California Association for the Gifted

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Regional Representatives

Bay Area Region

GretchenGretchen Stanerson

(Bay Region Educator Representative)


Capitol Region


Melissa Lawson

(Capitol Region Parent Representative)


Ms. Lawson is an esteemed National Board Certified Teacher and gifted education practitioner with nearly two decades of classroom experience.  As the parent of four gifted children, one of whom is twice-exceptional, she is a passionate activist for GATE parents and families. Ms. Lawson is GATE certified and has served at the district level as a GATE site representative and coordinator and at the state level as a GATE program evaluator.  In addition to her classroom experience, Ms. Lawson is intimately familiar with the joys and struggles of supporting gifted learners at home. She has first-hand experience in parenting gifted children.   Her range of expertise includes advocacy, gifted education theory and practice (including differentiated instruction), social and emotional needs of the gifted, and developing the potential in diverse learners, including twice-exceptional children. In addition to serving on the CAG Board as the current Capitol Region Parent Representative, Ms. Lawson served previously as Capitol Region Educator Representative. She continues to hone her practice in the classroom where she currently teaches middle school English and history in Folsom.  She serves on her district’s GATE Advisory Committee, has been a CAG Member for the past 15 years, and  remains a steadfast and enthusiastic GATE advocate at the local and state levels.

kari-smithKari Hanson-Smith

(Capitol Region Educator Representative)


Ms. Hanson-Smith is a tireless advocate for advanced learners. Eminently qualified, she has more than 15 years’ experience working in gifted education. Ms. Hanson-Smith earned a master’s degree in Educational Psychology, Gifted and Talented Education from the Three Summers program within the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. While there, she studied with Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis, authors of the Enrichment Triad Model, and the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.   Ms. Hanson-Smith’s breadth of expertise includes GATE program design, talent development, differentiating instruction at the K-8 level, the social and emotional needs of gifted individuals, working with students from diverse populations, and gifted education theory.  In addition to serving on the CAG Board as the current Capitol Region Education Representative, She is the Coordinator for GATE and AP Programs, Sacramento City Unified School District. She has also worked as a GATE Resource Teacher and as a classroom teacher.  She is passionately dedicated to urban gifted education and advocating for the academic and emotional needs of gifted and high ability learners in public school systems.

Joshua Tree Region

nybergJulia Nyberg

(Joshua Tree Region Educator Representative)


Dr. Julia Nyberg received her doctorate in education from the University of Southern California (USC), with an emphasis in Teacher Education under the mentorship of Dr. Sandra Kaplan. Dr. Nyberg’s research and practice focus on differentiated curriculum and instruction for gifted and talented students. Dr. Nyberg has professional experience in California and China. Dr. Nyberg has taught, delivered demonstration lessons, and provided professional development for grades K-12 at various school districts in California.


Jennifer Berry

(Joshua Tree Region Parent Representative)


Jennifer Berry is a mother of two who has worked as an education professional for fifteen years.  She has facilitated a variety of parent, teacher, and paraprofessional trainings covering topics including literacy, writing, language development, GATE, differentiation, and administrative support of gifted programs.  Jennifer Berry currently acts as a site principal for a kindergarten through eighth grade GATE magnet school.  She has a passion for gifted and talented programs and believes in the power of parent support and advocacy in shaping the futures of our gifted children.

Mission Region

christina-desiderioChristina Desiderio

(Mission Region Parent Representative)


Christina is the parent representative for the Mission Area. She has a profoundly gifted and talented son, twice-exceptional gifted and talented daughter, and an academically and leadership gifted son. She is currently a principal of a 2016 Gold Ribbon School and was a principal of a 5 STAR GATE/National Blue Ribbon School. Christina’s goal is to advocate for and educate others in the area GATE education.


Catherine Estrada

(Mission Region Educator Representative)


Orange Region

julie-hullJulie Hull

(Orange Region Parent Representative)

Julie Hull has worked in the field of education for the last 20 years in various capacities.  As a secondary classroom teacher, she taught GATE and Advanced Placement classes, as a master and mentor teacher she worked with credential candidates and new teachers in classroom management and pedagogy, and as a site GATE coordinator she assisted in identification and GATE program development.  Julie currently works at the Orange County Department of Education and serves on the board of two educational non-profits which gives her the opportunity to advocate for gifted education in Orange County through professional development and parent education events. Additionally, Julie is the parent of three children who are gifted.

alison-demarkAlison DeMark

(Orange Region Educator Representative)


Alison DeMark, Ed.D is a gifted educator in Orange County, California. She is the GATE Program Coordinator in the Fullerton School District, President of the Orange County Council for the Gifted, and a assistant adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern California in the Doctor of Education program. Dr. DeMark is passionate about gifted education, and presents frequently on the social and emotional needs of gifted learners.

Pacific Region

cindy-hansenCindy Z Hansen

(Pacific Region Parent Representative)


My passion for serving the twice exceptional community and gifted students began with my two very different children who became my first students and mentors. I am a SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator and an active member in both our region’s Tri-County GATE Council and the Association of Educational Therapists. I have a Masters of Education, three teaching certificates, a post-masters certificate in Gifted and Talented Education, and I am an Educational Therapist/Professional in private practice. Using nuanced approaches to the interconnectedness of gifted, dyslexic and intentionality (AD/HD), I integrate my understanding of social-emotional skills while assisting learners and their families to embrace and grow their complex learning profiles. I am committed to serving our gifted community through workshop experiences, SENG Model groups, and informative sessions; collaborating with schools and in informal settings.

