Who Is AnLar?

AnLar is an education management and consulting firm with extensive early childhood and early childhood special education experience. AnLar works with school districts, local community education partnerships, state education agencies, and the U.S. Department of Education on various initiatives related to school and district improvement, professional learning, education leadership, and special education.

What Does AnLar Do for TN-TAN?

In 2021, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) established an accessible, streamlined Tennessee Technical Assistance Network (TN-TAN) which seeks to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. TN-TAN provides Tennessee public school districts and families with access to evidence-based training, professional development, and resources through the department’s Best for All Central online platform (“Best for All Central”).

Through TN-TAN, AnLar provides ongoing technical assistance to Tennessee school districts to support meaningful access to preschool for young children with disabilities. AnLar offers tiered assistance to school districts, from universal to intensive, depending on need. Click on our Technical Assistance Page to learn more about the support areas available.

Meet the Team

Aressa Coley

Aressa Coley is a Senior Technical Assistance Specialist at Anlar, providing process and project management and content expertise on early childhood projects. Aressa helps leaders solve their most complex program, systems, and process challenges through her work. Her strengths include employing strategic intent to assess needs, lead strategic thinking and decision-making, and designing customized implementation plans tailored to meet clients’ unique contexts and their goals for their education, health and wellness, and social service systems.

While completing her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, Aressa led the development of Mississippi’s first early childhood state plan and has been in love with systems-building work ever since. Before joining Anlar, Aressa provided technical assistance expertise to build the capacity of state-, local-, and community-level organizations to design and execute holistic solutions that build community resiliency and support the best outcomes for children and families. During her tenure at WestEd, Aressa served as the Director of Early Childhood Integrated Systems and Policies. In this role, she provided leadership to projects that support states in designing and enhancing their early childhood system, including leading two iterations of California’s Birth through Five Preschool Development Grants (Initial and Renewal), facilitating California’s Early Childhood Policy Council, and serving as a leader and writer for California’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care. Aressa also holds a B.S. from Mississippi State University.

When she’s not working, you can find Aressa singing (with performance groups or to her dog), hiking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys discovering new recipes online or in restaurants and re-creating them at home. Her toxic trait is that she is 100% convinced that she can execute every DIY project she comes across on social media effortlessly on the first try.

Aressa Coley

Aressa Coley

Britt Braun

Britt provides creative and innovative approaches to supporting projects focusing on early childhood access, quality and special education. Britt has worked in the early childhood field for 13 years at the school, district, and state levels. Her passion for building systems that support high-quality and equitable experiences for children stems from her experience as a student teacher in Croydon, Australia.

Britt began her education career in Washington, D.C. upon earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University, Bloomington. She spent 7 years as a Title 1 pre-k and kindergarten teacher before managing the development and launch of a Learning Lab pilot program, aimed at transforming historically low- performing schools into a model demonstration platform for professional development. Most recently, Britt worked at the Louisiana Department of Education as the 619B Coordinator, managing systems for early identification and increasing opportunities for young children with disabilities.

While Britt currently resides in New Orleans with her husband and young daughter, Britt has fond memories of the small New England town where she grew up. Britt loves any opportunity to be outside, whether at the beach, rollerblading, or skiing. One of Britt’s favorite places to spend time with her family is in Colorado, where she recently hiked her first ‘14er’!


Casey Archer

Coming to AnLar as a Graduate Intern from the University of Maryland and now a Research Analyst, Casey aims to apply all that he has learned about education policy and research methods. Casey is currently writing his dissertation for a PhD in Education Policy & Leadership. Specifically, his research incorporates quantitative research methods when assessing policy decisions. His passions include working towards equitable educational opportunities for K-12 kids from all backgrounds and studying the ways that social networks can enrich and expand educational outcomes for students, teachers, and schools.

Before joining AnLar, Casey worked as a Research Assistant at UMD for two projects. He served as the Data Analyst and Data Coordinator of Project LEARN, a three-year longitudinal study that aims to understand the differential factors that predict growth in reading comprehension between English Learners and English Monolinguals. The data for his dissertation comes from Project LEARN. Casey also worked with his academic advisor to quantify and understand teacher effects on various student outcomes. In 2017, Casey worked as an intern at the federal Education Department in the National Initiatives Team.

Casey always has a novel nearby, so in his free time, he races to meet his Goodreads reading goals or to complete one of the books for his various book clubs. He considers himself a reality TV expert, and he relishes the opportunity to talk about the latest elimination on Survivor or Big Brother (or any other reality competition show). He almost exclusively follows corgi accounts on social media.

