Meet the OCAEYC Board

The OCAEYC Board is comprised of Executive Board Members and Board Members at Large. Board Meetings are open to the community and if you are interested in volunteering with one of our committees please reach out to that person or contact the Executive Director.

Executive Board Members

Cristina Blevins, M.A.

President

With nearly two decades of experience in early childhood education, Cristina Blevins has touched the lives of countless teachers and children. Cristina has a true heart for the education of young children, and goes above and beyond to support teachers in making a difference in the lives of those children. Cristina’s experience in the education field ranges from being a classroom teacher for PK-Grade 1, to being a program director for various programs including; Head Start, State Preschool, dual immersion, and fee-based early education. Cristina also has experience as a coach utilizing Cognitive Coaching and was an adaptive schools facilitator. In addition, Cristina is bilingual and bi-literate in English and Spanish. Her expertise is supporting not only the development of English learners, but the teachers who serve them. Cristina has been able to utilize her extensive experience and knowledge to lead participants through engaging professional development that reflects current research, promotes equity of education and includes meaningful, hands-on learning practices. Dedicated to ensuring that children have a strong foundation for successful lifelong learning and development, Cristina holds both a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Education. In addition, Cristina is a Trainer of Trainers in CLASS and CSEFEL. She is certified in a variety of classroom-quality assessments, including CLASS (PK), ECERS and ITERS. Cristina’s expertise in facilitating change in the classroom has proven highly effective across the country.

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Ana Page

Past-President

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Marilee Cosgrove

Secretary

Marilee started her career at the City of Irvine as a Supervisor in Community Services opening the completed community parks and later as an administrator in the newly established Child Care Coordination Office. The purpose of the office was to increase the number of child care spaces for infants through school age in a high quality environment. With the growth in Irvine and the addition of Irvine Valley College, Marilee became part of the founding Faculty in the Department of Human Development. She has 28 years of experience teaching courses in Child Development and Adolescent studies at Irvine Valley College, other Community Colleges, and the California State University system. Marilee has been a consultant providing professional development and program analysis for public and nonprofit organizations and was a lead researcher in measuring the benefits of recreation and social services programs. Marilee served as a past Chair of the Orange County Planning Council, first President of the Tri County Chapter of the newly formed California School age Consortium, and has actively participated in other countywide and State committees as well as professional organizations. Currently, Marilee is Director of Child Development Services for the Fullerton School District. This is a comprehensive Reggio inspired social constructivist program that encompasses a myriad of services for children and parents, infants through eighth grade. These include but are not limited to, tuition and grant funded preschool, after school programs, and Early Learning Studios serving 3,000 children and families daily.

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Melissa Wheelahan, M.A.

Treasurer

Melissa Wheelahan is a Program Specialist for the Orange County Department of Education, where she is part of the early learning team supporting Quality Start OC. She is responsible for quality improvement efforts that support the workforce through training, technical assistance, and professional growth advising. She is also part of the QRIS Region 9 team, which supports QRIS regional efforts to Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties. She has a long history in early childhood education including teaching in the classroom, being a California Early Childhood Mentor Teacher, and an Administrator. Currently she teaches early childhood classes part-time at Saddleback and Orange Coast College. She holds an A.A. from Saddleback College, a B.A. in Education from Concordia University Irvine, and a Master of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from Pacific Oaks. She maintains a California Program Director Permit and a Career Technical Education (CTE) Teaching Credential in Education, Child Development, and Family Services. She loves being the treasurer for and is passionate about ensuring we are good stewards of our funds, and that they are used to meet the mission and values of OCAEYC. She is very passionate about helping early learning professionals reach their educational goals and advocating for professionalizing our field when it comes to wage disparities. She volunteers her time on the Mission Viejo High School Music Boosters Alumni Committee and on her church’s Ministry Leadership Team. In her spare time, she LOVES to do escape rooms and spend time with her husband Dennis and her three grown children Trey, Mason, and Ashton. On any given weekend you can find her either at the beach, at church, or just chilling watching movies.

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Sarah Shawesh, M.A.

Vice President of Membership

Sarah is a founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Building Resilience In Communities and Kids (B.R.I.C.K) Consulting, an adjunct professor, lecturer, early childhood educator, and development specialist. She received a masters degree in Human Development where her graduate studies focused on authentic parent-child relationships. Ms. Shawesh has spent most of her career helping families, educators and children understand development in a way that allows everyone to find joy in the day-to-day. She strives to break down development in a way that makes sense and increases positive outcomes for all!

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Board Members At Large

Sandy Avzaradel, M.S. Ed.

Fund Development Chair

Sandy is the Director of Early Childhood OC, an organization which promotes Orange County’s Early Childhood Policy Framework, champions an increase in funding to early childhood programs and services, and supports initiatives which cultivate resilient families, ensure quality early learning and promote comprehensive health and development. In addition, Sandy designed and implemented the Early Childhood Mental Health and Wellness Program, a county-wide program where Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants work alongside preschool professionals to support social and emotional development and effectively work with children with challenging behaviors and / or mental health concerns. As a part-time adjunct faculty member at California State University, Fullerton in the Child and Adolescent Studies Department, Sandy enjoys sharing her early childhood passion and expertise with future educators. Sandy has provided numerous local, state, and national presentations with a focus on social / emotional development, mental health and challenging behavior, school readiness, child development, special education, parent education, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) for early childhood. Sandy is a former Board Member for Families Forward and is proud to serve as the Fund Development Chair for OCAEYC. When not advocating for early childhood, Sandy enjoys spending time with her husband, two young children, and her dogs.

