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2022 NCSPA Fall Conference

October 23-25, 2022                Cary, NC 


About Our Presenters


Christy Baker, MA - NCFASD Informed

Christy Baker is an elementary educator with 23 years of classroom experience in grades kindergarten through 5th grade. She is currently serving her school as the Title 1 reading specialist and math interventionist. She is also a parent of a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). She wants to share her knowledge about FASD with educators and community leaders so that people living with FASD can become contributing members of our communities with the proper support.


Heather Bower, PhD - Meredith College

Heather Bower is currently a serving as the Department Head and Coordinator of Assessment and teaches in both the undergraduate and graduate education education programs at Meredith College. Dr. Bower completed her Doctorate and MSA from UNC Chapel Hill and has a background as both a classroom teacher and administrator, having taught grades 7-12 Language Arts and AVID and served as the College Access Programs Coordinator in a large, public school system. In these positions, she taught all levels of students and helped to create, implement, and monitor programs for students in grades 4-12, along with their families and teachers. Dr. Bower's recent research focuses on family involvement, learning environments, and school culture, particularly as it pertains to teacher identity and school reform.


Brit Cooper, MA, EdS, NCSP - Brunswick County Schools

Brit Cooper has been in the field of school psychology for seven years. Prior to school psychology, they taught for 6 years. they are a graduate of University of Charleston in secondary English, elementary, and special education at the BA level and earned an MA in elementary education and Ed. S. in school psychology from Marshall University. They were the Social Justice Chair for West Virginia School Psychologists' Association and acted as a hub for other school psychs running into social justice concerns and helped them navigate resources to bring to their schools. Cooper developed a webpage of resources on the WVSPA state page and followed news and legal developments related to social justice and hosted/attended events in their region and state and reported back to the board.

Cooper was awarded "Outstanding Delivery of School Psychological Services" in 2019 and "West Virginia School Psychologist of the Year" in 2021. They were a (sometimes the) school psychologist in Lewis County, WV for six years. They worked with the special education team, Adolescent Health Initiative Coordinator, and many other incredible individuals to bring mental health support initiatives to area schools. Cooper assisted in the development of the county's Crisis and Trauma Response Guide and responded to individual student needs.

Personally, Cooper and their partner, along with two fur children, now reside in Wilmington, North Carolina. They love kayaking with their senior dog and puppy, camping, hiking, reading, binging Netflix, and attempting house projects following the expertise of YouTube contractors.


Jim Deni, EdD - Appalachian State University

Dr. Deni just completed his 50th year as a school psychology trainer at Appalachian State University. He is currently the President-Elect of the North Carolina School Psychology Association. He is the 2022 School Psychology Trainer of the year and was honored for his Service and Contributions to the field of School Psychology. Dr. Deni is a recipient of the Department of Public Instruction, Exceptional Children's Division 2022 Distinguished Service Award and NCSPA Jack Bardon Lifetime Achievement Award in School Psychology, now the NCSPA Jim Deni Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Deni is an active researcher and frequent presenter at state and national conferences.


Darrin Evans, MEd - Director, Virtual Learning Community Professional Development Center, Wake Technical Community College

Darrin Evans is an Accessibility Technologist and the Director of the North Carolina Virtual Learning Communities Professional Development Center. Darrin has a Master's in Instructional Technology. Mr. Evans has over 15 years of experience in eLearning and accessibility of digital content. The Virtual Learning Community is a partnership between the 58 community colleges of the North Carolina Community College System and Wake Technical Community College. Mr. Evans enjoys technology and is always looking for ways to make digital content more accessible to all learners. In his spare time he is a very slow marathon swimmer.


Kara Finch, EdD - Stanly Community College

Kara Finch was born and raised in Marshville, North Carolina. She graduated from Stanly Community College with an Associate in Applied Sciences degree in Human Services Technology. She received a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Gardner Webb University, Master of Arts in Gerontology from UNC Charlotte, and Education Specialist degree from Wingate University. Dr. Finch graduated from Wingate University's Higher Education Executive Leadership doctoral program. She has over 17 years of experience in the human services field and has held various positions in substance use treatment, aging services, administration, and adult protective services. Dr. Finch is currently the Program Head of Human Services Technology at Stanly Community College. She is the current Chair of Faculty Senate and Vice Chair of the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity team at SCC. Dr. Finch is also the President for the North Carolina Organization for Human Services. She has been married to her husband, Creig for 16 years and they live in Stanly County with their four children.


