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 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.
Diana was born and raised in Illinois, attended business school in IA and has worked in an office setting for many years. She moved to Virginia in 2015 for her husband’s employment and resides in Chesapeake, Virginia with her husband and three children. Diana’s sister is a Special Education teacher, and she has spent a lot of time in her classroom and volunteering at her school activities and with Special Olympics through the years. While supporting her children in school activities as well as being their biggest cheerleader she has also been involved in PTA, Boosters President and supporting teachers and faculty. She also enjoys serving the community, tennis, volleyball, walking her fur baby, Rizzo, and wrapping herself up in a good book. Diana joined PEATC as an administrative assistant in early July 2021. She has a passion for any child’s education, and she has a strong desire to help make a difference and make a positive impact in an individual’s life.
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 live in Midlothian, VA (outside of Richmond), and 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.
Ros’Lynne Colen has been a devoted military spouse for 18 years and counting and considers Hampton Roads her home away from home. Ros’Lynne is the mother of three very active children and has spent the majority of her career working with military families in child development, youth, and inclusion services. With a passion for children of all abilities, Ros’Lynne focused her development and interest in special education having been driven by her personal experience as a mother to a child with a learning disability. Ros’Lynne has professional experience as an ABA therapist, an active Inclusion Action Team (IAT) board member, a School Age Coordinator, and most recently, she received her M.Ed. in Special Education from Liberty University. By serving the military community and families of children with diverse abilities, Ros’Lynne believes that her passion and her career have come together beautifully.
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.
Andersen grew up in Lynchburg, VA, and studied Human Development & Family Science at George Mason University. While attending GMU, Andersen worked as a personal assistant for children on the autism spectrum. During their senior year, Andersen worked as an intern with Formed Families Forward and learned about Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers, then joined PEATC in early 2021. Andersen is passionate about supporting traditionally underserved populations in Virginia and ultimately hopes to pursue a master’s in Social Work.
Rafael Hernandez is PEATC’s Bilingual Outreach Family Support Specialist. Prior to coming to PEATC, he was Northern Virginia’s Bilingual Peer and Community Specialist for the Individual Family Support Program (IFSP), a program of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. He has served as an Organizing Committee member for the Autism Society of Northern Virginia’s Annual Autism Walk and Family Funfest for over ten years. As a Bilingual Employment Development Specialist at ServiceSource Inc., he provided job development services for disabled individuals. Before moving to Virginia, he was a Bilingual Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in Monterey County for the California State Department of Rehabilitation. Rafael holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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.
Heidi Lawyer served as the Executive Director of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, Virginia’s Developmental Disabilities Council, from 2003-2019. During her tenure, she significantly increased the Board’s involvement in and influence on public policy on the state level with a focus on ensuring full community inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities. She began her efforts in disability advocacy and policy in 1992, after her oldest son Danny, now 33 was diagnosed with Autism. Her advocacy on behalf of her son led to extended year services being more readily available in Virginia for students with disabilities. Heidi has served on the Board of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities as well as on Virginia’s State Special Education Advisory Council. During her 31 years of state service to the Commonwealth, Heidi has served on numerous state level task forces work groups and committees related to services and policy issues affecting adults and children with disabilities. Heidi lives in Richmond with her husband Clyde, her son Danny, Darby, their golden retriever and 3 cats.
Suzanne McDonald is a native of the Charlottesville area and remains married to her high school sweetheart. She and her husband have raised two amazing boys, Bailey and Jacob. In 2000, Suzanne decided to go back to college and completed her BS in Human Services Counseling from Old Dominion University in 2007. All while caring for two young boys, operating an in-home family childcare, and taking a full college course load. During that time, their youngest son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and while navigating firsthand experience with the early intervention system, Suzanne grew to appreciate the value of early intervention services for their family. After graduation from college, Suzanne worked as a service coordinator/case manager for the Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia. She has also worked as an Early Learning Specialist/CDA Facilitator for a non-profit in Charlottesville supporting family childcare providers in becoming voluntary registered with the state of Virginia. Suzanne is passionate about supporting families of individuals with disabilities as they navigate the system and learn to advocate for themselves. As time allows, Suzanne loves going to the beach and considers this her “happy place”. She also enjoys living in central Virginia enjoying the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, walking her very active dog – Jackson, traveling, and reading a great book.
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. She is a Certified Bullying Prevention Specialist and a member of the Family Engagement Network, OSEP Parent Center Equity Workgroup, National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement, and International Bullying Prevention Association.
Keri founded MASC, the first Tricare approved, not-for-profit applied behavior analysis and family support provider, in 2005 to serve the Hampton Roads area of southeast Virginia. She assisted the center’s clients by providing in-home parent training and advocacy during IEP meetings while managing the business. Her 21 year- old daughter with severe autism inspired Keri to address the needs of children with autism in her community. Keri has had the opportunity to meet with senior military leadership, members of Congress, and health care industry leaders to address autism and the impact it has on military readiness. The Peko family has lived all over the United States but has been in Chesapeake for 19 years. Keri’s husband currently serves our country in the U.S. Navy and has for 30 years.
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 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.