Learn about the experts

Expert’s Name: Miriam Altman
Special education, Socio Emotional Development, The Pyramid
Miriam’s work experiences include teaching Pre-Kindergarten Exceptional Student Education for the public schools, teaching Early Childhood courses for Florida State University and Miami Dade College, serving private Early Education providers throughout the county as an Inclusion Specialist for the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade, and serving Miami Dade County Public Schools Pre-Kindergarten teachers as an Early Literacy Specialist for the Early Reading First Program at the United Way of Miami-Dade. Miriam’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Special Education.
Expert’s Name: Sandra Ampudia
Areas of Expertise – Socio – Emotional Development, Special Education, The Pyramid
Sandra Ampudia received a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Pathology from Manuela Beltran University in Bogota, Colombia, and an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as a preschool teacher for more than 10 years before joining the team at Family Central and ultimately coming to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe in 2004. Since then, she has worked with Director of Inclusion & Assessment Bethany Sands on different projects, such as the national research project called “Recognition and Response for Dual Language Learners.” After completing that project, she continued her work with the STEPs program, the Inclusion branch of Quality Counts, providing observation, screening and assessments, designing and implementing classroom and family strategies, processing referrals and facilitating workshops and trainings across the County.
Expert’s Name: Ricardo Cookson
Category: Budgeting, Mentoring Directors
Ricardo Cookson is Founder and Managing Director of Ameriza LLC, a consultancy company specializing in project management focused on the Brazilian marketplace. Based in Miami, Ricardo, provided asset management and m&a assistance to a Brazilian-based construction company CEO, served as liaison to Brazilian Agricultural Ministry delegation to visit the Port of Miami, trained over 200 directors of pre-school education on financial management, taught higher learning business-related courses and managed an information management system group for an identification card project in South Asia. Ricardo received his bachelor’s degree in Politics from Princeton University and his MBA in international management from Thunderbird.
Expert’s Name: Luisa Cotto
Technology in the Classroom
Bio: Luisa’s work experience include teaching first grade in the Department of Education of Puerto Rico, teaching technology courses to preschool teachers, providing community trainings in early literacy, and serving as a literacy specialist for two Early Reading First grants including Project LEER at the United Way of Miami-Dade. She also worked on different research groups like iMapbook (2009), and the Education in Puerto Rico and the Eugenio María de Hostos Philosophy (2006). Luisa’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction of Instructional Technology from the University of South Florida.
Expert’s Name: Mileidis Gort
Dual Language Programs
Bio: Dr. Mileidis Gort is an expert in childhood bilingualism. Her research addresses the complexities of young bilingual children’s language and literacy learning in dual language learning contexts and the ways in which different instructional contexts and practices support the development of two languages.
Expert’s Name: Arleen Lambert
Category: Family Childcare Homes
Bio: Arleen Lambert is owner of Arleen’s Home Daycare Inc., the home childcare program she has run from her home for the past nine years. She currently serves as president of the South Florida Home Child Care Association and is the area representative coordinator on the Florida Family Child Care Home Association (NAFCC). She has worked as an NAFCC observer for the past three years and is very familiar with the quality standards of accreditation processes. Arleen mentors home childcare providers using the Family Child Care Environmental Rating Scale (FCCERS) and is a current second helping trainer.
Expert’s Name: Paula Moujalli
Center Director and Inquiry in a program
Bio: Paula Moujalli was born and raised in Venezuela; Paula holds a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood development and a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from Florida International University. Paula is the Director/ Principal at the United Way Center for Excellence Educare of Miami-Dade. Paula has been part of the visible thinking Miami research project since 2007 and as teacher she had the opportunity to implement visible thinking with her students.
Expert’s Name: Romina Pastorelli
Category: CDA, NAEYC accreditation
Bio: Romina Pastorelli has over 17 years of experience working in the area of early childhood education, including Head Start/Early Head Start, private and hospital-based child care. She has developed professional development in the area of Early Childhood education to serve our diverse community, creating and teaching new courses at Miami Dade College in both English and Spanish. She is a CDA Advisor and an NAEYC Accreditation Consultant in the Miami-Dade area. Her current experience includes working as an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University teaching bilingual courses in Early Childhood Education in both live and online environments. Romina is also a published author of a children’s book titled “Are You There? A Book for Children Who Have Lost a Sibling.” Romina’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Preschool Education from Nova Southeastern University.
