Our Team

The EarlyEdU Alliance® Team

Our team began at the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning (NCQTL), where we developed materials to improve teacher child interactions and improve outcomes for children in Head Start programs. Now, at the EarlyEdU Alliance, all of us – early childhood experts, video producers, graphic designers, instructional designers, content experts, software developers, managers, and support staff – contribute to advancing the mission to improve access to affordable, relevant bachelor’s degrees for the early childhood workforce.

Distinguished Teaching Award

The purpose of this award is to bring attention to the importance of early childhood teaching in higher education, as well as to recognize those who have demonstrated excellence and innovation in course delivery. Recipients of this award have gone above and beyond in their commitment to work with students and see them grow and succeed in early childhood classrooms.

2022 Recipient

Govinda Budrow

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Govinda Budrow, White Earth Nation and Anishinaabe, is the recipient of our 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award. Govinda has taught for 15 years at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. She has been the principal investigator for the Tribal Colleges and Universities Head Start partnership grant  and consulted for Minnesota’s special education division to ensure tribal students are understood so that disadvantages and differences are not seen as disabilities. A focus on positive behavior support with a native voice permeates her professional endeavors. Govinda has partnered with EarlyEdU to leverage resources and support to assist with implementing her vision of a passionate and responsive partnership in the form of a cultural foundation and academic union built to transcend barriers related to educational attainment for tribal students.

Govinda Budrow at the 2022 EarlyEdU Institute

Govinda Budrow speaking at the 2022 EarlyEdU Institute

2019 Recipient

Maria Avalos

College of the Desert, California

Marie Avalos received the 2019 Distinguished Teacher Award for her commitment to her students, her teaching practice, and EarlyEdU. Maria joined EarlyEdU in 2016. She is a regular contributor to the Faculty Community of Practice and a thoughtful member of the Program Planning Team for the 2019 Institute. In 2017 she collaborated with EarlyEdU in the submission of a conference proposal to the Hispanic Association of Colleges’ and Universities’ Annual Conference. Additionally in 2019, she was recognized by her own institution for her work with EarlyEdU and supported EarlyEdU’s competency-based faculty development workshops. She is the most effective data collector in EarlyEdU’s student evaluation efforts, as she motivates her students to participate in EarlyEdU’s aim to understand and serve early childhood education students.

2019 eedu award

Maria Avalos at the 2019 EarlyEdU Institute

2018 Recipient

Carrie Ota

Weber State University, Utah

Carrie Ota, our 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient, has been an active member of EarlyEdU since 2016. She has taught EarlyEdU courses and adapted the Practice-based Coaching (PBC) course for use with mentor teachers. We consider her a Coaching Companion super user, successfully employing the use of online video analysis and feedback throughout course work. A leader in state system work, Carrie has aligned PBC with Utah’s IHE coaching certificates. She also mentors faculty who are delivering courses in the innovative state-wide Utah model, and is a valued thought partner on leadership development.

2018 eedu award

Carrie Ota at the 2018 EarlyEdU Institute

2017 Recipient

Melissa Johnson

Highland Community College, Illinois

Melissa Johnson received EarlyEdU’s 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award for her unyielding efforts to align EarlyEdU courses with new Illinois state competencies. Melissa has been an EarlyEdU champion, first presenting at a state-wide conference and then the Illinois Governor’s office, giving compelling testimonials to EarlyEdU while advocating for early childhood education. Melissa has been teaching EEdU courses since 2016, continuing to deepen implementation of course work with high school students and additional faculty at her IHE. She is a valued leader and a regular contributor in the EarlyEdU Faculty Community of Practice.

2017 eedu award

2017 Distinguished Teaching Award winner Melissa Johnson (left) stands with Gail Joseph (right).

2016 Recipient

Nanci Waterhouse

Salish Kootenai College, Montana

Nanci Waterhouse, now Nanci Red Bird, received the first Distinguished Teaching Award at our inaugural institute in 2016. Our first member and tribal partner, Salish Kootenai College taught more EarlyEdU courses, in-person and online, than any other institution of higher education (IHE) during our 2016 national pilot. Nanci led the way teaching three courses and developing innovative approaches to helping students work with the Coaching Companion. Nanci co-presented at the 2016 Institute on competency-based assignments. Nanci continues to be a valued Alliance member and collaborator in her current faculty role at the University of Montana Western.

2016 eedu award

Nanci Waterhouse, center, stands with Founding Director Gail Joseph (left) and Outreach and Implementation Manager, Katie Emerson-Hoss (right) at the 2016 EarlyEdU Institute.

EarlyEdU Alliance Staff


Gail Joseph, PhD
Founding Director

Gail E. Joseph is a former Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) teacher and the Bezos Family Distinguished Professor in Early Learning at the University of Washington (UW). She teaches courses, advises students, provides service, and conducts research on topics related to early learning and equity, childcare quality, teacher preparation, early childhood mental health, and school readiness. Gail is the Founding Executive Director of Cultivate Learning at the UW and was previously the Director of the Head Start Center for Inclusion (Headstartinclusion.org) and Co-Director of the National Center for Quality Teaching and Learning funded by the Office of Head Start. Gail is currently the Principal Investigator and Senior Director of Translational Science for the National Center on Early Childhood Development Teaching and Learning. At Cultivate Learning, she oversees the work of quality ratings in all licensed childcare and preschool programs in the state and creates professional learning resources – such as Circle Time Magazine and the Meaningful Makeover series. Additionally, she is the Founding Director of the EarlyEdU Alliance. Gail is the 2018 recipient of the David R. Thorud Leadership Award at the University of Washington.


