Our Staff

Who’s Who at PEATC

PEATC is staffed by a talented and diverse group of parents and professionals who are committed to building better futures for children with disabilities by working collaboratively with families, schools, and professionals who serve them. 

Suzanne Bowers

Executive Director

Suzanne Bowers has been with PEATC for 14 years and brings a wealth of expertise to the role of Executive Director. She is a Fauquier County resident, and has extensive experience in special education and advocacy. She taught elementary school for five years before becoming an Educational Advocate for military and civilian families, as well as her own children. She changed her career path in order to dedicate her talents to helping families of children with special needs. She brings a rich background in education, administration, management, training, and advocacy. Suzanne is the proud mother of four children, two of whom have special needs. She serves on the Virginia State Special Education Advisory Committee, previously as the Vice Chair of the committee, Chair of the Policy and Regulations committee, and currently Chair of the Family Engagement Committee.

Tammy Burns

Deputy Director

Tammy was born in North Carolina and moved to Virginia at the end of middle school. She received her BA from Virginia Tech in Elementary Education – let’s go HOKIES! Tammy began her career as an elementary school teacher in Chesterfield County. She attended many IEP meetings as a teacher, but then in 2000 when her middle son Jared was diagnosed with autism, Tammy experienced IEPs from the “other side of the table.” Because of this, Tammy then decided to go back to school and pursue her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree with a concentration on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) from Arizona State. Since that time, she has been involved in many leadership positions with disability related nonprofits, and served on several local and state stakeholder and advocacy groups. Tammy also graduated from Virginia’s Partners in Policy-making program where she developed a very successful IEP Boot Camp for parents as her culminating project. Tammy is a certified Sibshop leader and has served as the Chair of the Chesterfield County Special Education Advisory Committee. Tammy is passionate about empowering individuals with disabilities and their parents/guardians with the knowledge and tools that they need to be successful advocates. Tammy and her husband Troy have three children – Brett, Jared, and Amber. In her free time, Tammy enjoys spending time at the beach, going on motorcycle rides with her husband, and reading suspense novels.

Tayley Carter

Business Communications Specialist

Tayley Carter was born and raised in Newport News, VA. She first earned her associate degree in Social Science at Thomas Nelson Community College. Tayley then graduated in 2021 from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in Communications (Lifespan) and minor in Psychology. At both schools she worked for TRiO Student Support Services, a higher education program that provides resources and guidance to students with disabilities, students with low-income, and first-generation students. Tayley continued her administrative experience at LINK of Hampton Roads, a non-profit organization that serves individuals experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, and low access to other basic needs. Her ultimate dream is to get communication established as a core subject in elementary schools as she believes it is an essential building block for a better world (specifically nonviolent communication). Tayley enjoys traveling, antique shopping, photography, and relaxing with her cat Pluto.

Christina Escalante

Military Outreach Specialist

Christina started her professional career as a paralegal with a concentration in family law. Her love of learning and the necessity of having a transferable career as a military spouse led to a career in education. Christina has held a variety of educational positions including paraprofessional to a student with Autism, a special education teacher in resource and inclusion settings, a child study chair, a special education lead teacher, and as an educational diagnostician on evaluation teams. She also provided training to foster parents on how to care for emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth in their homes. These opportunities led her to her true path of working with individuals with different abilities and their families. Christina served as the School Liaison Officer of Naval Station Norfolk where she was able to support military families with educational questions pertaining to their change in duty station and experiences with schools in Virginia. 

Christina has a passion for learning and a life’s mission to serve others. She has spent her life with the military, first as a child of an active-duty service member and then as a military spouse for over 20 years. Christina lives in Suffolk, Virginia with her husband, Luis, and has two adult sons, a daughter-in-law, and two amazing grandsons.

Kathleen Gibson

Early Childhood Specialist

As Early Childhood Specialist, Kathleen helps families of young children with disabilities understand their role as their child’s first, and most important, teacher. She provides families with information and resources to help empower and support them throughout their child’s educational journey. As a parent of young children, one with disabilities, she understands many of the challenges that parents face.

Kathleen has a wealth of knowledge and experience in program development and systems change. She is passionate about equitable access to quality education and community life and advocates for inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities at local, state, and federal levels. She believes in collaborating for systemic change and promoting inclusive education for all students, starting in early childhood.