Expert’s Name: Ryan Pontier
Category: Dual Language Programs
Bio: A graduate of Boston College, Ryan W Pontier is an English-Spanish bilingual educator who has experience working in public, charter, and private school settings. His early experiences with education included volunteer work as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in Boston. Later, Mr. Pontier worked as a third grade Spanish language arts teacher in South Texas and as a second grade English language arts teacher in Miami. Following his time in the classroom, Mr. Pontier served as Dean of Students for Breakthrough Miami, an educational non-profit that works with under-resourced students and families in an effort to prepare them for the most rigorous academic programs in high school and beyond. Mr. Pontier is currently a PhD student, studying language and literacy learning in multilingual settings, with a focus on emergent bilingualism.
Expert’s Name: Alejandra Romero
Early Childhood Program Administrator Institute – ECPAI
Alejandra Romero was born and raised in Puerto Rico but has lived in Miami Florida for the past 10 years. Since 2007, Alejandra has been working with United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education Demonstration School. Her position at the time was co-teacher and after care supervisor. Within furthering her education after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at FIU she realized that she wanted to move forward within the organization so, in 2011 she began working with the Early Childhood Program Administrator’s Institute (ECPAI). Her goal is to continue providing resources to early childhood centers in the community.
Expert’s Name: Vivyan Sanchez
Creative Curriculum
Vivyan De Huelbes is currently working at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education as a preschool Master Teacher as well as a Literacy Specialist under the Project LEER. She has been at the Center for more than 3 years. At the Center, she works closely with teachers ensuring curriculum and best practices for children are being implemented. During the last year she has also had the opportunity to conduct trainings in the community on curriculum and language and literacy.
Expert’s Name: Guerline Sanon
Category: Infant and Toddler care
Bio: Haitian-native Guerline Sanon has more than 13 years of experience as an infant and toddler teacher. She graduated from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in education with a concentration in early childhood education. Upon graduation, she moved to Massachusetts where she worked as a long-term substitute teacher in a preschool setting. Guerline’s various experiences in the early childhood field led her to pursue graduate work early childhood and special education. She successfully completed the master’s program in special education at the University of Miami in December of 2011, which has enhanced her experiences and provided her with additional skills to work with young children, their families and staff.
Expert’s Name: Sabrina Sembiante
M.S.Ed.- Dual Language Programs
Bio: Ms. Sabrina Sembiante is a doctoral graduate student in the School of Education’s Teaching and Learning department at the University of Miami. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in International and Cultural Studies at the University of Tampa and her Master of Science degree from Florida International University in Foreign Language Education. She is currently completing her doctoral degree in Language and Literacy Learning in Multilingual Settings, with a focus in the area of early childhood bilingualism. Ms. Sembiante’s prior experience includes working as a research assistant in the Early Childhood Program at Florida International University and teaching adult ESOL classes in Tampa and Miami.
Expert’s Name: Karla Moreno
Category: Documentation
Bio: A Venezuelan native, Karla Moreno holds Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development from Florida International University and a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Florida. Karla began her teaching career at a Reggio-Emilia inspired school, where she was first introduced to the power of observation and documentation. After attending Harvard’s Project Zero in 2007, Karla discovered that documentation could serve as a powerful tool for accountability in the early childhood classroom. She currently works at the United Way Center for Excellence as a Master Teacher and she is also the Curriculum Specialist and Disability Coordinator for the center.
Expert’s Name: Maria Serra
Early Literacy and Florida Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Educational Standards

Maria has 29 years experience in the field of education; 17 of those years working in Early Childhood. She directed the Early Reading First grant project LEARN, awarded to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami Dade County and currently is the Senior Project Manager for Project LEER for United Way of Miami Dade Center for Excellence. Maria also provides professional development services as an Educational Consultant to help enhance programs in the areas of staff and administration development, curriculum implementation, assessments and program evaluations. She has numerous experiences presenting at national, state, and local conferences on topic related to early childhood quality education and early language and literacy.