Serra De Arment (President)  

Serra De Arment is faculty in early childhood special education at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). In this position she teachers courses on inclusion, consultation, and teacher research, supervises student teaching externs, and is Co-principal Investigator for a US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs interdisciplinary grant for preparing physical therapy, EI, and ECSE professionals for work with young children with high intensity needs. A practitioner at heart, she was a special education teacher for 10 years (4 years in ECSE) in various divisions around northern and central Virginia. As an active DEC member, Serra presents each year at the annual conference, has served as a student editorial board member of Young Exceptional Children, and is publishes in the DEC Recommended Practices ​Monographs on Environment and Instruction. Serra is also a member of the National Association of Young Children and its Virginia affiliate and serves on the board of the local Richmond Early Childhood Association. Serra engages with the broader community through program evaluation, community-engaged research, and professional development. Together with VCU colleagues and community collaborators, Serra coordinates and hosts the annual Evelyn Reed Symposium on Early Childhood Research and Practice for the VCU and Greater Richmond communities. Serra's experience to-date and consistent presence in higher education, professional, and community contexts gives her the unique capacity to engage and offer diverse perspectives for building our subdivision. 

Diana Smith (Vice President/President Elect)

Diana Smith is an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher and Diversity Resource Teacher in the Albemarle County Public Schools serving young children in a reverse inclusion public preschool program.  She also supports masters level practicum students at the University of Northern Colorado in her role as a University Consultant. Prior to teaching in Virginia she resided and worked in the state of Colorado as an Early Childhood Special Education provider serving young children and their families in inclusive settings, a significant support needs teacher for children with multiple disabilities in grades K-5, and a resource teacher for children with learning disabilities in grades K-5. She has a passion for working with young children ages 3-5 in inclusive settings, engaging in culturally responsive work to help close achievement gaps and ensure equitable opportunities for all children, and identifying ways to bridge the worlds of research to classroom practices.

Patricia "Patty" Eitemiller, M.Ed., QMRP (Past President) 

“Patty” Eitemiller, M.Ed., QMRP 

Patty spent over 15 as an Infant Development Specialist with the ITC of Alexandria’s Parent Infant Education program. As a part of that program, Patty participated in several of the initial assessment teams, developed IFSP’s, saw children for developmental services, conducted initial intake interviews and screenings, and provided service coordination. Patty also worked collaboratively with the Child Find program at Alexandria Public Schools to offer Transition Information Session for parents and families of children who will be transitioning out of the PIE program. Patty also led an inclusive community playgroup in cooperation with Alexandria’s Therapeutic Recreation program and the Parent Resource Center with ACPS for both children enrolled in Early Intervention services and community children. Since the fall of 2018, Patty has transitioned to a new role within the Early Childhood Division for the City of Alexandria. She is now providing overall monitoring of the city’s Head Start program and providing professional development and training to the various programs under the Early Childhood Division, including the PIE program, childcare providers and staff and Head Start. In addition to a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education, Patty has completed two additional post graduate certification programs, both focusing on working with children with hearing loss through Gallaudet University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

She is currently a member of the Virginia Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Advisory committee and a member of the Integrated Training Collaborative, the latter of which oversees much of the training provided to Early Intervention Professionals in Virginia. Through her participation in these groups, Patty has been able to participate in various projects focusing on hearing loss, inclusive practices collaboration with community partners and other areas. Patty also has been a professional member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and Division of Early Childhood (DEC) since 2006. As of July 1st, 2019, she is the current past-president of the Virginia Subdivision of DEC (VADEC) after serving as president for the first two years after the subdivision was reactivated in March of 2017. She attends DEC’s annual conference each year and presented at both the 2009 and 2013 conferences on inclusive playgroups, at the 2015 conference on collaboration with childcare providers and at the 2018 conference on the topic of cultural humility. She will be presenting at the 2019 conference on cultural considerations in early intervention. She has also been a proposal reviewer for the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 conferences. Patty also presented on collaboration with childcare providers at the 2014 Early Intervention Institute and the 2015 and 2017 Creating Connections to Shining Stars (CCSS) conference and most recently co-presented a pre-conference session focusing on Functional Assessment and a con-current session focusing on Coaching Across Cultures at the 2019 CCSS conference. Patty is also a trainer of the Zero to Three “The Growing Brain” curriculum and has co-presented several trainings focused on the social-emotional and behavior units to Early Intervention providers across Virginia. She also is a trainer on the ASQ-3 and ASQ:SE-2 and has provided trainings on both screening tools to early childhood staff, Head Start teachers and family support workers and is leading the ongoing training of in-home child care providers in the use of this tool. In her spare time, Patty enjoys traveling the world, practicing yoga and a side job working at a winery in Northern Virginia on the weekends.

