The University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Donahue Institute

Connected Beginnings

Staff: Connected Beginnings

Staff list for Connected Beginnings Training Institute. 

Mary Watson Avery

Director, Connected Beginnings

Mary Watson Avery

Mary Watson Avery’s career has focused on work with children birth to 8 years, building nurturing environments in family services and early childhood practitioner professional development. Her special interests include the support of very young children at risk; the development of trauma-sensitive learning environments; effective parent engagement; best practice in coaching across settings; and the mentoring of early childhood trainers.

With substantial experience in developing curriculum, planning professional development, as well as coaching and mentoring groups and individuals, Mary is a well-respected educator across the Commonwealth and the region. In addition to training on a wide variety of topics related to the social-emotional well-being of very young children and their families, Mary is a master trainer in all aspects of Pyramid Model implementation, including Train-the-Trainer, Train-the-Coach, Program-Wide Implementation and the Pyramid Model Family Modules. In addition to her many years as an early childhood educator, Mary has taught at Harvard University Graduate School of Education and Wheelock College. She also served as the Director of Family Connections, a community mental health outreach program targeting parental depression, based at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Mary earned a master's in infant & toddler studies from Wheelock College with additional training in trauma-informed practices at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Mary also earned a BFA in studio art from Manhattanville College.

(774) 455-7366

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Jody Figuerido

Central MA Professional Development Center Early Childhood Mixed Delivery System Training Specialist

Jody Figuerido

As a training specialist, Dr. Jody Figuerido supports fellow team members, focuses on community collaborations, and develops and offers training across the region. She previously served as the director of an early childhood education and care program, taught early childhood college courses, and served as the statewide training coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Dr. Figuerido also developed the training division of Child Development Education (which would later become The Institute for Education and Professional Development). In this role, she oversaw the development of over seventy-five courses (many translated into multiple languages), received multiple grants, and developed a team of master instructors.

Dr. Figuerido earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from Stonehill College, a master’s in early childhood education and a doctorate in adult learning with a focus on culturally responsive professional development, both from Leslie University. 

(508) 657-1079

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Kara Lehane

Central Massachusetts Professional Development Center Lead Coach

(617) 448-9729

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Llanet Montoya

Central Massachusetts Professional Development Center Coach/Trainer

(774) 386-7570

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Kelley Seay

Finance & Administration Manager

Kelley Seay

Kelley Seay supports the finance and administrative functions for the Connected Beginnings, Civic Initiative, and Nonprofit Funding & Fiscal Solutions business groups. She also works closely with the central administrative services unit. She brings a wealth of accounting and business administration knowledge from her many years of experience in both the public and private sectors. Her areas of expertise include budgeting, contracts, financial reporting, payroll and human resources.

She received her bachelor’s in accounting from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

(413) 545-0001

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Shakesha Thompson

Central Massachusetts Professional Development Center Coach/Trainer

Shakesha Thompson

Shakesha Thompson has a passion for education and has worked in the early childhood field for over 15 years. In that time, she worked as a center director, school-age program administrator, coach, trainer and much more. Ms. Thompson is fluent in Portuguese.

She received her bachelors degree in early education from Fitchburg State University. She earned her master's in educational leadership and management, also from Fitchburg State University. 

(978) 790-5824

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Catherine Wakely

Data and Instructional Technologies Manager

Catherine Wakely

Catherine Wakely's expertise includes Salesforce, website administration, and data management. She has also worked as an operations coordinator at Sun Life Financial and an IT support consultant at the University of Maine.

Ms. Wakely earned a bachelor's in animal science from the University of Maine. 

(774) 455-7368

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UMass Donahue Institute

University of Massachusetts Amherst

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(413) 545-0001

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