Get to know us
Your Devereux Center for Resilient Children (DCRC) Team
Susan Damico, M.A.
Susan is a graduate of Bucknell University and received her master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago. Prior to returning to graduate school, Susan worked in Washington, D.C., as a legislative assistant on Capitol Hill. Susan joined the Devereux Early Childhood Initiative after completing her graduate studies in 1996. In her current role, Susan is responsible for managing and coordinating all aspects of the now-named Devereux Center for Resilient Children, including: customer relations, marketing, funding and new resource development. Susan is also responsible for overseeing the development and delivery of DCRC resources electronically via web-based platforms.
Debi Mahler, LCSW
Director of Professional Development
Debi received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, and received a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Debi spent the first part of her career working in community mental health as a clinician, and then the program manager for an elementary day treatment program. Debi also started a therapeutic preschool program and provided early childhood mental health consultation services to area preschool programs. Since the start of her work for the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in 2002, she has provided professional development to programs around the country, developed training and resources, and currently manages all aspects of professional development offered by DCRC. When time allows, she still loves to provide training/workshops to programs and communities on topics related to promoting the social-emotional health and resilience of young children, along with the adults who care for them.
Nefertiti B. Poyner, Ed.D.
Early Childhood Specialist & National Trainer
Nefertiti received her undergraduate degree from Virginia State University, her graduate degree from Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania, and her Doctoral of Education Degree from Walden University. Prior to joining the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, Nefertiti worked as a preschool and kindergarten teacher in the city of Philadelphia. Since joining DCRC in 2002, Nefertiti has provided professional development and presentations that focus on educating parents, teachers, and administrators on the importance of paying attention to not only how children perform academically, but also how they feel, socially and emotionally. Nefertiti has co-authored two resources – Building Your Bounce: Simple Strategies for a Resilient You, and the award-winning Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure: 50 Activities to Promote Resilience in Young Children.
Rachel Wagner, MSW
Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist & National Trainer
Rachel received her bachelor’s degree in clinical sociology from Ithaca College and received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Albany. Rachel is the author of FLIP IT! Transforming Challenging Behavior. She is also the co-author of Your Journey Together: Building the Resilience of Children and Families and the Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey (DERLS). Rachel travels the country speaking to groups on topics related to social-emotional health and resilience. In her work at DCRC, Rachel enjoys a variety of responsibilities, including: adult learning design, live and web-based professional development, resilience resource creation, technical assistance, and long-distance reflective supervision to groups and individuals providing early childhood mental health consultation, coaching and leadership services.
Rudee received her bachelor’s degree in business administration/marketing from the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University. Rudee joined the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in 2017 to take on DCRC’s branding/marketing activities, from communications and social media, to collateral design and website management. She also helps manage DCRC’s web-based version of its DECA Program (e-DECA), and serves as a primary point of contact for e-DECA users. Prior to joining DCRC, Rudee worked for a financial firm for over two years, where she worked her way up from an intern to a marketing assistant and, finally, a marketing coordinator. She has experience in event marketing, branding, communications, design and project management. Rudee is proud to have worked for her home township’s fall basketball camp for grade-school children for over 10 years, and she was the director of the camp for the last four of those years.
Caroll began her career at Devereux in 1988, working in office positions at various residential settings. Caroll joined the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in 2007 as the office manager. Caroll currently manages all fulfillment of DCRC resources that are sold through the online shop.
Paul LeBuffe, M.A.
Paul LeBuffe is the Vice President of Research and Development for Aperture Education. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and received his master’s degree in experimental psychology from Bryn Mawr College. For the past 25 years, Paul’s career has focused on strength-based approaches to promoting social and emotional competence and resilience in children, youth and the adults who care for them. Believing that such approaches should be data-driven, Paul has authored many widely used, strength-based assessments of behaviors related to children’s and adolescents’ social and emotional strengths and needs, including the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment for Infants (DECA-I), Toddlers (DECA-T), Preschoolers (DECA-P2) and the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment for (DESSA). These assessments have been adopted by more than 5,000 school districts, out-of-school-time programs, Head Start and other early care and education programs, both in the United States and internationally.
In addition to the assessments mentioned above, he has authored numerous research articles and chapters on resilience and related topics. Paul has presented to varied audiences, including psychologists, teachers, school administrators, out-of-school-time professionals, and parents throughout the United States and internationally on promoting resilience in children, youth and adults.
Jennifer Robitaille, M.S.
Jennifer Robitaille is a Senior Research Associate for Aperture Education. Jennifer is a graduate of Bloomsburg University and received her master’s degree in experimental psychology from Villanova University. Prior to joining the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in 2010, Jennifer conducted applied research in early intervention and child care settings to examine and enhance the quality of services for families and their children with special needs. In her work with Aperture Education and the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, Jennifer develops standardized assessments to measure social-emotional competence in children and youth. She also conducts applied research and evaluation studies to support the use of social-emotional assessments and instructional strategies in practice. Her primary research interests involve the measurement and promotion of social-emotional competence and resilience in children, with a focus on school and out-of-school time settings.
Alyssa Ciarlante, M.A.
Alyssa Ciarlante is a Research Associate for Aperture Education. Alyssa is a graduate of Boston University and received her master’s degree in quantitative methods in the social sciences from Columbia University. Prior to joining the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, Alyssa worked in Columbia University’s Early Childhood Parents and Children’s Lab, where she supported the implementation and evaluation of interventions promoting social-emotional development, stress management, and physical activity in preschool and elementary school students. In her current role, Alyssa supports Aperture Education and the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in resource development and evaluation through research design, data analysis and reporting.