August 2, 2009

Our Team

Experienced Leaders and Trainers

The Center for Educational Improvement (CEI) team includes experienced trainers and technical experts whose expertise is critical to today’s educational needs. With this cadre of professionals, CEI brings 21st  century expertise to our work addressing international education; differentiating instruction; early childhood education; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curricula; social emotional learning and heart centered education; special education; school leadership; principal mentorships; and improving reading and math instruction.


me green linkedinDr. Christine Y. Mason, CEI  Executive Director, is responsible for research, professional development, and special initiatives. She is a nationally recognized expert in the area of educational reform, teacher mentoring, and special education. Dr. Mason has made more than 500 national, international, regional, and local presentations on topics ranging from inclusion and IDEA to student self-determination and integrating the arts.

Dr. Mason has served as a researcher, professor, senior scientist in disability education, university professor, evaluator, consultant, and entrepreneur. She has also served as an Interim Principal at the Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar, India; Director of Professional Development for the Student Support Center in Washington, D.C.; a Senior Research Scientist with Cessi in McLean, Va.; and the Senior Director for Research and Development with the Council for Exceptional Children.

Dr. Mason has authored more than 100 books and articles; and served as the Principal Investigator, Director, or Evaluator on over 15 national projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health. Two of these projects focused on teacher mentoring and several projects involved best practices implementation. She has served on many national panels and advisory committees and led strategic planning for federal and project initiatives at two national organizations. She received her doctorate in Educational Psychology from The Ohio State University and has received awards as a Distinguished Researcher (in Montana) and fellowships for post-doctorate work both from the University of Washington and also to assist with educational planning in India

new bio pic Dr. Atiba Vheir is a transformational psychologist offering workshops on Mindfulness for CEI. Dr. Vheir lectures, conducts seminars, training, retreats, and classes in Integrative and Complementary Healing Arts. She has been a school psychologist at an elementary charter school in Washington DC and is the founder of Dove Healing Arts/Dove Center which provides clinical and educational wellness programs, retreats, and personal and professional development. Dr. Atiba has extensive experience working with families and children with both mainstream and special needs. She has authored a book, Ono’s Journey, which describes her approach.  As a frontier educator, Dr. Vheir has provided services to schools, private and corporate businesses, and civic and government agencies, including Howard University, NIH/Uniformed Services University of Health, and the Walter Reed Army Hospital Center.  Dr. Vheir has presented nationally and internationally and appeared on national TV and radio programs.

image001Amber Nicole Dilger, CEI Associate, is a writer, long-time music teacher, and a performer working professionally throughout the United States as a singer and actor. Weaving together her passion for cognitive science, creativity, and music, she offers private coaching, workshops, and retreats to refresh and enliven the curiosity of learning. Her presentations and interactive sessions emphasize cultivating awareness, creativity, and divergent thinking.

Amber Nicole is a proud graduate of Ball State University’s Teachers College, Honors College, and School of Music.  She is also a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and Actors Equity Association. Currently residing in Madison, Wisconsin, Amber Nicole spends as much free time as possible absorbing the wonders of nature.

CEI7Dena Albergo Jayson, MSA, is a principal in the Archdiocese of Detroit, leading PreK-8th grade buildings for 15+ years.  Through a series of professional and personal experiences, she began the research and educational practice into Social Emotional Learning for Early Childhood teachers and students, particularly during a time of trauma and crisis. She has been consulting with both individual educators, and whole schools with regard to age appropriate practices for students who have experienced trauma, and how to incorporate social emotional learning skills, as defined by CASEL, within the classroom. In addition, she is trained in restorative practice and believes that this method, when implemented properly, works. Ms. Jayson has delivered her information to many school districts, both public and non-public, social workers, and school administrators nationally. She delivers professional development workshops, and provides conferences regarding Social Emotional Learning Strategies for Young Children in Crisis and Restorative Practices for the Middle Grades.  She has authored a book for young children experiencing grief, “Pancakes With Papa”, which can be purchased at Amazon.

photoLisa Stepney, M.A., is an educational consultant, school psychologist, and CEI Associate and trainer.  Lisa has also served as Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Cuyahoga Community College (15 years) and Ashland University, a family preservation therapist, school improvement specialist, program developer, Interim Principal at Citizens Academy, Program Developer at the Mental Health Board in Cleveland, Consultant for Cleveland Job Corp-Youth Department  and special education compliance consultant.

