About

Our Team

Leadership

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Heather Googe

Principal Investigator

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(803) 777-2861

Dr. Heather Googe serves as the Principal Investigator for SCPI. In this role, Dr. Googe works with SCPI’s funders and the University of South Carolina to ensure SCPI meets grant compliance and reporting requirements. Dr. Googe also works as a Research Assistant Professor at the UofSC Child Development Research Center and as the Director and Principal Investigator of the South Carolina Child Care Inclusion Collaborative, as well as the Principal Investigator of the Mix-EC Project. She has over 20 years of experience working in the field of early childhood special education and holds a Ph.D. in Special Education.

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Kerri Kannengieser

Program Director and Co-Principal Investigator

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(803) 429-0519

Kerri Kannengieser is the Program Director and Co-PI for SCPI. In this position, Kerri oversees the day-to-day operations of SCPI, facilitates strategic planning, supervises staff & the delivery of technical assistance, and works with SCPI’s PI to meet grant compliance and reporting requirements.

Kerri holds an M.S. in Special Education and has over 15 years of experience in the special education field. She has worked for the University of South Carolina’s Child Development Research Center since 2016 when SCPI was in its inception. Kerri is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the Division for Early Childhood (DEC). She is also a Certified Child Care Trainer in South Carolina, a member of the Pyramid PIECES State Leadership Team, and serves on the South Carolina Advisory Council for Educating Students with Disabilities (ACESD) as the co-chair of the Preschool Committee.

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Kate Ascetta

Co-Principal Investigator

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Dr. Kate Ascetta is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Special Education. Before pursuing her Ph.D. at University of Oregon, she worked in a variety of settings with young children and early childhood teachers. She began as an early childhood special education teacher for young children who had experienced trauma. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she was an assistant principal at a Head Start program.

Ascetta's research interests include the development and assessment of effective instructional practices, specifically online, that promotes professional growth in teachers and leads to increased language and communication skills in young children. She studies interventions designed to promote language-rich classrooms environments and increase the sustained use of evidence-based practices in early childhood classrooms.

Technical Assistance Team

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Melissa Griffin

Technical Assistance Coordinator

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(803) 973-9327
Melissa Griffin serves as the Technical Assistance Coordinator with SCPI. In this role, she facilitates the implementation of a tiered framework of supports for early childhood specialists and coordinates service delivery for districts working with SCPI to improve early childhood outcomes and increase access for preschool children with IEPs. 
 
Melissa has over 18 years of experience in the field of early intervention, including leadership and program development. Melissa began her career as an Early Intervention Specialist and progressed into the role of Assistant Director of Early Intervention. Prior to joining SCPI, Melissa served as the Director of Medical Rehabilitation for a pediatric therapy program serving children enrolled in Part C of IDEA and SC Medicaid. 
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Dana Bennett

Technical Assistance Specialist

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(803) 973-9292

Dana Bennett serves as a Technical Assistance Specialist with SCPI. In this position, she provides training and technical assistance to districts to increase their use of evidence-based practices that support the inclusion of young children with disabilities in early learning programs.

Dana holds a M.Ed. and has 18 years of experience teaching in the public school system. She has also served as a family childcare teacher and an Inclusion Specialist. Dana was also awarded the 2019 Council for Exceptional Children Special Educator of the Year Award for the state of South Carolina.

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Nicole Randall

Project Manager

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Nicole Randall joined the SCPI team after working with Mix-EC: Multi-System Inclusion Expansion for Early Childhood Project since March 2021 as the Project Manager. She now spends a percentage of her time as Project Manager with SCPI. In this role, she manages the design, implementation, and daily administrative activities for the SEIT Academy, IHE Inclusion Consortium, and Early Transitions projects.
Prior to joining the Mix-EC Team, Nicole supported early childhood professionals with promoting the social-emotional development of young children in her role as an Education Specialist and Behavior Specialist for a Child Care Resource and Referral Agency in North Carolina. Over the past several years she has gained extensive experience in the Human Services and Early Childhood Education Field working with children, adolescents, and adults as a Preschool Teacher, Job Coach, Inpatient Discharge Planner, Adjunct Instructor and Early Learning Coach.
Nicole holds a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction degree from Florida State University and her Bachelor of Science from the University of South Carolina where she majored in Psychology.
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Tanya Hutchinson

Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) Coach

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(803) 542-1790

Tanya Hutchinson serves as the Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) Coach. In this role, she supports school districts who have completed the SEIT Academy as they implement the special education itinerant model in preschool programs within their district.   