Leonardo Garcia, SSP - Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Mr. Garcia is a graduate of the Winthrop School Psychology Program and has been a practitioner for 3 years. He is a school psychologist working at a K-5 STEAM school and a K-8 Dual Language school in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Mr. Garcia speaks English, Spanish, and French, and has an interest in integrating his skills throughout his school psychological services and practices. He is interested in the impact of language acquisition on learning. One of Mr. Garcia's goals is to eventually work in an international setting. 


Pat Gibson, MSSW, DHL, ACSW - Director, Epilepsy Information Service

Patricia Gibson, MSSW, DHL, ACSW is an Associate professor in the Department of Neurology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine where she provides individual, group and family counseling and is actively involved in medical student, nursing, patient and community education. She also serves as Director of the Epilepsy Information Service, a nationwide telephone information line for patients and their family members in operation since 1979. Ms. Gibson received her Masters of Science in psychiatric social work degree from the University of Tennessee. In 2012 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Queens University in Charlotte, NC.

Ms. Gibson has organized and conducted numerous state, regional, and more than 40 national and international conferences on epilepsy. She set up the Epilepsy Medication Fund for the state of North Carolina in 1987 and conducts numerous fundraisers for this Fund. She has received national and international awards for her work to improve the care of those with epilepsy. She presently also serves as the volunteer Executive Director of the Epilepsy Alliance North Carolina.


Laura Gonzalez, PhD - UNC Greensboro
Juan Prandoni, PhD, LPA, HSP-PA - El Futuro NC

Dr. Laura Gonzalez received her PhD in Counselor Education from North Carolina State University and until recently worked as a faculty member at UNCG. Her research interests are in college access for students from immigrant families.

Dr. Juan Prandoni received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from UNCG and is currently the Training Director for a Latino Mental Health Provider Network at El Futuro in Durham.


Liz Grose, SSP, NCSP - Pearson Clinical Assessments
Rebecca Whalen, MA, CCC-SLP - Pearson Clinical Assessments

Liz Grose is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist earning her Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) degree from Illinois State University. Ms. Grose earned her BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois. She is currently in pursuit of her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Capella University. She maintains current school psychology licenses in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Illinois. Ms. Grose specializes in reading disorders and developing data-driven, comprehensive student intervention plans (i.e. RTI, MTSS, IEP/ISP). As an East Region Manager and Assessment Consultant with Pearson, Ms. Grose provides consultation and training to support best practice use of Pearson’s clinical assessment products.

Becky Whalen is a certified speech language pathologist, earning her BA degree at Michigan State University in 2014 and her MA degree from Wayne State University in 2016. She is nationally certified and certified in Michigan and Connecticut, with a SLP teaching endorsement in Connecticut. Ms. Whalen's clinical interests include early language disorders, developmental disabilities, and literacy. As an Assessment Consultant with Pearson, she provides consultation and training to support best practice use of Pearson’s clinical assessment products.


Lauren Holahan, PhD, OT/L, FAOTA - NC Department of Public Instruction

Lauren Holahan is the Coordinator for State Systemic Improvement Plan for Exceptional Children programs,School Mental Health, and Medicaid, at the NC Dept. of Public Instruction Exceptional Children Division. Dr. Holahan provides project management for statewide implementation and reporting of NC improvement under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Professional interests include inter-professional learning, policy analysis, and workforce development services to related service providers and administrators, implementation science, schoolbased occupational therapy, school mental health, administration/ management of related service personnel, ethics in special education, school-based Medicaid cost recovery, and specially designed instruction. Dr. Holahan previously served as member and chair of the NC Board of Occupation Therapy. 


Hannah Hyer, SSP - Buncombe County Schools
Lori Unruh, PhD - Western Carolina University
Ethan Schilling, PhD - Western Carolina University

Ms. Hyers is a third year practitioner currently working in Buncombe County Schools. She attended Western Carolina University for both her undergraduate and graduate education. In 2019, she graduated with a Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) degree and became a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). Ms. Hyers has worked at several school sites across Western NC and has worked with students of all ages and abilities. She is currently serving a two year term as a Mountain Regional Representative for NCSPA. Her professional goals include advocating for the role of the school psychologist and the students we serve; collaborating with other school psychologists across the region, state, and nation; and continually reflecting upon and improving  practice and service to students and their families.

