Felicia C. Smith, Ed.D.
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President & CEOContact 502-584-1133 x129
A lifelong educator and national thought leader for teaching and learning, Dr. Felicia C. Smith brings decades of valuable experience to advance NCFL’s mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families.
Prior to joining NCFL, Smith was the senior director of Global Delivery at the National Geographic Society, where she oversaw the domestic and global education strategy implementation and programming focused on transforming the classroom experience for millions of students and educators. She oversaw a team of regional directors charged to enhance partnerships with various education entities to inspire the next generation of planetary stewards.
Smith’s career in education spans more than two decades where she has served in a variety of leadership roles in P-12, higher education, nonprofit, and philanthropy. Her career has allowed her to experience leading systems and develop a unique vantage point of a learner’s educational trajectory from preschool to adulthood. She is driven by her commitment to equity and excellence for every learner. She has been a fierce advocate for teacher leadership programs, competency-based education, college and career readiness, policy transformation, and professional learning. Her non-traditional pathway to leadership has helped her maintain a focus on improving learning outcomes by ensuring effective classroom practices spread and scale across systems. She has advocated for transforming teacher preparation and in-service practices to promote the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for educators to effectively implement innovative practices addressing the needs of learners.
Before working for the National Geographic Society, Smith served as assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning in the 27th largest urban district (Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky); as a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; associate commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Education; and teacher leader. She began her career as a classroom teacher in the elementary grades and has taught as a preservice lecturer at the University of Kentucky. Smith has been recognized as an Aspen-Pahara education fellow and serves as a member on several national and local boards. Smith serves as Vice Chair of the Southern Regional Education Board, and in 2022, was appointed by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to chair the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council. At the forefront of centering equity in education through inclusive programming, in 2021 she was selected to participate in The Equity Lab’s prestigious year-long Nexus Fellowship.
Smith holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and administration from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis on K-12 literacy development and B.S. in elementary education from the University of Louisville.
Sharon Darling is retired founder of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and serves on NCFL's Board of Directors. Though she had been a teacher for years, Sharon’s inspiration for developing the formal family literacy movement came in a Kentucky church basement, where she was volunteering to help adults learn to read in 1970. She discovered then that working in a classroom only took students so far if they didn’t have the support of their family. To do something systemic for children’s education, parents had to be involved and engaged. Fast forward to present day, NCFL’s model of dual-generational learning includes children’s education, adult education, parent time, and interactive literacy activities among parents and their children (Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®). Through Sharon’s leadership, the organization has spread this family literacy model to thousands of partner sites across the United States in diverse settings such as community centers, homeless shelters, libraries, and public schools. The family literacy model is culturally sensitive and has thrived no matter what population it served–inner-city families; immigrant families from Latin America, the Middle East, Far East and Africa; American Indians; and indigenous populations from Canada to New Zealand.
Sharon has been well recognized for her contribution in helping millions of families climb out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. Her many awards and recognitions include: the National Humanities Medal awarded by President George W. Bush; the Razor Walker Award from the University of North Carolina; Woman of Distinction Award, Birmingham Southern University; Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, Johns Hopkins University; and the Harold W. McGraw Award for Outstanding National Educator. In addition, she has been featured on the Arts & Entertainment television network’s series, Biography, inducted into the Frederick Douglass Hall of Fame on Capitol Hill, is frequently quoted in the national news, and is featured in education related stories on television. Sharon serves as an advisor on education issues for governors, policy makers, business leaders, and foundations.
Sharon enjoys exercising, reading, traveling, rooting for her favorite sports team, spending time with family and friends, and eating great meals.
As the Director of Development at NCFL, Rebecca leads revenue generation efforts for the organization. She works closely with institutional and individual donors to fulfill their philanthropic goals through supporting NCFL’s work. In addition, she leads all federal grant writing initiatives and sponsorship opportunities, ensuring that NCFL maintains a balanced, diversified funding portfolio. Prior to joining NCFL's team, she held a variety of development roles at grassroots nonprofit agencies and higher education institutions including Vanderbilt University and Indiana University Southeast. She loves the combination of relationship-building, strategy, and writing that the development field demands. Rebecca earned a bachelor’s degree from Smith College located in Northampton, Ma. and an M.B.A. from Indiana University Southeast. Rebecca enjoyed six years living in NCFL’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. A proud New Hampshire native and current resident, she enjoys playing soccer, hiking, brewery-hopping with her husband, and honing her nascent flower gardening skills in her spare time.