Ms. Stepney has assisted CEI with school improvement training and data review in Ohio. She provides workshops in data-driven instruction, cultural sensitivity, implementing evidence-based interventions, increasing student motivation, and personalizing instruction. Lisa is also founder of Affirmations Learning Institute, a psycho-education consultant group that provides comprehensive special education  and school improvement services to families, community organization, and educational institutions.

Laura Laura Parker Roeden has an extensive record as a Consultant, Director of Publications, and editor for related research in the area of conflict resolution, bullying prevention, community building and resiliency. She has served on the Massachusetts Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes, been a writer for the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program, produced Operation Respect’s anti-bullying program, and helped to create resiliency projects using contemplative practices for at-risk youth and parents.


chirichello michaelMichael Chirichello, Ed.D. was a county and district superintendent, principal, assistant principal and teacher in urban and suburban districts and a Visiting Professor at Northern Kentucky University. His experience spans three decades. Prior to teaching doctoral candidates at NKU, he was a professor, chair, and program director at William Paterson University in New Jersey. He taught graduate courses that prepared teachers for supervisory and principal licensure. He has served in these positions for 17 years.

Michael is a respected national and international consultant to school districts and professional organizations. He has presented thought provoking professional development sessions on five continents and throughout the United States that focus on leadership, team building, organizational change, curriculum design, mentoring, and the performance appraisal process. He is the co-author of two books and has also published articles and chapters in books on topics on leadership, the principalship, curriculum design, and the practitioner’s Ed.D.

Michael lives in Sussex County, New Jersey with his wife Carol, a retired first grade teacher. He has two daughters and three granddaughters. He enjoys biking and has cycled internationally in Europe.

kevin manningKevin Manning, Astronomer, STEM Consultant, CEI Associate. National educator and dynamic speaker, Kevin Manning, founded Look Up to the Stars, a national education company that pioneers innovative educational initiatives and promotes scientific literacy and academic inquiry for all ages. Look Up to the Star’s much-acclaimed astronomy Star Tours 2013 & 2014 have been sweeping the nation from coast to coast, involving a strong collaborative network of public libraries, schools and civic organizations and garnering record-breaking attendance. Passionate about excellence in education, Manning’s consuming goal for Look Up to the Stars has been to operate on the cutting edge in a drive to expand education’s reach and impact to all frontiers; igniting the minds of all ages with the unlimited possibilities inherent in the field of science.

Kevin is a gifted astronomer, having worked as a consultant with NASA, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory launched on the space shuttle with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and other ground-based observatories. Kevin won national and international awards in his field, was both a Wright Fellow and an Einstein Fellow, and did some work with Brookhaven National Laboratory. Besides the numerous workshops he’s presented over the years at libraries, observatories, and science centers, some noteworthy ones include those made at Tufts University, State University of New York at Stony Brook, the National Science Teachers Association’s National Convention, American Association for the Advancement of Science Breakfast with Scientists, and the National Parks Service.

Kevin is partnering with CEI in offering  stimulating hands-on workshops for principals, school leadership teams, teachers, and students.

StephenStephen Grenis is currently a Graphic Design student at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland. Stephen can show teachers and students that Adobe Photoshop offers a fun and exciting way to express yourself creatively, gain self-confidence within your artistic abilities, and show off your talents by creating, printing, and displaying your own artwork for school or your home. Over the past few years, he has been working for The Scientific Consulting Group, Inc., creating graphics for some of the largest federal government agencies. Some of the work included designing posters, flyers, brochures, web banners, meeting materials.


MMFv3 michelejpgDr. Michele Rivers Murphy, CEI Research Associate and Consultant, obtained her doctorate degree from Northeastern University in Educational Leadership (K-12).  Her doctoral thesis specifically addressed the gap between what students are learning in school and what they need to know in order to be prepared for college and career in the 21st century. Dr. Rivers Murphy has over eight years of direct educational supervisory experience and several MA certifications at all levels, in both administration and teaching, including special education. Dr. Rivers Murphy has served as a transformational change agent in education for over two decades in some of the highest needs and neighborhood districts.  She has developed an innovative alternative to in-school and out of school suspension, eliminating in-school suspension completely and decreasing school suspension by 75% through building positive relationships and individual accountability.  She also expanded high needs programming to mainstream setting, with a focus on real life practice, service and connection to community.

Dr. Rivers Murphy believes that It Takes a Village to educate children today, and that a whole child approach is critical for the development, growth and success of each and every child.  Through strong networking, positive relationship building, a laser-sharp focus on student strengths, and collective vision and action by stakeholders, she has maximized or redistributed resources and facilitated significant positive school culture transformation. Dr. Rivers Murphy views strong community engagement, along with valuing the voices of all stakeholders in education as key to developing a high-performing public school solution for high-needs districts. Currently, Dr. Rivers Murphy has created and is implementing a 21c innovative school community model, supported by an Equity Framework, and driven by the Principles of Pedagogy of Confidence, Inspiring High Intellectual Performance  (Jackson, 2011) in collaboration with Dr. Yvette Jackson. She also is facilitating research and heart centered learning for CEI.