Tanya holds an MA in Early Childhood Education with over 25 years in early childhood education, 15 of those years being an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Itinerant teacher. She has mentored first-year ECSE teachers and site-supervised student teachers in the field of ECSE. She holds teaching licenses in South Carolina, Early Childhood (EC) (Pk-3rd grade), ECSE (3-5 years old) and Colorado EC (0-8 years old), and ECSE Specialist (0-8).  

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Jo Wallace

Technical Assistance Specialist

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839-250-7189

Jo Wallace serves as a Technical Assistance Specialist with SCPI. In this position, she provides training and technical assistance to districts to increase their use of evidence-based practices that support the inclusion of young children with disabilities in early learning programs. 

Jo holds an M.Ed. in Educational Administration, is currently pursuing her Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Assessment, and has over 10 years of experience teaching and working in the public school system. She has also served as an Early Interventionist working with children aged birth-three. 

Pyramid PIECES Team

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Jennifer Harrist

Pyramid Model Coordinator

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(803) 973-9281

Jennifer Harrist serves as the Pyramid Model Coordinator for the Pyramid PIECES State Leadership Team (SLT), a cross-collaborative initiative that promotes social emotional well-being for infants, young children, and their families. In this role, she coordinates & facilitates the work of the SLT and supports the work of the professional development network as they provide training and program coaching to implement the Pyramid Model with fidelity.

Jennifer has over 7 years of experience in K-12 education. She holds a M.Ed. and is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research with experience in social-emotional learning, constructivist learning environments, and whole child education.

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Nichole Hudgens

Pyramid Model Implementation Coach

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(803) 521-9052

Nichole Hudgens serves as the Pyramid Model Implementation Coach with SCPI’s Pyramid PIECES team. In this role, Nichole supports early childhood programs within South Carolina’s school districts to build their capacity to implement Pyramid Model practices with fidelity.

Prior to joining SCPI, Nichole served as an Inclusion Specialist with the SC Inclusion Collaborative for four years. She holds a M.Ed. in Education and has taught pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and upper elementary school. Nichole is also a Certified Trainer and Technical Assistance Provider with the SC Endeavors.

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Behavior Specialist

Support Team

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Jackie Viotto

Graduate Research Assistant

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Jackie Viotto serves as a Graduate Research Assistant with SCPI. In this role, she coordinates Brown Bag events for the Early Childhood Higher Education Inclusion Consortium, analyzes data pertaining to Pyramid Model practices and pre-service teachers, and collects data for the SEIT Academy.

Jackie holds a BS in Childhood Studies from Plymouth State University and an M.Ed. in Learning Disabilities from Francis Marion University. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Special Education at the University of South Carolina. She has five years of experience as a special education resource teacher and a focus on teacher professional development for inclusive education for students with disabilities in the general education setting.

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Aaron Prince

Communications Coordinator

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(803) 973-9242

Aaron Prince is the Communications Coordinator for SCPI. In this role, he is responsible for all content management for SCPI and its partner programs SCIC and Pyramid PIECES. This includes website updates, newsletter publishing, social media management, and the creation and execution of content calendars.

Aaron holds an MA in Copywriting and Strategic Design. He has spent the past several years in ad agencies and in-house teams creating materials for everything from small startups to multinational conglomerates. He has experience writing, designing, and crafting marketing and communication deliverables for the healthcare, insurance, home building, and retail industries.

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Suzanne Wingard

Events Coordinator

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(803) 767-7850

Suzanne Wingard is the Events Coordinator for SCPI and its sibling programs SCIC and Pyramid PIECES. In this position, Suzanne is responsible for planning, managing, and organizing functions and events that align with the mission of our work for externally funded projects.

Suzanne holds a B.S. in Health Sciences from Clemson University and has 10 years of experience around training and conference coordination. She has worked directly with SC partners to implement multiple state and nationwide conferences that provided training, support, and resources to families of children, youth, and young adults with special healthcare needs and the professionals who serve these families. As a trainer, she has provided multiple trainings directly to caregivers, professionals, education students, and youth. She is also an appointed member of the SC Developmental Disabilities Council, seated as a parent of a teen with a disability.