Manager, Seed ProjectsContact 502-584-1133 x199
Cindy Baumert supports various family leadership and community engagement initiatives. She brings a strong background in family and community engagement as the former director of a statewide parent leadership program in Kentucky and the co-author of The Missing Piece of the Proficiency Puzzle: Recommendations for Involving Families and Community in Improving Student Achievement, a report commissioned by the Kentucky Department of Education. Cindy has 20 years’ experience as an education policy advocate at the local, state, and national level for students who have learning disabilities and students who receive free and reduced-price meals, and their families. Prior to her career in education advocacy, she owned a software development company and was an IBM marketing representative. Cindy holds a Master's in Engineering from the University of Louisville Speed Scientific School. Cindy grew up in Louisville and enjoys traveling, exploring new restaurants, reading mystery novels, and spending time with her family and friends.
Senior Content Specialist, Family LeadershipContact
Patricia Bebe holds a Bachelors in English from the University of Florida and a Master’s in Elementary Education from Delta State University. Over her educational career, Patricia has served as an instructor and teacher of adults and children, a content coach, mentor, and a community activist for children and families in underrepresented communities. In her spare time, she volunteers and collaborates locally in her hometown of Orlando, FL to create innovative and impactful community and family events to promote awareness, opportunity, and empowerment towards academic success, economic advancement, mental health, and other resources. She enjoys shopping, traveling the world, trying new foods, and spending time with family and friends.
Administrative AssistantContact 502-584-1133 x216
Susan Birch brings 35 years of administrative and education experience to NCFL. Previously, she served as a billing clerk, inventory control clerk, transportation coordinator, and accounts payable clerk. Prior to joining NCFL, Susan was the director of a family resource center. As Administrative Assistant, Susan provides various types of support to the Statewide Family Engagement Center directors in Arizona and Nebraska. Susan loves dogs and has a Dachshund named Sissy. Her two favorite places to visit are the beach and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Director, NebraskaContact 402-405-0510
Prior to serving as the Nebraska Statewide Family Engagement Center Director, Jessica Boren was a Nebraska Family Learning Specialist, providing high quality coaching and professional development to families and educators across the state. Jessica has a strong knowledge base in technical assistance and coaching from previously investigating cases of discrimination in Nebraska. She also brings many years of experience working in the nonprofit field, where she focused on low-income, immigrant, and refugee families. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies focusing on Spanish and Psychology and a Master’s degree in International Family Studies. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her dog, reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Cherry comes to NCFL with a background in public education. While focusing on standards, curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional learning, Cherry has served as a classroom teacher, district instructional coach, statewide literacy specialist, and statewide curriculum assistant director. Cherry enjoys reading, writing, gardening, volunteering with her church, and spending time outdoors with her family.
Director, Professional LearningContact 502-584-1133 x174
As the Director of Professional Learning, Andrea brings years of experience to the NCFL team, including six years as an early childhood classroom teacher and four years at the director level. At NCFL, she provides her early childhood expertise to many initiatives, including Say & Play with Words, NCFL Family Learning, and professional development of school practitioners. Andrea has a Bachelor of Science and Master’s in Early Childhood Education from University of Dayton. Andrea is a dog lover who enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, and cooking.
Content Specialist, Family LeadershipContact 502-584-1133 x177
Brittany Chimento creates and delivers professional development and technical assistance. She also provides coaching and tools for family engagement to teachers and staff within the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC). Brittany additionally assists our Community Development and Wonderopolis® teams.
Brittany has prior experience as an early childhood educator (both in and out of Head Start) and several other nonprofit organizations.
She holds a Bachelors in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences from the University of Florida (Go Gators!). In her spare time, Brittany loves to cook, read, enjoy musicals, and binge on “Parks and Recreation” or “The Office” for the 9,986,000th time.
