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NJAEYC Board Members

Meghan Tavormina, M.A.
President

Entering the field of Early Education at a young age, Meghan worked in the classroom while obtaining her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Rutgers University in Political Science.  Once completing her degrees, Meghan created and opened a small, high quality full day Preschool. Through her work in early childhood education, Meghan has become an active ECE advocate.   Meghan joined the Executive Board of NJAEYC as a co-vice president of public policy.  Through this work she has attended several public policy forum trips to advocate for federal change in education.  She has also worked with partners and funders  to bring advocacy tools to NJ’s early childhood professionals.  A few of these tools include, “5 Bullet-point Friday” publications, ACT Team (Advocacy Changes Things), Voter Voice, NJAEYC’s first Advocacy day and our Leadership Conference.  Meghan is passionate about advocating for young children and takes opportunities to testify and speak with elected officials around important issues.  Meghan is an active participant on the NIEER Infant Toddler Center Advisory Committee, Child Care Advisory Board, Pritzger Leadership Team, and is a co chair of the Think Babies Child Care Committee and serves on several focus groups around early childhood education.

Cindy Shields
President Elect

For the past 28 years, Cindy Shields has served the children and families of Middlesex County through her work with the YMCA of Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge & South Amboy YMCA. She began working at the YMCA after graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Child Development & Family Studies. She has held several roles at the Y, including Infant/Toddler Teacher, Child Care Director, and, most currently, Senior Child Care Director. In this role, she oversees the operations of a network of multiple programs serving infants through school age children. Cindy leads the YMCA Peer Network for Early Childhood Educators in NJ, and is a member of both the Middlesex County Council for Young Children and the Middlesex County Human Services Advisory Committee. She has found her passion is advocating for Early Childhood Education as a national priority, as well as the importance of ECE staff being recognized as teachers and professionals. It is through supporting these ideals that the field of Early Childhood Education will gain the status it deserves, as it is the building block of all future learning for our youngest citizens. 

Elizabeth Fazio
Vice President, Governance

Elizabeth Fazio is the VP of Social Media and Marketing for NJAEYC. She has worked in Early Childhood Education since 2008. After graduating from Towson University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, Elizabeth taught Pre-K in the state of Maryland for two years before she moved back to her home state of NJ where she continued to teach Pre-K for another eight years. Currently, Elizabeth is the Assistant Director of a non-profit preschool and is passionate and devoted to her work in the field and dedicated to her work with the organization. 

Amber West
Vice President, Social Media & Marketing

Amber West, M. Ed is an Early Childhood Educator and First Grade teacher at Dr. Lena Edwards Academic Charter School in Jersey City, NJ. She is a two-time graduate of Howard University where she studied Human Development with a concentration in Early Childhood Development (B.S., 2014) and Early Childhood Education (M. Ed, 2015). She was recognized as a highly-effective preschool teacher for designing and implementing differentiated instruction, having professionalism with families and colleagues and creating an inviting and intentional environment for her students. This accomplishment led to her presenting at the Early Childhood Symposium: Literacy throughout the Daily Routine for Jersey City Public Schools where she focused on building “Literacy at the Morning Meeting” in 2017.

Her passion for educating young children shows through her active participation on the community. She was a Head Cheerleading Coach for FabuloCity All-Stars where they won multiple national titles. She is also the Founder/CEO of Mighty Thinkers Educational Resources where she promotes the development of the whole child by empowering, educating and motivating families, educators and the community. She understands that the way we educate young children is evolving and educators have to be equipped with the tools that will reach every learner.

Lori Harrje
Co-Vice President, Membership

Lori Harrje is the Project Lead/Technical Assistance Specialist at the Grow NJ Kids Technical Assistance Center North. A passionate lifelong learner, Lori has worked for many years helping to make the world a better place for children, families, and early childhood professionals through a variety of positions including child care center director, preschool teacher in a public school, coordinator and instructor of the early childhood certificate program at a community college, and lead trainer, quality improvement specialist, CDA instructor, and community services manager at several child care resource and referral agencies. Lori has a graduate degree in early childhood education and child development from Wheelock College in Boston and became a certified teacher of early childhood and elementary education while attending Douglass College/Rutgers University.

Jennice Webb

Co-Vice President, Membership

Jennice Webb is The Salvation Army’s Divisional Education Director, overseeing multiple childcare, afterschool and summer camp programs across the state of New Jersey. Her career as an educator began in a childcare center as a float teacher. Her passion for nurturing young minds and her ambitious mindset allowed her to achieve her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Master’s in School Counselor. Her 12 year career involves serving children in public and private settings as a teacher, early childhood director, and certified school counselor. She is actively pursuing her Doctoral degree, class of 2023, in Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Teaching. Her experience in various childcare roles has led to the opportunity of presenting at the Grow NJ Kids and NJAEYC conferences. Jennice stays active in her community by serving on the town’s local Board of Health and on the advisory board of Morris County Hispanic Affairs. 