Renee Sandell2Dr. Renee Sandell, CEI Visual Art Associate has worked extensively with schools, children, teaching training, curriculum, and museums.  Since 2010, she is director of NAEA’s SummerVision, a 4-day museum-based experience she developed to draw national/global participants into an evolving Professional Learning Community (PLC).  As Professor of Art Education, she taught at George Mason University (2004-2014) and Maryland Institute College of Art (1990-2003).    Co-author of two books on gender issues, Renee Sandell has published numerous articles, book chapters and art curricula.  Her research/teaching interests include visual literacy for critical thinking, studio pedagogy for artistic literacy, museum education, gender issues, and the professional development of teachers.  Named 2013 NAEA National Art Educator of the Year, Sandell’s professional record includes numerous publications, presentations, and honors.

meKaren Lee (K’Lee) Banks, CEI Research Associate, B.A., M.ED., Ed.D.-ABD, is a prolific freelance writer, researcher, and educational consultant. She currently has over 3,000 articles published online, particularly on educational technology and e-learning. She has written one book, and assisted in developing about a dozen or more courses.  She also has past experience as a homeschooling parent of four children for 11 years; a Family Service Advocate with Head Start; a Behavioral Health Professional; and a speech-developmental therapist, with a caseload of about 20 pre-K children, many of those with autism and other developmental disorders.

K’Lee passed her comprehensive exams for her Ed.D. degree on March 1, 2014, and is now in the ABD (All But Dissertation) phase of her program through Northcentral University. Her dissertation focuses on the needs of adult online learners, especially ages 25 and above, who have busy lives and multiple obligations. Her research to date indicates more effective online course development and innovative online course delivery have the potential to improve the retention rate of adult online students as they more easily meet their academic goals.

Suzan Mullane, M.S. Ed., Anchorage Alaska, Research Associate and Trustee, is an expert in STEM, the brain and project-based learning, gifted education, autism spectrum disorder, and special education. Suzan is certified k-12, with over 25 years of teaching experience at the preschool, elementary, middle, high school and collegiate levels. She is an Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, and has experience as a School Counselor for Anchorage School District. Suzan helped to develop and coordinate Anchorage’s STEM initiative; she also networks with Yale Medical School’s C8 Science Program.

Suzan has presented at the Governor’s School in Fredericksburg, Va., on twice exceptionalities (gifted and autism spectrum disorder) and childhood trauma. In 2007, she was selected as a BP Teacher of Excellence. In 2011, Mullane received the North Star Service Recognition Award with an accommodation from her superintendent: “Your work with at-risk youth has been nothing short of extraordinary.”

D1211213Justine Haupt, Engineer, Brookhaven National Laboratory. Justine Haupt is an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Instrumentation Division on the design team for the world’s largest digital camera — the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope — where her expertise spans optical, mechanical, and electrical system design. She presents public lectures on her work for LSST and occasionally works with Brookhaven’s Office of Education Programs where she gives astronomy-related talks for middle and high school students, as well as science teachers. Additionally, Justine is on the board of directors of Custer Observatory where she helps with astronomy outreach and helps maintain Long Island’s largest public telescope.  Justine is available for special presentations to schools and school districts collaborating with CEI and Kevin Manning on STEM initiatives.

liz head shot croppedLiz Parry, Engineer, American Society of Engineers Past Chair K-12 and Precollege Division, is an engineer, engineering educator and international expert on K-12 Integrated STEM through Engineering.  After ten years at IBM Corporation, Liz went to North Carolina State University’s College of Engineering and for the past fifteen years at the College has led a number of projects funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Education aimed at increasing the engineering and technological literacy of students from prekindergarten through graduate school. As both a practitioner and researcher, Liz’s focus areas in Integrated STEM through engineering include school and/or district transformation; diverse populations and STEM; developing viable models through sustained engagement with administrators and teachers; use of effective, research based tools for STEM implementations and focusing on engineering specifically as an effective tool for integrated instruction. Liz is the chair of ASEE’s Long Range Planning committee on K-12 Education, a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s K-12 Committee, and a member of the board of both the Triangle Coalition for STEM Education and the STEM Education Center.