Elizabeth Colin

Elizabeth provides research, creates resources, and gathers information and feedback from clients as a Technical Assistance Specialist at Anlar. Elizabeth takes on roles as project manager and subject matter expert for projects in education, early childhood education, and early childhood special education.

Prior to AnLar, Elizabeth received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Public Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. During her time there, Elizabeth explored her passion for education. She has worked with young learners in preschool and Kindergarten classrooms and with college students as a Community Service & Leadership Development Coordinator under the Division of Student Affairs. Elizabeth’s work is focused on policy change, equity, and community partnerships.

Outside of work, Elizabeth can be found reading or spending time with family. She also finds joy through painting, crafting, and taking hikes.


Kathi Gillaspy

Kathi is our resident renaissance woman, tackling educational and policy programs for district, state, and national projects as AnLar’s Director of Technical Assistance. She is a skilled facilitator, trainer, and technical assistance (TA) provider, and has expertise in early intervention and early childhood special education, long-term systems change, state early childhood systems, and data management systems. She is particularly skilled in helping large groups of people (such as stakeholder groups and councils) get along, establish common goals, and get things done. Kathi also leads the advancement and development of AnLar’s early childhood portfolio, which will provide direct TA to districts and states.

Before joining the AnLar team, Kathi spent 6 years as a technical assistant specialist for two national early childhood TA centers based out of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center and the Center for Early Childhood IDEA Data Systems (DaSy). Through these projects, she assisted state early intervention and early childhood special education programs implement the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, improve their data systems and the quality and use of their IDEA data, and select and use evidence-based practices for children and families. Kathi also led the planning and coordination of TA for the DaSy project, including all the individualized and cross-state TA activities offered by the project. This was the second time Kathi worked at FPG; a long time ago, she spent 5 years as a research assistant on the Abecedarian Project, which studied the long-term effects of early intervention on children and families. In the years in between jobs at FPG, Kathi earned her Master’s Degree in Early Intervention and Family Support and obtained a North Carolina Birth–Kindergarten teaching license. She spent 15 years teaching infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities and their families through Community Partnerships, Inc. (CPI), a progressive non-profit that served individuals with disabilities “womb to tomb” in inclusive, community-based settings. In addition to providing services, Kathi worked as the coordinator and manager of the early intervention program and served as Director of Childhood Services for the agency–a role in which she was responsible for developing and sustaining all of CPI’s services for children.

Kathi lives in Falls Church VA with her husband and four children. When she’s not working, she is pretending to be a Broadway star, indoctrinating her children into the worlds of Star Wars and Star Trek, trying on the many shoes in her closet, and making to-do lists of things she has already done just so she can check them off.


Kathi Gillaspy

Ken Wagner

As Senior Advisor to the AnLar team, Ken offers expertise and experience in policy, strategy, growth, and technology.

Ken’s career began as a high school senior, when he was elected to his local school board following a campaign promise to amplify student voice and choice. He has since served in various roles at the national, state, and local levels, including school psychologist and middle school principal. He holds a doctoral degree in clinical and school psychology from Hofstra University.

Prior to coming to AnLar, Ken worked at the New York State Education Department from 2009 to 2015, ultimately serving as Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy, with a K-16 portfolio that included curriculum, assessment, instruction, and technology. He served as the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education from 2015 to 2019, with a focus on long-term and sustainable improvements in schools, anchored in the demands of students and families, and aligned to economic growth and opportunity.

When not in senior advisor mode, Ken can be quite funny. He enjoys pruning trees and listening to Charles Mingus records.

Ken Wagner

Michelle Bloom

As a Senior Program Manager at AnLar, Michelle spends most of her time avidly monitoring project deliverables, managing budgets, and working with stakeholders to implement process improvement plans. She is happiest when surrounded by spreadsheets and tasked with problem-solving on a deadline.

Prior to joining AnLar, Michelle served as a Research Associate at SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning. In this role, Michelle assisted with education technology evaluations for pre-school through higher education, and assisted with an extensive assessment of an Open Education Resource (OER) initiative implemented at over 30 colleges across the United States. Her experience at SRI includes organizing quantitative and qualitative data, managing project timelines and data collection, and writing reports.

When not color-coding her to-do list, Michelle can usually be found at the climbing gym working on her latest bouldering problem or walking one of the many dogs she watches around Portland, OR. An alumna of The George Washington University’s Education Policy graduate program and the College of Charleston, Michelle brings with her an expertise in K-12 and higher education.

