Meet our staff

Ann Bailey

Ann Bailey, PhD, Director

Bailey has more than 20 years of experience in the field of education and special education, specifically in technical assistance and dissemination at regional and national levels, as well as teaching, evaluation, research, and training development. She oversees the research and evaluation work of CEED and is currently working on evaluation planning and research related to early childhood assessment, early childhood literacy, and child care systems.

Emily Beckstrom

Emily Beckstrom, MS, RBPD Manager

Beckstrom has 20 years of experience in various early childhood settings, with a passion for effective interactions, early literacy development and play—and the ways in which these things relate. Her work at CEED involves using the CLASS® tool as an observer in classrooms throughout Minnesota and helping to create and implement the process of revising the Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress.

Ashley Bonsen, Project and Curriculum Specialist

Bonsen has spent her entire professional career working in education at various levels. She has worked with learners of all ages, from infants and young children to adults in higher education. Her current role with the TARSS team allows her to continue helping other educators on their professional development journeys.

Brittany Clausell

Brittany Clausell, EdD, CLASS® Observer

Clausell is a UMN alumna (’08 and ’09) who holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership. She has worked in the field of education for 15 years and counting! She enjoys researching and developing teaching/learning practices around the pedagogy of pre-K–12 students, which translates well into her work with college-age students and adult professionals. Clausell has been an early childhood education teacher, director, K–12 teacher, principal, director, college professor, and continues to teach/coach in the schools and run her own education program in addition to her work with CEED.

Melissa Donovan

Melissa Donovan, TARSS Training Specialist

Donovan has been in the early childhood field for about 20 years in various roles. In her current role, she manages the rich professional development offerings provided by the TARSS program, including online and in-person courses and trainings as well as events like the RBPD Fall Retreat and Trainer and RBPD Specialist Symposium.

Kristina Erstad-Sankey

Kristina Erstad-Sankey, MSW, Associate Director of Program Quality

Erstad-Sankey oversees early childhood program quality work at CEED, including supporting early childhood coaches, educators, and administrators in a variety of settings (Head Start, licensed child care, and school districts) to expand their impact through intentional everyday practices. She oversees the CLASS® and coaching observations for Parent Aware, Minnesota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, and leads a team of tool anchors and observers who continuously provide reliable, professional, and high-quality observations. She also oversees professional development for Parent Aware coaches including online learning communities, in-person training, online courses, and developing guidelines and protocols for delivery. She enjoys introducing early childhood professionals to motivational interviewing techniques, classroom observation tools, executive function measures, and relationship-based professional development practices.

Mary Harrison

Mary Harrison, PhD, LICSW, IMH-E®, Associate Director of Infant Mental Health and Reflective Practice

Harrison leads training programs in infant mental health and reflective practice for professionals in child welfare, early care and education, early childhood special education, and other disciplines. She works in close partnership with the UMN Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW). Her research focuses on using an infant mental health informed reflective supervision/consultation model to support professionals working with infants, young children, and families across a variety of settings. She is one of the authors of the Reflective Interaction Observation Scale (RIOS™) as well as other publications on reflective supervision/consultation. She has been providing reflective consultation to child welfare and other early childhood professionals for over 14 years. In her previous clinical practice roles, she has directed child abuse prevention efforts and provided mental health treatment to infants, young children, and families.

Molly Hughes

Molly Hughes, MA, Mentor FCC Project Specialist

Hughes joined the TARSS team in 2023 after spending over 25 years in the field in a variety of direct care settings. She is also an approved trainer and course writer.

Anna Landes Benz

Anna Landes Benz, Curriculum Specialist

Landes Benz focuses on curriculum and professional development design. She loves researching, writing, and resource creating. She has worked in higher education curriculum development and instructional design since 2017. Before that she was a special education teacher.

Mary McEathron

Mary McEathron, PhD, Research Associate and Lead Evaluator

McEathron has 20 years of experience evaluating state and local programs with an emphasis on useful evaluations that support learning and program improvements. She has worked with numerous training and professional development programs, and brings that experience to her work as the lead evaluator for TARSS.

Michelle Mazzocco

Michele Mazzocco, PhD, Research Associate

Mazzocco is a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development. Her research spans studies with children ages two to 15 years as well as adults. Her research focuses on cognitive development in early to middle childhood, individual differences and development of numeracy, mathematical thinking, math anxiety, and lexical ambiguity.

Alyssa Meuwissen

Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, Research Associate

Meuwissen specializes in supporting adults who support children, whether they work in an early childhood education environment, the child welfare field, or other related professions. Her work focuses on supporting professionals through reflective supervision, as well as supporting parents in promoting the development of children’s cognitive skills and self-regulation.

Margarita Milenova

Margarita Milenova, PhD, Program Quality Specialist

Milenova works on early childhood program quality projects and trains early childhood professionals on the Desired Results Developmental Profile assessment tool.

Deborah Ottman

Deborah Ottman, MA, Professional Development Coordinator

Ottman oversees CEED’s partnership with the Minnesota Centers of Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities funded by the Minnesota Department of Education, Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), supporting Minnesota’s early childhood professionals and related service providers via a state-wide professional development system. In addition, Ottman manages the development and delivery of CEED’s suite of rigorous, relationship-based online courses and self-study modules, as well as evidence-based resources such as CEED’s Tip Sheets for early childhood professionals and the Child Development for Child Welfare library of resources.

Meredith Reese, Research Assistant

Reese started working at CEED in September 2019. She works on projects involving program evaluation and research in early childhood.

Barbara Vang, Program/Project Specialist

An accomplished alumna of CEHD, Vang graduated in 2010 with specialties in sales and marketing as well as human resource development. With a decade-spanning journey in curating impactful learning experiences, Vang brings her passion for enhancing educational landscapes to her role providing technical support to all of CEED’s applied research projects. Her role allows her to merge her academic foundation with her professional acumen, orchestrating innovative solutions and propelling projects to triumph. Vang’s commitment to excellence and her unique blend of skills make her an invaluable asset to the CEED team and the broader educational community.

Need to get in touch with a member of our team? Email us. Are you an undergraduate or graduate student at UMN interested in gaining early childhood research experience? Contact us.

Support staff

Hannah Baxter, Communications Consultant

Since June 2019, Baxter has assisted with CEED’s communications strategy and implementation, managing both digital and print communications.