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Administrative Office

Administrative Operations and Membership Services

Association of American Educators
25909 Pala Place, Suite 330
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
Tel: 800-704-7799, 949-595-7979
Fax: 949-595-7970
Email: Website Contact Form


Mission Viejo, California

Debbie Brown, Senior Membership Services Specialist
Ellen Cole, Paralegal, Legal Services
Julie Evans, Legal Services Manager
Katie Grove, Membership Billing Manager
Alicia Huntsman, Senior Director of Membership Services
Iris Lacey, Membership Payment Processor
Sharon Nelson, Senior Director of Legal Services
Grace Talberg, Human Resources and Accounting Manager
Cari Vedder, Group Accounts Manager
Catherine Villani, Membership Services Specialist

Policy and Foundation Office

Education Policy, Communications, and AAE Foundation

Association of American Educators
2560 Huntington Avenue, Suite 301
Alexandria, VA 22303
Tel: 877-385-6264, 703-739-2100
Fax: 703-739-2763
Email: Website Contact Form


Colin Sharkey, Executive Director


Alexandria, Virginia

Megan Huban, Executive Assistant/Office Manager
Noelani Kahapea, Director of Policy & Strategic Partnerships
Christina Mazzanti, Director of Communications
Melissa Pratt, Senior Professional Programs Manager
Jenn Sharkey, Director of Membership Development
Kira Tookes, Director of Advocacy, AAE Foundation

State Chapter and Regional Offices

Local Member Services, Outreach, and Communications


Ariel Elliott, Regional Membership Director, Colorado
Ronnie Flowers, Senior Regional Director, Arkansas
Allison Greenwood, Ed.D., State Director, Arkansas & Senior Regional Dir., AAE
Amy Kernin-Laye, Regional Membership Director, Idaho
Danielle Kelley, Regional Membership Director, Arkansas
Michele Linch, Ph.D., Executive Director, Arkansas
Shanna Morgason, Senior Regional Director, Arkansas
Liz Parlett Butcher, Regional Membership Director, New Jersey
Travis Ragland, Director of Legal Services, Arkansas
Garry Sigle, Executive Director, Kansas
Dana Williams, State Director, Georgia & Director of Recruiting, AAE
Margaret Zakrzewski, Executive Assistant, Arkansas
Chuck Zurcher, Regional Membership Director, Nebraska

Visit the State Chapters and Partners page for state offices and web links

Open Positions

Email jobs -at- for more information

Project Coordinator, Arkansas
Regional Membership Director, California
Regional Membership Director, Pennsylvania
Director of Charter School Services
Director of Development
Director of External Relations
Director of Membership Growth

Staff Bios

Colin Sharkey

Executive Director

Colin Sharkey is executive director of the Association of American Educators and AAE Foundation. 

Mr. Sharkey previously served as Executive Vice President, responsible for day-to-day operations, including setting and meeting membership and revenue goals, hiring and supervising managers and staff, controlling expenses, and developing and directing operating procedures to support AAE’s objectives and policies. Before that, Mr. Sharkey served as senior director of national projects for AAE, spearheading numerous innovative technology, membership, expansion, and development initiatives.

Prior to joining AAE, Colin served the project coordinator for the coalition relations department at The Heritage Foundation, where he supported numerous projects, including the annual Resource Bank Meeting, Policy Experts, and the Leadership for America campaign. Before that Colin worked at the Collegiate Network as a program officer providing financial and technical assistance to nearly one hundred independent college newspapers. While he was at the Collegiate Network, a program of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Colin served as Managing Editor of CAMPUS Magazine Online, created and directed the National Security Online Resource Center, and blogged for National Review Online. Colin has been interviewed on Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and numerous local and syndicated radio programs.

Born and raised in Abington, Pennsylvania, Colin is a proud product of the award-winning Abington public school district. Colin completed a two-year honors program at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, and he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. Colin and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons and reside in Pennsylvania.

If forced to choose only one, Colin’s favorite educator is his tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Ted Weiner, who is a passionate and knowledgeable teacher with high expectations.