Mary (Swingle) Szymanski  (Treasurer) 

Mary currently serves as Program Specialist in Early Childhood Special Education, at VDOE’s Training and Technical Assistance center at VCU. She is a trainer, professional development provider, coach to early childhood educators particularly in inclusive classrooms, and technical assistance provider. She has taught in both early childhood special education/inclusive classroom settings as well as early intervention since 1991.

Her areas of strengths include teaming, collaborating with professionals from multiple agencies, coaching teachers and working closely with administrators to help create system change.

She has been a member of CEC-DEC since 1991, and most recently served as proposal reviewer for this year’s annual conference. She is excited to serve in this new role of Treasurer, bringing in experience of serving as treasurer in other non-profit associations.

Avery Donald (Secretary/Membership Coordinator)

Avery is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Auditory Verbal Therapist with VCU Health. She worked as an Early Intervention specialist in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, IL prior to moving to Virginia in 2019. Her primary area of expertise is in working with children ages birth to 5 years who have hearing loss, which often coexists with other developmental delays. She is particularly interested in advocating for children as they enter the school system and transition to services in an academic setting.  


Alison King (Professional Development Chair)  

Alison is an assistant professor and faculty coordinator of the Master's Program in Early Childhood Special Education at VCU.



Debbie Stone (Bylaws Chair) 

Deborah Wolcott Stone is an Assistant Professor in the Early Childhood Education Program at George Mason University. Prior the Mason, Dr. Stone was an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher with Stafford County Public Schools and Arlington Public Schools, as well as an Early Intervention provider with a local community services board. In addition, she have been a Reading Specialist, School Librarian, and Elementary School Teacher with various school systems across the country. Lifelong learning is her passion. In addition to being a practitioner, Dr. Stone is a parent and stepparent of children with disabilities. With this firsthand experience in the world of disabilities and special education, she brings the perspective of a parent who is involved with the special education system, the practitioner, and the system/program preparing practitioners to serve children and families.

Clarissa Bunch (CAN Coordinator) 

Clarissa is a doctoral student and Dean’s Scholar in the Ph.D. in Education Program at George Mason University. She is pursuing a primary specialization in early childhood special education and a secondary emphasis in education policy. Previously, she has taught in infant, toddler, and inclusive preschool settings to provide services for children with and without disabilities. Clarissa serves as a committee member on the Division for Early Childhood Policy and Advocacy Committee, examining emerging issues and assessing needs regarding state and federal legislative affairs. Her research is focused on improving educational outcomes for all young children through advocacy, professional development, and increased use of evidence-based practices. Additionally, Clarissa identifies as a coffee lover and travel enthusiast.

Dildra Roane (Special Committees)

Dildra Roane has served in the education field for 20 years. She is currently employed as an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Teacher Specialist for Norfolk Public Schools. She has had various experiences and roles throughout her professional educational career that has enabled her to provide support to both regular education and exceptional learners. Her teaching experience includes pre-K through middle school instructional grades in both the general and special education capacity. However, she has spent the majority of her years teaching and servicing children at the early childhood level. Her professional experience includes being a general educator/special education resource teacher, mentor facilitator/coach, special education coordinator, school instructional team coordinator, talented and gifted teacher/coordinator and professional development trainer. Her educational background includes a B.S. in Psychology, M.Ed. in Special Education, and she is currently an Ed.D. candidate in Special Education with a research interest in alternative special education teacher certification programs. She has been involved in various professional organizations to include being a delegate for the National Education Association (NEA) and Maryland State Educators Association (MSEA), member of Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), member of Division of Early Childhood (DEC), member of Council of Administrators for Special Education (CASE), and member of Virginia Council of Administrators for Special Education (VCASE). She has a passion for early intervention to assist children with developmental/learning and/or physical delays that may impede upon their ability to function in the learning environment. She supports the initiatives of teacher leadership, parental involvement and culturally responsive and diverse pedagogy as means to provide targeted strategies and supports for educators and parents. She believes it is imperative to provide on-going relevant professional development training opportunities to cultivate learning and increase the knowledge base in the education field. Collaboration with all stakeholders is the key to supporting the mantra of fostering the social-emotional development and increasing the learning outcomes for ALL students.

Christan Coogle (Social Media Coordinator)

Dr. Christan Grygas Coogle is an Assistant Professor in the Early Childhood Education Program at George Mason University. Prior to obtaining her doctorate she worked as an early intervention provider, preschool inclusion teacher, and K-5th grade special education teacher. Dr. Coogle also worked at the Florida Center for Reading Research where she supported educators and developed early literacy interventions. She completed her Doctoral Degree at Florida State University as a Fellow in the Leadership in Family Centered Early Intervention Fellowship Program. Her area of expertise is in early childhood special education. Dr. Coogle teaches course in early childhood special education, and her research is focused on bridging the research h to practice gap through the use of embedded interventions particularly for children identified with autism spectrum disorder.


© 2017 VADEC