MEET THE C-TLC FELLOWS
Stacy Bachelder Giles, M.Ed., Principal, Broad Street Elementary School
Stacy is passionate and committed to helping all students, staff and stakeholders come together to support a healthy school community. Stacy has taught for 12 years and earned a Master of Education from Lesley University in Massachusetts and Principal certification from Rivier College in New Hampshire. As a school principal, she is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by collaborating with families and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.
Elisy Blanco-Mercado, LICSW, School Social Worker, Carl G. Lauro Elementary School
Elisy Blanco-Mercado is a Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years of experience working with youth and families. In 1998, Elisy earned a bachelor’s degree from Providence College in Public and Community Service with a concentration in Urban Politics and a Master of Social Work in 2003 from Rhode Island College with dual concentration in Clinical and Administrative Studies. Elisy has been working as a school social worker for the past 15 years, providing advocacy and support for students, teachers, and families. In addition, Elisy has a small private practice in Providence, RI where she extends her compassion to those seeking mental wellness. She finds joy spending time with her husband, two children and extended family playing games, listening to music, and watching sports. She strives to maintain “a sense of wonder” and to help others find their light while they heal from past traumas.
Joelle Brookner, MA, Principal, Williamstown Elementary School
Joelle is the principal of Williamstown Elementary where she also taught fifth and sixth grades in an inclusive setting for nearly twenty years. Prior to that, she was a developmental educator with the Early Intervention Program and a health educator at Williams College. Through her work with children of all ages, Joelle has been committed to educating the whole child and working to create a continuum of support for families with children from birth through adulthood. As an administrator, Joelle strives to create a school community that focuses on fostering growth in both heart and mind for all students. She oversees the school’s child study team, collaborates with community agencies around student support, and provides professional development for staff focused on best practices in inclusion, trauma-informed teaching, and cultural proficiency. A “wannabe homesteader,” when she is not at school, Joelle can usually be found in the garden with her chickens or in the kitchen trying out new recipes with homegrown or locally sourced ingredients.
Joan Cavallo, M.Ed., Principal, St. Albans City School
St. Albans, VT
Joan is in her 11th year as the principal of St. Albans City School in Vermont and her 22nd year in education. Before education, Joan was a software designer and a chef; both sets of skills are very helpful in education. Her 800 student, Pre-K-8 grade school has been organized to create multi-year learning communities where the focus is for all children and their families to feel a sense of belonging. The school is in its sixth year of trauma training, now focused on resilience for students and staff. The school is in the third year of Conscious Discipline and its first year for Restorative Practice. Joan fully understands that children can only learn when they feel safe and loved. This year, St. Albans City School won the national Student Voices Award. This is the first time that this award, which is usually given to middle schools and high schools, from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), went to a PreK-8 school.
Susie DaSilva, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent of Schools
Susie has spent the past 22 years serving children, families and teachers in both urban and suburban settings. She has taught students in world language, general, and bilingual education. In addition to her work as a teacher, she has led schools as an elementary principal in both Waterbury and Westport, CT. Her expertise in scientifically- researched behavior interventions and elementary reading instruction have been an incredible asset to all of the communities she has served. Since 2015, Susie has supported teaching and learning across all curriculum areas, K-12, as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Curriculum and Instruction in Darien, CT. She has been recognized for her distinguished work as a school leader, specifically in reducing the achievement gap. Currently, she has been focusing her study on health and wellness across all grade levels Pre-K-12. This work has been inspired by her deep commitment to social emotional learning in schools. Susie lives in Connecticut with her husband, three children, and dog, Lucky.
Jaime Ela, M. Ed., Principal, Libby-Tozier and Carrie Ricker Schools
Jaime is dedicated to supporting students, teachers, and their families. She was a teacher for 14 years and has held administrative roles for five years. Jaime is currently the principal for Libby-Tozier and Carrie Ricker Schools where she works with 400 Pre-K-8 students and the amazing staff who support them. Jaime began her career with technology integration. She enjoyed working with robotics and teaching coding to students in grades K-12. Jaime even won an award at the ACTEM (Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine) conference for her work with technology in education. When Jaime is not spending time with her students and staff, she enjoys spending time with her three daughters and her husband.