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Beth M. Odom, M.A.

Communications Co-Chair

Beth M. Odom worked as an early educator for eighteen years before joining Children’s Home Society of California (CHS). She has been with CHS for fifteen years, continuing to support the development of quality child care for children by contributing to the professional development of early educators and connecting families with the resources and tools they need to thrive. She maintains a child development teacher permit, has an A.A. degree in Liberal Arts from Santa Ana College, a B.A. degree in Spanish Linguistics, and a Master of Arts degree in Spanish from the California State University of Long Beach. She is passionate about promoting literacy, social and emotional development, and connecting children with nature, music, and art. This is what Beth believes about being an early educator: “Albert Einstein once said, ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing were a miracle. The other is as if everything is.’ For me, this is a powerful reminder to see the world with the wonder of a child. To nourish the curiosity, compassion, and joy in children that will inspire them to care about the world and continue learning throughout their lives.” In her free time Beth enjoys being with family and friends, reading, listening to music, or learning to play a new musical instrument.

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Kim Diaz

Communications Co-Chair

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Krista Murphy, M.Ed.

Board Development Chair

Krista Murphy is an Early Learning Services Coordinator at the Orange County Department of Education, where she serves as the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Region 9 Technical Assistance lead, and co-lead of Quality Start OC. Krista has twenty years of experience in the early childhood education profession, as a preschool and K-1 teacher, adjunct professor, and systems development lead. Krista holds a B.S. in Child Development, a master’s degree in Cross-Cultural Education, multiple subject and administrative services credentials, and recently served on the National Association for the Education of Young Children Governing Board.​

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Hannah Thompson, M.Ed.

Advocacy and Public Policy Chair / Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC)

Hannah Thompson has her masters from California State University, Long Beach in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. Hannah has a background working in and with early childhood education schools and environments. Hannah currently works as an Early Childhood Mental Health and Wellness Consultant for Start Well Orange County which focuses on mental health consultation for early care and education. Hannah is also involved in the Orange County Association for the Education of Young Children as the Public Policy and Advocacy Chair and continues to do research that focuses on the birth to eight population and the field of early childhood education.

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Melissa Dahlin, M.A.

Member Services Chair

Melissa Dahlin’s OCAEYC service is informed by her years of work as a preschool teacher, early childhood policy analyst, and early childhood technical assistance provider. She is a PhD Student in Education at the University of California, Irvine. Her research interests include early childhood education policy and the role of educators and families in supporting young children’s mathematical development. Before her doctoral studies, Melissa worked in early childhood policy and program evaluation. As an Associate Project Director at the Education Development Center, where her portfolio included the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and several international education development projects. Previously, she was a program assistant at The Finance Project, where she conducted research and produced reports and tools for policy makers, and an intern at The Children’s Defense Fund, where she supported research to inform policy on full-day kindergarten. In all of her professional endeavors, Melissa has been guided by a deep commitment to ensuring that all young children and families can access the resources and support they need to thrive. She holds a B.A. in History from University of California, Irvine and an M.A. in International Educational Development from Teachers College, Columbia University.

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Wendi Evans, B.A.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chair

Wendi L. Evans is the Inclusion Director at A Child’s Place Learning Center, Inc. (ACP) and has her Bachelor of Arts in Child Development. She oversees the goals and progress of the children enrolled with various needs and behaviors. Wendi works staff providing training and support when there are concerns with students along with developing behavioral management plans to assist when challenges occur. She also works closely with any outside agencies or school districts that may also be supporting the child. Wendi is a member of the Orange County Child Care and Development Planning Council, representing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) Center OC. She is also a member of the Orange County Inclusion Collaborative. She is the Advocacy and Education Program Assistant and a volunteer on the Transgender Health and Wellness Committee and Transgender Community & Allies Together (TCAT) at the LGBTQ Center. Wendi helped develop the Youth Library Project which is committed to creating a library section (preschool – young adult) at the LGBT Center OC and promoting LGBT children’s literature events throughout Orange County. Wendi is often invited to speak at higher education classes on the subjects of Gender Development and LGBT issues.

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Nancy Dayne, Ed.D

Professional Development Chair

Dr. Dayne has been in the field of early childhood education for over twenty two years. She has been an infant / preschool /  toddler teacher, assistant director, and center director. She is an assistant professor in Child Development and Family Studies at California State University Long Beach, where she has been teaching since 2004. Nancy is also a professional growth advisor for the child development permit. Her research interests include college student parents and their childcare options / well-being, father involvement / engagement, pre-service and in-service teacher training, and family dynamics. Outside of her professional life, she is a wife and mother of two girls. She loves to read, travel, and has recently added gardening as a new hobby! She is excited to be part of the OCAEYC board!

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Maria Isabel Michea

Interest Forum Facilitators Chair

Maria Isabel Michea graduated from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile where she studied Early Childhood Education. She has been working as an early educator for over thirty years. Maria is currently a student in the Child Development Department of Fullerton College and has completed sixty units in Child Development so far. She currently owns and operates Michy's Reggio Family Childcare, is a member of the organization Educators for Peaceful Classrooms and Communities (EPCC), and serves as secretary to the Concejo Asesor de Educadores y Cuidado Infantil (CAECI). Maria is passionate about collaborating with other educators to share knowledge and experiences that will improve the quality of early learning programs in our county.

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