adults is to work alongside them as facilitators of learning. Rixa has been in the field of early education and care for more than 25 years worldwide. Rixa feels strongly that children should have access to play in every setting and be given the space and time to engage in their own learning. Her observations and personal learning highlight the capability that children inherently possess to pursue their own curiosity. A graduate of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Rixa brings a deep love of learning and a commitment to both a child’s right to an environment that is reflective of their unique story and to joy as the parameter for a child’s learning journey.

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Dale C Farran

Emerita Professor, Vanderbilt University

Dale Clark Farran is an Emerita Professor at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Farran has been involved in research and intervention for high-risk children and youth all her professional career. She has conducted research at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center in Chapel Hill, NC, and the Kamehameha Schools Early Education Project in Hawaii. Dr. Farran is the editor of two books, both dealing with risk and poverty, the author of more than 100 journal articles and book chapters, and a regular presenter at national conferences. Her recent research emphasis is on evaluating the effectiveness of alternative preschool curricula. Currently, she is directing an evaluation of the State of Tennessee’s Prekindergarten program. She is a member of the DREME network, identifying early childhood classroom math practices that are most positive for children’s development.

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Carol Garboden Murray

Author, Illuminating Care: The Pedagogy and Practice of Care in Early Childhood Communities

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Carol holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Development and Special Education. She is currently the Executive Director of Wimpfheimer Nursery School and Infant Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie NY. She is the author of books and articles for early childhood professionals and has been working with young children, families, and educators for over 30 years.

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Laleña Garcia

Kindergarten Teacher/BLM@School NYC Steering Committee Member

Laleña Garcia (she/her) is a kindergarten teacher living in Brooklyn. A graduate of Yale University (BA, History) and Bank Street College of Education (MS, Early Childhood and Elementary Education), she’s been teaching in NYC since 2000. Laleña also works for the New York State Early Childhood Professional Development Institute as a Gender and Sexuality Trainer, helping early childhood professionals and families to create expansive and supportive understandings of gender, sexuality, relationships, and family structure. A member of the NYC Black Lives Matter at School steering committee since 2018, Laleña also provides professional development for schools and other institutions seeking to deepen their anti-racist work. Her online course for adults, Rooted, offers contextual background and concrete strategies for anti-bias work in early childhood and elementary settings. Laleña’s first children’s book, What We Believe, was published by Lee and Low in 2020. The companion hardcover, How We Can Live, was released to starred reviews in October 2022.
When she’s not giving young children the tools they need to resolve conflicts and smash binaries, she enjoys reading, surfing, and zooming around Brooklyn on her beloved bicycle (always wearing a helmet!).

Michelle Gunderson, first grade teacher, Nettlehorst School, Chicago
Michelle Gunderson

Former First Grade Teacher, Nettlehorst School, Chicago Public Schools

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“Teacher Tom” Hobson

Educator, Author, Speaker, Podcaster

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“Teacher Tom” Hobson is an early childhood educator, international speaker, education consultant, teacher of teachers, parent educator, and author. He is best known for his namesake blog “Teacher Tom’s Blog,”, where he has posted daily since 2009. For nearly two decades, Teacher Tom was the sole employee of the Woodland Park Cooperative School, a parent-owned and operated school knit together by Teacher Tom’s democratic, progressive, play-based pedagogy. He is the producer of Teacher Tom’s Play Summit and offers a series of online professional development courses for early childhood educators and parents of young children. He has authored two books, aptly named Teacher Tom’s First Book and Teacher Tom’s Second Book respectively. He recently became the host of Teacher Tom’s Podcast: Taking Play Seriously (

Nadia2022-1-3 - Nadia Jaboneta
Nadia Jaboneta

Pedagogical Leader, Consultant, Author

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Nadia Jaboneta lives in the San Francisco Bay with her husband and 3 children. She is a Pedagogical Leader at Pacific Primary Preschool in San Francisco, California. She has 26 years of experience in Early Childhood Education, teaching young children, training teachers, consulting, and facilitating workshops. She is passionate about social justice and is proud to have immigrant parents from Lima, Peru. Nadia attended San Francisco State University for both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. She has written numerous articles for the magazine Teaching Young Children, focused on the anti-bias education practices she uses. She is also the author of the book You Can’t Celebrate That: Navigating the Deep Waters of Social Justice and co-author Children’s Lively Minds: Schema Theory Made Visible. Most recently, Nadia was one of the featured teachers in the film “Reflecting on Anti-bias Education in Action: The Early Years.”

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Susan Linn, Ed.D.

Founding Director, Fairplay (formerly, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood).

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Susan Linn—psychologist, author, and award-winning ventriloquist—is a renowned expert on creative play and the impact of Big Tech and big business on children. A passionate advocate for children, Dr. Linn was Founding Director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (now called Fairplay) from 2000-2015. She has lectured worldwide about the importance of creative play, the impact of tech and commercialism on children, and puppetry as a therapeutic tool. Dr. Linn has written for numerous publications, including The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Her books have been praised in publications as diverse as Mother Jones, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
Among other honors, Dr. Linn has received a Champion of Freedom Award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center and a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association for her work on behalf of children.

