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2021 Presenters

Brandi Crawford-Lavoie

Brandi has been working in the field of Early Childhood Education for more than 25 years. She has taught in classrooms for children birth to school age and for the last 15 years has been serving as Director of a Preschool in Orlando, FL. Brandi also mentors new directors, conducts personalized training and has a passion for implementing Developmentally Appropriate Practice into early childhood programs as well as supporting teachers and leadership in their careers. She feels she has been called to do this important work and feels blessed to be able to love her work.

Susan Cyr

Susan Cyr is a business professional with fifteen years of experience in providing business management and operational leadership. She is a principal and President of Grow Right, a division of R2R, LLC. Susan provides overall leadership of the division supporting Grow Right in fiscal and strategic planning, human resources including the management of the benefit packages, and technology initiatives associated with day care applications. She was co-founder of Open Roads Consulting, Inc. In her role at Open Roads, she provided overall management of the communication and human resource departments. Susan was the founder and President of Apple Tree learning Center, a 21 year old, non-profit company that provides early learning solutions in conjunction with local church facilities.

Magdelena (Matti) Friedt
Matti has spent her entire adult life caring for children and families.  Forty-five years ago, Matti began her engagement with child care as a toddler teacher during her summers in college. That experience sparked her to quickly change her major from elementary education to early childhood. She has been a k-4 teacher, center director, kindergarten teacher, prekindergarten teacher and now is the Director of Preschool Programs for Polk County Public Schools. Her responsibilities includes Head Start, Title 1 PK, Voluntary PreKindergarten, Florida First Start, and Campus KidCare (after school programs)   

She is the mother of three adult children and Grandmother of seven. Matti's husband recently retired as Senior Pastor at Believers’ Fellowship Word of Faith Church in Lakeland, Florida, after 40 years of service. 
She enjoys Tae Kwon Do and holds a Second Dan Black Belt. Most importantly, Matti loves what she does because she is in love with the one who called her to this vocation.  Her stated life’s goal:  That I may faithfully give of myself to others so they can in turn give of themselves to others.

Julia Hendry

Julia Hendry has served in Christian Early Education and Preschool Ministries for over 40 years. Her experiences as both a classroom teacher and Program Director have allowed her to touch the lives of thousands of children with a focus of Spiritual Development and learning through PLAY! As a Leader in the Faith-Based Early Education arena, she brings a strong foundation for Kingdom Education.

Julia provides training and consulting services to Faith-Based Ministries and Churches throughout the U.S. and is a popular conference speaker and presenter for churches, conferences, and conventions. She is currently a Master Trainer for the WEE Learn Curriculum, an ACSI Early Education Accreditation Validator, and serves as a Faith-based Early Childhood Consultant and Trainer.Julia's passion is equipping early educators, as well as encouraging them to embrace their call to serve and love young children with Biblical Excellence. Her life motto is “Honoring Christ, Honoring Children!”

Mecca Johnson

Mecca Johnson is the founder of My Joy Speaks, LLC, a platform for “getting to the root of things” through humor, self-deprecation, and a fierce love and appreciation for authenticity in all of its forms. Her clients have reflected on time with Mecca as life-changing. Her commitment to providing tools to support individual improvement have resulted in improving the lives, families, and organizational cultures impacted by those she supports through speaking, training, consulting, and coaching. Her experience includes 30+ years in the field of Early Childhood Education with a particular expertise in Leadership within a franchise culture. Her message and the tools she provides transfer seamlessly to any industry.

Dr. Phyllis Kalifeh

Dr. Phyllis Kalifeh is the President & CEO of the statewide organization, the Children’s Forum in Tallahassee, FL. She has spent her 40+ year career operating programs, services, and advocating on behalf of young children in early learning and child care settings to improve quality, access, and availability for families. Prior to her 21-year tenure at the Children’s Forum, she served as the executive director of Early Childhood Services in Panama City, FL serving the northwest Florida region for more than 20 years.

Her passion for public policy that supports young children, early childhood educators, and families is evidenced in both her personal and professional journey. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in early childhood education, Florida State University for her master’s and doctorate degrees in educational leadership, policy and evaluation. She has served in leadership positions on local, state, and national boards. She is blessed to be the mother to six sons, beautiful daughters-in-law, and 10 grandchildren. She and her husband reside in Tallahassee, FL.

Shannon LaChance

Pastor Shannon Lachance is a graduate of Pacific Life Bible College in Vancouver, BC with a diploma in Professional Counselling. She has worked with her husband in building serval businesses and served in pastoral roles for 17 years in Eastern and Western Canada. These roles have included executive leadership, ministry development, community outreach and counselling.

In 2017, Pastor Shannon moved to Virginia with her husband, two of their four adult children and their granddaughter. Since that time, she has added to her experiences Director of Alumni and Development at a Christian College and Children’s Ministry Pastor at a local church. Shannon is highly relational and works to balance her perspective so that she sees the potential in people while also focusing on opportunities to grow in every direction. On the side, Shannon can be found using her creative talents to support her husband in their real estate investment opportunities.

Leslie Morrison

Leslie has over 26 years experience in Early Childhood Education and holds her bachelors in Education from Liberty University. She has taught preschool through elementary, designed curriculum, directed programs, and trains educators. Her passion is early education and weaving spiritual formation into children.

Eddie Roberts

Donna Roberts

Donna Thornton- Roberts’s passion and devotion to early educators has propelled her into becoming a national treasure as a champion for those dedicated to teaching and caring for young children for the last 30 years.  Since 1989, she has crisscrossed the country providing thousands of professional development trainings to audiences with her inspirational messages in practical application from her first-hand experiences in childcare. 

She’s an author, business owner, and executive coach devoted to increasing the quality of early childhood programs by investing in the individuals who directly influence and teach young children.  Donna holds a BS in Management of Human Resources, a Master’s in Business Administration and anticipates completing her Doctorate in Leadership next year. 

She’s the founder and president emeritus of the Association of Early Learning Leaders and currently serves as the president of Child Development Education Alliance, Inc - an association serving over 500 faith based programs.  Donna has appeared on CBS News, Sirius Radio, and Family Net TV.  She has a passionate zeal to train-up the next generation of influencers in early care education!




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