2019 Conference Speakers

The 2019 Rutgers Gifted Education Conference will feature experts drawn from across the nation, including Dr. Sylvia Rimm, Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska and Gifted Education Program faculty.

Elissa Brown

Dr. Elissa Brown, a distinguished lecturer and director of the Hunter College Gifted Center, was previously the director of teacher and leader education programs and gifted education at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. From 2002-2007, Dr. Brown was the director of the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. She has served as a state director of gifted education, a federal grant manager, a district gifted program coordinator, principal of a specialized high school, and a teacher of gifted students. As a professor, Dr. Brown coordinates and teaches the Advanced Certificate Program in Gifted & Talented at Hunter College and has served as an adjunct professor at several universities, including Rutgers and Duke University. She is a published author in the field of gifted education and presents widely.

Lenore Cortina

Dr. Lenore Cortina, Faculty Coordinator, coordinates the gifted education certificate faculty, oversees curriculum quality and currency, and teaches gifted education courses for Rutgers. She is also the owner/director of Ingenuity Academic Talent Center, LLC, a private supplemental gifted education center in Flemington, NJ. Dr. Cortina brings significant school district experience to the certificate program, having served as supervisor of instruction and teacher of the gifted and talented (K-8) for Delaware Township School, and as an elementary teacher for the Flemington-Raritan School District. She earned her doctorate in K-12 School Administration at Seton Hall University, focusing her dissertation research on gifted education, and a sixth year diploma in gifted education from the University of Connecticut. She also holds a master’s degree in teaching from Sacred Heart University, and a bachelor’s of science from the University of Bridgeport.

Alicia Cotabish

Dr. Alicia Cotabish is the Gifted Education Program Coordinator at the University of Central Arkansas. Previously, she served as one of two Principal Investigators of STEM Starters and the program coordinator of the Arkansas Evaluation Initiative in Gifted Education (AEI), both federally-funded Jacob K. Javits projects housed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.   She is the Immediate  Past-President of the Arkansas Association of Gifted Education Administrators and serves on the board of the Council for Exceptional Children – The Association of the Gifted (CEC-TAG).  She has authored and co-authored 4 books and more than 50 journal articles, book chapters, and products focused on K-20 STEM and gifted education. Her recent research has focused on STEM and gifted education, and examining the effects of virtual coaching on the quality of gifted and teacher candidates using Skype and Bluetooth Bug in-the-Ear (BIE) technology.

Debbie Dailey

Debbie Dailey, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor of Teaching And Learning at the University of Central Arkansas where she is the Coordinator for the Gifted and Talented Program and director of a summer camp for talented youth, STEMulate Engineering Academy. Prior to moving to higher education, Debbie was a high school science teacher and gifted education teacher for twenty years. Debbie has authored and co-authored multiple journal articles, books, book chapters, and products focused on K-12 STEM and gifted education. She has delivered numerous professional development workshops and presentations at local, state, national, and international venues. Debbie currently serves as the secretary for the Council for Exceptional Children—The Association for the Gifted (CEC-TAG) and is a selected member of the Professional Standards Committee for the National Association for Gifted Children. 

Michelle Falanga

Michelle Falanga is currently the Gifted and Talented Coordinator for the Millstone Township School District.  During her tenure in Millstone, Michelle has been a classroom teacher for 2nd and 3rd grades in addition to teaching students and working with colleagues through the variety of gifted services and programming offered.  Michelle holds her B.S. from The College of New Jersey with certifications for both Early Childhood and Elementary Education; a Masters degree in Educational Psychology with a focus in Gifted Education; and a graduate certificate in Gifted Education from Rutgers University.  She has served on the Rutgers University Gifted Education Advisory Board, on the board for the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children, as both a Trustee and as a Past President, and as a Gifted Youth Coordinator for Central NJ Mensa.  