Senior Vice President, Operations and StrategyContact 502-655-0770
Shea Coughlin brings 15 years of experience in fundraising, communications, government affairs, and volunteer management to NCFL with former roles at organizations such as the award-winning Noble Network of Charter Schools and longstanding social service provider Northwestern University Settlement Association, in Chicago, IL. Shea led advocacy and government relations strategy for an organization representing 12 urban high schools and 600 employees. Additionally, she has played leadership roles in a $30 million capital fundraising campaign, stewarded public funding opportunities and other strategic initiatives to advance the goals of the organizations she represented. As NCFL’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Strategy, Shea manages a team responsible for leading the organization’s fundraising, internal and external communications, human resources, and education programming. Her passion for community level change and strength in big picture thinking make her a great asset to NCFL’s leadership team. Shea holds a Bachelor in Arts in Creative Writing from Miami University and is based in Nashville, Tennessee. Shea enjoys 7 Minutes Fitness, reading and writing, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and eating—check out her Instagram account on all things Nashville, @noshville_tn!
Coordinator, Accounts PayableContact 502-584-1133 x356
Kayibanda Doe, commonly referred to as K-Doe, brings years of experience to the finance department of NCFL. As Accounts Payable Coordinator, K-Doe is responsible for processing vendor invoices and making sure that vendors’ scheduled payments are processed in a timely fashion. Prior to joining NCFL, K-Doe worked in finance for the State of Ohio for more than 10 years, processing invoices for more than 30 state agencies. K-Doe holds a Masters of Business Administration from Ashland University and a Bachelors of Accounting from the University of Liberia in Monrovia, Liberia. In his free time, Kayibanda loves playing soccer, traveling, meeting new friends, and socializing.
Content Specialist, Family EngagementContact
Prior to joining NCFL, Jordan spent seven years as an early childhood teacher, most of that time at St Joseph Children’s Home in Louisville, Kentucky. She also taught English and composition courses at the University of Texas at Austin and worked as a writing coach there. She has been a Positive Discipline parent educator for several years and has provided training for new foster parents. Jordan earned her BA in English and Africana Studies from Tulane University and her MA in English from the University of Texas. In her free time, Jordan enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with her partner and their children.
Senior Training SpecialistContact
Patricia Erwin leads NCFL’s Adult Education strategies and contracts. Since 2012, Patricia has worked creating and delivering professional development content for adult educators. She has a background in counseling psychology, adult education theory and practice, and curriculum design. She holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master’s in Psychology from Springfield College, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. In her spare time, Patricia enjoys shopping, traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Associate Director, FACEContact 502-584-1133 x118
Amanda Evans holds Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and History, and in 2010 she earned her Master's degree in Modern World History. Over her educational career, she has taught and worked with learners of all ages both domestically and internationally. Most recently, Amanda has served as the Technology and Family Coordinator for Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Academy (MESA) Charter School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the Family Coordinator, she worked on and saw firsthand the measurable benefits of two-generation learning. At NCFL, Amanda primarily works with the Family and Child Education (FACE) program as a technical assistant and professional development trainer. Amanda enjoys reading, traveling, gaming, and exploring and learning about her city of Louisville.
Manager, Graphic DesignContact 502-584-1133 x208
With over 20 years’ experience as a graphic designer, Chad Farabee works to enhance NCFL’s brand with consistent print and digital materials. Chad produces materials for all departments of NCFL and has demonstrated his drawing prowess by providing the illustrations for the past several editions of Camp Wonderopolis. Chad worked as the lead graphic artist for Cenveo, Inc. and the pre-press art technician for Discount Labels, Inc. prior to joining NCFL in 2015. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Indiana University and an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Graphic Design from Sullivan College of Technology and Design. Chad is a cat lover who enjoys traveling, creating art, working on cars, and home remodeling.
Director, Family LeadershipContact
As the Director of Family Leadership, Whitney supports a team around NCFL’s family leadership work. Such work includes programs like Activate! Local and Activate! National, and other co-design and coalition-building work aimed at family-based leadership opportunities. Prior to joining NCFL, she worked at United Way of Central Indiana in a variety of 2Gen-type roles and most recently served as 2Gen Partnerships and Engagement Director. In that role, she led a wide array of learning-based opportunities relating to the 2Gen model, served as a support to their grantee pool of 34 community-based organizations, and started a pilot parent advisory council. Prior to United Way, she worked at a national Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) engaging with community around health equity and quality of life-related work. Whitney’s passion for authentic community engagement stems from her time in AmeriCorps as a VISTA member and her community organizing background in food justice-based work, as well as asset-based community development models. Additionally, as an offspring of a long line of educators, she is passionate about the upward mobility equal educational access and attainment can provide. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Public Affairs degree from Indiana University.
