2022-2023 Executive Board Members
Dr. Michelle DeMeulenaere first began her career working with young children in 1988, and across the past 32 years has amassed a variety of professional and educational experiences. Michelle first obtained her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa. Following the completion of her degree, Michelle began to work as a preschool, first and second-grade teacher. Michelle quickly progressed in her career to a director of a childcare center. Michelle was the childcare center director at both the Baton Rouge General Medical Center and the LSU Child Care Center. In her role as the director, she participated in the Early Childhood Standards team for the state of Louisiana and played a pivotal role in ensuring each center earned accreditation from NAEYC. Michelle obtained an M.Ed. from Northwestern State University and a doctorate degree from Louisiana State University. In 2014, Michelle began to work for the Louisiana Department of Education. She has been employed as an Executive Staff Officer for Early Childhood Licensing, a Teacher Certification Specialist, and more recently a Program Support Manager for Early Childhood. Michelle has also served on several boards throughout her career including Center Director Leadership Board, the Southeastern Regions Standards Team, ensuring centers in the Southern Region were prepared for NAEYC accreditation, and Baton Rouge Technical College Board Member, and currently works on the Board of the Louisiana Early Childhood Association. Most impressively, Michelle was appointed to the Louisiana Children’s Trust Fund by Governor John Bel Edwards. Michelle is currently employed at the Louisiana Board of Regents as a Manager for Early Childhood Initiatives.
Linda McMillian holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration, a master’s degree in Organization Management and Early Childhood Education along with a Doctor of Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education. She has been the owner of a childcare facility for more than 34 years and has been running a school-age program serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade for eight of those years. She has been married for more than 38 years and has three adult-age children.
"I love the career path that I have chosen, which is serving children and the whole family to transform the whole child's development while offering support to families when needed."
President - Elect
Sheila B. Matute was born in La Ceiba, Honduras in 1959 and was raised in New York City by her French and Spanish speaking grandparents. She is the mother of three successful children and has seven grandchildren and one great-grand child, plus one on the way. She is fluent in Spanish and also speaks some French. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Substance Abuse and Behavior Counseling from Southern University New Orleans and Master of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education Curriculum and Instruction from Xavier University, Louisiana. She also has earned post graduate hours in the study of School Administration. Her professional work experience has largely been in the non-profit sector and in the field of early childhood education, a career path she strongly believes in. Her experience includes being an infant toddler teacher, a family childcare provider, an education director and a program director. In each of these positions, she has been focused on the advancement of the early childhood education profession. She holds membership in multiple national organizations, has participated in local and national conferences, and serves as a professional development specialist to assist candidates applying for a Child Development Accreditation.
"My desire is to be of service to the Early Childhood Community until I’m unable to serve anymore."
After teaching K-3rd graders for 20 years, Leah returned to college for both early intervention and social work. Her personal mission is to support early development by direct services and through adult education. Leah is currently working as the social worker for the early childhood department, allowing her the opportunity to meet with parents to help them transition into the school system and to continue to access intervention services. She uses this platform to connect families to community resources when possible. In addition to her work with the evaluation team, she helps teachers and caregivers with challenging behaviors in the classrooms by assessing the situation and then providing resources to support the child's development of self-regulation skills. Additionally, Leah is an instructor for the early childhood education ancillary certificate program and a trainer for the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency in her parish.
Gabrielle Izzo (Gabby) has worked in the early childhood sector for more than 16 years, serving in various roles from teaching in the classroom, directing centers and now leading support to early childhood programs across Louisiana. Her love and passion for young children has been the forefront of her work. While in New Orleans, Gabby was placed in a position to oversee 1,000 CLASS observations and coach in over 30 sites for six years, ensuring teachers had the tools they needed to provide the best education possible in schools, childcare centers and Head Start programs. She now serves as the director of Early Childhood Programs at The Center for Literacy and Learning to ensure sites across Louisiana have access to quality support, gain their CDA credential and work to better themselves for children all over the state.
Greater New Orleans
Melissa Johnson is an educational consultant, coach, and instructor. Melissa has worked in the field of early childhood education in various roles for over seven years. She has worked both inside and outside of the classroom, serving as a teacher, administrator, coach, advisor and consultant. She has previously worked with Jefferson Parish School Board and the Picard Center for Child Development.
Melissa received her bachelor's degree in Psychology, her master’s degree in early childhood education, and is currently a doctoral student in early childhood education. She is a state certified PreK-3rd teacher as well as CLASS certified for Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K. In addition, Melissa has completed the Education Policy Fellowship through the Institute of Educational Leadership and has presented virtually at the 2021 Louisiana Early Childhood Association Annual Conference. Melissa’s breadth of experience, coupled with her passion for seeing the field appreciated for its undeniable necessity makes her an ideal candidate for the LAAEYC executive board.
Developmentally effective practice has been Wendy's goal from the beginning of her career. She has worked in public school systems as a PreK teacher, an instructor in higher education, a CLASS observer and instructor for an early childhood collaborative, among other positions.
"Each position has come with hurdles to overcome but one by one I continue crossing each one."
Daphne Smith believes that children deserve all the opportunities to become successful academically, socially, emotionally, and economically and that every child has the right to achieve and receive a high-quality education. She works diligently to support children and families as important stakeholders in advocating for access to equitable resources. Daphne holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and is currently a teacher. She recently enrolled into an Education doctoral program.
"I want to use my expertise, resources, and support to ensure every child, family and community have the resources for improving the quality of life."