Cassidy Dickson


Cassidy holds her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from USF. She has years of classroom experience in play based learning, understanding of curriculum development and developmentally appropriate practices. Cassidy's philosophy encompasses the importance of bridging connections between home, school, and the community. She is an advocate for making children feel welcomed, represented, and heard. Her research interests include social justice, self expression, and the Project Approach in Early Childhood. 

Georgia Mackenzie

Administrative Specialist

Georgia Mackenzie has been with the College of Education since 2000 and began in the Dean’s Office. She moved to the Development Office and assisted with raising funds for teacher scholarships. She then transferred to the USF Preschool for Creative Learning in 2015 where she now works as the Administrative Specialist. She has a vast knowledge of university policy and procedure from her 20+ years at USF. She is currently working toward her A.S. in Business.

Holly Class

Emily Merino


Emily graduated from USF in Summer 2020 with her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. She grew up in Tarpon Springs and enjoys spending her evenings watching the sunset on the beach. She has been working at the PCL for 3 years. In her teaching, Emily values integrating a variety of domains into meaningful experiences for young children. She is excited to build meaningful connections this year with students and families.

Jordan Simmons


Jordan graduated from USF in May 2019 with her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Prior to graduation, she did her final internship at the PCL in the Holly classroom. She has an interest in social activism and embedding the arts, especially music, into the early childhood classroom.

Magnolia Class

Suzanne Pagnanelli


Suzanne began working at PCL in the fall of 2021. She relocated to Florida from North Carolina. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. She has experience in both the public and private school systems. She has taught the last 22 year in 1st grade at Immaculate Catholic School in Durham, North Carolina before joining the PCL staff.

Kasey McKay


Kasey grew up in Tampa, Florida and received her associates degree at Saint Petersburg College. She then transferred to USF to further her education and has now earned her bachelor’s degree in general studies with a concentration in education. Based on her personal experience, she is passionate about making positive connections with the children and creating a learning environment that fits their needs so they can thrive. She believes that every child is on their own path when it comes to their education and that each child’s path is unique and personal to them. 

Maple Class

Sadie Koch


Sadie was adopted from China and has lived most of her life in Tampa, Florida. She earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from USF in 2022. She brings experience from various educational settings and a love for learning. In the classroom, she utilizes children's personal experience and interests to enhance their learning. 

Christina Smith


Christina holds her Masters degree in Early Childhood Educational Leadership from the University of North Florida and is currently completing her post graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis. Christina enjoys creating inclusive environments and the influence of behavior on learning. She believes "every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them!"

Willow Class

Keegan McKay


Keegan grew up in Tampa, FL then moved to Greensboro, North Carolina to attend The University Of North Carolina at Greensboro. She studied Elementary Education with a focus on Sociology. She moved back home to further her education at USF. She started working at PCL in the Willow Room last year. Her passion is working with toddlers and exploring how they learn.

Kiandra Rackley


Kiandra Rackley was born in Australia and moved to Florida, where she spent most of her childhood. She attended the University of South Florida to study Early Childhood Education. She began working at PCL shortly after her first internship and returned to the PCL for her final internship in the 2-3-year-old classroom. She graduated in the Spring of 2021 and transitioned to the Maple Room teacher. During her time as an intern, Kiandra discovered the power of positive relationships with students as well as the importance of differentiation. Every student is an individual with their own strengths and needs so they should be taught to embrace these differences, and use them to learn from one another.

Advisory Board

Ilene Berson

Ilene Berson, Ph.D., NCSP is a Professor of Early Childhood in the Department of Childhood Education and Literacy Studies at the University of South Florida. She also serves as the coordinator of the USF Early Childhood doctoral program with an emphasis on social justice and child advocacy. Dr. Berson has extensive experience working with children ages birth to eight, and she is a nationally certified and state licensed school psychologist. Her research focuses on prevention and intervention services for young children at imminent risk for behavioral and mental health challenges associated with child maltreatment and other traumatic events. She leads collaborative reform initiatives, forging linkages between early childhood, child welfare, and health care systems, as well as international studies on the engagement of young children with digital technologies. Dr. Berson has extensively published books, chapters, and journal articles and has presented her research worldwide. She has been the principal investigator on funded grants totaling over $2.5 million. Dr. Berson embodies the characteristics of an engaged scholar who works closely in reciprocal relationships with practitioners and policymakers to develop innovative solutions for emerging and long term issues to promote young children's well being.

Ruth Bahr

Ruth Huntley Bahr is Professor and Graduate Program Director of the Speech-Language Pathology Program at USF. She received her PhD from the University of Florida and came to USF in 1995. She is past editor of Language, Speech, and Hearing Sciences in Schools, a Board Recognized Specialist in Child Language and a Fellow in the International Society of Phonetic Sciences and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. As a PCL Advisory Board member since 2008, Dr. Bahr provides information about the early speech, language and literacy needs of preschool children. Most importantly, her two children are graduates of this preschool.

Jolyn Blank

Jolyn Blank is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of South Florida. Dr. Blank's research focuses on arts and inquiry in early schooling and on early childhood teaching practices. She investigates the ways integrated processes of investigating and representing meaning using multiple modes of symbolic thought support young children's cognitive development. At USF, Dr. Blank teaches classes at the undergraduate, graduate, and advanced graduate levels focusing on play-based learning, the project approach, the arts, and multi-modal literacies in early childhood education. Dr. Blank serves as curriculum advisor and professional development coordinator for the USF Preschool for Creative Learning in order to support the director, teachers, and staff in their efforts to provide the highest quality and most meaningful learning experiences for young children.

Judy Bryant

Judy Bryant is a Professor of Psychology. Her PhD is in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, and her research focuses on language development in the preschool years. She is particularly interested in children's pragmatic development (how they learn to use language for social purposes). When she came to USF in 1981, she got involved with the university preschool in order to have a place where her students could observe preschoolers and collect data. At that time, the preschool was not the professional operation it is today. Both her sons are graduates of the preschool and attended the afterschool program when they were in their first few years of elementary school.

Sophia Han

Sophia H. Sophia Han is an associate professor and the undergraduate program coordinator for the early childhood education program at USF. She began to serve as the PCL board member since 2014. Her areas of research interests include early childhood teachers' role in supporting children's social competence development; innovative approaches in early childhood teacher education; and socio-culturally responsive pedagogy in early childhood education. She currently serves as a consulting editor for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and a reviewer for several other professional journals and organizations in the field. She was a preschool and kindergarten teacher, and is also a former parent of PCL from 2010 to 2013.