While she’s been based in the Indianapolis area for 8+ years, Whitney is a Kentucky girl by heart with roots in Eastern and Central Kentucky and plans to relocate back to the Lexington area soon. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, staying active, being outside, seeing live music, collecting and listening to records, being creative, and reading.
Senior Content Specialist, Family EngagementContact 502-584-1133 x141
Becky Goetzinger leads NCFL's K-12 literacy and family engagement strategies. She supports various grants and partnerships including NCFL’s family engagement work with Jefferson County Public Schools, a Native Youth Community Project grant at Little Wound School, a Kentucky Comprehensive Literacy grant in Pike County Schools, and the Kentucky Reading Project in collaboration with the state’s public universities. Prior to joining NCFL, Becky was a classroom teacher and instructional coach for 24 years and has taught at the elementary, middle, high school, and university levels. Becky holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in Reading Education from the University of Louisville, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Social Change from Bellarmine University. Becky is a cat mom who enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, rooting for the University of Kentucky Wildcats, and spending time with family and friends.
Coordinator, Professional LearningContact 502-584-1133 x182
Facilitating both internal and external PD offerings and contracts, Melissa Hall provides training and resources to support professionals and practitioners of Family Learning. Melissa joins NCFL with eight years of experience in the social work and education fields. Melissa earned her Bachelors of Arts in English from University of Louisville, where she served at the President of Student United Way. Melissa loves being a mom and spending time with her family.
Manager, Corporate AdministrationContact 502-584-1133 x129
For the past 23 years, Julia Harper has worked directly for the NCFL Board of Directors and NCFL’s President. She serves as an officer by fulfilling the board elected role of Corporate Secretary, manages the day-to-day operations of the office, liaises with all departments of NCFL as needed, and supports the President and senior executive team. Julia attended Spalding University in Louisville, KY, and in her free time enjoys reading, antiquing, and spending time with her family and friends.
Through NCFL and the Nebraska SFEC, Monica is an Adult Coordinator and Adult Educator for the Family Literacy Program in O’Neill, Nebraska. She works closely with the agencies within her community that provide resources and opportunities for the parents and families in the program. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-Law and Public Administration from Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. She has worked in the O’Neill Public School system as a Special Education Paraeducator and Substitute Teacher, and is a licensed EMT with O’Neill Volunteer Fire and Rescue. As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, she is an advocate for all parents of uniquely defined children who need assistance in navigating the school system and community resources. Monica resides in O’Neill, Nebraska with her husband and two daughters. She is a wedding and funeral singer, loves to flower garden, an incomparable chocolate chip cookie and is grateful for the life she has been given.
Senior Training SpecialistContact 480-556-7158 x157
Sherri Hudson provides high-quality coaching and professional development for families and educators across Arizona. Sherri brings over 27 years of education experience to NCFL, previously working in early childhood education, family engagement, and professional development across multiple environments. She holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, a Master’s in Reading Curriculum and Instruction, and is National Board Certified in Early Childhood Education. In her spare time, Sherri enjoys reading, painting, hiking, and spending time with her family.
Leesa Kraeger was raised in Kearney, Nebraska. She attended the University of Nebraska - Lincoln where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Development and the Family. During her 30+ year career, she has worked with families, community non-profits, school districts, and Head Start programs in Nebraska and South Dakota. Leesa has been an advocate for parent involvement in education and community asset development in all her work. She spent thirteen years with a four component family literacy program in Lincoln Nebraska as the program specialist, parenting class facilitator, and adult educator serving an ethnically diverse population of immigrant and refugee parents and families. Throughout her career, she has worked to educate parents, school staff, and community leaders on the importance of parent voice and advocacy. Leesa currently serves as a Family Learning Specialist for the National Center for Families Learning in the Nebraska State Family Engagement Center where she works with local school districts to implement family literacy and family engagement programming. Leesa enjoys time with her family, especially cooking with her grandchildren, as well as traveling, reading and quilting.
