Administration

Victoria Damjanovic

Director

Victoria Damjanovic completed her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education at the University of South Florida in May 2015. Prior to graduation she served as the Liaison between the Department of Education and the USF PCL for four years. During that time she met with teachers weekly for professional development in the areas of inquiry based teaching and learning, documentation, mentoring pre-service teachers, and integrating content into project based curriculum. She received her B.S. and M.S in Development and Family Studies and Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas. She began her career as a teacher. She then began working with children diagnosed with developmental delays, specifically autism spectrum. This led to working with parents and teachers as a parent/teacher educator, then working in Head Start providing support to families and teachers within Easter Seals Tampa as a Developmental Specialist. Her research interests include inquiry based teaching and learning with pre-service and in-service teachers, professional learning communities, Project Approach as a framework for children’s inquiry, and documentation as a tool for teacher learning.

Georgia Mackenzie

Administrative Specialist

Georgia MacKenzie has been with the College of Education since 2000 and began in the Dean’s Office. She moved to the Development Office and assisted with raising funds for teacher scholarships. She then transfered to the USF Preschool for Creative learning where she works as the Administrative Specialist. She has a vast knowledge of university policy and procedure from her 15 years at USF. She is currently working toward her A.S. in Business.

Holly Class

Cassidy Dickson

Teacher

Cassidy has been part of the PCL team for four years. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed in Early Childhood Education at USF. In the classroom she believes in fostering independence in young children and using their own ideas to navigate learning. She strives to integrate subject areas simultaneously using different mediums that reflect children’s personal learning styles. Her educational values include the importance of bridging family and community connections in the classroom and making children feel welcomed and represented. Her research interests include social justice, self expression and the project approach in early childhood.

Danielle Richardson

Teacher

Danielle began working at PCL in the fall of 2019 shortly after relocated to Florida from New Hampshire. She received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in her home state of Maine and continued on to also receive her Master of Education in Early Childhood Literacy in 2016. She has experience working in both public and private schools in New England. She comes to PCL with an educational philosophy grounded in the Reggio Emilia Approach, the importance of the parent-teacher relationship, and that every child deserves educational opportunities that encourage play, self-expression, and problem-solving skills that will make them successful members of their community.

Emily Merino

Assistant Teacher

Emily graduated from USF in Summer 2020 with her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. She grew up in Tarpon Springs and enjoys spending her evenings watching the sunset on the beach. She has been working at the PCL for 3 years. In her teaching, Emily values integrating a variety of domains into meaningful experiences for young children. She is excited to build meaningful connections this year with students and families.

Magnolia Class

Jordan Simmons

Teacher

Jordan graduated from USF in May 2019 with her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Prior to graduation, she did her final internship at the PCL in the Holly classroom. She has an interest in social activism and embedding the arts, especially music, into the early childhood classroom.

Aliza Carter

Assistant Teacher

Aliza has been with the PCL since the fall of 2018 and has enjoyed fostering relationships with children and families since joining the team. She now has over 7 years of varied child care experiences and continues to use her work at the PCL to understand child growth and development through intentional interactions and engagement in the class. When she is in the classroom she models strategies across the curriculum while supporting the teacher instruction. Aliza is a native of Fort Myers, Florida but moved for school. Currently, Aliza holds a bachelor’s degree in health science that she received in May of 2020 and is pursuing a master’s degree to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Aliza will be working in the Maple and Magnolia classrooms.

Maple Class

Chrystyan Williams

Teacher

Chrys joined the PCL team in 2017, after completing her B.S in Early Childhood Education at USF. She is currently pursuing a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction for Early Childhood Education. While teaching at the PCL, Chrys developed a passion for advocating for young children and inclusion of all children with all varieties of cultures, customs, and beliefs. She strongly believes that children learn best when they are acknowledged and, more than that, accepted by their learning community. Creating an environment filled with positive and meaningful relationships fosters positive social and emotional skills, a principle of effective learning. She has made it a responsibility to continue growing in this philosophy throughout her years as an educator.