Debbie Brown

Senior Member Services Specialist

Debbie Brown works as a senior member services specialist for the Association of American Educators where she manages all of the online applications and monitors membership services emails and web contacts. She also serves as an editorial assistant for AAE’s various publications. Her past work experience includes office positions with churches, schools, engineering and legal firms. She and her husband are both natives of Orange County, California, are very active in their church and choir, and have two grown children and two grandsons.

Debbie’s favorite educator is her tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Fox, who instilled in her a love for the English language and for reading.


Ellen Cole

Paralegal, Legal Services

Ellen Cole is the Legal Services paralegal and works closely with Sharon Nelson in servicing our members. She is the Legal point of contact for members, and facilitates the insurance claims process and attorney referrals. Aside from a caring personality, Ellen brings 23 years of legal experience to AAE members.

Ellen is a Chicago native and a die-hard Cubs fan. She has two grown sons and three beautiful grandchildren.

Ellen’s favorite educator is her high school volleyball and softball coach, Sr. Jackie Schmitz. Sr. Jackie exemplified kindness, faith, hard work, and integrity, all wrapped up in a great sense of humor.


Ariel Elliott

Regional Membership Director

Ariel Elliott serves as regional membership director for the Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE), supporting and serving PACE members throughout Colorado, and working to introduce many more educators to the benefits of PACE and the importance of membership in a professional association.

Ariel started her professional career in hotel management before transitioning to the association industry five years ago. She recently served as Education Director and Membership Development Director at the Professional Independent Insurance Agents of Colorado (now Trusted Choice Insurance Agents of Colorado). As membership director, Ariel grew membership and other programs offered by the association substantially. Ariel is a licensed property and casualty insurance professional and a tax professional.

Originally from the Park Hill area, Ariel was born, raised, and educated in Denver, Colorado. Ariel and her family are deeply rooted in the community and are still very active. She is a mother of three and a big kid at heart.

Ariel’s favorite educator is her eighth grade math teacher, Mr. Wagner, who instilled in her that you must respect and treat others the way you want to be treated no matter what.

Julie Evans

Legal Services Manager

Julie Evans serves as the Association of American Educators legal services manager. Prior to joining AAE, Julie worked for the Saddleback Valley Unified School District where she was on the management team for the before and after school day care program. As much as she loves working with children, she thoroughly enjoys providing services and support to teachers in her role with AAE.

Julie is a native Californian and she enjoys spending time with friends and family, volunteering at church, taking trips to Big Bear and going to Disneyland.

Julie’s favorite educator is her third grade teacher, Mrs. Relf, who took a genuine interest in each of her students and was always willing to go the extra mile to see her students succeed.


Ronnie Flowers

Senior Regional Director

Ronnie Flowers is a Senior Regional Director of the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA), a state chapter of AAE. Previously, Ronnie was an Algebra and Geometry in the Bentonville Public School District for 12 years after graduating with his Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from the University of Arkansas. As a teacher, Ronnie was voted by his peers as teacher of the year two different times for his building and for his small learning community. Ronnie became a member of ASTA in 2004 and soon helped start and was elected the president of the local ASTA group in Bentonville. Ronnie loves finding ways to save money, has fun teaching Geometry three times per week for an hour at a small private school in Rogers, plays basketball with friends, plays trumpet, and is a very active member of Northwest Church in Bentonville and Springdale. He enjoys creating songs using math and at the latest count has 35 in his repertoire on You Tube. He has been married since 1997 to his wife Kim and has two sons.

Allison Greenwood

State Director, ASTA and Senior Regional Director, AAE

Dr. Allison Cecil Greenwood is State Director of the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA), a state chapter of the Association of American Educators (AAE). She has served as an educator for more than two decades in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Believing passionately in the power of education to expand human potential and the source for empowerment and unity in our country is what drives Greenwood.

Her professional career began as an early childhood teacher in West Memphis, AR. She served as program manager at one of the first Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) programs which led to her appointment as Administrator of Child and Adolescent Services and Director of Education at Lakeside Behavioral Health System in Memphis, TN. She served as principal/superintendent for 6-12 and k-12 schools for children with emotional disturbances and conduct disorders in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. She has managed numerous behavioral health and educational programs, including acute care, intensive outpatient, residential care, alternative learning environments, and outpatient offices. Dr. Greenwood held faculty appointments at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and University of Arkansas at Little Rock where she taught classes in early childhood education, special education, middle level education and secondary education.