Dr. Unruh has a PhD in School Psychology from the University of Kansas. She worked for 15 years as a School Psychologist in Phoenix, AZ and Asheville, NC prior to joining the faculty at Western Carolina University. While at WCU, Dr. Unruh served as director of the School Psychology graduate program from 2007 to 2020 and continues to be actively involved in the educational community at the regional and state level. In addition, Dr. Unruh has served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of School Psychologists for many years.

Dr. Ethan Schilling completed his PhD in School Psychology from the University of Georgia in 2013. He has been a member of the faculty in the Psychology department since 2013 and currently serves as program director of the Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) graduate program.


Susan Laney, MEd - NC Department of Public Instruction

Ms. Laney is the lead consultant in the Integrated Academic and Behavior Systems Division at NCDPI. Our division supports state-wide implementation of a Multi-Tiered System of Support. Additionally, our division supports the FREE data warehouse, early warning system, intervention planning, and intervention management system available to all districts in NC.


Kathryn Marshall, SSP - Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Ms. Marshall is has been a school psychologist in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system since 2015. For the last three and half years, she has worked in the PreK department. 


Christian Moore, LCSW, Founder - WhyTry LLC

Christian Moore, LCSW, is a social worker, author, and advocate for youth. He wrote The Resilience Breakthrough, and created the WhyTry Program. WhyTry is a proven model based on his experiences with learning disabilities, and is used by over 30k organizations, reaching over 2 million kids. 


Andrea Murray-Lichtman, MSW, LCSW
Tauchiana Williams, MSW, LCSW

Andrea Murray-Lichtman, MSW, LCSW, is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work. She graduated from the Academy of African Centered Social Work in 2018 and is currently a doctoral student. She has a combined 17 years of physical health, mental health, and substance misuse treatment experience within integrated healthcare and criminal-legal settings serving people living with comorbid mental health, substance misuse, and chronic physical health diagnoses. Ms. Murray-Lichtman received the Dean’s Excellence in MSW Advising Award in 2021 and 2018 and the Dean’s Recognition of Teaching Excellence Award in 2015. Her research interests include racial equity in access and outcomes across social systems, racial consciousness, and the differential occurrence and impact of traumatic experiences. She is currently a project manager and supervisor for a substance use prevention, education, and research project working within schools and communities to prevent youth substance use. Ms. Murray-Lichtman is also a co-investigator with the Specialty Mental Health Probation research team and partners with the criminal-legal system to provide mental health and substance use clinical consultations. She served on the Council on Social Work Education Task Force for Anti-racism. Her educational philosophy centers on providing education through the lens of racial equity and social justice. She has presented and consulted with public and private universities on culturally relevant mentoring, trauma care and equity-informed self-care practices, and spirituality and mental health.
Tauchiana Williams, MSW, LCSW, is a clinical associate professor and lead interventionist for the Substance Use Prevention and Education Research (SUPER) program at UNC-CH, School of Social Work. She directs the 12-month Advanced Standing MSW Program and coordinates the school social work license program. Ms. Williams was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve on the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board. She is a licensed clinical social worker whose practice areas include child and adolescent mental health, school social work, trauma, and substance use. She is a current doctoral student, and her research interests consist of African American parent engagement and student success. Ms. Williams has received the Dean’s Recognition of Teaching Excellence Award over several years. She served on the Council on Social Work Education’s AntiRacism Task Force in 2020.

Caron Parrish-Nowell, MSEd - Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Ms. Parrish-Nowell is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and complete her school psychology program at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater. Ms. Parrish-Nowell has been a school psychologist with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) for 33 years. She first served as a student services specialist and in 2009 began working as an itinerant school psychologist. Currently, Ms. Parrish-Nowell is the CMS School Psychology Coordinator and works in conjunction with the CMS School Psychology Manager to support a department 103 School Psychologists. Ms. Parrish-Nowell is a Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor and remains a strong advocate for children's mental health initiatives. She is a past president of NCSPA and is currently the NASP Delegate for North Carolina. 

