Slate of Officers 2023
Co-VP Public Policy
Susan Dannemiller, Executive Director
Children’s Day Preschool and Family Center
We are all keenly aware of the challenges facing the early care and education industry. I firmly believe in advocating for, and educating others, on the basic needs of our industry: beginning with well-financed early childhood programs and a well-supported workforce. When we have this solid ground, we can focus on providing high-quality programs that are responsive to young children’s educational, health, mental health, and nutritional needs. These issues are critical- in all early care and education settings- whether the care takes place in a home, in a center, or in a school building.
Sue is the Executive Director of Children’s Day Preschool and Family Center- an early childhood education center located in Passaic, NJ.
Sue has been working at Children’s Day Preschool for the past 21 years, beginning as the school’s art therapist, and for the last 17 years has been honored to serve as the agency’s executive director. The focus on mental health and social emotional development in the early childhood setting is a topic that Sue is extremely passionate about. As an administrator and therapist, she is focused on creating a healing-centered preschool environment where every child and every adult can develop healthy social-emotional skills and strengthen their resilience.
She has a Master’s degree in Expressive Therapy/Art Therapy, and is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the State of NJ. She has also taught at Caldwell University as an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling. Sue has worked for the past 25 years in a variety of settings with children and adolescents, with her primary focus on childhood mental health and early childhood education.
Maggie Lazur, Ed.M.
Maggie Lazur is currently the Principal of Preschool Programs for the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District. She began her educational journey by earning a B.S. from Monmouth University in Elementary and Special Education. She later received her M.S. in Educational Administration and Urban Policy from New York University and Ed.M in Educational Administration from Rutgers University. Maggie’s teaching career started as a 1st through 3rd grade teacher in an urban NJ district. In 2004 she joined the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District as a 4th and 5th grade special education teacher until 2016 when she became the Assistant Director of Special Services. Maggie was a key facilitator in the restructuring and growth of the district’s preschool program to create an inclusive, high-quality program as she shifted into a Director role. The district was awarded State preschool funding in 2020 which allowed them to expand further. In her current position as Principal of Preschool Programs, she oversees the district’s early childhood program and serves as her early childhood building’s leader.
Maggie strongly believes that quality early childhood experiences have a profound effect on children. Her background and interests have steered her towards examining how schools/programs can build organizational capacity to best meet the wide array of students’ needs. More specifically, she has focused school-wide efforts on strengthening inclusive practices by bridging the gap between federal and IEP-driven special education mandates with State requirements for maintaining a high-quality preschool program so they effectively align and support each other. To drive her efforts, she has developed community partnerships through ongoing collaboration with external stakeholders (i.e.: private community providers, community members, etc.), parents, and district staff.
Saloni’s mission to strengthen every effort that empowers children is guided by the vision of Dr. Maria Montessori and this quote by RBG;
“Fight for the things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” ― U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Saloni is President of the New Jersey Montessori Association Corporation, NJMAC. She served children and families in her community as a Curriculum Coordinator and Montessori credentialed Early Childhood Guide for 9 years. She also represented Private Preschool providers on the Long Hill Township School District’s Preschool Advisory Committee. She is currently interim Secretary of the Board of New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children, NJAEYC. She also serves on The American Montessori Society, AMS Regional Action Commission Work Group and on the Montessori Public Policy Initiative, MPPI New Jersey advocacy team to strengthen the role of Early Childhood institutions in our state.
She completed the 2020-21 AMS Emerging Leaders Fellowship Program. She holds a B.S. in Child and Adolescent Development from Union Institute and University, Ohio and B.S. in Life Sciences from Delhi University, Delhi, India.
Saloni enjoys sharing her passion for her work and has authored National Association of Independent Schools, NAIS, and Montessori Life publication articles. She has presented workshops at AMS and University conferences. Her Action Research paper, Montessori and Beyond: Successful Transition to a Traditional Public School in First Grade was published in the AMS Journal for Montessori Research.
Bhakti Bhatt (she/her)
After she received her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education (Highest Honors) from New York University, and over the past 16 years in the field, Bhakti has gained experience as a Kindergarten Prep Lead Teacher, Assistant Director, Center Director, and Education and Training Specialist. She served as a student member of Kappa Delta Pi (Honors Society for Education) through her time at New York University, holds a New York State Professional Teaching license, and has been a member of NAEYC since 2007.
As a Senior Professional Development Specialist for Bright Horizons, Bhakti supports center leaders and educators in 44 states by developing and facilitating virtual trainings on varied ECE topics, managing large-scale cross-functional projects, and being the point person for licensing regulations for her organization.
Bhakti also serves as the Co-Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Employee Advisory Group and is a DEIB Committee Member here at NJAEYC. She is passionate about supporting the creation of culturally responsive early childhood environments and helping center leaders approach their programs from a DEIB lens.
Bhakti mentors her teammates in the Education and Development department at Bright Horizons and is committed to developing inclusive professional development opportunities. She considers herself a life-long learner in the process of mentoring and coaching others.
In addition to these work and life experiences, Bhakti holds project management and talent development certifications. She applies knowledge from these to implement proactive communication plans, provide overall governance, and offer strategic thinking to all initiatives she supports. Bhakti looks forward to bringing this expertise to her role as the Vice President of Governance at the NJAEYC and furthering NJAEYC’s vision, goals, and objectives.
If elected (and even if not!), Bhakti is committed to serving New Jersey’s ECE community, to nurture and develop future educators and leaders who are responsible for providing the highest quality care for the children and families they serve.
Don Gross, or as he is known in his building and district, as Papa P is running for Vice-President – Governance. Nine years ago, I was assigned to my present position having spent much of my career at Middle School and district office. The staff asked me how I would make the transition to being an Early Childhood Educator. Fortunately, I have always seen students as students we work with regardless of their abilities. I went to Master Teacher training, learned Creative Curriculum, and Positive Behavior Support. Each day I learn more in my visits to the classrooms. I am what someone might describe as a non-tradition Early Childhood educator. However, I believe my total background makes me a viable candidate for the position.