*Planning Team

Nikki Darling-Kuria

Nikki Darling-Kuria is a Senior Manager with ZERO TO THREE. In this position, Ms. Darling-Kuria creates and delivers high-quality multi-disciplinary professional development nationally, in-person and online, as well as offers technical assistance to early childhood professionals on a broad range of topics. Nikki supports ZERO TO THREE’s Online Learning by contributing to the development of web-based professional development. Previously, Nikki has taught courses at the undergraduate level in-person and online at Frederick Community College in Maryland. In addition to being a family child care provider for 16 years in Maryland and West Virginia, she also served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Family Child Care. Nikki’s first book, Brain-based Early Learning Activities: Connecting Theory and Practice was published by Redleaf Press, 2010 and she has authored numerous articles on early childhood topics.  Nikki holds a Master’s Degree in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College and is currently earning another Master’s Degree in Instructional Design.

Kim-Tai DeMars

Kim-Tai DeMars is the Chief Operating Officer of Quality Assist, an early education company based in Atlanta, Georgia.  For thirty years, Quality Assist has provided professional development, technical assistance and evaluation services to federal and state government agencies, private for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and individual child care and Head Start programs.  Kim-Tai  leads Quality Assist’s work in developing and delivering high impact e-learning professional development systems and courses for early childhood providers, leaders, and parents.  Ms. DeMars has expertise in the latest educational technology and adult learning strategies.  

Gillian Gansler

Gillian Gansler is the Vice President of Business Development at Quality Assist.  Quality Assist has developed innovative e-learning professional development systems and courses that are currently being utilized by Head Start and child care providers across the nation through Quorum, an early education e-professional development program, and Parentivity, a web-based community for parents of children from conception through age 5.

Kara Lehnhardt

Kara Lehnhardt is Learning Solutions Manager for WRMA, where she supports training and eLearning development across a number of federal contracts--including the Office of Child Care's state monitoring project.  Previously, Ms. Lehnhardt served as the e-Learning Initiatives Manager for the North Carolina Partnership for Children, the Director of Technology Initiatives at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, and as a training coordinator for a CCR&R.  A self-described "creative sparkplug" for technical projects, she sees her work as helping to harness the power of technology to make professional development engaging and accessible for the early childhood field. She holds a BA in organizational communication and an MBA.

Pilar Torres

President of Fathum: Learning Solutions an education consulting company dedicated to closing the achievement gap of low-income underserved children by using innovative strategies and elearning. Pilar has twenty-five years of experience in education and human services program design and implementation. Pilar founded and lead a community-based nonprofit that recruited and trained a network of over 150 Latina family childcare providers, and operated a childcare center that served as a best practices lab for dual-language learners. She also advocated for policy changes that expanded high-quality early care and education options for low-income Latino children. Pilar has served on several state/national boards and advisory groups including the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). Her awards include the Maryland Governor’s “ Women Who Dare ” and Montgomery Women’s “ Rising Star ”. Pilar is currently an Ed.D. candidate at the Johns Hopkins University-School of Education“ Entrepreneurial Leadership in
Education ”.