EdGame Showcase Bios

Dr. Melissa Brodowski Ph.D., is the Deputy Director of the Office of Early Childhood Development (ECD) at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). She has been the Deputy Director of ECD since 2019. In this role, she provides leadership and guidance to support early childhood initiatives across ACF and with federal partners and other stakeholders. Prior to this role, she led numerous cross-agency and public-private partnerships at several ACF offices. She was previously a Senior Policy Advisor at ECD working on the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships and a Senior Program Specialist with the Children’s Bureau leading child maltreatment prevention efforts. Through various federal positions, she has overseen grant programs, technical assistance, research and evaluation activities, interagency and regional office coordination, and public-private partnerships related to early childhood, child maltreatment prevention, child welfare, and the implementation of evidence-based home visiting programs. She has over 20 years of experience working in the field of child welfare, health and human services. Prior to her federal career, she worked as a Management Analyst at the Alameda County (CA) Department of Children and Family Services and at the community level as a substance abuse counselor working with pregnant and parenting women and adults enrolled in a medication-assisted treatment (methadone) program. She received her BA in Psychology from Temple University, her MSW and MPH from the University of California at Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Social Work.” 

Anthony Detrano, Senior Program Manager - Vroom Communications, joined the Bezos Family Foundation in 2017 to help Vroom reach parents and caregivers through a diverse mix of activation channels and branded partnerships. Before joining BFF, Anthony worked extensively in nonprofit communications and marketing, as well as project management, consultative sales, fundraising, and event production. Anthony holds a master’s degree from NYU where his studies focused on branding and cross-sector collaboration.

Julia Abercrombie, MPH is a Behavioral Scientist with the Learn the Signs. Act Early. program in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She supports Learn the Signs. Act Early. partnerships with early childhood programs to promote early identification of children with developmental delays and disabilities so that they and their families can access services as early possible. Julia earned a BA in Psychology from Emory University and was awarded her MPH in Behavioral Science and Health Education from the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.

Dr. Melissa Baralt began her career as a primary school teacher in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She then attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. to study how the brain acquires language and what teachers, caregivers, and parents can do to maximize the language learning process. Here at FIU, Dr. Baralt has two key roles: language teacher trainer and psycholinguistics researcher. At present, Dr. Baralt's funded studies explore how bilingualism moderates executive function in children born prematurely. She and her team are working with FIU's biomedical engineering faculty to use Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to explore the neural recruitment of executive functioning in preterm-born children with different language environments. Dr. Baralt's research also focuses on language-development interventions for young children, with a focus on bilingual language development. In May of 2017, Dr. Baralt and her team were announced as the winners of the United States Bridging the Word Gap Challenge, funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The intervention, a free phone app called Háblame Bebé, teaches Hispanic parents how and why to give "Language Nutrition" to their infants in their heritage language, and promotes caregiver pride surrounding Hispanic bilingual identity. As a member of the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network Group, Dr. Baralt's work focuses on evidence-based intervention practices to help prepare culturally and linguistically diverse children for kindergarten.

Miriam Calderon: Deputy Assistant Secretary in OESE (TBD), is the Early Learning System Director overseeing the Early Learning Division in Oregon. Before coming to Oregon, Miriam served as the Senior Director of Early Learning at the Bainum Family Foundation, where she shaped a new $10 million dollar investment in a birth to three system for the District of Columbia. She also was a senior fellow with the BUILD Initiative, leading BUILD’s work related to dual language learners, and serving as a faculty member for BUILD’s Equity Leaders Action Network.

Previously, Calderon served as a political appointee in the Obama Administration, advising on early learning policy at the Domestic Policy Council at the White House and at the Department of Health and Human Services. She also served as the Director of Early Childhood Education at DC Public Schools, where she oversaw Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs, including helping to implement universal pre-kindergarten in DC.

Calderon was also Associate Director of Education Policy at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization. There she focused specifically on early education policy for Hispanic and dual language learner children. She began her career in early childhood working as a mental health consultant in Head Start programs in Portland, Oregon. She has published several reports on early childhood education. Calderon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Delaware and a

David Cantrell Ph.D.: Delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for OSERS/OSEP is a member of the U.S. Government Senior Executive Service, serves as the deputy director in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, at the U.S. Department of Education (Department).

Prior to joining OSEP, David worked as a director in the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. He began his career as a special educator in Raleigh, North Carolina and then joined the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) where he taught students with various disabilities in grades preschool to high school. After teaching, he moved into administration serving as a district coordinator, school administrator, and, finally, as director of special education and student support services for DoDEA.

Throughout his career, David has passionately advocated on the behalf of students with disabilities. His areas of interest include home-school partnerships, early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, and dropout prevention programs for students with disabilities.