Lindsay J. Pearson, Ed.M., IMH-E® IV-Policy
Co-Vice President, Advocacy & Public Policy

Lindsay Pearson sits on the board of the New Jersey Association for The Education of Young Children (NJAEYC) where she serves as the Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy. She is the Assistant Director of Early Childhood Educational Programming at Montclair State University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health. In addition to her full time work, she also is a
trainer consultant focusing on child development, infant and early childhood mental health, social emotional wellness and relationship-based staff development. She is the Vice President of the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health (NJAIMH) and is endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Mentor. She has worked in the field of early childhood development for nearly 15 years and considers the work to be an “occu-passion”.

Liteove Rodriguez-Tighe
Co-Vice President, Advocacy & Public Policy

Liteove Rodriguez-Tighe is currently the Director of Early Childhood Education in the city of Passaic, NJ. In her role as director, she supports and collaborates with the school leaders of in-district classrooms as well as private providers and Head Start sites to ensure that the preschool programs are providing experiences that are both nurturing and developmentally appropriate for preschool age students. Ms. Tighe started her career as a preschool teacher in a provider site and for the last 17 years has had the privilege of serving as a vice principal and principal at early childhood centers prior to her current role. Her dedication is based on her strong beliefs that high quality learning experiences have significant long-lasting impact on a child’s future academic success and social emotional development.

Erin Murray
Secretary

Serving early learners Since: 2004 • Positions Held: Infant, Toddler, Twos, Preschool & Pre-K Classroom Teacher, Assistant Director, Director, Program Manager, Professional Development Specialist, Coach & Consultant. • Favorite Age-Group: Too hard to choose (but Toddlers are up there!) • Favorite Children’s Book: The Dot, by Peter Reynolds • Favorite Children’s Song: “Play Your Instruments and Make a Pretty Sound” by Ella Jenkins • Professional Certifications: NAEYC Developmentally Appropriate Practice Training Facilitator; Wonder Based Teaching Certified; Program Administration Scale (PAS) Assessor • Professional Expertise: Engaging environments, the outdoor classroom, project-based learning, faculty and leadership development, school culture, social media, sales & marketing, ITERS-3/ECERS-3, NAEYC Accreditation, Grow NJ Kids, STEAM & 21st Century Learning • Professional Interests: Diverse and inclusive school communities, the power of play, child-led learning experiences, early brain development and executive function skills, and early childhood advocacy.

 

Prashanth Gorantala

Treasurer 

Prashanth works as a Business Analyst within NBC Universal, where his work allows him to focus on the financial aspects of the business. He has over 20 years of professional experience, and his entire career has been within the IT profession. In recent years, Prashanth has established a keen footing in the field of Early Childhood Education, as he & his wife are the co-owner of Ellie’s Academy. Prashanth has been sought out for his expertise within finance. He has attained his Master’s degree and his hobbies include traveling & photography.

 

Tirusha Dave

Central Chapter Representative

Tirusha Dave is a professional leader in early childhood education and childcare, and the Founder of Ellie’s Academy. As an early education advocate, Tirusha has appeared on MSNBC, USA Today, News12 NJ, and NJ.com, talking about the benefits of early childhood education, especially during the public health emergency.

She has earned her B.A. degree at Rider University and is currently pursuing her MBA, at William Paterson University.Tirusha has always believed that children learn best when the learning environment is designed to meet the developmental needs of each child, and one which fosters exploration, creativity and independence. She is committed to creating a strong, educational program, and high community-engagement within her community. 

Valerie Frost-Lewis, MS Ed.

Chapter Representative, Ocean County

Coming to the field of Early Education in 2006 from a career in corporate marketing and management, Valerie attained her Master of Science Degree in Education, with a Specialization in Early Childhood Education upon making this career switch. Valerie is the Owner/Director of The Peppermint Tree Child Development Center, a state licensed center with a four-star rating in Grow New Jersey Kids, the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Her center has also been selected by the state of New Jersey to implement the Pyramid Model, to support social emotional development of young children. As an advocate for inclusion of special needs children in general early care and education settings, she is a consultant for the New Jersey Inclusive Child Care Project, (which is a NJ state organization through SPAN). In 2014, she was awarded the Annasuk Award from the New Jersey Department of Education’s MAP Team for Inclusive Child Care for excellence in inclusion practice. Enjoying the opportunity to mentor aspiring early educators, Valerie is a Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. In this capacity, she performs the verification visit and mentoring session as one of the final steps for an educator to achieve their CDA Credential. She is a regular speaker at Early Childhood conferences and workshops throughout New Jersey, including for NJAEYC, and she has spoken a number of times at NAEYC national conferences. She also provides professional development for her early education staff at the Peppermint Tree on a monthly basis.