Texas Early Learning Council Members

*positions determined by counting from left to right
**to see a council member's bio, click on his/her name

Cecilia Abbott (First Lady of the State of Texas) Not Pictured
Katherine Abba, Ph.D. (Chair of the Department of Education for Houston Community College) Row 2, Position 6
Sarah Abrahams (Deputy Associate Commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services) Row 1, Position 7
Courtney Arbour (Interim Deputy Director for the Texas Workforce Commission) Row 1, Position 6
Travis Armstrong, Ed.D. (Director of Early Learning for Wichita Falls Indepedent School District) Row 2, Position 7
Weldon Beard (Director of Head Start and Early Head Start for the Greater East Texas Community Action Program) Row 2, Position 5
Terri Breeden (Section 619 Lead Coordinator for the Texas Education Agency) Row 2, Position 13
April Crawford Ph.D. (Dir. of Strategic Initatives and Program Implementation for The UT Health Science Center at Houston CLI) Row 2, Position 10
Sam Eng (Director of the Texas Asian Peace Officer Association) Row 2, Position 1
Alferma Giles, Ph.D. (Dir. of the Texas Head Start State Collaboration Office at The UT Health Science Center at Houston CLI) Row 2, Position 12
Melissa Horton (Franchise owner with Primrose Schools and President of the Texas Licensed Child Care Assocation) Row 2, Position 4
Becky Huss-Keeler Ph.D (Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake) Row 2, Position 3
Jerletha McDonald (Licensed home child care center provider and the owner and director of Kiddie Corner Learning Center) Row 2, Position 9
Dana McGrath (Director of Early Childhood Intervention Program for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) Row 1, Position 1
Jacquie Porter (Director of Early Childhood Education for the Texas Education Agency) Row 1, Position 3
Julie Richards (Director of Field Operations for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) Row 1, Position 8
Teresa Robledo (Early childhood teacher at San Antonio College Early Childhood Center) Row 1, Position 5
Stephanie Rubin (CEO of the non-profit organization Texans Care for Children) Row 1, Position 4
Kiersten Schwab (Executive Director of the Texas Public Broadcasting Association) Row 2, Position 11
June Yeatman (Lead teacher for the Austin Community College Children's Lab School) Row 1, Position 2

Also pictured: Mike Morath (Commissioner of Education) Row 2, Position 8

 

 

Council Member Bios

 

Cecilia Abbott (First Lady of the State of Texas) Not Pictured
Cecilia Abbott’s story reminds us all that the American Dream is alive and well in Texas. The granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico, Cecilia was raised in San Antonio by parents who were both educators, and who instilled in Cecilia, her sister, and two brothers, a love of learning and helping others. Cecilia took their lessons to heart and studied at the University of Texas at Austin before subsequently earning three degrees from the University of St. Thomas in Houston: a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Theology. Cecilia then devoted her life to serving others. She has been a teacher, vice-principal, and principal at several Catholic schools across Texas. Most recently, she served as the principal of the Cathedral School of Saint Mary in Austin from 1996 to 2001. Cecilia then went on to another noble calling working in senior health care services, where she served as the Managing Director of Community Relations from 2004 to 2013 for a health care company specializing in senior adult health care facilities and services. But, Cecilia hasn't been devoted to helping others only in her professional life; she's done so in her personal life as well. She currently serves on the board of several educational organizations – the University of St. Thomas Board of Directors, the Huston-Tillotson University Board of Directors, the Saint Gabriel’s Catholic School Board of Trustees, and the Cathedral School of Saint Mary Advisory Board. Cecilia is also active in numerous philanthropic groups - she is a member of the Women’s Symphony League of Austin, the Dell Children’s Women’s Trust, and is a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Cecilia is a former member of the State Board for Educator Certification, where she served from 2001 to 2008, and also served on advisory boards for the Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas Chapter, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Texas Regional Office, the Holy Trinity Seminary, the Catholic Diocese of Austin Schools, Ballet Austin, and the Principals’ Center at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Cecilia believes strongly in giving back. Her signature initiative as First Lady combines the two things that she is most passionate about – Texas and philanthropy. She calls it Texanthropy, and through it she promotes volunteerism and service to others across Texas. Cecilia has also partnered with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on a similar initiative – Network of Nurture – to raise awareness about the ways Texans can support the children and families in the state’s child welfare system. Cecilia is a classical music devotee, having begun playing the piano at the age of six. Her piano training came in handy when she moved into the Castilian Dorm at UT, where she serenaded her future husband from behind the keyboard with music, the likes of which he had never heard. She is also a prolific animal lover, and has nurtured numerous dogs into their late teens. She has raised a variety of pets, including a Nubian goat named Petunia. Most importantly, Cecilia is a proud mother to her daughter, Audrey, and a devoted wife to her husband of 37 years, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. With her husband’s election as Governor, Cecilia made history by becoming the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas. The Abbott Family lives in Austin with the First Dog of Texas, Pancake, and the First Puppy of Texas, Peaches.