Michelle Bloom

Michelle Bloom

Nancy Surbrook-Goins

Nancy brings her passion for early childhood education and building communities to her work at AnLar. She is a skilled facilitator, trainer, technical assistance provider, coach, and life-long learner. She has expertise in early childhood education, early intervention, preschool special education, Pyramid Model, Infant Mental Health, inclusion, and communities of practice.

Nancy obtained her Masters from Michigan State University in Family Studies and her Bachelors of Applied Arts from Central Michigan University in Child Development, Business and Psychology. She received a Certification in Fund Raising Management in 2011 and a Infant Mental Health Mentor-Policy endorsement in 2019. She is the co-author of the book, ‘Growing Together: Developing and Sustaining a Community of Practice in Early Childhood’, published by Gryphon House in the fall of 2019.

Before joining AnLar, Nancy was the Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Manager for Michigan for 10 years. In that role, she ensured the development and implementation of the comprehensive system of professional development for Michigan’s early intervention and preschool special education systems. She was actively involved in many state initiatives such as the Part C State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP), Preschool Inclusion workgroup, and the Kindergarten to Third Grade Components of Quality. She was the aRPy Ambassador for Michigan to promote the use of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices throughout Michigan. Prior to working as T&TA Manager, Nancy was director for 5 years of the newly established Sanilac County Kids Connection, a nonprofit organization created to provide a one-stop multi-agency children’s services center. Under her direction, the Sanilac County Kids’ Connection won the DTE Energy Foundation Collaboration Award in 2008 and received the ‘Promise Place’ designation for 2009 from America’s Promise. Prior to being director, she was an area manager for 8 years supervising Head Start programs.

Rachel Page

Rachel is a Technical Assistance Specialist at AnLar. Driven by a deep knowledge of public education practices, a passion for early learning, and a strengths-based leadership style, she is skilled in establishing productive relationships and collaboration to solve complex issues related to early learning and early childhood special education.

Prior to joining AnLar, Rachel served five years as a regional Early Childhood and Literacy Specialist in Texas, working closely with the state agency to support implementation of legislation, early childhood and literacy initiatives, and high quality prekindergarten practices. Fueled by the belief that, regardless of setting, high-quality early learning is critical for positive student outcomes, Rachel sought partnerships with community stakeholders, local non-profits, and early learning councils to address the needs of young children and their families across the region. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education from The University of Oklahoma and Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Texas, Rachel spent 12 years both as a classroom teacher and instructional leader for early childhood special education programs in North Texas.

Rachel recently moved to southwest Colorado with her husband, son, and two rescue pit bulls where she enjoys all the mountains have to offer – especially hiking, mountain biking, Jeeping, and skiing. When not exploring the great outdoors, Rachel can be found relaxing with a good cup of coffee and a book, coaching strength and fitness classes, or obsessively watching college football (Boomer Sooner!).

Sarah Whitman

As Assistant Director the Technical Assistance Team, Sarah works on educational and policy programs for district, state, and national projects. Sarah utilizes her background in research and data analysis to support systems thinking and the implementation of strategies at a large scale to improve student outcomes. Sarah has expertise in special education, early childhood, effective data use, long-term systems change, and state special education systems. Sarah is particularly skilled in program evaluation, change management, professional development, facilitation, and training design and delivery.

Before joining the AnLar team, Sarah spent five years working for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA ESE) in the Special Education Planning and Policy Development Office. As the Early Childhood Outcomes Coordinator and Data Analyst, Sarah supported special educators statewide as they sought to effectively implement data-based decision making and improve early childhood outcomes. Sarah was integral to the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) team and oversaw the implementation and scale-up of an evidence-based practice in districts representing 30% of the public preschool population in the state. Sarah also played a central role in the planning and development of the SSIP, including the creation of a multiyear evaluation plan for the initiative.

Sarah has a Doctorate in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation focused on creating a new implementation fidelity evaluation tool that can be used by states and other large organizations to evaluate complex multi-site initiatives and effectively communicates evaluation planning and results with relevant stakeholders. Sarah has a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University and a Master’s in Religion and Society from Boston University.

Sarah lives in Brookline, MA. When Sarah is not contemplating the big picture, or how to save the world, she spends a lot of her time hanging from the ceiling as an amateur circus aerialist. Specializing in aerial silks, she decided her 30s were the perfect time to pick up a challenging hobby that can truly humble her and oftentimes makes her feel ridiculous as she gets stuck mid-air. She also enjoys gardening, playing softball, going to the gym for early morning workouts, and traveling.

Sarah Whitman