Our talented team

A dedicated team of professionals collaborate to create and deliver our Tools professional development and curriculum. Want to learn more about us?

Innovation and knowledge

Fun facts about

Deborah Leong, Ph.D.

What is your favorite quote?

"Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play." —Heraclitus, philosopher (500 BCE)

What inspires you?

The teachers and children that we work with at Tools.

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

I worked in a vineyard in Bordeaux before I went to college.

Deborah Leong, Ph.D.

Co-founder and President

Dr. Deborah J. Leong is the Co-founder and President of Tools of the Mind and Professor Emerita of Psychology at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she taught for 36 years in the Psychology Department and in the Department of Education. Dr. Leong developed the Tools of the Mind approach with Dr. Bodrova with whom she has written numerous books, articles, and educational videos on the Vygotskian Approach to Psychology and the development of play. Dr. Leong has written several books on early childhood assessment with Drs. McAfee and Bodrova. She has her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Psychological Studies in Education, her M.Ed. from Harvard University, and her B.A. from Stanford University. She was a Fulbright Fellow to the University of Patagonia, Argentina.

Dr. Deborah J. Leong is the Co-founder and President of Tools of the Mind and Professor Emerita of Psychology at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she taught for 36 years in the Psychology Department and in the Department of Education. Dr. Leong developed the Tools of the Mind approach with Dr. Bodrova with whom she has written numerous books, articles, and educational videos on the Vygotskian Approach to Psychology and the development of play. Dr. Leong has written several books on early childhood assessment with Drs. McAfee and Bodrova. She has her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Psychological Studies in Education, her M.Ed. from Harvard University, and her B.A. from Stanford University. She was a Fulbright Fellow to the University of Patagonia, Argentina.

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Fun facts about

Elena Bodrova, Ph.D.

What's on your bucket list?

Travel to Asia, Europe, and Australia

What is your favorite place in the world?

The mountains

What is the most surprising thing about you?

In middle school, I had to pass a test taking apart and assembling an AK-47.

Elena Bodrova, Ph.D.

Co-founder and Tools Knowledge Advisor

Elena Bodrova, Ph.D. is the Co-founder and Tools Knowledge Advisor at Tools of the Mind. In collaboration with Dr. Deborah Leong, she developed Tools of the Mind program based on Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian theories of learning and Luria’s theories of brain development. Dr. Bodrova’s work on applying Lev Vygotsky’s theory to education began in Russia where she worked in the Institute for Preschool Education, and continued in the US where she worked as a Visiting Professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and later as a Principal Researcher at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. Dr. Bodrova is the coauthor with Dr. Leong of multiple articles and book chapters on early literacy, assessment, play, and self-regulation. Dr. Bodrova holds Ph.D. in Child Development and Educational Psychology from Russian Academy of Pedagogical Sciences and M.A. in Child Development and Educational psychology from Moscow State University, Russia.

Elena Bodrova, Ph.D. is the Co-founder and Tools Knowledge Advisor at Tools of the Mind. In collaboration with Dr. Deborah Leong, she developed Tools of the Mind program based on Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian theories of learning and Luria’s theories of brain development. Dr. Bodrova’s work on applying Lev Vygotsky’s theory to education began in Russia where she worked in the Institute for Preschool Education, and continued in the US where she worked as a Visiting Professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and later as a Principal Researcher at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. Dr. Bodrova is the coauthor with Dr. Leong of multiple articles and book chapters on early literacy, assessment, play, and self-regulation. Dr. Bodrova holds Ph.D. in Child Development and Educational Psychology from Russian Academy of Pedagogical Sciences and M.A. in Child Development and Educational psychology from Moscow State University, Russia.

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Executive Director

Fun facts about

Barb Wilder-Smith

What's on your bucket list?

Seeing a moose, northern lights and grandchildren!

What is your favorite place in the world?

Anywhere by the ocean.

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

Teleportation, so I could spend more time with the ones I love (and more time by the ocean!).

Barb Wilder-Smith

Executive Director & Co-Developer

Barb Wilder-Smith is the Executive Director and Co-developer at Tools of the Mind. Since 2004, Barb has led Tools in bringing Tools theory into practice. With her leadership, Tools has continuously improved to become more actionable for teachers and impactful for students. Meaningful improvements include Tools professional development model, new editions of Tools teachers' manuals and technology innovations including iScaffold, PowerTools, the Digital Writing Assessment and TREE. Barb has more than 30 years of experience in education in roles ranging from teacher, teacher-educator, coach, administrator, researcher and trainer. Highlights include her time as adjunct instructor at Wheelock College and consultant at Tufts University. A graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Calderwood Writing Fellowship recipient, Barb is grateful to bring her experience to the Tools mission to empower teachers to empower children.