Coordinator, External AffairsContact
Kirsten brings over five years of program coordination to NCFL, with a focus in starting up DEI-centric programming within her home state of Colorado. Over her career, she has worked in higher education, politics, public health, and the arts. Kirsten earned her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Arizona State University. In her spare time, she performs in local theater productions, sews her own clothing, and takes plenty of breaks to pet her attention-craving cat.
Director, Family EngagementContact
Toni Mallett is a graduate of the University of Arizona Global Campus of San Diego, CA, with a Master of Arts in Education specializing in Family and Community Services. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Social Work, from Western Michigan University (WMU) of Kalamazoo, MI. While attending WMU, Toni was an active member of the university's student organization, You Beautiful Black Woman (YBBW).
She is a community and social services professional with collective experiences in education and family & community services. Her vocation is to empower families to become change agents in their child's life, home, and community. In addition, Toni is President of the Board for Meaning in Colors of Grand Rapids, MI. Meaning in Colors serves individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
Her interest includes: consulting, traveling, networking, reading, baking, listening to music, watching movies, spending time with family & friends, and giving back to her community. Her favorite movie of all time is "Coming to America."
Toni's mission in life is to be intentional in all things and Live on Purpose.
Content Specialist, Family LiteracyContact
Allison Miller collaborates with the LENA START and LENA HOME team through Say and Play, a program funded by Bloomberg, by providing professional development and technical assistance to program coordinators. She also provides professional development and technical assistance to early childhood programs in the Jefferson County Public School system in Louisville, Kentucky, through the JCPS-NCFL Family Engagement Partnership. She brings a diverse understanding of early childhood education to NCFL with over ten years of experience in the field, having served as an Education Manager at Community Action of Southern Indiana Head Start, and a preschool director in Harrison County, Indiana. Allison holds a Doctorate in Education from Spalding University in Educational Leadership, as well as a Masters in Education with an emphasis in Elementary Education and Teacher Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University. These degrees have provided her with the foundational understanding of child development as it relates to training and assisting adult learners in the field. Allison is married to Adam Miller, band director at Jeffersonville High School. Together they have one son, Gabe, and enjoy traveling together, reading, and participating in the rich arts culture of Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Director, Family and Child Education (FACE)Contact 502-584-1133 x205
As NCFL’s Director of the Family and Child Education (FACE) program, Cathy provides training and technical assistance for NCFL funded initiatives, including professional development and technical assistance for FACE, Toyota Family Learning, Early Learning Collaborative, and Paired Reading/Parent Engagement programs. She has more than 15 years in the education field as a family literacy director, Head Start education/early literacy coordinator, and elementary school teacher, specifically working in cross-cultural environments with ethnically and economically diverse populations. Ms. Miller is fluent in Spanish and specializes in research-based early literacy, ELL, and parent engagement workshops at NCFL. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Hope College and an elementary teaching certificate. In her spare time, Cathy enjoys traveling, hiking and spending time outside.
Senior Content Specialist, Family LiteracyContact 502-584-1133
Jessica brings more than a decade of early childhood experience to NCFL, formerly serving as a public school preschool teacher and subsequently a teacher preparatory program coach though the Public Education and Business Coalition (PEBC) in Denver. At NCFL, she provides support to families, educators, and caregivers in Jefferson County Public Schools. Jessica has a Bachelors in Business Management from Appalachian State University and earned her teaching license through the PEBC. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, cooking, and spending time with her family on their farm.
Coordinator, Wonderopolis and EditingContact 989-708-1522
Wendee Mullikin proofreads and edits a variety of NCFL and Wonderopolis® content for publication in her role. Wendee also contributes to the Wonderopolis® team by providing editorial expertise and visitor engagement. With 26 years of instruction in music and English under her belt at the elementary, middle, secondary, and collegiate levels, she brings a diverse understanding of learning styles and needs to the team. Wendee holds a Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education from Saginaw Valley State University. In her spare time, she enjoys curling up with a good book and her feline companions as well as touring lighthouses along Michigan’s coast with her spouse.