Silas Pinto, PhD - Director of Diversity, City of Providence

Silas O. R. Pinto received his Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of Rhode Island focusing on the cross-generational transmission of parenting values in Cape Verdean families. In addition, he has been conducting projects on the effects of fitness and martial arts training on social and mental health. Dr. Pinto completed his pre-doctoral and post-doctoral work at the Met High School in Providence, RI. He has had practicum, internship, and professional experience in mainstream and alternative schools, as well as in a medical setting. Before coming to Tufts, Dr. Pinto also worked at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addictions Studies as a treatment provider and research analyst. He teaches courses in biological bases of behavior and learning, ethics and law in school psychology, social justice and diversity in education, school psychology methods of research, and he supervises students in the Step-Up Program in Mattapan, Massachusetts.

Mark Pisano, EdD - Fort Bragg DODEA Schools

Dr. Mark C. Pisano is a licensed psychological associate and certified school psychologist who has worked in the Ft. Bragg Schools for 40 years. Dr. Pisano collaborates with Sesame Street on their military families curriculum and is the co-author of the Kimochis Military Family Kit which is designed to provide social/emotional support for military families. His international work includes conducting psychological assessments for the Dept. of Defense in Uruguay and Bolivia in 1999 and most recently in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba this past Spring 2019. In 2002, he served as President of the North Carolina School Psychology Association and has led the Military Families Interest group for the National Association of School Psychologists for the last 17 years. He has numerous publications on how to best support military families including a chapter in the NASP Best Practices for School Psychology. He was featured on CBS news as a military families expert and has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and GX magazine. He graduated from Clemson and was recognized in Clemson World magazine for his lifetime services to military children. This year, Dr. Pisano was selected to serve as chairman of the Literacy Advisory Council for United Through Reading which is a program that connects military families who are separated (through deployment or military assignment) by providing the bonding experience of sharing videos of deployed service members reading children's books to their children. He is married 34 years to his wife Julie and they have a son, Zachary, in college at East Carolina University.

Jen Story, Esq. - Managing Attorney, Legal Aid of NC’s Right to Education Project
Cari Carson, Esq., MSW – Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of NC’s Right to Education Project

Crystal Ingram, Esq. – Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of NC’s Right to Education Project

Jen Story is the managing attorney at the Right to Education Project. Since moving to North Carolina in 2005, Jen has focused solely on youth and education advocacy, first as the Juvenile Court/School Liaison for Judicial District 15B, then as a Guardian ad Litem, and presently as an education justice attorney fighting for equity within North Carolina education and juvenile justice systems. She is a regular presenter in community and professional forums, has guest-lectured at local law schools and schools of social work, and has had a book chapter on students’ First Amendment rights published in the Guide to Student Advocacy in North Carolina. She is a member of the leadership council of the Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, and also serves as the co-chair of the section’s racial justice subcommittee. She holds a law degree from the UNC School of Law and a psychology degree from Rhodes College in Memphis. 
Cari Carson is a staff attorney at the Right to Education Project. In her professional as well as personal life, Cari is a zealous advocate for students with disabilities in North Carolina. She is particularly passionate about improving outcomes for students of color with mental health disabilities. Cari is a former special education teacher who taught in Louisiana for two years prior to pursuing her law degree. Cari holds degrees in law and social work from the University of Michigan, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Education from the University of North Carolina. 
Crystal Ingram is a staff attorney at the Right to Education Project. Crystal is a proud alumna of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and North Carolina Central University School of Law. Crystal’s passion for education justice stems from her experiences as a student and her experiences as a seventh-grade science teacher in Jacksonville, Florida. While in law school, Crystal completed extensive research on the school-to-prison pipeline and its negative implications on Black girls throughout the United States. 

Sean Tikkun, PhD - North Carolina Central University

Dr. Tikkun is a specialist in the domain of assistive technology and the use of consumer technology to support individuals with visual impairments. His research endeavors are currently focused in the domain of pedestrian travel with the support of cloud and beacon-supplied information. Dr. Tikkun is the faculty member supervising the programs for teachers of students with visual impairments and certified assistive technology specialists at NCCU. His prior research focused in cognitive load theory and working memory for braille learning engagement. He also has worked in the area of science education and 3D printing.

Jaclyn Zins, MEd - Wake County Public School System

Jackie Zins is a Lead School Psychologist with the Wake County Public School System. She is also the current Past-President of NCSPA. Ms. Zins has a passion for data-based problem-solving, using the science of reading to support student learning, and working with early career school psychologists.