Barb Wilder-Smith is the Executive Director and Co-developer at Tools of the Mind. Since 2004, Barb has led Tools in bringing Tools theory into practice. With her leadership, Tools has continuously improved to become more actionable for teachers and impactful for students. Meaningful improvements include Tools professional development model, new editions of Tools teachers' manuals and technology innovations including iScaffold, PowerTools, the Digital Writing Assessment and TREE. Barb has more than 30 years of experience in education in roles ranging from teacher, teacher-educator, coach, administrator, researcher and trainer. Highlights include her time as adjunct instructor at Wheelock College and consultant at Tufts University. A graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Calderwood Writing Fellowship recipient, Barb is grateful to bring her experience to the Tools mission to empower teachers to empower children.

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Partnership Development Team

Fun facts about

Angela Alvis

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Adventurous, globetrotter, curious

What is your favorite food?

Pickles

What is the most surprising thing about you?

I've lived in 9 different states, including Washington DC.

Angela Alvis

Director of Partnership Development

Fun facts about

Aisha O’Donnell

What's on your bucket list?

Hike Machu Picchu, travel Europe by bicycle, qualify for the Boston Marathon

What is your favorite food?

Veggie pizza

How do you spend your weekends?

Running, doing yoga, hiking with my husband, walking my pup Teal, and cooking.

Aisha O’Donnell

Senior Partnership Development Manager

Fun facts about

Alina Kaye

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Thoughtful, empathic, curious

What is your favorite food?

Berries and breakfast sandwiches

How do you spend your weekends?

Hiking, cooking and working on home projects

Alina Kaye

Partnership Development Manager

Fun facts about

Jennifer Martin

What's on your bucket list?

Fly an airplane, write a book, cliff dive with a wing suit

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

Coffee and sunshine

What is your favorite quote?

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better." —Albert Einstein

Jennifer Martin

Senior Partnership Development Manager

Fun facts about

Judy Suchecki

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Fortunate, curious, zoophile

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

Animal control officer

What's on your bucket list?

To snorkel the coral reefs, visit Hawaii, see a blue whale in its environment

Judy Suchecki

Professional Development Specialist

Fun facts about

Kim Mensche

What is your favorite quote?

"Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world!" —Oprah Winfrey

How do you spend your weekends?

Enjoying dinner and time with my family

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Curious, optimistic, nurturing

Kim Mensche

Partnership Development Manager

Fun facts about

Kim Wilson

What's on your bucket list?

Travel to Italy

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

Working at Casa Bonita as a photographer in the jail

What is the most surprising thing about you?

I love to watch Seinfeld

Kim Wilson

Partnership Development Manager

Fun facts about

Leslie Trombley

What is your favorite quote?

"Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself" —Paramahansa Yogananda

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Resourceful, motivated, optimistic

What inspires you?

Seeing the look on a child's face when they achieve something for the first time.

Leslie Trombley

Senior Partnership Development Manager

Fun facts about

Luis Gallego

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Inquisitive, reflective, persistent

What is your favorite place in the world?

Laguna de Iguaque, Colombia

What is the most surprising thing about you?

I am not allowed to go by myself to any toy store (no self-regulation).

Luis Gallego

Senior Partnership Development Manager

Fun facts about

Nancy O’Connell

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

Is my coffee is ready?

What is your favorite food?

Pasta

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

I'd love to have a great singing voice—sure my family does too

Nancy O’Connell

Professional Development Specialist

Fun facts about

Susan Coopersmith

If you had a song that played whenever you walked into a room what would it be?

Happy by Pharrell

What inspires you?

A smile

What is the most surprising thing about you?

I'm an eclectic artist

Susan Coopersmith

Partnership Development Specialist

GROW Tools Team

Fun facts about

David Venter

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Social yet introverted, and empathetic

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

What's for dinner?

How do you spend your weekends?

Sweet Tooth on Saturday and Sunday is family time

David Venter

Marketing Manager

Fun facts about

Mariah Casillas

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Spontaneous, Gentle, Dedicated.

What is your favorite place in the world?

The beach

What's on your bucket list?

Visit Bali, own a mustang, learn how to bake a cake

Mariah Casillas

Senior Business Development Manager

Fun facts about

Tina McMechen

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Loyal, Strategic, Grateful

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

My dog, Smoochie Cleopatra McMechen

What is your favorite food?

Cookies, candies, cakes, and pies

Tina McMechen

Head of Business Development and Marketing

Communication & Strategic Initiatives Team

Fun facts about

Amy Vernon

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Grounded, Loyal, Listener

What's on your bucket list?