Mike Browne, MBA
Senior Director of Community Engagement

Mike Browne (he/him) is the Senior Director of Community Engagement for Cultivate Learning at the University at Washington. Mike is a New York raised Afro-Caribbean, former tap-dancer and collegiate athlete, working to dismantle White Supremacy and forms of oppression in our society. After exchanging his tap and football shoes for a chance to live and work in London and Spain, he returned to his passion for early learning as an educator, coach, and consultant. Bringing his sense of discovery, wonder, and awe with him, he joined the team at Cultivate Learning in January 2022. With an MBA in International Business and Marketing, Mike brings a unique perspective to early learning that balances grassroots efforts with systemic accountability to ensure we address the social and political crisis surrounding our culture’s often detrimental view of children and caregiving that results in the physical and psychological harm of our youngest citizens. Working to restore and maintain joy in our work with young children, he’s unrelenting in his pursuit to protect, uplift, value, live with, learn from, and respect childhood and all that comes with it.

Headshot of Mike Brown.

Katie Emerson-Hoss, PhD
Higher Education Outreach and Implementation Manager

As the Higher Education Outreach and Implementation Manager for the EarlyEdU Alliance®, Katie is responsible for outreach to key stakeholders at the state level as well as faculty and administrators at higher education institutions. Additionally, she works with system stakeholders to consider innovative implementation strategies to support accessible and affordable pathways into and through higher education for the early childhood workforce. As a regional field specialist for Region 2 with NCQTL, she worked with federal staff to design, pilot, and implement a regional grantee support and development process and helped launch the Practice-Based Coaching initiative in the Region. She currently facilitates the national EarlyEdU Faculty Community of Practice.

Katie has a PhD in educational psychology, with a focus on early childhood special education and mental health, and an M.Ed. in early intervention and family support. She brings a wealth of experience from her work as a home visitor and educator. As a consultant Katie has worked with children, families, teachers, and organizations to develop strong relationships for learning and well-being. Her teaching experience includes over 15 years teaching undergraduates and graduate students in early childhood and special education.


Eliana Medina, PhD
Associate Director of Integrated Learning

Eliana joined Cultivate Learning and EarlyEdU in Jan 2019. For the past 13 years, she has been involved in numerous projects to improve learning and teaching using technology, especially in the field of teacher education and higher education. Eliana has successfully produced a variety of courses and training modules in multiple formats and platforms and has led teams of instructional designers. She is passionate about helping design learning experiences grounded in learning science and user-centered design principles. Eliana earned a PhD in Learning Sciences from the University of Washington College of Education.


Sharmaine Regisford, EdS
Senior Instructional Designer

Sharmaine has over 20 years’ experience in education in both k-12 and higher education as a classroom teacher, online course facilitator, and instructional designer. She has worked closely with the Early Care and Education faculty at the University of Washington in supporting their online course offerings. Sharmaine is an active member in the Canvas LMS Community and is committed to making the learning experience engaging while maintaining a focus on accessibility and mobile use. Shar brings to the EarlyEdU Alliance her enthusiasm and curiosity, clear communication of ideas, innovative ways of thinking about how to present information to adult learners, and her commitment to excellence in the design process. Sharmaine has an M.Ed. in Science Education and an Ed.S. in Educational Technology.


Clare Juico
Higher Ed Program Coordinator

Clare Juico is a Higher Ed Program Coordinator at the EarlyEdU Alliance®. She is the Alliance’s chief point of contact and strives to maintain high service levels for all incoming requests and inquiries regarding membership and access to EarlyEdU resources and materials. Clare recently completed her Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education degree at North Seattle College. She has years of field experience as a preschool teacher in a home-based childcare facility in Shoreline, Washington. Clare is a firm believer that early childhood educators need accessible opportunities to further their knowledge in helping children succeed in school and life.

Headshot of Tonya Clegg.

Tonya Clegg
Higher Education Specialist

Tonya joins EarlyEdU after many years working as a math tutor and reading specialist for the Seattle School District. She has a BA in English Literature from Western Washington University. Tonya has a background in nonprofit management that includes the American Red Cross and various social service agencies. She currently volunteers as a Parent Educator for Forefront (UW School of Social Work). She lives with her family in Seattle.


Leslie Janes
State Implementation Specialist

Leslie has worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Implementation States to support the development of high-quality professional development for early childhood professionals since 2017. After starting her career as a Special Education teacher, Leslie left the classroom to hold a variety of positions at a large community based social service agency that focused on supporting children, youth, and families. Leslie joined the National Center staff of the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning in 2014 where she served as the Regional Field Specialist for Region V, and transitioned to the same position at the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning in 2015 when the contract shifted from the University of Washington to Zero To Three. Leslie holds a BA in Sociology and African American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Masters of Education from Southeastern Louisiana University with a concentration in Special Education.

Contact Us

For more information about our work, email info@earlyedualliance.org. Your message will be routed to the appropriate team member. We look forward to hearing from you!