The Family Engagement Team is now complete, and we want to introduce you to everyone!
Our group consists of a team of individuals with background experiences as educators, mental health professionals, parents, caregivers of individuals with disabilities, and disability-related fields. The family engagement team members can provide the knowledge and support from an educator and parent perspective.
Wondering which regional family engagement specialist is in your area? Read about them below!
NORTHWEST- Annette Graves – firstname.lastname@example.org
Annette Graves is passionate about education and helping to empower children and adults. She has committed thirty years of her life to the area of education. Instructing in self-contained and special education inclusion classes. Annette has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Trevecca Nazarene University, and recently obtained an additional master’s degree in conflict resolution from Bethel University. Annette graduated from the Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute, these classes provided leadership and advocacy training for adults with disabilities and their family members. Annette is an active advocate for her granddaughter June, who is on the autism spectrum. She is also a volunteer advocate for many people in her community. In her spare time, she participates in public service activities through her sorority Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. As a regional family engagement specialist for the Arc Tennessee, she plans to continue her mission to engage, empower and educate families in the northwest region.
MID-CUMBERLAND- Kendra Jones – email@example.com
Kendra has five plus years of experience working with individuals of all ages in various capacities, in the Mental Health field. She has worked as a case manager, family engagement specialist, job coach, and Pre-ETS teacher. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Middle Tennessee State University. She also attended graduate school at Lindsey Wilson College and majored in mental health counseling. Kendra has always been passionate about learning, teaching, planning, and being supportive of others. As a certified holistic coach, she enjoys watching individuals grow and develop into the person they desire to become.
UPPER-CUMBERLAND- Jeremy Conner – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremy has spent over a decade working with those with special needs. His strength and focus were in early childhood where he worked with children for the majority of those years. During this time his passion for seeing kids succeed has guided him to be a coach in various sports. His greatest strength is his infectious enthusiasm. Jeremy is currently working towards his degree in special education from Western Governors University where he hopes to gain insight that will help him as a family engagement specialist.
EAST TENNESSEE- Kathleen Basham – email@example.com
Kathleen is a passionate advocate for helping individuals with disabilities reach their fullest potential, life goals, and independent living. She has been involved in the field for over 30 years as a special education teacher K- 12 and college instructor for future teachers. Over the past five years she has written multiple curricula for career exploration and job readiness for high school students with disabilities helping them determine career decisions for their future and how to reach those goals. She has also provided vocational expert testimony for disability qualification hearings and provided job placement services. Her Bachelor of social work gives her a unique perspective to the whole person culturally, socially, mentally, and physically with adding in a Master of special education for the academic needs. Her focus and strength in using assistive technology for all aspects of life is in the forefront of providing success to the families and individuals whether it be for academics, daily life, independent living, or communication. Kathleen’s focus is that all individuals can meet their goals and be successful by exploring every option until the perfect fit is found.
FIRST TENNESSEE- Erica Konyak – firstname.lastname@example.org
Erica is a dynamic, innovative educator and student advocate with over 15 years of experience, holding positions as community outreach coordinator, academic coach, and K-12 teacher. She is known for her nurturing and engaging learning environments, and she believes that all students can learn when given proper support for their unique needs. Erica earned a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University Long Beach. She understands that increasing family engagement is vital for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reach their highest potential. Erica is delighted to be a part of this project and team of passionate professionals.
EAST TENNESSEE- Molly Anderson – email@example.com
Molly was born with “Apraxia” – a speech disorder. Her passion of helping people with disabilities started when she was in middle school working at a day camp for kids with disabilities. She graduated from Maryville College in 2018. In college, Molly co-authored the American Sign Language Bill that allowed schools across Tennessee to teach ASL as a foreign language credit in Tennessee high schools. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in political management from the George Washington University. She also previously worked as a Project SEARCH skills trainer and a skills trainer supervisor.
SOUTH CENTRAL- Susan Carr – firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan has advocated for individuals with disabilities for the past 20 years. Her advocacy began when her oldest daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. From that moment, Susan began focusing on education, transition, independent living, and employment for individuals with disabilities. She has spent the last 10 years working as a special education teacher in both self- contained and inclusive classrooms. She received her degree from Middle Tennessee State but her real education comes from working with families to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. She is looking forward to meeting new families and continuing advocacy efforts in her new role as a family engagement specialist with The Arc of TN.
SOUTHWEST- Katrina VanBuren – email@example.com
Katrina is a proud autism mom first. Katrina’s former job for the last 5 years was a public-school special education teacher in a self-contained classroom. She has a master’s degree in special education from University of Phoenix and is currently pursing my ED.S for educational leadership, special education director at Arkansas State University. She is excited about her new journey as family engagement specialist with The Arc TN; helping to increase family engagement in special education within schools, families, and communities. She says that she believes that we as Sped parents, caregivers and educators will be grateful for all the resources, strategies, and trainings that will be offered.
DIRECTOR – Jen Aprea – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen has been directing the family engagement project at The Arc TN since its inception in 2018. Prior to this role, she was an elementary teacher with a specialization in special education for 13 years. She left the classroom in 2013 after her son was born three and a half months prematurely. He came home from the NICU after 7 months and that launched Jen into the role of parent advocate. Working on the family engagement project at The Arc TN has been the perfect blend of both worlds being a bridge between families and schools.
TRANSITION SPECIALIST- Breanna Atwell – email@example.com
Breanna is a playful spirit who is passionate about advocating for students in special education. She received a bachelor’s degree in social work at Autsin Peay State University and proceeded to work for The Arc Tennessee under various programs. She also attended graduate school at Lipscomb University to major in Special Education K-12 and General Education K-5. Breanna taught for two years and advocated for young students in kindergarten to receive the support they needed as they continued through their education journey.
COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST- Jen Fisher – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen is a nonprofit and communications expert by profession. She is excited to be a part of the family engagement team and to help empower families and increase engagement in special education. Jen began her career serving the health and human services community nearly 20 years ago, and most recently she has worked in both higher and elementary education. Her experience has taught her the importance of the strength of community support to ensure success for all. Jen received her Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Alabama.