Vivian Heltemes

Bilingual Family Support Specialist

Vivian Heltemes was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and is currently a resident of Spotsylvania, VA. She is a devoted mother of two boys Sebastian and Matthew, a bonus-mom to Connor, and wife to Kevin. When her youngest son, Matthew, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth, she found herself in an unknown territory with little information and guidance as to where to go, what to do, or who to contact. Vivian realized that if she was having such a tough time, then how would other families whose primary language is not English must feel. After doing some research, she attended one of PEATC’s workshops where she expressed the isolation and frustration she felt due to the lack of information and resources available. Subsequently, Vivian developed an interest in special education, family support, and everything related to the world of special needs. She is eager and determined to not only help herself but other families, especially the Latino community to improve their opportunities and success for all children and adults with diverse needs. Vivian enjoys spending time with her family, going to Disney World, beaches, cruising, and outings to create new experiences and building memories.

Love Kingsbury

Family Support Specialist

Love Kingsbury comes to us from Roanoke, VA where she has been an activist for Special Education services for over ten years. A mother of three and new grandmother of one, Love has firsthand experience with both parenting special needs children and the difficulties of securing their educational best interest. Love spent years in the private sector as an educational advocate, fighting for fair and appropriate IEPs, 504s, and differentiation. Her years of experience as well as strong communication skills and a natural desire to help families succeed have made her a valuable asset to the special needs community.

She continues her training both personally and professionally and is a student at Washington State University. Through training and hard-fought navigational skills, Love will be a knowledgeable and compassionate ally for families seeking to find the very best scenario for their incredible children. 

Michelle Layne

Administrative Coordinator

Michelle grew up in Alexandria, Virginia but has called Orange County, VA home since 2001. She went to Northern Virginia Community College and received a Career Studies Certificate in Business Management Principles. Michelle enjoys spending time with her cats, being outside; especially the beach, and reading. She loves doing Jigsaw puzzles, Face Timing with her sister and 2-year old nephew in Chicago, and being with family and friends too.

Tina Norris

Family Engagement Specialist

Tina Norris brings years of experience working with children, adolescents and families to her position at PEATC. Tina is responsible for developing and managing the family engagement initiative and is passionate about empowering families through education and advocacy. Tina is a skilled trainer in bullying prevention, puberty and family engagement. As a parent who has guided her own children through the elaborate education system she believes that family engagement is essential for the success of all children. Her expertise and practical approach allows her to establish collaborative relationships with schools, communities and advocacy organizations as an avenue to strengthen family engagement within our communities and schools. Tina is a Certified Bullying Prevention Specialist, Certified Healing Centered Engagement Practitioner, and an ACT Raising Safe Kids-A Childhood Safety and Violence Prevention Facilitator. She is also a member of the National Association for Family, School, Community Engagement, OSEP Parent Center Equity Workgroup, and the International Bullying Prevention Association.

Lizzett Uria

Latino Outreach Specialist

Lizzett Uria supports PEATC by providing bilingual information to Virginia’s Latino community. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University along with a minor in International Social Justice. She is also a Certified Medical Assistant and Limited Radiologist. She worked as a Counselor for the Center for Children and Family through Florida International University during which time, she had the opportunity to work and do research with children diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. As a counselor, her job was to reinforce positive behaviors such as academic, recreational, behavioral, and social skills that would prepare them for the next grade. Uria always knew she wanted to work with children with disabilities and so when she came back, she continued volunteering as an educator for the Special Ed class at St. Michael’s. She has always been involved with the Latino Community and believes in the importance of providing information and educational resources to the parents of children with disabilities. Uria loves volunteering for her community, but she also enjoys traveling, dancing, trying different foods, and spending time with family and friends.

Kendra Wormley

Project Coordinator

Kendra Wormley is a native of Newport News, VA. She is a proud graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where she received a degree from the School of Education in Therapeutic Recreation in 2002. While working for a non-profit for an organization in the Hampton Roads area, Kendra worked with various community partners to establish programs and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For more than 15 years, she has worked with families, professionals, and organizations to provide supports for students and adults with developmental disabilities to increase their independence and improve opportunities to actively participate in their community.