Dr. Greenwood has a doctorate of Instruction and Curriculum emphasizing in Early Childhood from the University of Memphis. She holds an MSE in Early Childhood with a certification in Educational Administration and a BSE in Early Childhood from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Allison lives in Little Rock with her husband and has three children in college. She enjoys rehabbing houses, painting, outdoor activities, spending time with family and friends at the lake, and advocating for children and educators.

Katie Grove

Membership Billing Manager

Katie Grove is the Membership Billing Manager for the Association of American Educators. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communications from California State University, Fullerton. Prior to joining AAE, Katie worked as a coordinator for the Saddleback Valley Unified School District’s afterschool program.

Born and raised in Orange County, CA, Katie loves everything Disney related. She and her soon-to-be husband love spending time with their families, friends and going to sporting events. Katie’s favorite activities are her weekly walks with her grandma and watching reality TV.

Katie’s favorite teacher is her 6th grade teacher Mrs. Prickett. She was very kind, patient and had new and innovative ways to teach.



Megan Huban

Executive Assistant/Office Manager

Megan Huban is the Executive Assistant/Office Manager for the Association of American Educators and AAE Foundation. In this role, Megan provides high level administrative support to the Executive Director and helps execute strategic priorities while contributing to the achievement of AAE’s mission. Prior to joining AAE, Megan worked as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of an automobile transmission franchise. Before that, Megan worked at an investment firm as the Executive Assistant to the General Counsel.

Megan grew up attending public school in Palmyra, Pennsylvania and graduated magna cum laude from Temple University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Mass Media. She lives in Glenside, Pennsylvania, with her two beautiful daughters and feisty Belgian Malinois, Grace.

Megan’s favorite educator is her 12th grade Journalism teacher, Ms. Aura Hill, who had a passion for teaching, loved all of her students and made learning exciting.


Alicia Huntsman

Senior Director of Membership Services

Alicia Huntsman serves as the Senior Director of Membership Services for the Association of American Educators. In this role, Alicia is responsible for managing the AAE membership office located in Orange County, California. In addition, Alicia serves as the Assistant Secretary and Assistant Treasurer to the AAE and AAE Foundation Board. Prior to joining AAE, Alicia worked for both large and smaller companies in management positions. She has a background in accounting, payroll, and executive administrative duties.

Alicia lives in Orange County, California with her two sons. She enjoys spending her free time at the beach, visiting national parks, and taking family vacations.

Alicia’s favorite teacher is her 8th grade teacher, Mr. Michael Vick, whose teaching style made class exciting and made each student feel important. He accompanied the class on a memorable field trip to Washington D.C.


Noelani Kahapea

Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships

Noelani Kahapea serves as the director of policy and strategic partnerships for the Association of American Educators. In this role Noelani cultivates AAE's outreach to the broader education and labor reform policy community.

Prior to joining AAE, Noelani served as the Senior Policy Staff on education and labor policy for the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives under three chairmen: Rep. Bill Flores, Rep. Mark Walker, and Rep. Mike Johnson. She also served as the Senior Legislative Assistant to Hawai'i Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom.

Noelani grew up with a diverse educational background, as she attended both public and private schools and was homeschooled. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa with a degree in Political Science. As the daughter, granddaughter, niece, and cousin of teachers, she truly values teachers, admires the role they play in a child's education, and has a true passion for K-12 education policy.

In her free time, Noelani enjoys dancing hula and visiting Disney World. Noelani has also been cast as an extra in a few television shows and movies including Hawaii Five-0 and Jurassic World.

It is easy for Noelani to pick a favorite teacher: her mom, Debbie. Debbie not only taught public school for many years, she also homeschooled Noelani and her two siblings. She instilled not only a love for learning, but also many valuable life lessons that Noelani has finally admitted are priceless.

Danielle Kelley

Regional Membership Director

Danielle Kelley is a Regional Membership Director of the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA), a state chapter of AAE. Danielle taught Theatre, Oral Communication, English, and Journalism for 19 years across Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. She graduated from Mississippi State University with her Bachelor's degree in Secondary Education and Public Relations. Before beginning her teaching career, she worked in corporate public relations in Dallas, Texas and even auditioned for a Broadway show. Danielle loves all things British and spends her spare time recreating recipes from The Great British Baking Show and Downton Abbey. She loves to sew, travel, throw parties, and is an active member of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, AR. She has been married to her husband Sam, who is also a teacher, since 2005, and they have three children, two boys and a girl.

