Meet the Team

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Marinel Russo, M. Ed.

Assistant Director for Early Childhood
Initiatives — ext. 307

Marinel Russo is the Manager of Early Childhood Initiatives. Marinel has been a vital part of our team for the last four years, serving as both a Program Assessment Specialist and more recently as a BrightStars Navigator. She is dedicated and loyal to RIAEYC, but more importantly, passionate about improving quality for the providers, families and children of the state. As the Manager of ECI, Marinel is responsible for managing and coordinating all aspects of child care program quality improvement initiatives, including: T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood RI budgeting and competency assessment process, program and scholar outreach and recruitment, program referrals to state supports including technical assistance and professional development, support for programs in increasing star rating and annual report and quality improvement plan development and support.

Marinel holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Baruch College in New York and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Lesley University in Boston. Marinel is author trained and reliable in the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS), Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS) as well as in the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale (FCCERS). A mother of three young girls, Marinel knows the importance of providing children with learning environments that promote emotional, physical and intellectual development.

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Elizabeth Polanco

T.E.A.C.H Coordinator
— ext. 314

Elizabeth Polanco is a T.E.A.C.H. Counselor for T.E.A.C.H Rhode Island. Elizabeth is dedicated to supporting T.E.A.C.H scholars with tuition, compensation and most importantly, with guidance through their academic journeys. Prior to joining T.E.A.C.H, Elizabeth was an administrator for eight years at a home care agency until she decided it was time for a change. Elizabeth enrolled in the University of Rhode Island to finish her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, setting a positive example to others, and chasing her dream. Elizabeth is proud to work with T.E.A.C.H Early Childhood Education. She believes in their efforts to motivate and guide those who, like she did, need support to reach their academic dreams. Elizabeth is a parent of three children and understands the importance of providing quality childcare to children, which is what T.E.A.C.H helps to promote.

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Briana Assante

WAGE$ Coordinator — ext. 306

Brianna has a B.A. in the faculty of Arts and Sciences, for Dance Performance from Rhode Island College. As the Registered Apprenticeship Counselor Briana works with organizations and institutions such as The Department of Human Services, CCRI, URI, RIC, and more to build an Early Childhood Education Infant/ Toddler based apprenticeship program.  Briana provides support to participating apprentices looking to advance their careers.   Briana helps to develop multiple apprenticeship pathways, maintain contracts between apprentices, mentors, and childcare centers, and build relationships that empower ECE Teachers to advocate for themselves and others.   

Briana also works with the TEACH scholarship program to recruit potential scholars down different educational pathways to grow in the ECE field. 

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Amber Mangione

Education Counselor — ext. 320

Amber Mangione, Career and Technical Education Counselor, introduces herself with over a decade of experience working in the Early Childhood field. As a former educator, she is shaped by her international and local experiences in diverse learning communities. Amber has a degree in Psychology and Education from Northeastern University and joins RIAEYC to support high school students and graduating seniors from Career and Technical Education Programs throughout high schools in Rhode Island.

Amber is a dedicated advocate of children and educators. She centers her practice on being open and accessible to all. Her experience in teaching and partnerships with educators and families lends itself to the counseling and support services she offers to future educators. As a graduate of Cranston High School West’s Career and Technical Early Childhood Program, and SkillsUSA medalist, she is excited to share her lived experiences and passions with those entering the field. Her lifelong passion for teaching and mentorship provides opportunities to students and creates career pathways for their growth and professional development. Amber is a team-oriented, lifelong learner, who hopes to impart her love for learning and teaching to the next generation.

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Caroline Paliotte

Education Counselor — ext. 327

My name is Caroline Paliotte, I have been working with children since 2015. I received my TA certification through CCRI and proceeded to continue my education at Rhode Island College. I graduated with my BA in Healthcare/Business Administration. Over the years I have completed many Professional Development courses. All associated with RIELDS, inclusivity within the classroom, engagement, and classroom management. I have worked with children ages from infant- 5 years, but my most enjoyed age group is working with infants and young toddlers. While working at a childcare center I was included as a site leader and oversaw implantation of the Creative Curriculum within the infant/toddler programs. When teaching, it is important to me to provide a warm and nurturing learning environment that supports the growth and development of all children as they explore the world around them. Here at RIAEYC my newest role is Education Counselor where I will be working closely with the TEACH scholarship program. I will be working closely with individuals who will be applying to the TEACH scholarship that want to further their education and experience in ECE.
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Miriam Scheff

WAGE$ Early Childhood Counselor — ext. 326

Mimi is excited to be joining RIAEYC as the Early Childhood Counselor for the Step Up to WAGE$ program. She has been working in non profit administration for over 10 years. She graduated from Rhode Island College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Management. Prior to joining RIAEYC, Mimi was working in foster care and healthcare administration. She is also an avid dance and theater teacher.
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Jackie Whelan

Transcript Evaluator — ext. 325

Jackie Whelan is a Transcript Evaluator for RIAEYC. Jackie will be supporting BrightStar, T.E.A.C.H RI, and our upcoming programs. Before joining RIAEYC, Jackie was a primary Teacher in a preschool class and completed her Early Childhood Education Birth to Eight Associate in Arts at Quinsigamond Community College while working full-time in a classroom setting. Jackie firmly believes in providing quality care for children and creating a positive learning environment in a classroom. Due to this belief, Jackie enters our team to support fellow educators in achieving their academic goals.