 

Willow Class

Keegan McKay

Assistant Teacher

Keegan grew up in Tampa, FL then moved to Greensboro, North Carolina to attend The University Of North Carolina at Greensboro. She studied Elementary Education with a focus on Sociology. She moved back home to further her education at USF. She started working at PCL in the Willow Room last year. Her passion is working with toddlers and exploring how they learn.

Elyse Ledford

Teacher

Elyse Ledford joined the PCL in 2016. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Master’s in Early Childhood Education from USF. She is currently a Doctoral Candidate in the Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction program. Elyse has experience teaching kindergarten as well as preschool. Her interests include social justice education, STEM integration, and family and school partnerships. In the classroom, Elyse believes in supporting children’s voice, and engaging children in meaningful integrated learning opportunities connected to their interest and curiosity.

Advisory Board

Ilene Berson

Ilene Berson, Ph.D., NCSP is a Professor of Early Childhood in the Department of Childhood Education and Literacy Studies at the University of South Florida. She also serves as the coordinator of the USF Early Childhood doctoral program with an emphasis on social justice and child advocacy. Dr. Berson has extensive experience working with children ages birth to eight, and she is a nationally certified and state licensed school psychologist. Her research focuses on prevention and intervention services for young children at imminent risk for behavioral and mental health challenges associated with child maltreatment and other traumatic events. She leads collaborative reform initiatives, forging linkages between early childhood, child welfare, and health care systems, as well as international studies on the engagement of young children with digital technologies. Dr. Berson has extensively published books, chapters, and journal articles and has presented her research worldwide. She has been the principal investigator on funded grants totaling over $2.5 million. Dr. Berson embodies the characteristics of an engaged scholar who works closely in reciprocal relationships with practitioners and policymakers to develop innovative solutions for emerging and long term issues to promote young children's well being.

Ruth Bahr

Ruth Huntley Bahr is Professor and Graduate Program Director of the Speech-Language Pathology Program at USF. She received her PhD from the University of Florida and came to USF in 1995. She is past editor of Language, Speech, and Hearing Sciences in Schools, a Board Recognized Specialist in Child Language and a Fellow in the International Society of Phonetic Sciences and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. As a PCL Advisory Board member since 2008, Dr. Bahr provides information about the early speech, language and literacy needs of preschool children. Most importantly, her two children are graduates of this preschool.

Jolyn Blank

Jolyn Blank is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of South Florida. Dr. Blank's research focuses on arts and inquiry in early schooling and on early childhood teaching practices. She investigates the ways integrated processes of investigating and representing meaning using multiple modes of symbolic thought support young children's cognitive development. At USF, Dr. Blank teaches classes at the undergraduate, graduate, and advanced graduate levels focusing on play-based learning, the project approach, the arts, and multi-modal literacies in early childhood education. Dr. Blank serves as curriculum advisor and professional development coordinator for the USF Preschool for Creative Learning in order to support the director, teachers, and staff in their efforts to provide the highest quality and most meaningful learning experiences for young children.

Judy Bryant

Judy Bryant is a Professor of Psychology. Her PhD is in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, and her research focuses on language development in the preschool years. She is particularly interested in children's pragmatic development (how they learn to use language for social purposes). When she came to USF in 1981, she got involved with the university preschool in order to have a place where her students could observe preschoolers and collect data. At that time, the preschool was not the professional operation it is today. Both her sons are graduates of the preschool and attended the afterschool program when they were in their first few years of elementary school.

Sophia Han

Sophia H. Sophia Han is an associate professor and the undergraduate program coordinator for the early childhood education program at USF. She began to serve as the PCL board member since 2014. Her areas of research interests include early childhood teachers' role in supporting children's social competence development; innovative approaches in early childhood teacher education; and socio-culturally responsive pedagogy in early childhood education. She currently serves as a consulting editor for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and a reviewer for several other professional journals and organizations in the field. She was a preschool and kindergarten teacher, and is also a former parent of PCL from 2010 to 2013.