Andrea Isaak Elliot, Principal, Bishop Brady High School
Andrea Isaak Elliot has served as a teacher, counselor and administrator in both public and private schools in New Hampshire for over 30 years. Three years ago, she completed her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in Educational Administration at Plymouth State University. As the principal of a small Catholic high school in central New Hampshire, she sees herself as a “hand-on” leader facilitating a collaborative and caring working and learning environment. She is the proud parent of two children and enjoys spending her free time babysitting her two grandsons.
Sherene Kennedy, MS, Assistant Principal, Madison Elementary School
Sherene is an enthusiastic educator with expertise in teaching, curriculum development, supervision, and professional development. She collaboratively works with students, and the school community to integrate social and emotional learning, while creating a school culture conducive to student development. Sherene earned a Master of Science, with a concentration in Counselor Education/School Counseling and Guidance Services, from Mercy College. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership and Administration from Southern Connecticut State University.
Kristen Levesque, Ed.D., Principal, Maranacook Community Middle School
Kristen is committed to creating school cultures in which students and educators embrace learning in a trauma-sensitive environment. Kristen has experience in teaching, school counseling, mental health counseling, school administration and leadership. She has master’s degrees in clinical counseling and school counseling, from the University of Southern Maine; a Certificate of Advanced Study in Counseling (with a focus in adolescent counseling) from the University of Southern Maine; a Certificate of Graduate Study in Children’s Literature from Penn State University; and a Doctorate of Education in Transformational Leadership from the University of New England. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on creating a school culture of learning. She is dedicated to creating a trauma-sensitive school environment for all students. She enjoys hiking and spending time with her family.
Erica McLaughlin, MA, Principal, Randolph Elementary School
Erica is passionate about creating a safe, caring, rigorous, learning environment where all students and staff strive to be their best. Erica taught for eight years in Bridgeport, Connecticut and then moved to Vermont with her husband and two children. In moving to Vermont, she became the proud principal of RES for the last fourteen years. Erica works with her dedicated staff to implement Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) practices and is working toward implementation with fidelity. She uses professional learning communities (PLC’s) for teachers to collaborate and share their collective genius with each other for the benefit of students. Erica serves on the Executive Council Board for the Vermont Principals Association, serves as the State Representative and Federal Relations Coordinator for the National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and is dedicated to helping her district be trauma-transformed by taking courses through the Vermont Higher Education Collaborative. This dedicated educator enjoys time with her family, going to her children's sporting events, listening to children read with her therapy dog, London, and going for walks.
Amy Mello-Messenger, MSW, School Social Worker, Carl G. Lauro Elementary School
Amy received her Master of Social Work from New York University in 2005. She began her career as a Family Service Worker through the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families and worked with children and their families for nearly ten years. She continues to have a strong interest in foster care, adoption, and how to best serve children and their families who have experienced trauma. Amy became a school-based social worker in Providence, RI in 2015. She also runs a small private practice working with children and families to help them grow in their understanding of themselves and others. Amy enjoys spending time with her children, husband and friends – particularly time spent outdoors, like at the beach or on the ski slopes. In her work, she uses a client-centered, strengths-based compassionate approach that focuses on self-development and healing.
Jim O’Rourke, M.Ed., Principal, Hillsboro-Deering High School
Jim believes that building and maintaining healthy relationships is the number one factor in student’s academic and social success. As Principal of Hillsboro-Deering High School, he empowers and promotes teachers and students to take risks and challenges them to take on leadership roles within the school community. Jim is an active member of the Headmasters Association, is a certified Principal Mentor for the State of New Hampshire, and is the host of the educational podcast, celebratED. Outside of his professional career, Jim enjoys spending time on Lake Winnipesaukee with his wife and three boys.
Heather Pach, MS, Bridges Program, Doolittle Elementary School
Heather is a child-centered school psychologist that works to advocate and support all students to their true potential. Heather began her career as an elementary education classroom teacher but for the past 17 years has worked as a school psychologist at both the elementary and middle school levels. In her current position she works with students, staff, parents, and community providers to help students manage their emotions, cope with stressors, and learn the skills they need to be successful academically, while also meeting the behavioral and social expectations of their school. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her children and family which in the summer involves much time at their pool or at the beach with a good book!