Katherine Abba, Ph.D. (Chair of the Department of Education for Houston Community College)
Katherine Abba currently serves as the Chair for the Department of Education at Houston Community College. She is also faculty for the Child Development and Teacher Education programs.

Sarah Abrahams (Deputy Associate Commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services)
Sarah Abrahams currently serves as the Deputy Associate Commissioner for Prevention and Early Intervention at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services where she oversees systems efforts and program initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for Texas children and families. She led the Home Visiting and Early Childhood work at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission as the Director of the Office of Health Coordination and Consumer Services, managing cross-systems programs and policy coordination efforts with a focus on children and families. Before joining HHSC, Sarah was a Systems Improvement Analyst with Casey Family Programs, providing strategic planning, implementation support, technical assistance, and policy analysis for systems improvement work targeting child welfare practices on national, state and local levels. Sarah has 15 years of nonprofit project management and program development experience in parent education and support, women’s health and family economic wellness. She holds an Masters in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

Courtney Arbour (Director of the Workforce Development Division at the Texas Workforce Commission)
Courtney Arbour is Director of the Texas Workforce Commission’s Workforce Development Division where she oversees an integrated workforce development system that provides oversight, coordination, guidance, planning, technical assistance, and implementation of employment and training activities, with a focus on meeting the needs of employers and job seekers in Texas. In her role as Director, Courtney provides oversight and support for workforce services administered and operated by 28 Local Workforce Development Boards, which include services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, unemployment insurance reemployment, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families employment and training, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training, Child Care and Development Fund, Wagner-Peyser Employment Services and Trade Adjustment Assistance. In addition, Courtney directs the administration of multiple state operated programs to include Adult Education and Literacy, Apprenticeship, Skills Development Fund, Texas Veterans Leadership program, and others. She oversees grants totaling approximately one billion dollars in state and federal funding. Previously, Courtney served as the Deputy Director of Contracts and Operations at TWC, and for many years prior to state service, she was a service provider in the Workforce Solutions offices. In 2018, Courtney received a nomination for the Outstanding Women in Texas Government Awards in the category of Leadership. She is also the recipient of the 2018 MAFO President’s Award in which she was nationally recognized, for her support in building stronger rural communities and sustainably for farmworkers. Courtney is a proud graduate of Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.

Travis Armstrong, Ed.D. (Director of Early Learning for Wichita Falls Indepedent School District)
Dr. Travis Armstrong is employed as the Director of Early Learning for Wichita Falls ISD in North Texas. His career in Texas public schools began in PPCD (Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities) prior to teaching English Language Arts and Reading at a fourth and fifth grade campus. Prior to serving as the Director of Early Learning, Dr. Armstrong worked as a high school assistant principal, elementary principal, and assistant director of special education. He appreciates the importance of developing partnerships with local non-profits and education service centers to provide resources benefiting children.

Weldon Beard (Director of Head Start and Early Head Start for the Greater East Texas Community Action Program)
Weldon Beard is the Head Start Director of GETCAP in Nacogdoches, TX. He serves as the President of the Texas Head Start Association, the Treasurer of the Region VI Head Start Association, and a board member for the Stephen F. Austin State University Charter School. He is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin University and has completed the Johnson & Johnson Head Start Management Fellows Program and the ULCA Graduate School of Management.

Terri Breeden (Section 619 Lead Coordinator for the Texas Education Agency)
Terrie Breeden has more than 25 years of expertise in the field of Special Education. Her experience includes teacher, educational diagnostician, supervisor and she is currently working at Texas Education Agency as the Part B State 619 Coordinator. Her interests in special education include: Early Childhood, assessment, transition and Child Find. She serves on the Early Childhood Intervention advisory committee and provides guidance on topics related to Early Childhood and students with disabilities.

April Crawford Ph.D. (Dir. of Strategic Initatives and Program Implementation for The UT Health Science Center at Houston CLI)
April Crawford, PhD is an associate professor and serves as the director of Strategic Initiatives and Program Implementation at the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). In this role, Dr. Crawford conducts research and oversees implementation of CLI’s statewide initiatives focusing on early childhood education, including the Texas School Ready project and CLI Engage, the online platform serving more than 35,000 early childhood teachers, specialists, and administrators in Texas. She developed several research-based performance assessment tools and measures for use by pre-k teachers and served as the lead author of the Texas Core Competencies for Early Childhood Practitioners and Administrators. She serves as principal investigator and co-investigator for three federally funded research projects examining the effectiveness of professional development approaches. Dr. Crawford earned her doctorate degree in political science and public policy from the University of Houston.