Amy Kernin-Laye

Regional Membership Director

Amy Kernin-Laye serves as Regional Membership Director in Idaho, providing member services, introducing new members to Northwest Professional Educators, AAE's chapter for Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Amy has worked in and around education for over 15 years. She has her masters degree in Adult and Organizational Learning and Leadership. Born and raised in Idaho, she is a graduate of Kimberly High School, the College of Southern Idaho, and the University of Idaho. Amy has worked with college prep programs such as GEAR UP and TRiO for more than 10 years at UNLV and the State Department of Education. For the past year and a half she has been a substitute teacher in the West Ada School District. Through these experiences, Amy was fortunate to have worked with educators from all across the state. Amy resides in Meridian with her husband and two children. She enjoys the outdoors, spending time with friends, and planning events for family members.



Iris Lacey

Membership Payment Processor

Iris Lacey is the membership payment processor for monthly payments in the AAE California office. Her past work experience has been with various industries including chemical, computer, and copier-printing companies. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now resides in Southern California with her husband. She has two grown daughters, and her grandson and granddaughter are the loves in her life.

Her favorite educator is her third grade teacher, Mr. Williams, made a difference by spending extra time with a “lefty”.


Michele Linch

Executive Director

Dr. Michele Ballentine-Linch served in education as a science teacher for over twenty years and is now the executive director of ASTA - the Arkansas state chapter of AAE. After her career as a teacher, Dr. Linch pursued a doctorate at the University of Arkansas where she became the director of the Arkansas Leadership Academy’s Teacher Leader Institute - a post she held for over ten years.

Michele has performed faculty and administrative assignments at Arkansas Tech University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Arkansas Baptist College. Michele’s work with educators has taken her across the state of Arkansas, the U.S., and even to underserved schools in rural China. She served as a Governor’s appointee to the Arkansas Legislative Desegregation Litigation Oversight Subcommittee and Taskforce and serves on the board of the Arkansas Dressage Society.

Michele lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband, Perry, a lieutenant colonel in the Arkansas Army National Guard, their two children, and a menagerie of dogs, cats, chickens, and horses.

Christina Mazzanti

Director of Communications

Christina Mazzanti is the Director of Communications for the Association of American Educators. She is responsible for advancing AAE’s mission, growth and member service through internal and external communications strategies. This position directs awareness and engagement efforts related to member communications, marketing communications, brand management, media relations, and publications including AAE’s flagship newsletter, Education Matters. Prior to AAE, Christina was Director of Communications with The Center for Education Reform. Her diverse and extensive communications, marketing, and brand management experience also includes leadership roles with Youth For Understanding USA, De Shields Associates, Grace Creek Media, The Cronkite Ward Company, and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

Christina is a graduate of the University of Maryland and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree. Originally from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, Christina and her husband are long-time residents of Alexandria, Virginia.

Christina’s favorite educator is her 11th grade history teacher, Mr. Bellow, who always found a way to give every lesson a “punchline.”

Shanna Morgason

Membership Team Director

Shanna Morgason is the national membership team director for the Association of American Educators. In this role, Shanna enjoys training, motivating, collaborating with, and recruiting alongside AAE regional directors. She supports AAE member leaders through the LeadersMatter monthly newsletter. Shanna attributes her successful membership growth to having a true passion for serving members and knowledge of what today’s educator needs—a professional association restoring the focus to what matters to us: the kids!

Shanna has extensive experience in membership recruiting and educational sales as well as classroom experience as a secondary literacy teacher and K-4 library media specialist. Prior to joining AAE's Arkansas state chapter as a regional director, Shanna was an educational sales consultant and trainer for Kids College, a K-8 literacy and math test preparation software combining academics with online sports video games.

Shanna resides in Arkansas with her husband, Scott, and their four children.

Shanna credits her love of the teaching profession to her parents, both retired teachers with 35 and 40 years experience. Her favorite educator is Mrs. Henson. She made 3rd grade an experience to remember and was enthusiastic each and every day!