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Melinda Marshall

Family Childcare Provider

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Melinda lives in Upstate New York and owns her Licensed Family Child Care Program, Mountaintop Family Childcare. She has been a family childcare provider for 23 years in her home. Her program offers a holistic and child-led outdoor nature-based curriculum, with play being at the center of all they do. She believes that family childcare programs are unique and have much to offer to the world of Early Childhood Education. Melinda strongly advocates for family childcare providers and, with a passion for play-based learning, is also a strong advocate for the children’s right to play.

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Kisa Marx

Practitioner, Child Advocate

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With over two decades in the field, Kisa spent the last five years dismantling the mindset that creates oppressive dynamics in learning environments and charted a path toward healing, justice, and joy through a play and nature-focused philosophy. In late 2023, she founded The Play Lab Foundation. This non-profit organization provides humanity-centered, self-affirming, high-quality care for every child. Aside from fighting to Liberate her Learners at the Play Lab, Kisa is an author, anti-bias curriculum developer, and workshop facilitator. She also sits on the board of Cayr Connections (Come As You Are), an organization whose mission is to increase the quality of life of neurodivergent individuals and their families by increasing the accessibility of trauma-informed, neurodiversity-affirming resources and learning opportunities for adults and children.

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Peter Rawitsch

Co-Founder, Love Our Children NC

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Peter grew up in Homewood, Illinois. A graduate of Wheelock College and Lesley College, he taught in public schools in New Hampshire and upstate New York for 42 years. He was a 1st-grade teacher for 38 years at the Glenmont Elementary School in New York. He was a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Childhood Education. In retirement, Peter co-founded Love Our Children NC, in 2020. The organization works to end exclusionary discipline policies and practices such as out-of-school suspensions and seclusion rooms. He writes songs about educational justice and social justice that he performs at churches, rallies, and School Board meetings.

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Kisha Reid

Early Childhood Educator, Advocate, and Owner of Discovery Learning Centers LLC

Kisha is the owner and director of Discovery Early Learning Center, a wonderful play-based program located in Poolesville, Maryland. She has been in the early childhood field for 27 years and continues to actively work in the classroom with children 3-5 years old. Her passion for authentic childhood has led her to founded an advocacy group called Play Empowers, which focuses on promoting developmentally appropriate play-based education for young children. In her work as an early childhood advocate, Kisha has collaborated with Defending The Early Years, Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, and Explorations Early Learning to promote play in early childhood. Along with her daily work in the classroom, Lakisha also presents keynotes and mentors, consults directly with programs, and hosts her own annual teacher retreat conference. To find out more about Kisha, visit her website,

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Rukia Rogers

Founder, The Highlander School and Author

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Ruth Rodriguez-Fay

 Save Our Schools and United Opt Out

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Kaliris Y. Salas-Ramirez

Associate Professor, Rutgers University – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

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Kaliris Y. Salas-Ramirez, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She has a doctorate in Neuroscience, and her research focuses on health disparities, public health, and behavioral development. Most of her research has focused on substance misuse, cognition, gender differences, and development. Since the pandemic, she used her platform to support communities of color in understanding mitigation measures for COVID. Overall, she believes in community-driven strategies to eliminate health disparities and enhance social services to improve health outcomes for underserved populations. She is an author, speaker, and anti-racist practitioner in education and health care. Dr. Salas is an advisory or steering committee member of several education advocacy groups focused on fighting for fully funded schools, school integration, and authentic assessments for students in NYC. Borough President Mark Levine appointed her to the Panel for Educational Policy, which is NYC’s School Board, in Feb of 2022, where she serves Manhattan public schools (3K -12). She uses her knowledge of developmental neuroscience to support evidence-driven approaches to educating the whole child. A mother of two Afro-Latine children in public schools, she is committed to centering equity in all spaces and dedicated to supporting democratic institutions of learning.

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James St.Clair

Retired Kindergarten Teacher

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Jim began teaching in NYC at age 20. He also taught in Roxbury, MA., and for 28 years as a dual language teacher in Cambridge, MA. Jim is bilingual (Spanish).

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Judith Van Hoorn

 Professor Emerita, University of the Pacific

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Dodah Yirusha

Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

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I am currently entering into my 2nd phase of life. I have been a teacher for 36 years, and I have taught everything from high school world history to early childhood for the past 8 years. My transition goal is to serve better when it comes to advocating for parents of children with disabilities. The special education process can be a daunting task, but parents need a better understanding of the process. I am up to the challenge. I am also a bookaholic, and there is no self-help group for that. I am the proud parents of an adult son and daughter and four fur babies. Numerous god-grandchildren and advisors/friends to countless grown students from the past. My favorite place to be is a warm beach and I look forward to spending more time on them in the future.