Senior Training SpecialistContact 502-584-1133 x222
Danielle brings nearly 13 years of education experience to NCFL. She worked in the Metropolitan Nashville Public School District for 11 years, and has in all served as a classroom teacher for eight years and a multi-classroom leader for another 4.5 years. During that time, she assisted with the expansion of pre-kindergarten within the district. At NCFL, Danielle plans and delivers professional development and high quality technical assistance to local and national partners in support of project goals. She also provides on-site visits to local and national partners. Danielle has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Memphis. She also received her teaching certification from Tennessee State University and her Master of Leadership and Administration in Education from Middle Tennessee State University. Danielle loves to attend concerts, go out to eat, and spend quality time with her significant other as well as her family and friends.
Training SpecialistContact 502-584-1133 x115
Jeff brings over five years of teaching experience with adult English language learners in community-based settings. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish at Asbury University, and obtained a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico with a research focus in second language acquisition and learner motivation. At NCFL, Jeff primarily provides technical assistance to the Family and Child Education (FACE) program. He also supports family engagement, online learning, and adult education initiatives. In his free time, he enjoys visiting artistic and historic sites, watching live theater, reading fiction, and creative writing.
Vice President, Finance & CFOContact 502-584-1133 x165
As the Vice President of Finance & CFO, Marc Otte oversees the activities of the accounting and finance department and works collaboratively with fund managers throughout the organization. Marc earned his CPA license in 2010 and has 12 years’ experience in accounting and finance. Marc holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, specialized in Accounting and Finance, from The Ohio State University. Prior to relocating to Louisville to join NCFL, Marc worked as Director of Finance at Community Housing Network, Inc., Vice President of Finance and CFO at YWCA Columbus and spent six years as an auditor for the public accounting firm GBQ. Marc enjoys rooting for his hometown sports teams (OSU, Crew SC, and Blue Jackets), playing soccer, discovering new music, and spending time with his family and friends.
Manager, Human ResourcesContact
In her role as Human Resources Manager, Michelle Parkerson assists in the hiring and onboarding of new employees. She helps employees with their annual open enrollment of benefits. Michelle also contributes to the overall HR infrastructure as well as helping NCFL maintain compliance. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Louisville. Outside of NCFL, Michelle enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family.
Executive Vice President and Chief of StaffContact
Before returning to NCFL, Tony Peyton served as the Program Director at the C.E. and S. Foundation, a private family foundation focused on education grantmaking, where he led the development and execution of a grantmaking strategy focused on important issues such as early childhood education, K-12, Out-of School Time, postsecondary education, family stability, and family engagement. He previously served on Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s senior staff as the Director of Public Policy, a role in which he created, developed, and managed the city’s Cradle to Career initiative. He also served as the primary liaison for the mayor with local, state, and national education institutions and organizations. Earlier in his career, Tony was the Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations at the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), where he was responsible for federal and state policy, lobbying, and advocacy activities. Tony serves on the Board of Directors of the National Civic League and the University of Louisville’s Early Learning Campus and Early Childhood Research Center. He was also a founding member of the Board of Advisors of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at Penn State University. In 2020, Tony was one of ten people in the country chosen for the inaugural cohort of the National League of Cities (NLC)’s Early Childhood Municipal Fellowship sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, and Pritzker Children’s Initiative. Tony attended Paducah Community College, received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Louisville, and completed the Certificate Program in Legislative Studies at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.
Alyssa serves as a member of the finance team, accounting for purchases, assisting with bank deposits, and providing other financial support as needed. Prior to joining NCFL, she worked both as a small business manager and as an administrative assistant at the Ohio Literary Resources and GED Scholars Initiative, where she assisted with conference planning and educational content development. In her spare time, Alyssa likes to read, play table top games, and make soap.
Coordinator, Community ImpactContact 502-584-1133 x201
Vanessa Scott is responsible for various administrative support duties and responsibilities to assist the oversight of 49 FACE programs across the nation that are located in American Indian communities. Prior to joining NCFL, Vanessa served in several administrative roles, most recently in Tallahassee, Florida as an Operations Manager for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, where she provided support to the Operations and Communications teams. Vanessa has Bachelors of Arts degrees in Political Science and Communication Studies from Western Kentucky University, where she graduated in 2010. In her free time, Vanessa enjoys trying new restaurants, adding to her growing vinyl collection, reading, cheering for her favorite hockey team, and spending time with her cat, Tenny.