Sharon Nelson

Senior Director of Legal Services

Sharon Nelson is the Senior Director of Legal Services for the Association of American Educators. In this capacity, Ms. Nelson oversees AAE's extensive legal teams across the country and works daily with members and panel counsel to address member legal concerns.

A passionate advocate for educators, Ms. Nelson has been a lawyer focusing on employee rights issues for nearly 25 years. Before joining AAE, Ms. Nelson worked in private practice advocating for employee rights.

As a litigator, Ms. Nelson has conducted numerous jury trials, arbitrations and administrative hearings. Licensed in Nevada and California (license inactive), Ms. Nelson has practiced extensively in all state and federal courts in those jurisdictions.

Ms. Nelson's favorite educator is Mr. VonBergon who taught her that life was for living and learning and that there was nothing she could not achieve.

Liz Parlett Butcher

Regional Membership Director

Liz Parlett Butcher serves as the regional membership director of the Association of American Educators (AAE) in New Jersey. Liz is a passionate education advocate who has represented children with disabilities for several years. She successfully lobbied the governor and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) regarding speech language services eligibility criteria for New Jersey’s autistic children.

Liz is a well seasoned agent for change having worked as the chief of staff for former powerhouse New Jersey state senator Bill Gormley. During that time in her life, she spent countless hours assisting the senator on legislative bills and initiatives in the senate education committee.

In addition to Liz’s time spent working for the New Jersey legislature, she has worked for governors in New Jersey and in Rhode Island as well as for parliament in the United Kingdom. Liz also served as the public affairs director for MWWPR and was proud to receive an award for her work with the United States Education Finance Corps (USEFC) where she implemented a highly successful media relations campaign targeting opposition to eliminate student loan interest rate choice.

Born and raised at the real Jersey shore, she is a proud wife and mother of four children. Her advocacy efforts are always ongoing as the mother of a child on the autism spectrum with type 1 diabetes. She continues to passionately advocate for education change whenever she is called upon by anyone in her local community.

Her favorite educator is her 6th grade social studies teacher, Miss Solomon, where she first learned about government and the nation’s legal system. She is forever grateful to Miss Solomon for the lasting impact she created.

Melissa Pratt

Senior Professional Programs Manager

Melissa Pratt is the senior professional programs manager in AAE’s Washington D.C. office. In this role, Melissa assists with a wide variety of projects, including office management, specialty recruiting programs, and research. Melissa also spearheads professional development initiatives and oversees the AAE Foundation National Teacher Scholarship & Classroom Grant program.

Melissa graduated from Grove City College majoring in both History and Education. She spent ten years teaching middle school in private and public settings in North Carolina, Washington D.C., and Virginia. Melissa’s passion is Social Studies education. Her teaching techniques in these subjects focused on implementing methods that stressed authentic learning and critical thinking skills, with heavy emphasis on primary documents, simulations, research, and the integration of technology.

Having taught in rural, urban, public, and private settings, Melissa has observed that teachers in all situations face similar difficulties. She is passionate about helping teachers, no matter their teaching circumstance, and providing a professional option for all teachers.

Melissa was raised in Liverpool, New York, a suburb of Syracuse, where she developed an appreciation for snow. She currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

Melissa’s favorite educators are found in the history department at GCC, who taught her how to look at things unconventionally, instead of falling into predefined boxes.


Travis Ragland

Director of Legal Services

Travis Ragland serves as the Director of Legal Services for the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA). Before joining ASTA, Travis worked as an attorney in the fields of real estate, contract, and probate both in the business world and in private practice. Prior to his legal career, he worked for over a decade as a municipal firefighter serving the citizens of city of Conway, Arkansas. Travis holds a Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management from Arkansas Tech University and a Juris Doctorate from the UALR Bowen School of Law. He enjoys traveling, all things outdoors, and the Razorbacks. A lifelong Arkansan, Travis lives in Conway and is the father of three wonderful kids and one unruly rescue dog.

Jenn Sharkey

Director of Membership Development

Jenn Sharkey serves as the Director of Membership Development for the Association of American Educators. In this role, Jenn is responsible for implementing strategies and directing projects designed to retain and increase membership and to enhance membership services.

