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Inside Erikson | September 2023

a monthly comm(unity) newsletter

September 2023 — Welcome to the September edition of the Inside Erikson newsletter!

September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. This year’s theme of “building prosperous and healthy communities” directly aligns with Erikson’s continued mission of advancing and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in early childhood. This is evident through the work of our Center for Children and Families (CCF) which provides early childhood mental health programs and family support services to Chicago’s largest Latino community in Little Village, and over the last 21 years, where Erikson has successfully maintained Illinois first Bilingual/English as a Second Language (ESL) certificate program for early childhood educators. Our dedication to this community is unwavering and Erikson Institute is proud to celebrate during this time. For more information and additional resources, we encourage you to visit

Month at a Glance

Hispanic Heritage Month – September 15 – October 15

Labor Day – September 4

Read a Book Day – September 6

International Literacy Day – September 8

Rosh Hashanah – September 15 – 17

Mexican Independence Day – September 16

Yom Kippur – September 24 – 25

International Day of Peace – September 21

National Voter’s Registration Day – September 26

National Love People Day – September 30

Erikson Updates

Amea Cook

Amea Cook

Erikson welcomes Amea Cook to the TEL team. Amea has a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Studies with concentrations in Social Science, Business and Health Sciences. Over her career, she has gained experience in various industries, including Healthcare, Finance, and Fashion. These experiences have spanned the federal government, mutual aids, profit sector and not-for-profit sectors. Prior to joining Erikson, she processed loans at the Small Business Administration and served as the Volunteer Management System Administrator at Operation HOPE.

Amea joins the TEL Team as part of the Instructional Design and Development division (IDD), in the role of Jr. Instructional Designer. She will join our efforts to support Erikson Faculty in their online teaching process, operate FreshDesk (our ticketing system), and support the design and development of engaging educational materials for our students.

LaDale Whaley

LaDale Whaley

LaDale joined Erikson institute on August 1 as a part time consultant to support the IDD, TEL team’s effort to launch the Fall 2023 Semester and create Instructional Design and Development processes and guidelines to streamline Erikson’s Online student Learning Experience and Course Development process.

With over 20 years of experience in graphic and instructional design and teaching/training in both traditional and online learning environments, LaDale Whaley (pronounced LAH-dayl WAY-lee) brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Her professional strengths include designing, developing, implementing, and delivering instructional and training material and creative direction. She also has extensive experience in creative leadership with print, interactive, motion design and video editing for both business and educational/training content.

LaDale is a tech enthusiast who enjoys designing and working with technology. She creates online learning environments for non-profit organizations, corporations and independent course creators. LaDale finds great satisfaction in crafting these learning environments. If you need guidance in graphic

Ja’Re Thorn

Ja’Re Thorn

Erikson welcomes back an alumna, Ja’Re Thorn, MSCD ’15, as our newest Senior Instructor. In this role, Ja’Re will serve as instructor of early childhood courses and the coordinator of student teacher placements. In 2017, Ja’Re began working as an adjunct and loved it. It was in that moment that she realized she loved helping to prepare educators and wanted to teach full time, which caused her to pursue her doctorate in teaching and learning. She completed this degree in 2023 with an emphasis on curriculum, advocacy and policy, and wrote her dissertation on looking at how prepared educators felt to work with students of color. From her research data, she realized she could do more to help educators especially when it comes to culturally responsive teaching and how they show up for their students in the classroom. She likes to say, “If we aren’t aware of our own needs, how can we be aware of the needs of the children and students in our classrooms?” WE, as educators, should model what we want our students to take into their classrooms, which is trust, awareness, support, being a learner, understanding and open. This is what brought her to Erikson, and she hopes to continue to infuse culturally responsive teaching in her work here as she helps prepare the next generation of teachers and educators.

Esther Warren

Esther Warren

Erikson Institute’s is excited to welcome our new Associate Director of Academic and Institutional Affairs, Esther Warren, MEd., Esther has more than 10 years of experience in academic and student affairs in higher education. Prior to Erikson, Esther was the Associate Director of Academic Affairs at the Institute for Clinical Social Work (ICSW) where she co-led efforts to evaluate the modality and schedules of the MA and PhD programs. She has worked with faculty on a number of projects, including a revised Academic Standards Policy. Esther has a particular interest in working collaboratively and creatively to revise, reimagine, and identify ways to improves policies and processes. Esther also has extensive experience working in academic advising and supporting students who manage high level concerns. Esther earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Haverford College with a major in sociology and a concentration in Africana Studies. She also holds a Master of Education in Higher Education degree from Loyola University Chicago.

In her role at Erikson, Esther works closely with the Vice President of Academic Affairs as well as the Director of Academic and Institutional Research on accreditation processes and compliance initiatives. She also serves as the primary liaison between academic departments as it pertains to academic policies and procedures, course scheduling and course creation.

Ana Geidiel

Ana Geidiel

Erikson welcomes Post Doctoral Researcher, Ana Geidiel. Ana comes to Erikson after completing her studies in Brazil, earning both her bachelor’s in special education and master’s degree from the Federal University Santa Maria. In 2010, she successfully completed her doctoral program in Social Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. During her doctoral studies, she gained valuable experience in the U.S., conducting research in the field of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin. Upon returning to Brazil, she joined the Federal University of Viçosa as a professor in the Department of Languages, where she has been actively involved in both undergraduate and graduate programs. In 2016, she completed a postdoctoral research program at the Center for Language Interaction and Culture within the Department of Linguistic Anthropology at UCLA.