Brian Housand

Dr. Brian Housand, is the coordinator of the Academically or Intellectually Gifted program at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Dr. Housand earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Connecticut with an emphasis in both gifted education and instructional technology. He served two terms on the National Association for Gifted Children’s Board of Directors as a Member-At-Large. Along with his wife Dr. Angela Housand and Dr. Joe Renzulli, he co-authored Using the Schoolwide Enrichment Model with Technology. He is also the author of Fighting Fake News! Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age. Brian has worked in education as a classroom teacher, a teacher of the gifted, and a university professor for over twenty years. As a speaker and consultant, he has presented in 36 states, Canada, Australia, and South Korea. Brian is a lover of technology, Star Wars, video games, and fonts, and he proudly identifies himself as a geek.

Mike Kaelber

Bio and picture coming soon.

Jessica Manzone

Dr. Jessica Manzone is a post-doctoral research assistant and an adjunct professor in the MAT Program at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education. Jessica has served as a primary teacher in Baltimore City, Maryland, as well as an instructional coach and professional development consultant.

Sylvia Rimm

Dr. Rimm is a psychologist, director of Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a clinical professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. She also counsels gifted children and their families at Menlo Park Academy, a charter school in Cleveland. Dr. Sylvia Rimm’s many years as a contributing correspondent to NBC’s Today Show and as a favorite personality on public radio make her a familiar child psychologist to many audiences. Dr. Rimm has authored many books, including How to Parent So Children Will Learn and Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades, both 2008 National Best Books award winners from USA Book News. See Jane Win, a New York Times Bestseller, was featured on the Oprah Winfrey and Today shows and in People Magazine. Her newest book is Jane Wins Again: Can Women Have It All? A Fifteen Year Follow Up. Dr. Rimm speaks and publishes internationally on family and school approaches to guiding children toward achievement, reversing underachievement, gender issues in achievement, and social and emotional issues related to giftedness and creativity. She is a dynamic and inspiring speaker who fascinates audiences of all ages and backgrounds, tailoring her educational talks to the special themes of the audience.

Joyce VanTassel-Baska

Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska, an internationally renowned leader in gifted education, has published 31 books and over 500 refereed journal articles, book chapters, and scholarly reports, and consulted on gifted education in all 50 states and around the world. As the Executive Director of the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary, she developed a graduate program and a research and development center in gifted education. She also initiated and directed the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. Prior to her work in higher education, Dr. VanTassel-Baska served as the state director of gifted programs for Illinois, as a regional director of a gifted service center in the Chicago area, and as coordinator of gifted programs for the Toledo, Ohio public school system.  Dr. VanTassel-Baska holds B.A., M.A., M.Ed., and Ed.D. degrees from the University of Toledo. Dr. VanTassel-Baska developed the curriculum for the Rutgers Gifted Education Certificate Program, and continues with the program as consultant and conference keynote speaker.


Cynthia Assini

Cindy Assini serves as the K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies / Gifted and Talented in Hillsborough Township Public Schools in NJ. Over the past fourteen years, she has worked as a teacher and curriculum specialist. Her interests include culturally responsive education,equity, socio-emotional learning, teacher leadership, interdisciplinary connections, citizenship education, and professional learning communities. Cindy believes in proactively connecting with stakeholders to create more inclusive communities, building empathy through personal connections, and encouraging engagement through problem-based learning. After earning her Ed.D. in 2018, she was selected as an ASCD Emerging Leader and elected to the board of the New Jersey Social Studies Supervisor Association.


Bill Kimmick is currently Curriculum Director for the Warren Township School District in Somerset County. He previously served as a principal in Warren Township, an Assistant Principal in the Bernards Township School District, the District GT Coordinator in Bernards Township, and a Math and Science Supervisor in Flemington Raritan Regional School District. Earlier in his career, Bill was a first, fourth, and fifth grade classroom teacher. He also served as a Gifted and Talented teacher and a Basic Skills Support teacher.

Rebecca McLelland

Dr. McLelland-Crawley is a National Board Certified Teacher and PAEMST awardee with 22 years of classroom, instructional coaching, and administration experience. She is passionate about providing students with advanced opportunities in STEAM, maker education, and citizen science. In addition to supporting gifted talent development on a daily basis, she also currently works as a teacher resource specialist for the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District at Community Middle School. She and her students have received global recognition for their work on mental health and wellness and Rebecca was selected as the 2018 Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma Ambassador for New Jersey. You can connect with Rebecca on Twitter at @Bec_Chirps.