Jenn has twelve years of association membership experience with a heavy focus on member experience. Jenn is known for her cheery disposition and positive attitude as well as her focus on delivering a personal and enjoyable customer experience to association members. Jenn believes that customer service and a personal touch is the key to standing out to members in a crowded field of associations.

Jenn was born and raised in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, and graduated cum laude from Temple University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies. When not raising two hilarious and very sweet boys with her husband, Colin, Jenn enjoys reading and cleaning up at pop culture trivia events.

Jenn's favorite educator is Mr. Brown, her twelfth grade chemistry teacher, who made learning fun with hands-on experiments.



Garry Sigle

Regional Membership Director

Garry Sigle serves as a regional director of the Association of American Educators, as well as the executive director of AAE’s state chapter in Kansas. Garry served for 33 years as a teacher and coach at Riley County High School in Riley, Kansas.

He is a 1978 graduate of Fort Hays State University with a B.S. in Industrial Arts and a 1982 graduate of Kansas State University with a M.S. in Physical Education. While at Fort Hays, Garry was a five-time NAIA All-American in cross-country and track and field. In 2010, Garry was inducted into the Fort Hays State University Tiger Sports Hall of Fame.

At Riley County High School, Garry taught Woodworking and Drafting and was awarded the 1998 Wal-Mart Area Teacher of the Year. In addition to his teaching duties, Garry was the Head Girls’ and Boys’ Cross Country and Track and Field Coach. His teams won a total of 12 state championships, 7 in girls cross country, 3 in boys cross country and one each in girls and boys track and field. He coached 17 individual state champions in cross country and 56 individual state champions in track and field. Garry finished his track and field coaching career with a streak of 17 consecutive years with at least one individual state champion. The track at Riley County High School was renamed the Garry Sigle Track in 2011.

Garry earned Kansas Coaches Association Coach of the Year 3 times, twice in Girls Cross Country (1992 and 2009) and once in Girls Track and Field (1998). He was also the Midwest Region Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1999 and the Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2010. Garry was active at the state level in the Kansas Coaches Association serving as the Chairman for Cross Country for 10 years. In addition, he served as the president of the Kansas Cross Country and Track and Field Coaches Association from 1996 to 2004. Garry was inducted into the Kansas Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coaches Hall of Fame, the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame, and the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Garry has been a member of the Association of American Educators since 1996. In 2008, Garry was the chairperson of the Riley County Educators, a local teacher organization, which successfully voted to decertify from the Kansas NEA. The Riley County Educators then became the recognized bargaining unit for the Riley County teachers. He previously served on KANAAE’s board of directors before becoming Executive Director of KANAAE in 2011.

Garry and his wife, Linda, have three sons.

Garry's favorite educator is Coach Kent Litton because he had high expectations and made Garry realize he was capable of achieving great things through hard work and perseverance.


Grace Talberg

Human Resources and Accounting Manager

Grace has served as Human Resources and Accounting Manager for AAE since 2007. In this role, Grace conducts a variety of HR functional areas including payroll administration, managing benefits, onboarding, employee handbook development, policy and procedure update and reviews, employee relations issues, and guidance on federal and state employment law compliance. In addition to Human Resources, Grace prepares bank reconciliations, financial statements, and schedules to support tax returns.

Grace was born and raised in the Philippines, and graduated from Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce. After graduation, Grace relocated to California with her family. Grace continued her professional development at Chapman University, CA. Grace is an active member of the Society of Human Resources Management and Human Capital Institute. Outside of work, Grace loves spending time with family, traveling, walking her dog, and finding new places for brunch.

Grace’s favorite educator was her high school freshman choir teacher, Sister Lucia, who had the voice of an angel. Sister Lucia showed compassion for her students and had the best combination of strictness and kindness.


Kira Tookes

Director of Advocacy, AAE Foundation

Kira Tookes is the Director of Advocacy for the Association of American Educators Foundation. In this role, Kira is responsible for recruiting, training, developing and empowering teachers to make strategic and impactful policy advancements for the benefit of all children. As a proud Alumna of Howard University’s Political Science Department, Kira studied the overlap of public policy and education to develop a commitment to equitable education practices, and holds an M.S.Ed. from Johns Hopkins University as a result of this commitment.