Sam Eng (Director of the Texas Asian Peace Officer Association)
Sam Eng, Jr. is a native Houstonian and a 25-year resident of Waller County. He attended Waltrip High School (graduating in 1972) and the University of Houston, majoring in business and Law Enforcement. In 1976 he attended the Texas Law Enforcement Academy and subsequently worked as a Peace Officer until 1985. From 1986 to 1990 he was the Chief of Security for NW Bank. Since 1991, Sam has worked as a rancher and investor.

Alferma Giles, Ph.D. (Dir. of the Texas Head Start State Collaboration Office at The UT Health Science Center at Houston CLI)
Dr. Alferma Giles is the Director of the Head Start State Collaboration Office, located at the Children’s Learning Institute at The University of Texas at Houston. She provides leadership/management oversight for all initiatives of the Texas Head Start State Collaboration Office, including the Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System. Dr. Giles has been in the early childhood field for over 36 years working in various capacities. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Education Administration from Madison University.

Melissa Horton (Franchise owner with Primrose Schools and President of the Texas Licensed Child Care Assocation)
Melissa Horton is the President of the Texas Licensed Childcare Association and has been a Franchise Owner with Primrose Schools for the last 7 years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education, and the majority of her 20 year career has been spent in childcare administration.

Becky Huss-Keeler Ph.D (Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake)
Dr. Rebecca Huss-Keeler is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, TX. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Early Childhood Education. She also has taught early childhood education courses at Berry College in Rome, GA and is a ten year veteran kindergarten and early primary grades teacher. She has a B.S. Ed from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania with certifications in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, a M.A. in Early Childhood Education from George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Language and Literacy Development from Georgia State University. She serves on the Houston Good Reason Coalition, advisory boards for Alvin Community College and San Jacinto College North and the Martel Awards Committee of the Houston Children’s Museum. Nationally, Dr. Huss-Keeler serves as a Peer Reviewer for National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) Associate and Bachelor’s degree program accreditation and is Region 6 representative and board member for the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE).

Jerletha McDonald (Licensed home child care center provider and the owner and director of Kiddie Corner Learning Center)
Jerletha McDonald is social entrepreneur, event coordinator, consultant, trainer, and national speaker. Jerletha owned and operated Kiddie Korner Family Childcare Center in Arlington, Texas for 14 years. Jerletha is also the founder and CEO of the Arlington DFW Child Care Association and Radio Host of the Jerletha McDonald Show, Everything Childcare, where she and her co-host discuss everything childcare, and provide a platform for early childhood professionals to shine! Jerletha has a degree in Child Development and Family Studies with a minor in Early Childhood Intervention from Stephen F. Austin State University. In 2010 Jerletha interned with Camp Fire USA First Texas Council in the Work Family Division. There she gained and developed the skills to run and conduct early childhood professional development trainings and events. Jerletha is a proud member of the National Association for the Education of the Young Child (NAEYC) and proudly serves on the board of directors for the Dallas and Fort Worth TexasAEYC Affiliate Chapters. Jerletha is also a member of the National Family Child Care Association (NAFCC). Jerletha is a proud servant of her community and advocate for the field of Early Childhood Education. Jerletha has a special interest in the economic security and leadership development of women and girls. Her passion for business and the childcare profession inspired her to form the Arlington DFW Child Care Provider Association in February of 2014. Jerletha enjoys traveling across the county training and advocating for Children Early Childhood Educators. She is involved in the Early Matters Dallas Coalition (DEA) and the Ft. Worth Early Learning Alliance (ELA). Jerletha is also a proud member of the Arlington, Texas MLK planning committee. In April of 2016, Jerletha was recognized by the Grand Prairie NAACP as one of the Most Influential Women in Business. In 2017 Jerletha received the Early Matters Dallas Bright Spot Award. Jerletha has went on to receive numerous awards and recognitions for business and child care excellence. Jerletha is also a 2018 NAEYC Legacy Scholar recipient. Jerletha is on a mission to innovate and advocate for early childhood professionals all over the county, bringing much needed awareness to the early childhood educators who run this profession!