Learning Spanish, Baking Croissants, Sleeping until 9 am

What is your favorite place in the world?

Outside on a cool, fall day.

Amy Vernon

Communications Specialist & Coordinator of Strategic Initiatives

Fun facts about

Lauren Seibert

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Determined, active, reliable

What is your favorite place in the world?

A tie between Disney World and anywhere my family is!

What is your favorite food?

Bread! I have never passed up a good dinner roll!

Lauren Seibert

Communications & Project Associate

Data and Evaluation Team

Fun facts about

Megan Spacciapoli

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

Sesame Workshop on a study that led to Sesame Street's Healthy Habit Initiative

How do you spend your weekends?

Hiking, snowshoeing and/or rock climbing. Sometimes it's spent binge-watching Netflix though!

What's on your bucket list?

See the northern lights in Iceland

Megan Spacciapoli

Director of Data and Evaluation

Fun facts about

Jillian Sullivan

What's on your bucket list?

Camping under the Aurora Borealis, touching the Egyptian pyramids, and experiencing zero-G

What inspires you?

The way young children experience the world around them

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

Teleportation (is that cheating?)

Jillian Sullivan

Lead Evaluation & Data Specialist

Fun facts about

Tia McCallum

What's on your bucket list?

Visit the castles in Ireland/Scotland; swim in the cenotes in Mexico; take a food/wine tour in Italy

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Ambitious, adventurous, empathetic

What is your favorite food?

Seafood—crabs, clams, shrimp, etc.

Tia McCallum

Research Specialist

Operations and Systems Team

Fun facts about

Mara Viana

What is your favorite quote?

"The tool is the love." —Japanese bicycle designer

What inspires you?

People driven to make the world a better place, nature, transformation

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

The ability to travel in time!

Mara Viana

Director of Systems, Operations & Innovation

Fun facts about

Abby Spooner

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Kind, adventurous, and empathetic

What is your favorite quote?

"We rise by lifting others" - Robert Ingersoll

How do you spend your weekends?

Adventuring and foraging in the great outdoors of Maine!

Abby Spooner

Partnership Development Administrator

Fun facts about

Ashton Hankins

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Reliable, adaptable, curious

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

I was a juvenile probation officer in a previous life

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

Probably a healing factor. I'm pretty clumsy, so it would come in handy.

Ashton Hankins

Technology & Systems Specialist

Fun facts about

Charlie Herrmann

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Optimistic loyal learner

What inspires you?

At a fundamental level, it's simply people who are excited about things and not worried about what others think or what they are 'supposed' to do. I find enthusiasm and authenticity very contagious.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Caribou Lake in Lutsen, MN

Charlie Herrmann

Sr. Database Manager

Fun facts about

Cindy Brown

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Friendly, generous, organized

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

List my things to do

What is the most surprising thing about you?

I'm handy with tools

Cindy Brown

Business Development Analyst & Administrator

Content Development Team

Fun facts about

David Brooke

What is your favorite quote?

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” —Don Draper

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

Teaching English in Italy to 11-year-olds

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

Touch a book and know everything inside

David Brooke

Creative Development & Digital Marketing Manager

Fun facts about

Angela Robinson

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

My mom, hands down

What is the most surprising thing about you?

I wrote a children's book about fairies. You can get it on Amazon!

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

To be in several places at once...so I can explore and learn about everything I want to!

Angela Robinson

Associate Director of Content Development

Technology Team

Fun facts about

Oliver Saunders Wilder

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

Historical Interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village

What is your favorite place in the world?

The ocean

What is your favorite quote?

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence." —Albert Einstein

Oliver Saunders Wilder

Director of Technology

Fun facts about

David Hastings

If you had a song that played whenever you walked into a room what would it be?

Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Loyal, personable, resourceful

What inspires you?

Feeling of achievement I get when I have accomplished a goal

David Hastings

Full Stack Developer

Finance and Administration Team

Fun facts about

Cyndi Cadigan

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

My mom

How would you describe yourself using three words?

Mother, environmentalist, passionate

How do you spend your weekends?

Camping, hiking, biking...or anything educational

Cyndi Cadigan

Associate Director of Finance and Administration

Fun facts about

Carolyn Erhart

What is the most unusual job you've ever had?

Body toning exercise instructor

What is your favorite food?

Dessert

What is your coveted superpower (not including flight or invisibility)?

Healer

Carolyn Erhart

Fiscal Assistant

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Tools is the comprehensive early childhood program that develops every child’s self-regulation in every activity. Research shows that self-regulation is the biggest predictor of success in school and life.

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