Content Specialist, Family EngagementContact 502-584-1133 x207
Emily Sedgwick provides coaching support for the Dallas Toyota Family Learning program and the LENA Say & Play initiative. As NCFL’s staff librarian, she also works to develop family literacy relationships with libraries across the country. Before joining NCFL in 2014, she served as the Federal Government Documents and reference librarian for the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA). Emily earned both her Master of Science in Library and Information Science and Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Kentucky. She earned her postbaccalaureate certification in Family Literacy from Penn State University.
Director, ArizonaContact 602-738-4118
Kendra Smiley works to create a high impact statewide ecosystem of programs and services that improves academic achievement for disadvantaged families. She earned her Master of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and brings 17 years of first-hand experience working with children and families to her current position. Her experience includes working in the nonprofit sector for over 12 years managing several evidence-based early language and literacy programs, as well as teaching preschool for six years. Kendra has also been teaching online for Arizona State University in the Mary Lou Fulton College for the past six years, which provides her the opportunity to teach the following courses: Culture and Schooling, Social Embeddedness, and Innovation in Education Endeavors. In her free time, she enjoys exercising and spending time with her daughter.
Management Specialist, Contracts and GrantsContact 502-584-1133 x185
In his role as the Contracts and Grants Management Specialist, Ashford Sonii coordinates the compliance and financial elements of a complex grants portfolio, including federal funding, interagency agreements, cooperative agreements, and highly technical special projects. He brings a strong knowledge in grant administration, community development, project management, and analysis strategy to NCFL. Prior to joining NCFL, Ashford worked on multiple metropolitan grant administration teams. He holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Texas at Arlington with plans to complete his Master’s in Public Administration. Ashford is a musician who enjoys singing, songwriting, and discovering great new unknown artists in his free time. Someday, he wants to travel and backpack in various locations around the world. Ashford appreciates NCFL’s longstanding efforts in what he calls addressing “local needs with local deeds.”
As Instructional Designer, Jason Souders leads NCFL’s instructional technology practices and develops online training courses and modules. Responsibilities include managing NCFL’s Learning Management System, multi-media production and design, and writing educational content. Jason has over half a decade of professional experience in Instructional Design and more than 14 years in higher education, serving in various coordinating and curriculum development roles. Jason has a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting, a Master of Science in Library and Information Science, and a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design. In his free time, Jason is musician who enjoys traveling and reading.
Systems Administrator, ITContact 502-584-1133 x178
As System Administrator of IT, Andy Stine manages and maintains the technology infrastructure at NCFL. He is responsible for installing and implementing new technology systems while also providing day-to-day technology support across the organization. Andy has over 10 years of IT experience working across several different industries in a wide variety of technology. He holds a Computer Information Systems degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver. In his spare time, Andy loves to travel, listen to music, watch movies, and enjoys basketball.
L’Toya Strickland Smith has ten years of experience in early childhood education and promoting literacy and language development among families. Before joining NCFL, L’Toya worked as the lead teacher at Community Action of Southern Indiana and at the Gardner School of Louisville in Kentucky. She has a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Middle Tennessee State University. In her free time, L’Toya enjoys reading, traveling, music, and spending time with her family.
National Director, Community ImpactContact 502-584-1133 x209
Tracy Teater provides training, coaching, technical assistance, subject matter expertise, and strategic vision for several NCFL initiatives, including the National Literacy Directory, Family Literacy and Family Learning Model programs, Adult Education, and Workforce Development.
Before joining NCFL, Tracy enjoyed a 20-year career in Adult Education, serving in Tennessee and Kentucky. She has served as a teacher, coach, Family Literacy coordinator, specialist, and program director throughout her career. Tracy especially enjoys working together with program families and partners to leverage resources and seek new and creative ways to improve educational outcomes and reduce systematic barriers.
Tracy holds a Master of Science in Adult Education from Western Kentucky University and a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education from the University of Kentucky. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys traveling, rooting for the University of Kentucky Wildcats, and spending time with her husband and their five children.