Her research interests are centered around qualitative approaches related to people who are deaf, Sign Language, teacher training and teaching strategies for inclusion. Her goal as a researcher and educator has been to promote inclusion practices and strategies to enhance educational accessibility within the context of public schools. She is passionate about teaching, constantly exploring new teaching strategies, improving her classes and engaging in discussions about accessibility and inclusion for minority groups. Outside of the classroom and her research, she has a deep love for horses, enjoy horse riding, reading and watching movies.

Zero To Three Conference

Zero to Three’s Annual Learn Conference is happening September 19-20, 2023, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Visit to register and for more information.

Careers at Erikson

We’re hiring for a variety of roles that support our mission. Please check out new opportunities and share widely with your networks.

Upcoming Erikson Events

Save the Date: 2023 Erikson Luncheon

Erikson Institute 2023 Annual Luncheon | Save the Date - Friday October 27 | 11:30 am | Marriott Marquis Keynote Speaker Stacey Abrams

Erikson’s Annual Luncheon will be held on October 27 featuring voting rights activist and best-selling author Stacey Abrams. We would be honored to have you with us for this special event. Tickets and sponsorships are now available. Learn more

Faculty Spotlight

Erikson Institute’s reputation in the early childhood field has been strengthened by the contributions of our world-renowned faculty. Learn more about this dynamic group and what makes them stand out.

Meet Associate Director of MSW Field Education and Senior Instructor, Erika Avila

Erika Avila

Name: Erika Avila

What year did you start working at Erikson?
I joined Erikson’s Center for Children and Families (CCF) in June 2017. At CCF, I provided clinical services and supported efforts to expand the clinic into Chicago’s Little Village community. In March 2019, I transitioned into the Practicum Office, where I worked alongside students and community stakeholders to develop relationships and solidify student internship opportunities. Most recently (August 2023), I have taken on an additional role as Senior Instructor for the Master of Social Work program.

Of all the colleges and universities worldwide, why did you decide to teach at Erikson?
Erikson’s MSW program is unlike any other in the country and its unique focus on development, reflection, and relationships prepares developing social work students to be developmentally informed, self-aware, and relationally focused practitioners. I value the focus on reflection and believe it to be an invaluable contribution to student learning.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your career at Erikson?
The most rewarding moment(s) occur in the small day-to-day interactions that I have with students on a regular basis. I think fondly of my work with a student who struggled with confidence while engaged in a challenging generalist year internship. Over the course of the academic year, I was privy to their experience, and I took great pride and joy in witnessing their personal and professional growth. I believe that students pick Erikson for very specific reasons and one of these reasons is undoubtedly our focus on relationships.

What is your hidden (or secret) talent?
I often receive quite a bit of praise when I cook traditional Mexican fare. Although others seem to enjoy my cooking (on the rare days when I do cook), I will honestly say that it is not something that I necessarily enjoy. For me, cooking is a way to honor loved ones and it brings waves of feel-good nostalgia.

Erikson in the News

Erikson’s VP of Academic Affairs, Dr. Pamela Epley was recently featured in The Christian Science Monitor article titled “Pre-K for all: What does it take to get every child an education?” Read more here. She was also recently a guest on the Minds with Mark Henick podcast. You can listen to the episode here.

Jennifer McCray, Loren Solarski and Lisa Ginet of The Early Math Collaborative was recently featured in The Hechinger Report article “Teachers conquering their math anxiety”. Read more here.

Name: Meghan Green

What year did you start working at Erikson?
I began working at Erikson in July 2022 as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. I transitioned into my new role as an Assistant Professor in July 2023.

Of all the colleges and universities worldwide, why did you decide to teach at Erikson?
I was drawn to Erikson’s deep commitment to children and families, especially our history as a community partner in racially and linguistically diverse spaces. After learning more about the racial equity work being done across Erikson sectors, I have grown to appreciate the vast knowledge and passion of faculty and staff.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your career at Erikson?
My most rewarding moment has definitely been joining the Triple Endorsement faculty this summer with our inaugural cohort! Our students have demonstrated such profound levels of engagement and deep critical reflection in this first semester. I had the pleasure of teaching two courses this summer, Culturally Sustaining Environments and Seminar: Learning Environments, and in each course, students have supported each other and embraced our program’s Ethos of Care.

What is your hidden (or secret) talent? In my humble opinion, I am a really great chef! I grew up in south Louisiana watching my grandmother and mother cook every type of Creole/Cajun dish there is. Cooking is one of my favorite ways to nurture my loved ones.

About Erikson

Graduate Education

Recognized for our groundbreaking work in the field of early childhood, Erikson specializes in preparing child development, education, and social work leaders to improve the lives of young children, families, and their communities. For more information on our degree and certificate programs, visit our website or email our admissions team.

Clinical and Community Services

Erikson’s Center for Children and Families offers pediatric mental health services for children birth to age 8 and their families. Services can be provided in both English and Spanish, and are available to families regardless of their ability to pay.

Policy and Leadership

Erikson’s Policy and Leadership department engages leaders in government, business, and nonprofit sectors to inform effective policies that benefit children and families. They offer unique programming that equips decision-makers and influencers with the resources, skills, and deep knowledge about early childhood development that will support their efforts to make lasting change. Learn more about our Policy and Leadership

Give to Erikson

The first 1,800 days of life set the stage for a child’s long-term physical and emotional health, socioeconomic trajectory, life expectancy, happiness, and well-being. Can we count on you to make a gift to strengthen our ability to serve children and families, as well as our students, faculty, and staff, during this time? Your support for Erikson prepares the heroes in young children’s lives—teachers, social workers, civic leaders, parents and caregivers—to get them safely through this crisis so they can soar into promising futures. Please donate here

More Ways to Connect

Learn more about Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative and TEC Center.

Join the Erikson family with monthly news + events updates shared by academics, community members, and families.

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