Administration

Victoria Damjanovic

Director

Victoria Damjanovic completed her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education at the University of South Florida in May 2015. Prior to graduation she served as the Liaison between the Department of Education and the USF PCL for four years. During that time she met with teachers weekly for professional development in the areas of inquiry based teaching and learning, documentation, mentoring pre-service teachers, and integrating content into project based curriculum. She received her B.S. and M.S in Development and Family Studies and Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas. She began her career as a teacher. She then began working with children diagnosed with developmental delays, specifically autism spectrum. This led to working with parents and teachers as a parent/teacher educator, then working in Head Start providing support to families and teachers within Easter Seals Tampa as a Developmental Specialist. Her research interests include inquiry based teaching and learning with pre-service and in-service teachers, professional learning communities, Project Approach as a framework for children’s inquiry, and documentation as a tool for teacher learning.

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 transfered to the USF Preschool for Creative learning where she works as the Administrative Specialist. She has a vast knowledge of university policy and procedure from her 15 years at USF. She is currently working toward her A.S. in Business.

Holly Class

Danielle Richardson

Mentor Teacher

Danielle began working at PCL in the fall of 2019 shortly after relocated to Florida from New Hampshire. She received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in her home state of Maine and continued on to also receive her Master of Education in Early Childhood Literacy in 2016. She has experience working in both public and private schools in New England. She comes to PCL with an educational philosophy grounded in the Reggio Emilia Approach, the importance of the parent-teacher relationship, and that every child deserves educational opportunities that encourage play, self-expression, and problem-solving skills that will make them successful members of their community.

Emily Merino

Teacher

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.

Hannah Petit

Teacher

Hannah began at PCL during her first internship in USF’s Early Childhood Education program in the Fall of 2019. Shortly after, she began working with us part-time as she continued to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. She completed her final internship in the Oak Classroom before graduating and is now a full-time part of the PCL family. She has a passion for connecting with young children in order to cater to their specific interests and learning styles so that they are made to feel more confident & capable in her care. She believes the basis of learning begins with strong, meaningful relationships and practices this by fostering a caring connection with each child she comes in contact with. 

Magnolia Class

Jordan Simmons

Mentor Teacher

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.

Aliza Carter

Teacher

Aliza has been with the PCL since the fall of 2018 and has enjoyed fostering relationships with children and families since joining the team. She now has over 7 years of varied child care experiences and continues to use her work at the PCL to understand child growth and development through intentional interactions and engagement in the class. When she is in the classroom she models strategies across the curriculum while supporting the teacher instruction. Aliza is a native of Fort Myers, Florida but moved for school. Currently, Aliza holds a bachelor’s degree in health science that she received in May of 2020 and is pursuing a master’s degree to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Aliza will be working in the Maple and Magnolia classrooms.

Maple Class

Kiandra Rackley

Teacher

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.

Willow Class

Keegan McKay

Teacher

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.

Elyse Ledford

Mentor Teacher

Elyse Ledford joined the PCL in 2016. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Master’s in Early Childhood Education from USF. She is currently a Doctoral Candidate in the Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction program. Elyse has experience teaching kindergarten as well as preschool. Her interests include social justice education, STEM integration, and family and school partnerships. In the classroom, Elyse believes in supporting children’s voice, and engaging children in meaningful integrated learning opportunities connected to their interest and curiosity.

Kayla Halls

Teacher

Kayla attended the University of South Florida where she graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education in Spring 2021. She has over six years of childcare experience with children ranging from infancy to six years old. She has worked at the PCL since completing her level-one internship in Fall 2019. Her teaching philosophy centers around the importance of relationships and facilitating authentic learning in the classroom. Positive relationships with oneself and others allow children to have compassion and confidence when navigating their world; authentic learning experiences incite curiosity and passion within students, leading them to take charge of their learning. Kayla will begin graduate studies at University of Roehampton in Fall 2021 to pursue her Master of Arts in Early Childhood Studies.

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.