Director, CommunicationsContact 502-584-1133 x206
As the Director of Communications, Sara Ulliman leads NCFL's communications and design teams. Since 2012, Sara Ulliman has fulfilled a variety of roles at NCFL in communications, development, and special projects including Wonderopolis and Camp Wonderopolis content development. Sara also currently leads the planning of NCFL’s annual Families Learning Conference. Prior to joining NCFL, Sara was the communications specialist for the Leadership Louisville Center and art director for ProMoter Marketing Communications, both located in Louisville, Kentucky. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Art & Design from the University of Louisville. In 2014, she was named one of 70 Rising Stars in Social Media by Schaefer Marketing Solutions for her work managing social media for Wonderopolis. In her free time, Sara enjoys spending time with family and friends, wine tasting and sampling micro-breweries, reading, gardening, and spending time outdoors.
Training SpecialistContact 719-649-5283
Hannah Van Horn works closely with local school districts across Nebraska to implement family literacy and family engagement programming. Prior to joining NCFL, Hannah spent two years teaching in Oklahoma City as an early childhood teacher in a district where she had the opportunity to serve ethnically and socio-economically diverse students and families. She also interned in the Colorado House of Representatives, exploring education policy and educational inequity issues. Hannah holds a a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Colorado State University. In her spare time, she is an adventure seeker and outdoors enthusiast, and loves hiking, running, and traveling.
Director, Research and EvaluationContact 502-584-1133 x200
Laura Westberg has been a life-long advocate for children and families. At NCFL, she supports research and evaluation efforts, contributes to evidence-based publication and training, and advises for consistent organizational messaging related to research, among other responsibilities. Laura started her career as an early childhood educator and administrator in university-sponsored preschool and child care programs, employer-sponsored child care, and Head Start. Her background includes work with children with disabilities, teaching at the college level, providing statewide and national training, and leading projects with corporate, government and private foundation funders. She has presented at state, regional, and national conferences in addition to publishing research articles, training guides, and instructional materials for early childhood practitioners. Laura served as the Director of the National Early Literacy Panel that published its research synthesis, Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, in 2008. Most recently, she helped establish and managed the Pediatric NeuroRecovery Program in the College of Medicine at the University of Louisville. Laura completed her college education at Indiana University, earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a master’s degree in language education.
Associate Director, Digital Learning and InnovationContact 502-584-1133
Kristen Whitaker leads NCFL's Immersive Education vision and Wonderopolis® digital property. She hails from Washington D.C., where she taught History at Columbia Heights Educational Campus and was a Home Visit city-wide teacher trainer for The Flamboyan Foundation. Kristen matriculated from North Carolina Central University with a double major in Political Science and Public Administration. She then earned a Masters in Federal Program Management at Trinity University. Kristen was named Family Engagement Teacher of the Year by NCFL in 2015. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, painting, sewing, fishing and reading, among other activities.
Senior Training SpecialistContact 502-584-1133 x104
Leslie primarily provides technical support and professional development to the Family and Child Education (FACE) program, a initiative funded by the Bureau of Indian Education that supports American Indian families. She also lends her expertise in early childhood education to support a variety of NCFL Family Literacy and Family Learning programs. Leslie brings over 23 years of education experience in early childhood education and family engagement to NCFL. She has taught and worked with learners of all ages and their families both domestically and internationally. She holds a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education, a Masters in Elementary and Early Childhood Education, and an administrator certification. Leslie is a sports enthusiast who enjoys traveling, reading, warm weather, and engaging in new adventures with family and friends.
Coordinator, National Literacy DirectoryContact 502-584-1133 x145
Carrie Wohlschlegel began at NCFL as an Intern supporting the Wonderopolis community and came onboard full-time at the end of 2017. Carrie now manages the National Literacy Directory. In 2012, she was named the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Outside of NCFL, Carrie enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, reading, swimming, and knitting.
NCFL is proud to be led by a passionate group of business leaders and experts in key areas of industry expertise.Read more
Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.
Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities
NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.
Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with
NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy
resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.
The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.
Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation
PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.
PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.
NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great
Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania.
The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education
NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.Foundation Website