David was born in Dayton, Ohio, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Louisville, a Master of Education in special education from North Carolina State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in special education policy from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Katie Hamm: Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office Early Childhood Development, ACF, HHS is the Administration for Children and Families at HHS currently the deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development in February 2021. 

Before joining the Biden Administration, Hamm was the vice president for early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress, where she oversaw the organization's early childhood program to advance child care, preschool, Head Start and home visiting investment.

Previously, she was a career civil servant at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where she worked on budgetary and policy issues related to human services programs. As a Presidential Management Fellow, she completed a detail to the Administration for Children and Families in the Office of Child Care, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

Hamm received a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Virginia and is a Harry S. Truman Scholar.” 

Dr. Larry Wexler Ph.D.: Research to Practice Division, Division Director, OSEP is the Director of the Research to Practice Division in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the U.S. Department of Education. The Research to Practice Division provides leadership and oversees the implementation of the IDEA discretionary grant programs to support seven grant programs: state personnel development; personnel preparation; technical assistance and dissemination; technology, media services and educational materials, parent-training and information centers; IDEA data; and the Promoting Readiness for Minors In Special Education. Dr. Wexler has been a special educator for forty five years having been a teacher of students with severe disabilities, program director, principal, state intellectual disabilities specialist, chief of staff to the State Director of Special Education, director of state monitoring, OSEP state contact, OSEP project officer, Deputy Director of the Monitoring and State Improvement Planning Division and Associate Division Director responsible for OSEP’s National Initiatives Team. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the School of International Service at American University, a Master’s degree in teaching with concentration in intellectual disabilities from Howard University and a Doctorate with concentration in severe disabilities from the Johns Hopkins University.

Karen Erickson Ph.D.: Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, Professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences  is the Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, a Professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, and the Yoder Distinguished Professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research addresses literacy assessment and instruction for struggling readers of all ages including those with significant disabilities. Karen is co-developer of the Tar Heel Reader online library of accessible books for beginning readers, as well as several other assistive and learning technologies. She is a former teacher of children with significant disabilities.

Susana Navarro: Parent,  has over 12 years of experience in the disability community, she is also a proud parent of a child with autism. She is bilingual English/Spanish and currently works training and supporting families of children with special needs at Parents Helping Parents in San Jose California.

Jay Buzhardt: Developer is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Kansas' Juniper Gardens Children's Project, Dr. Buzhardt has nearly 20 years of research experience in early childhood special education. Supported by federal funding from OSEP, IES, and NIH, his work has focused on finding ways to use technology to support parents' and teachers' use of evidence-based practices. A key part of this research has been to improve data-driven decision making practices by making assessments less intrusive and the data more meaningful to the services educators provide. The Infant-Toddler IGDIs (Individual Growth and Development Indicators - igdi.ku.edu) are a product of this research program, along with other colleagues at Juniper Gardens. Findings from two randomized control trials have shown improved child outcomes when home visitors and educators use IGDIs with web-based guidance to inform early intervention services.

Amanda Callies, Parent is a Registered Nurse currently working as a stay at home mom, wife, and learning coach for two virtual students. In addition, she is a parent advocate in an Autism Support Group, an Autism Advocate, and whatever else life needs her to be.  She has been married for 22 years and has three wonderful Sons - Blais who is currently in college and Daniel and Jacob who are 14 year old twins.  Jacob was diagnosed with Autism at three years of age and Daniel has a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD. She and her twin boys have been sheltered in place for the last 15 months due to a blood disorder called G6PD deficiency.  The blood disorder places them at high risk for COVID complications.  It has been a tough year for the boys accessing instruction through a virtual school filled with a lot of technology.  Both boys have also had an increase in mental health conditions over the last year. They rely on assistive technology every day and it helps to make Jacob’s life easier. 

Dr. Terry Jackson: Education Program Specialist at U.S. Department of Education OSEP is a Project Officer at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Dr. Jackson has worked at the Department for over 14 years and is the Lead for OSEPs Technology program that support grant projects that use current and emerging technologies to improve access to accessible educational materials and outcomes for students with disabilities. In addition to overseeing the Technology program, Dr. Jackson manages Personnel Development grants and the implementation of Unified Champion Schools (UCS) progam. UCS is a national project at Special Olympics Inc. that focus on the "social inclusion" of students with and without intellectual disabilities in over 8,000 schools in 48 States and the District of Columbia.

Dr. Jackson has also worked for five years as a Program Specialist with the IDEA Partnership at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE). He has dedicated over 15 years as a child and family therapist working with children and adolescents in therapeutic foster care, community-based counseling services, and as a group counselor providing outdoor experiential therapy. Dr. Jackson has a B.A. in Psychology, an M.Ed. in Counseling and earned his Ed.D. from George Washington University.