orinthiaOrinthia Harris, Educator & STEM/STEAM Consultant is a dynamic educator with over ten years of experience both inside and outside the classroom.  She collects, analyzes, and interprets data related to academic goals and teacher effectiveness.  Ms. Harris is now offering Preschool STEM/STEAM workshops for CEI. She has assisted in implementing after- school and community based intervention programs with the Columbia Association, the Boys & Girls Club, charter schools, and several faith based organizations.  She served in her districts ESOL department where she designed and implemented brain-based lesson for elementary ESOL students.  She has a passion for making learning engaging, and has presented on how to effectively motivate and engage all students.  She is a member of Center for Applied Science and Technology’s (CAST) faculty cadre, where she developed free resources that link UDL and the Common Core State Standards for National center on UDL.  She is currently working on her dissertation at Notre Dame of Maryland University.  Her thesis will focus on the effect of teacher perceptions on STEM achievement.

IMG_0008mary woodsMary Woods, M.A., South Carolina, CEI Leadership Associate, has served as a teacher, media specialist, curriculum consultant, assistant principal, and principal. She has presented at National Association of Elementary Principals and the National Blue Ribbon Association, among others. She has authored multiple grants, receiving over $1.6 million for 21st Century Learning and Supplemental Educational Services grants.

Mary is collaborating with CEI to facilitate 21st Century Leadership, with a focus on heart centered education and CEI’s partnership with Operation Respect. Mary has a strong background in science and is also assisting CEI with STEM/STEAM workshops for Administrators. A Cum Laude graduate from Benedict College, Mary received her master’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Carolina. Mary not only is known for her leadership, she cultivates excellence in those who work with her. She has received numerous awards, among the many, awards as the National Distinguished Principal, Order of the Palmetto- the highest civilian honor in South Carolina, NASA Ambassador, SCASA Principal of the Year, the SC PTA Principal of the Year, and Teacher of the Year.

Mary Woods has had a library named after her, a day declared in her name by the Mayor of Greenville, and commendations from the South Carolina State and Senate. She has also been a Milken finalist. She has also held numerous offices including being President of Elementary Division of SCASA. Under Mary’s leadership, her school received over 30 top honors (for reading, PTA, writing, science, service learning, web site, art, and public relations). Among these were the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award, Milken Teacher of the Year, International Science Teacher of the Year, National Exemplary Reading Award, State PTA Program of the Year Award, State Exemplary Writing Hall of Fame Mentor, National Public Relations Golden Achievement Award, South Carolina International Reading Award, National Science Teaching Award, Astronomy & Space Science Award, CIBA-GEIGY Award for Excellence in Elementary Science, International Science Teacher of the Year, NCNB Young Artist Showcase Award, NASA Newest Program, National Presidental Award for Math and Science, and the North American Invention Convention Winner.


George White, M.A., Education Policy Associate, is an education policy analyst, writer and communications consultant with expertise on issues related to educational equity, early childhood education, health and international development. White is research director, editor and chief writer for Robert L. Green & Associates (RLG), a consulting team that serves many public school districts. He is co-author of Expect the Most – Provide the Best, a 2014 Scholastic Inc. book produced by members of the Green team. He is also a contributor to A Call for Change, a 2012 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt anthology on education reform based on solutions submitted at 2012 summit on black male education, a conference convened by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council of the Great City Schools. Moreover, on behalf of a project funded by the Kellogg Foundation, he produced A Way Out, a policy recommendations report that identifies initiatives, policies and programs designed to improve the life prospects of Latino, African-American and Native-American youth.

White also produces reports on education and other public policy issues for New America Media, a national nonprofit news service. In addition, he provides advisory services to the Ghana-based International Institute of ICT Journalism and has served as an education consultant for universities and international institutions in Africa. Previously, White managed a UCLA-based communications institute that – on behalf of the Annie E. Casey Foundation – helped nonprofit coalitions in six cities develop media projects and communications strategies to promote initiatives related to education, health and community development. He has also provided communications services for projects and publications funded by the Ford Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation.

PrincipalGreg (1)Gregory Egnor, Ed.D., is the principal of Stewart Elementary, a STEM school, and the director of special education of Burrell School District in western Pennsylvania. He led the transformation of Stewart into an innovative STEM school three years ago through a district initiated elementary program restructuring. His school continues to evolve its STEM program through the implementation of 21st century learning experiences for students. Dr. Egnor has worked with many school districts, teachers, and administrators in their efforts to implement STEM based practices. He delivers professional development workshops, and has presented at conferences regarding the implementation of 21st century learning practices through STEM.