Lisa Parker, MSW, LICSW, School Social Worker, Cumberland High School
Lisa began her school career as an elementary teacher 33 years ago and soon after earned her Master’s in Social Welfare from UCLA. She has worked in multiple settings serving children and their families including outpatient counseling, a private practice of counseling, and school social work. She is an advocate for all students including those who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum and works collaboratively with both staff and administration to ensure that their transgender policy is supporting students as intended. She has also created a sexual assault discussion/support group in collaboration with a school advocate from Sojourner House. Lisa is deeply passionate about social justice and equity, and this passion drives her work in making meaningful connections with students and helping to maintain an inclusive and supportive learning environment. When not working, she can be found rejuvenating by camping with her wife and puppy or traveling to visit her three children in North Carolina and Washington.
Nadia Pearce, MS. Ed., School Counselor, Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet High School
Nadia has been a dedicated school counselor with the Bridgeport Public School District for over 10 years. She works tirelessly with students and their families, faculty, staff and members of the community as a motivated collaborator to promote student success. Nadia has participated in the Safe Schools/Healthy School Youth Mental Health First Aid Training and Young Adults at Risk: Identifying Early Indications of Mental Illness in Youth. Desiring to learn more, Nadia seeks to hone skills that can further equip students and their families to better manage, cope, and deal with childhood trauma as well as to provide resources to help support young people. Nadia serves as a member of her school’s Scientific Research Based Intervention (SRBI) Team. For enjoyment, she likes to travel, which allows her to discover new places and cultures.
Pamela Reed, Associate Principal, Rutland High School
Pamela serves as an Associate Principal at Rutland High School in her hometown of Rutland, Vermont. She received a bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Joseph and a Master’s in Education from Castleton University. Prior to joining Rutland High School in 2010, Pam was the Director of Student Services for Rutland Central Supervisory Union. In 2009, she was honored by her peers as the Vermont Special Education Administrator of the Year. Given the rise in students with adverse childhood experiences, Pam is looking forward to helping teachers deepen their understanding of the impact of trauma and expanding their “toolbox” to better meet the needs of students within the classroom/school setting.
Kathryn “Kate” Burns Retzel, MA, M. Ed., CAGS Ed., Principal, Lee Elementary School
Kate is an experienced educational leader and gushing parent of three children and a Husky puppy who could use a bit more schooling, frankly. She has taught over 13 years in both public and private schools in the county and has been the Principal at Lee Elementary School for the past eight years. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Administration from American International College. In concert with past and present school staff, regional consultants, local mental health professionals, a school resource officer, local philanthropic agencies, and the District Attorney’s office, she created an advanced system of Response to Intervention (RTI) in her school. This system comprises a tiered approach to early identification of and enduring support for students with learning and behavioral concerns of many types. Much of her and her staff’s time in the past three years has been spent realizing students’ behavior has arisen out of many forms of childhood trauma. At the core of this program is compassion for every student’s circumstance.
Rachel Santa, Ed.D., Director of Special Services, Cumberland School Department
In addition to her work with the Cumberland School Department, Rachel is an adjunct lecturer for the Community College of Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island. She has her doctorate in educational leadership and advanced education in autism studies. Early in her career, she was a music therapist and special educator for a state mental health hospital and for a residential facility for students with emotional and behavioral health needs. She then developed and taught for an alternative learning program in a public high school. Rachel uses her therapeutic and creative background to develop systems of supports to meet the academic, functional, and emotional needs of students. She enjoys going to the beach, travelling, and hanging out with her husband and two daughters.
Alison Sumski, MA, Bridge Program Support Specialist, Methuen High School
Alison is a lifelong learner passionate about making a difference in the lives of students. After earning her MA in School Counseling from Boston College, she dove headfirst into her current role as the Bridge Program Support Specialist at Methuen High School. In this role, she consulted with a community-based mental health provider, the Methuen High School Guidance Department, and other local school-based mental health professionals to design and implement a short term, intensive (Tier-III) transition program to support students returning to school after an extended absence due to serious medical and/or mental health challenges. She currently supports the ongoing clinical and academic needs of a growing caseload of students with the goal of them graduating from the program and returning back to their full schedule of classes within 8-12 weeks. In addition to supporting students clinically and academically, Alison also serves on several leadership teams at the school that aim to foster compassionate school culture, including the Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) Team, the Safe and Supportive Schools Team, and the Social Emotional Learning Team. Outside of work, Alison enjoys teaching yoga, playing with her dog, and spending time in the sun.