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Trainer Bios


Mellisa Cain
For over ten years, Mellisa Cain has worked as an educator, trainer and facilitator with youth and adults throughout the world as a classroom teacher, group facilitator, trainer of trainers and summer camp director. She is the founder and director of Learning through Laughter, a staff development company based out of Burlington, Vermont. Always open to new ideas, Mellisa has cultivated a vast collection of experiential team-builders, games, tools and ideas that she incorporates into a variety of workshops and trainings. Above all else, Mellisa believes strongly in experiential learning as the most effective learning strategy regardless of learning style. Mellisa has facilitated a variety of workshops throughout the United States and the world. She is known for her energy, positive outlook, her ability to think outside the box and to adapt to the needs of participants. Mellisa holds a masters degree in Conflict Transformation from the SIT Graduate Institute and a bachelors in Peace Studies from Manhattan College.
Workshop: Building Relationships with Families; Exploring Cultures Through Games; Zip Zap Zop: Building a Team of Adults Experientially; Zip Zap Zop: Building a Team of Youth Experientially; YPQI

Lauren Chicote
Lauren is the Programs Director at the Winooski Valley Park District in Burlington where she oversee’s the non-profits education and outreach programs and serves as the Director of their summer day camp. Prior to her current position with the WVPD Lauren served as their AmeriCorps Environmental Educator through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and worked for the Great Burlington YMCA’s After School Program. She grew up in Southern Vermont spending many hours outside in the woods where she developed a deep passion for nature, wildlife and the great outdoors. Lauren loves everything Vermont has to offer and enjoys hiking with her dog, kayaking, and gardening in the summer, and xc skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the winter.
Workshop(s): STEM Environmental Literacy in Action

Deb Chisholm
Deb has close to 40 years of experience in education and school counseling. She has had wonderful opportunities to work, play, learn and grow with young people at all age levels. They have challenged her, in fact, and that is how Me Power: The Power2Be came to be – she struggled with teaching them about the power dynamics of popularity, peer pressure, friendships, and later on, bullying. Then, as she taught them Me Power, she continued to learn from their “pearls of wisdom” shared during Me Power discussions.
Workshop(s): Nurturing Confident, Compassionate Kids with Me Power

Rachel Donegan
Rachel is the Science Educator and Program Manager at the Montshire Museum. Rachel has a B.S. in biology from Bates College and an M.S. in environmental science. She worked for five years as an educator at the New England Aquarium in Boston and an Island Manager for the Boston Harbor Islands. Rachel has been at the Montshire since 2003. She can often be found exploring Montshire’s trails and exhibits with her young daughter or paddling her handmade kayak on the Connecticut River.
Workshop(s): STEM Tinkering 101, STEM Tinkering for ALL Educators

Rhonda Drake
Rhonda Drake has worked with school-age children in various settings for more than 13 years. Currently, she is part of the Elementary Team at Mansfield Academy (Chittenden East Supervisory Union’s Alternative Education Program). Rhonda has also been a part of the Greater Burlington YMCA for over 12 years as a school age assistant, site director, area coordinator, and summer camp director. Rhonda has served as a Mentor for Quality and as a S.T.A.R.S. Assessor. Rhonda has a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College of Vermont in Early Childhood/ Elementary Education and Psychology.
Workshop(s): Building Relationships with Families; Child Development Grades K-2; Child Development Grades 3-5; Exploring Cultures Through Games

Alissa Faber
Alissa Faber has a certificate in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelors in Fine Arts. She currently combines these two areas by teaching afterschool and summer classes at the Burlington City Arts clay studio. Alissa was part of the Burlington Kids afterschool community for five years in a variety of roles. For the past three years, she has been facilitating the youth ambassador program with Vermont Afterschool. Working with youth to find and express their voice through the arts, writing or public speaking is a priority to Alissa as an educator.
Workshop(s): Building Relationships with Families; Introduction to Nonviolent Communication in Afterschool; Lesson Planning Strategies for Afterschool; YPQI

Betsy Gradziadei
Betsy Graziadei MPS ATR-BC, provides art therapy consultation and treatment services at Vermont Counseling and Trauma Services, LLC. She also offers art therapy groups and professional development in schools and for community agencies.  She has worked extensively with children and families with complex trauma and those who need medical and mental health support.  Betsy offers individual, group and family sessions as well as trauma evaluations, consultation, and training. Betsy is a Registered and Board Certified Art Therapist with the American Art Therapy Association.  She received her Masters Degree in Art Therapy and Creativity Development from Pratt Institute.  She has served as president of the Art Therapy Association of Vermont and as an adjunct faculty at Burlington College and formerly at Long Island University Graduate Art Therapy Program.  She is a professional member of the American Art Therapy Association and the Art Therapy Association of Vermont.  Betsy also serves as a board member of the VT Pediatric Palliative Care Initiative, is Chairperson of Palliative Care Project and member of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Art Therapy Association of Vermont.
Workshop: Understanding Complex Trauma and the Influence of Art in Afterschool

