ALICE THOMAS, M.Ed., is the founder, president and CEO of the Center for Development and Learning (CDL). Alice’s work is guided by a steadfast belief that all children, regardless of how they look, where they come from or how they learn, can and will achieve school success when provided with highly effective teachers and positive, supportive learning environments. In addition to executive duties, she facilitates professional learning for school leaders, teachers, and related specialists. Alice previously served as a teacher, counselor, and intervention specialist. She has taught university graduate courses on differentiating instruction for struggling students. She is a Learning Forward Academy graduate. She is the creator and director of the annual evidence-based Plain Talk about Literacy and Learning Institute. Alice is coauthor of the Plain Talk about Learning professional learning curriculum, the Right from Birth parent/caregiver training curriculum, and the Teens & Tots curriculum; and editor of CDL’s online blog. Alice completed a fellowship in neurodevelopmental variations at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and doctoral level studies in change leadership at the University of Toronto. She is the recipient of the New Orleans Children’s Defense Fund’s Champions for Children award and the International Dyslexia Association’s 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence.
DENISE HOWELL, as CDL’s programs manager, spends much of her time organizing CDL’s annual Plain Talk about Literacy and Learning. She also coordinates the logistics and collects data for all professional learning sessions conducted by CDL professionals. Prior to coming to CDL, Denise worked with the Youth Service Bureau in St. Tammany Parish as their referral coordinator and the assistant coordinator for the Youth Service Bureau’s annual fundraiser, Chef Soiree.
ANTINEA JOHNSON is an early childhood specialist at CDL. As such, she coaches and mentors teachers in early childhood classroom settings. Antinea believes that all children deserve a nurturing and engaging environment filled with learning and laughter, and finds that providing support to those working directly with young children is the most efficient way to ensure best practices are provided to all children. Antinea is an approved Director for Type III learning centers, a certified Pre-K CLASS observer, and a Louisiana Pathways Trainer. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Dillard University.
SUZANNE “Suzea” MILLERHEBERT, M.Ed., is an early childhood coordinator at CDL. With over 30 years of experience in education across multiple states, primarily in early childhood, Suzea uses her passion to support early childhood educators from all walks of life. Suzea has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Education from the University of New Orleans in curriculum and instruction with a focus in early childhood and a minor in special education. Additionally, she is a CLASS reliable observer in infant, toddler, and Pre-K.
CINDY PHILLIPS is CDL’s director of business operations. Cindy oversees CDL’s accounting and risk management issues. Cindy brings extensive non-profit financial management experience to CDL, having previously worked for the Volunteers of America, managing multi-million dollar budgets with various program delivery models. Cindy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of New Orleans.
AMY E. POIRIER is the supervisor of early childhood programs at CDL where she enjoys working side-by-side with early childhood professionals to provide support and thereby positively affect outcomes for young children. Amy’s extensive experiences in the field as an early childhood teacher, center director, and director of curriculum and training allow her to develop professional learning services for early childhood professionals, organize and implement early childhood mentoring and coaching efforts, and support CDL’s early childhood team in meaningful ways. Additionally, she has worked as a program monitor, coach, trainer, and curriculum specialist for several statewide programs. Amy is an endorsed Louisiana Pathways trainer, an approved Child Development Associate (CDA) Professional Development Specialist, a Zero-to-Three approved trainer, and provides training and technical support for the Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). Amy is the creator and program administrator of CDL’s Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Early Childhood Ancillary Certificate Program, CDA Cornerstones. Amy knows that children benefit most from high-quality interactions provided by teachers who understand child development and early childhood pedagogy, and that relevant, on-the-job coaching and mentoring support significantly increases these skills. Amy received a bachelor’s in education from Wichita State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education at Kansas State University where she is researching early childhood pedagogical leadership.
LAUREN RICHARDSON is CDL’s graphic designer. She designs and prints all training and promotional materials, including all materials for the Plain Talk about Literacy and Learning Institute. Lauren graduated from Louisiana State University College of Art and Design in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in graphic design. In her spare time, she enjoys creating original oil and acrylic paintings that showcase all that New Orleans has to offer.
LIBBIE SONNIER-NETTO, Ph.D., is CDL’s vice president of programs where she leverages over 17 years of experience in the field of education to improve the life chances of children, particularly those most at risk due to income, education, environment, and health. Libbie’s passion for under-represented populations has provided her a broad range of experience leading teams of individuals in system-wide initiatives. She has led the development and implementation of statewide programs as a state director of two federal programs managing budgets in excess of $3 million as well as developing and implementing pilot programs in three states across multiple agencies and community partners to improve efficiency and efficacy of direct services to children, parents, and caregivers. Additionally, Libbie has drafted and assisted in passing state statute, legislation, regulation, and policy. Libbie holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Southern Mississippi, a Master of Education in early childhood intervention and family support services from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in human development from Virginia Tech. She is the co-author of multiple publications and technical reports, training curriculums, and, with Sharon Ramey and Craig Ramey, the Four Diamonds Checklist. Libbie is recognized as trail blazer in her advocacy efforts supporting marginalized populations and is the recipient of the Hulick Serving Spirit Fellowship Award for her commitment to individuals with disabilities across the life course.