Dana McGrath (Director of Early Childhood Intervention Program for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission)
Dana McGrath is the Director of Early Childhood Intervention Services at the Health and Human Services Commission. Ms. McGrath has worked for ECI since 2014 to improve outcomes for children with disabilities and developmental delays and has more than 13 years of service with the State of Texas in various positions at the Department of Aging of Disability Services, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, and the Health and Human Services Commission. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology and the study of women and gender from Rice University and a master's degree in public policy from the George Washington University.

Jacquie Porter (Director of Early Childhood Education for the Texas Education Agency)
Jacquie Porter is the Statewide Director of Early Childhood for the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Her work focuses on building, implementing, and improving the state’s early childhood systems, implementing initiatives committed to expanding access through various activities including public and private partnerships between child care centers and school districts/charter schools, and providing support for our early childhood teachers and families with young children. She has been working in the Division of Early Childhood since 2017. Prior to her position at the agency, Jacquie served as the Director of Early Childhood for the Austin Independent School District for 9 ½ years where she helped orchestrate collaborations between child development centers and the school district to increase access for families, opened a three-year-old prekindergarten program and a program for tuition-based students. As the Statewide Director of Early Childhood, Jacquie enjoys working with the wonderfully talented and dedicated early childhood teachers across the state and the incredible advocates for young children in Texas.

Julie Richards (Director of Field Operations for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission)
Julie Richards has served as Director of Day Care Field Operations for Child Care Licensing since August, 2014. Julie was previously the HHS Service Coordinator and worked closely with the Child Care Licensing Executive Management team and the regional child care staff on critical issues. Julie began her career with Child Care Licensing as a Monitoring Inspector in the Austin area and then served as a District Trainer. Before coming to Child Care Licensing, Julie owned and operated a licensed child care center. Julie has a Bachelor of Health and Wellness Promotion from Southwest Texas State University (Texas State) and will graduate with her MBA from Baylor University in December, 2019. She was part of the Texas Trainer's Registry and a former Texas Child Care Health Consultant.

Teresa Robledo (Early childhood teacher at San Antonio College Early Childhood Center)
Teresa Robledo I teach preschool as an Early Childhood Teacher at San Antonio College Early Childhood Center. I also teach college students enrolled at the San Antonio College Early Childhood Studies Department. For the past 20 years I have worked with children birth-12 years of age. I enjoy volunteering for my sons’ activities, reading, dancing and advocating for young children.

Stephanie Rubin (CEO of the non-profit organization Texans Care for Children)
Stephanie Rubin joined Texans Care for Children as CEO in 2015. Previously, Stephanie was Senior Officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she coordinated multi-state children’s initiatives focused on early education, home visiting, oral health and juvenile justice. She also oversaw more than 20 state policy campaigns for Pre-K Now, a $10 million initiative supported by Pew and other funders to increase access to quality pre-k across the country. Before moving to Austin, Stephanie served as Deputy Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, Legislative Director to a California State Senator, and Counsel to the California Senate Select Committee on Higher Education. Stephanie received her B.A. from Princeton University and her J.D. from UCLA.

Kiersten Schwab (Executive Director of the Texas Public Broadcasting Association)
Kierstan Schwab serves as executive director of Texas PBS. Under her guidance, the 11 Texas stations collaborate to sustain public media. For more than 40 years, PBS stations have partnered with parents, childcare providers and community organizations to get kids ready for school and a lifetime of learning. Texas PBS partners with the United Ways of Texas to assist communities build a learning ecosystem with an initiative called Start Smart Texas(startsmarttexas.org). This statewide effort was designed to develop and expand early learning coalitions in partnership with the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading. It empowers parents and caregivers with knowledge about child development through free weekly, text messages about fun, effective activities. In 2016, Schwab produced the Emmy-nominated documentary The National Parks of Texas: In Contact With Beauty. Before joining Texas PBS, she worked for KLRU, the Austin PBS station. Schwab has a Master’s Degree from the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She lives in Austin with her husband and daughter.

June Yeatman (Lead teacher for the Austin Community College Children's Lab School)
June K. Yeatman is an Arkansas native who found her way to Texas via Hawaii, Labrador, South Dakota, North Carolina, and Minnesota. She is a proud alumna of Yankton College (once known as “the Harvard of the West”, now housing a minimum security federal prison), where she earned her B.A. (History and Pre-Theology) in 1980. June completed her M.Ed. (Curriculum and Instruction, Early Childhood Education Specialization) in 1994, after 10 years of study at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 1995, she has served as a Lead Teacher at the Austin Community College Children’s Lab School. June believes that play is paramount, life is better outdoors, and travel is happiness. She admires auto mechanics, public librarians, and all those who question authority – including the toddlers and college students she teaches and learns with each day.