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 Joanna Lauerjoanna-lauer

(Pacific Region Educational Representative)


Dr. Joanna Lauer has served in many capacities in gifted education since the beginning of her career.  She has consulted for several school districts across Orange County, the Inland Empire, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties.  She has taught courses for the University of Southern California, taught grades 3-6, served as a GATE pullout program instructor, and currently is an Instructional Specialist for the Goleta Union School District. As an Instructional Specialist, Joanna facilitates and oversees full implementation of a 3rd-6th grade district-wide professional development series.  She coordinates services for identified gifted students and has led the district through a three-year revision of how they address needs of students with unique and high ability. Joanna’s area of specialization, under years of mentorship of Dr. Sandra Kaplan, has been in depth and complexity, universal themes, and independent study.

Palomar Region

Sue Ann Busseysue-ann-bussey

(Palomar Region Educator Representative)


Sue Ann Bussey is an energetic advocate for gifted students as well as the educators and families who support them. For over twenty-five years, she has worked in the field of gifted education in myriad capacities. Throughout her career, she has served as a classroom teacher, district-wide GATE mentor teacher; a member of a district committee to develop a portfolio GATE identification system; a CAG Board Educator Representative; and an organizer of the CAG/Oceanside Unified Summer Demonstration School for the past five years. In the arena of professional learning, Sue Ann empowers educators and parents through trainings in literacy, differentiation, GATE, inquiry, and design thinking.  When Sue Ann is not helping GATE students to achieve their potential, she is inventing new recipes, enjoying time with her family, playing with her Australia Shephard, and traveling to historical sites.

jennelle-millerJenelle S. Miller, Ed.D

(Palomar Region Parent Representative)


Jenelle is the director of Accelerated Academics, Inc., a private school with an innovative approach to serving the challenges of high-ability students with unique gifts and talents. Jenelle received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Classical Ballet, her Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and her Doctor of Education Degree in Administrator Leadership for Teaching and Learning. She has been a certified teacher of gifted students in both California and Iowa for more than 20 years. In addition to teaching and advocating for gifted children, Jenelle is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center in Gifted Education and Talent Development, a part of the College of Education at the University of Iowa, where she provides online professional development instruction for teachers pursuing their talented and gifted endorsement certification. As a member of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) she maintains cutting-edge knowledge regarding gifted education by attending annual conferences where she networks with other specialists and colleagues. Jenelle has had experience coaching many enrichment programs from summer gifted camps to extended learning experiences within the school day. Furthermore, in 2008, Dr. Miller was nominated for the Iowa Women of Innovation Award, presented by the Technology Association of Iowa, in the Academic Innovation and Leadership award category for her work with students in robotics and inventions. As a Parent Representative on the CAG Board of Directors, Jenelle provides advocacy, support, and consultant services for gifted students and their parents.

Redwood Region

elizabeth-hendricksonElizabeth Hendrickson

 (Redwood Region Parent Representative)


Meeting the needs of her students and her child led Elizabeth Hendrickson to become a passionate advocate for gifted and differentiated instruction. She has been an elementary school teacher for eleven years in Santa Rosa, and a mom for fourteen.


Jana Reveles

(Redwood Region Educator Representative)


San Joaquin Region

Kristin Faurekristen-faure

(San Joaquin Parent Representative)


Kristin Faure has been an a  educator in Bakersfield California for 25 years  and currently works for  Rosedale Union School District. As a parent of a GATE student and a GATE educator she strives to create a differentiated and supportive environment for both parents and students to meet the special needs of gifted and talented students. Her goal is provide practical resources for parents of high-ability students and their families in the San Joaquin region.

Santa Lucia Region

Susan Gratultysusan-graulty

 (Santa Lucia Educator Representative)


Susan started her career in education in Indiana where she worked with special needs preschoolers.  After finishing her credential Susan taught general education fourth and fifth grades.  It was there that she found she had a gift working with at-risk students.  Susan’s career path took a new turn after moving to California.  She worked in a Juvenile Facility in Merced.  When she and her husband moved to Santa Cruz, Susan took a position working in a Court Community Day School.  Many of the students there were identified as GATE, but their emotional needs took them other places.  Susan is now the Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts, and GATE for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.  She has four wonderful daughters, Valerie, Stephanie, Natalie and Michelle.  Her husband John is Dean of VAPA at Cabrillo College.

Paula Simkapaula-simka 

(Santa Lucia Parent Representative)


Paula embarked on her journey into the gifted education as a result of her volunteering work at her children’s school. Witnessing how gifted children often go through school without having their academic needs met has led her to switch gears, leaving her industrial engineering background and entering the world of gifted education. As a passionate advocate for gifted children, Paula has successfully worked with the school administrators and staff to build a gifted program. Having graduated from the Three Summers Program in Gifted Education at the University of Connecticut, she currently serves as the Gifted Coordinator for Discovery Charter School in San Jose, working with gifted students, providing advanced resources for teachers, and supporting parents of gifted children.