CEI Trainer Cadre

CEI trainers are available to provide an array of training and technical assistant services. Our trainer cadre delivers high quality services customized for schools, districts, and other educational organizations.

Kathy Ward-Cameron, the executive director/ founding president of the Early Literacy Institute, has been on the leading edge of the national focus on early literacy and practice-based coaching for early childhood practitioners for over two decades. She served on the research team for the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (NCRECE) at the University of Virginia and is a master instructor for Brookes Publishing on the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) Toolkit. Kathy has been a teacher, administrator and coach.

Maria O’Connell Bonarrigo, Ph.D. ,has served as an evaluator for CEI. Dr. Bonarrigo is co-director of Research and Evaluation, and Instructor, at the Program for Recovery and Community Health, Yale University, School of Medicine. Dr. Bonarrigo is currently Director of Evaluation for the Mental Health Transformation- Systems Infrastructure Grant. She completed an NIMH National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellowship in Intervention and Disability Research at Yale in 2004. Dr. Bonarrigo has been involved in local and national recovery-oriented system transformation efforts.

Kathleen Sciarappa, Ph.D., has 26 years of experience as an elementary and middle school principal and has received numerous awards for her work. She was an urban educator in Ohio and now pursues her interest in working with aspiring, new, and practicing principals. Currently active as a mentor, adjunct professor, and educational consultant, Dr. Sciarappa coordinates a statewide mentor program for school leaders in New Hampshire and facilitates principal networks.

Kevin Simpson, M.Ed. has 15 years in education with K-16 roles ranging from teacher, specialist, lead teacher, mentor, coordinator, adjunct professor, and consultant. He has taught a range of grade levels and content areas. The last ten years he has focused on mathematics. Kevin has experience with the International Baccalaureate Programmes (Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme). Kevin is trained in the Common Core math and has trained teachers worldwide at American curriculum schools.

He has also worked in USA, Bahrain, Laos, Thailand, Lebanon, China, Kuwait, Venezuela, Dominica, Qatar, Egypt, Colombia, Nigeria, Jordan, South Africa, Honduras, and the United Arab Emirates with international schools, professional development providers, education organizations, Ministries of Education, and accreditation organizations. He was a National Consultant with the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, which provided effective, research-based practices to educators across the country. Kevin has served as a CEI math presenter and consultant.

CEI Interns

CEI interns assist with writing articles for the Wow!Ed newsletter and CEI blog as well as conducting background research for CEI and sometimes assisting with marketing and creative development.

Vanessa Abrahams, BA in Communications and English, is pursuing her Master’s in Health Promotion. Her educational focus is on improving writing in schools, non-profit development, and aligning heart and health with academic success.

Annie Burch, earning her BS in Human and Organizational Development, is interested in the implementation of the best educational practices in schools and in physical and mental health of adolescents.

Melanie Holland, BA in Sociology, is earning her Master’s in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy from the Steinhardt School and New York University. Her educational focus is on after-school education programming, non-profit development, and the political economy of education.

Nick Jones, is earning his BA in Mass Communication. He teaches ESL once a week  and upon graduation. he will enter a Master’s program for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. His main areas of interest are education, journalism, and race and culture issues.

Elijah Mercer, is an American University graduate who recently finished a two year stint teaching secondary English in Baltimore through Teach for America.

Lindsay Reeves, 2009 graduate of the University of Georgia, where she received her BA in Political Science. She works as a researcher for Net-Texts, Inc. and as a rater for the Georgia Center for Assessment. Her items and pieces have been used by Homecourt Publishers and A Pass Education Group.

The CEI Team

  • K’Lee Banks, Research Associate
  • Dr. Kevin Green, Trustee
  • Monica Jerbi, Communications Associate
  • Lauren Hamilton, Wow Ed! Editor
  • Suzan Mullane, Research Associate and Trustee
  • Ingrid Padgett, Business Development Associate
  • Kevin Manning, STEM Associate
  • Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy, Research Associate
  • Mary Woods, CEI Leadership Associate
  • Carol Sorgen, Writer
  • George White, Writer and Education Policy Associate
  • Sherri Brick, Intern
  • Donald Kim, Intern
  • Jordan Gilliard, Web Intern
  • Drew Altizer, Intern
  • Brogan Murphy, Intern
  • Mahnaz Ahrary, Intern
  • Elizabeth Horak, Intern
  • Rachel Kelly, Intern and editor CEI Blogposts
  • Tess Renirie, Intern
  • Joanna Alice Marzano, Intern
  • Morgan Grant, Intern
  • Grace Rubenstein, Intern