Facilitators & Presenters

Violet Talbot is a well-known early childhood educator who taught toddlers through second grade for 48 years in the New Haven area.  She joined our Seedlings team as a preschool facilitator a decade ago, and has remained involved because she has become “increasingly aware of how deeply the Seedlings week positively impacts classrooms.”  She sat on the Board of Leila Day Nursery for many years and helped create and run the Teacher Center at the Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) New Haven.  Beyond the classroom, Violet is passionate about the natural world and in particular, gardening.  She is responsible for the 11 acre Foote campus on Loomis Place and brings her vast expertise about science/nature to all aspects of our STEAM workshop.  She is the embodiment of a natural and nature teacher! She is often leads nature workshop for young children around the New Haven area.

Shelley Sprague originally began as a consultant to the Seedlings workshop by offering a mini-workshop in assessing project-based learning.  After this, we asked her to join us as a facilitator for the grade 4/5 group.  Shelley’s experience includes 43 years as an educator teaching kindergarten through 8th grades, 6 years teaching theater art directing productions and 10 years in administration, including 5 years as Head of School at Whitewood in Branford.  Shelley’s love of theater informs her role as a facilitator.  She often warms up her groups with theater “games” and guides group discussions about differentiated learning styles and multiple intelligences.  Shelley is an educator who believes strongly in the importance of integrating arts into the other STEM disciplines, and somehow she encourages even the most reluctant participant to join in.  It isn’t unusual to see/hear her group collaborating while becoming a human “machine” or using improvisation as a teaching tool to explain a science concept.  Teachers in her group often comment on her energy, commitment to teaching all types of children and her out-of-the-box thinking.

Joshua Sloat is our newest facilitator, joining us in 2016 after being a workshop participant a few years back.  He is beginning his 9th year as a 4/5-classroom teacher at Cold Spring School, and prior to that taught at Amistad Academy for 5 years.  After his summer as a Seedlings participant, he became interested in the planning for the summer workshop and asked to attend our meetings.  He joined us as a 4/5 facilitator just as we were changing our focus to STEAM education, and was able to share his unique perspective as a classroom teacher whose curriculum was project and place-based and integrated all of the STEAM disciplines.   Joshua brings all his classroom expertise into play in his role as a facilitator.  He is an astute listener who encourages each teacher to share their classroom stories and pinpoint what they want to gain from the week.  Keeping this in mind, he manages to find important commonalities among the teachers as they experiment, design, problem-solve and plan together.  He is as interested in literature as he is in science and technology, and is a wonderful resource for like-minded educators.  He subscribes to both Choice Literacy (multimedia resource of articles, videos and professional development guides for teachers who are literacy leaders) and the Nerdy Book Club, an online group for those who love books, especially those written for children and young adults.

Winnie Naclerio  is a well-known and highly respected early childhood educator who has been Calvin Hill’s kindergarten teacher for the last 38 years.  Winnie has been with us since we began in 2005, first as a participant and since then as a facilitator.  Beyond her classroom, Winnie has mentored many area teachers through workshops, and in her long-standing role on the Board of NHAEYC.  Her educational philosophy has been greatly influenced by educators from Reggio Emilia, Italy, a site she visited in 2000 in recognition of her 20 years of teaching. As a master teacher and a facilitator, Winnie brings with her both experience and wisdom.  Her classroom is a model where emergent curriculum is encouraged and respected, and where teachers are nurtured.   She brings these same strengths and beliefs with her to the Seedlings week where she skillfully listens and learns from others, guides and supports their questions and makes all participants feel welcomed and valued.

Katy Botta kids that she first came to Seedlings for the great food!  And, in a way, she wasn’t kidding.  She began as an administrative assistant who was in charge of organizing the food for the week, became a participant and moved on to being a facilitator for the preschool and k/1 groups.  Katy taught Kindergarten at the Foote School for 7 years and prior to that, spent a year as a first grade assistant teacher at Bank Street School for Children.  Her graduate work from Bank Street strongly shaped her approach to teaching and learning: Bank Street’s Developmental-Interactionist framework where children (and adults/teachers) learn best through authentic experiences with the social and physical world around them.  Through a STEAM lens, with Katy’s guidance and support, teachers experience first-hand the rich natural resources of New Haven.  Together, they question, experiment and problem-solve using tools that they will bring back to their classrooms.  Katy cares deeply about educating young children and generously shares her beliefs and experiences.  Saying it best, she tells us that the Seedlings week is “about sharing our findings together and tapping into our individual experiences to enlighten our work as a group. It is about reliving the joy of learning and remembering what brought us to teaching.”

Sue Matican has been a New Haven Public School teacher for 30 years, the last 20 at Edgewood School in Westville.  She has gained positive recognition as a dedicated teacher and life-long learner who continually thinks about ways to improve the education for all her students.   H.O.T (Higher Order Thinking) School workshops, the visual literacy consortium at the Yale Center for British Art and participation in the Seedlings week, all have had a strong impact on her classroom practices.  After 2 years with us as an enthusiastic SEC participant, we were excited to have her join us to facilitate the 2/3 grade group.  Throughout her long career in New Haven Public Schools, Sue has successfully merged District curricula with teaching strategies such as project and place-based learning.  A peek into her classroom reveals children collaborating in small groups on real-world projects that stem from their questions.  SEC’s  STEAM focus is a natural for Sue who is passionate about integrating subjects to help children make meaningful connections to the world around them.  In addition, her warmth and great sense of humor are an added bonus for the teachers in her groups.

Leslie Long is the Co-chair of the Science Department at the Foote School in New Haven, Connecticut, where she teaches eighth grade physical science and third grade STEM, and coordinates the Lower School science program. She has given professional development workshops on science inquiry and STEAM education through such organizations as the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools and the International Society for Technology Education. Through Seedlings she has taught workshops on inquiry-based science and is delighted to have been part of the last two summer workshops, which emphasized STEAM integration. Leslie holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana (high honors) and a master’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University.  Her professional memberships include the National Science Teachers’ Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society.  Leslie has been a science educator for more than 25 years.  Her particular areas of interests are inquiry-based science teaching methods and the integration of science with technology and the other STEM disciplines.

Advisory Board

Alan Plattus: Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at Yale University School of Architecture.


Alan Organschi:  Design principal at Gray Organschi Architecture,  New Haven, Conn.


Mary Schwab-Stone:
Associate Professor, Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, Conn.


Carla Horwitz:  Director of Yale University’s Calvin Hill Day Care Center and Kitty Lustman-Findling Kindergarten; joint appointment in the Teacher Preparation Program, the Psychology Department and the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University

Joya Marks: Educational consultant; Docent, Yale Center for British Art; Board of Directors, Edith B. Jackson Child Care Center; Former Lecturer, Yale

Sequella Coleman:
Principal, John S. Martinez Magnet School, New Haven, Conn.

Nancy Close: Psychologist,
Assistant Professor in the Yale Child Study Center; Associate Director of the Yale Program in Early Childhood


Seedlings Directors

Judy Brennan: Seedlings New Haven Co-Director.

Judy had 15 years of teaching experience in public schools in NY and TX and 10 years at Foote School in New Haven. She is presently a docent at the Yale Center for British Art.

Judith Cuthbertson: Seedlings New Haven Co-Director.

Former Mixed Age Group teacher, Foote
School, New Haven, Conn.; consultant Edward Zigler Head Start Center, New Haven; teacher-trainer,
Edgewood Magnet School, New Haven.