In her most recent role, Kira worked at Teach for America to recruit and develop extraordinary and diverse talent to lead PK-12 classrooms across the country. She is responsible for the ongoing impact of nearly 150 teachers and thousands of students. As a Teach For America Houston corps member and charter school teacher at KIPP Houston, Kira leveraged her experiences in the classroom to uplift and uphold the pursuit of educational equity through mindfulness and yoga in urban schools, and led schools and districts to prioritize student, family, and community organizing to see systems-level policy change. Kira is also a proud member of Leadership for Educational Equity, where she has learned how to organize stakeholders and advance the work for underprivileged populations across the country.

Born in Atlanta and raised in Houston, Kira has continued to advocate for the right of all children to receive high quality education from high quality teachers. Her areas of expertise and interest include: elementary literacy education, effective teacher practice and skill development in cultural competency, education management through talent recruiting and training, advocacy and activism, travel, tacos, and her ten younger siblings.

Kira’s favorite educator and debate coach, Mrs. Locklin, taught her about the importance of advocacy and kindness and has continued to support Kira’s journey as a mentor and friend for more than a decade.



Cari Vedder

Group Accounts Manager

Cari Vedder is group accounts manager for the Association of American Educators in California. Her role within AAE focuses on the management of payroll deduction services for educational entities across the nation.

Born and raised in Littleton, Colorado, she graduated from Colorado State University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Marketing. While attending CSU, she met her husband Joshua and they have two amazing children. Cari’s prior work experience includes sales, account management, and staffing management. During her free time she enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her family.

Cari’s most memorable and influential educator is her 6th grade teacher, Mr. Paul Stanko, who taught her to always be who you are and to take pride in the work you do.


Catherine Villani

Membership Services Specialist

Catherine Villani is a Membership Services Specialist for the Association of American Educators. Her past work experience includes various administrative duties in the medical field with private practice doctors. She is a California native and her husband is from Brooklyn, New York. She and her husband are very active in their church and outreach programs to the homeless. She has a passion for reading and cooking. She has two grown sons, one of whom is an English teacher in Tokyo, Japan.

Catherine’s favorite educator is Mr. Baker, her high school history teacher, because he took a genuine interest in all of his students and inspired a passion for history.


Dana Williams

State Director, Georgia and Director of Recruiting, AAE

Dana Williams serves as state director for the Association of American Educators in Georgia.

Dana has worked as an assistant principal, special education leader, and special education teacher for a public charter school in Georgia serving K-8th grade students. Prior to Dana’s work in education, she worked as an analyst for a consumer products company and as a sales representative. Dana holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, a master’s degree in early childhood education, and a specialist degree in educational leadership.

Dana is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her most memorable educator is her fifth grade teacher, Mr. Thomas, who continuously told her that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to do. He also held Dana to very high expectations.

Margaret Zakrzewski

Executive Assistant

Margaret Zakrzewski comes to Arkansas State Teachers Association after a varied career in the business sector and private sector. Ms. Zakrzewski attended State College of Arkansas (present day University of Central Arkansas). After working in the corporate headquarters for Dillard Department Stores, she and her husband owned and ran a small successful business, The Lamp House. Upon closing this business, she was hired as Director of Religious Education by Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church. She completed a three year theology program conducted by the Diocese of Little Rock and was in charge of all facets of the parish religious education programs. She later went on to serve as the Executive Administrative Assistant for the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Arkansas Baptist College. Margaret and her husband, Frank, have raised four sons. She is very active in her church and one of her loves is theater and acting.

Chuck Zurcher

Regional Membership Director, Nebraska

Chuck Zurcher is a graduate of the University of Nebraska Lincoln in Business and Marketing with a Teaching Endorsement K through 12. He has more than thirty years of experience in marketing and sales. His wife taught for twenty-two years in the public school system. Two of their three children are educators as well as their daughter-in-law. Chuck served on the Papillion LaVista School board, which is the fourth largest school district in the state of Nebraska. He has always been an advocate of teachers and their students.

Chuck’s favorite educator was his sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Bailey. This wonderful teacher gave Chuck the additional confidence he needed to be successful. He encouraged hard work while at the same time to have fun in the effort.