Jenna Guarino
Jenna is the Director of Ecotone Education, a consulting firm that collaborates with schools and community groups to build environmental literacy. She specializes in student ecosystem studies, curriculum development, and teacher professional development. She also teaches courses in environmental science and biology at the Community College of Vermont.
Workshop: STEM Winter Ecology

Deb Hathaway
Deb has her Bachelor’s Degree from Wheaton College, a Master’s in Secondary Education, and a Master’s in Educational Leadership. She is holds a Vermont teaching license in science with a principal endorsement. Deb worked for 14 years as a chemistry teacher, where her emphasis was providing positive educational experiences for children with diverse needs. Deb is currently  the Executive Director of The Tapestry Program which provides high quality summer and afterschool care for K-12 youth in Rutland. The program serves 600 children, many of whom live in poverty.
Workshop(s): Understanding Poverty and its Impact on Youth; YPQI

Linden Higgins
Linden Higgins has long experience in helping non-scientists become comfortable using the processes of scientific reasoning. She has worked in informal education, K-12 classrooms, and college classrooms, training providers and working directly with students. Her focus in all settings is to help participants understand that they are capable of engaging in self-guided inquiry to better understand their world. This experience she brings to her Vermont Afterschool workshop.
Workshops: STEM The Private Eye, STEM Inquiry 101

Kate Hudspeth
Kate works with children in many roles focused on health promotion and inspiring optimal outcomes for youth development.  She has extensive experience working with children through roles as a mental health clinician, an after-school coordinator for at-risk youth, and a mentor through outdoor sports programs focused on character development.  Kate completed a 200-hour alignment-based vinyasa flow teacher training and received a 95-hour kids’ yoga teaching certification from Yoga Ed.  She utilizes yoga to build confidence, community, and healthy habits that will serve children over the course of their lives.  She strives to help all children she works with to recognize and reach their potential, while feeling connected and happy in the process.  Kate is known for her enthusiastic and encouraging teaching style, and has a passion for building community and making yoga accessible to all. www.sparkyouthyoga.com

Merry McDonnell
Merry was a middle-school language arts teacher in Pennsylvania and Connecticut for 25+ years before discovering that it was even more fun to teach crafts, fishing, gardening, chess and STEM in afterschool programs. She has worked with Burlington Kids at Flynn Elementary and now teaches at the Mt. Mansfield Winter Academy.
Workshops: STEM Engineering Adventures; STEM Science on a Shoestring, Ask/Imagine/Create

Nicole Miller
Nicole is the director of the REACH! Program in the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union and as such oversees three afterschool program sites. Nicole worked as a site coordinator with REACH! prior to taking on the directorship. Nicole holds a BA in Elementary Education from Johnson State College and has lived in Vermont since the age of ten.
Workshops: YPQI

Tricia Pawlik-York
Tricia has experience overseeing various afterschool, summer, and camp programs, as well as serving on the STARS oversight committee for the state of Vermont. Tricia holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from the University of Vermont and holds YMCA Senior Director Status.
Workshop(s): Building Relationships with Families; Supervision: Getting Started as a Supervisor; Supervision: Staff Management; Supervision: Performance Reviews and Staff Challenges

Tami Stagner
Tami Stagner is the Out of School Programs Coordinator for the Springfield School District. Tami has over 20 years experience working within the education and out of school time fields. Tami trains in Vermont and New Hampshire in a variety of out of school time topics. Additionally, Tami is a trained mentor for the Child Development Division and Vermont Child Care Industry and Careers Council. Tami holds a BS from the University of Wisconsin in Teaching K-6 Education with a minor in Library Media Science.
Workshop(s): YPQI

Alison Thomas
Alison Thomas is the Education Coordinator for the VT Fish & Wildlife Department. She received her undergraduate degree in Geology and Environmental Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, where she was born and raised. She received her M.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Education. She has worked as a naturalist and educator for the United States Forest Service, National Park Service, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Workshop(s): STEM Environmental Literacy in Action; STEM Project Learning Tree

Lauren Traister
Lauren is the Teen and Leadership Coordinator for UVM 4-H.
Workshop: Youth Leadership Development with UVM 4-H

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