2020 OSEP Summit - Preparing Panel Biographies

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2020 OSEP Summit - Preparing Panel Biographies

Event Host and Moderator

Laurie VanderPloeg – Director, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

Laurie VanderPloeg is the director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), at the U.S. Department of Education. VanderPloeg ensures the effective implementation of OSEP's legislative mission, advises the assistant secretary on Federal education policy related to individuals with disabilities, and provides leadership in addressing issues of American education for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities through OSEP activities and within the context of the policies of OSERS, the Department, and Congress.

Prior to joining the department, VanderPloeg served as director of special education at Kent Intermediate School District (Kent ISD) in Michigan. Also at Kent ISD, she served as assistant director for monitoring, compliance, and parent support. Prior to Kent ISD, she served as a local supervisor of special education, and as a special education teacher in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. VanderPloeg also served as an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University in the special education administration program. She is a parent of an adult with disabilities.

VanderPloeg graduated from Grand Valley State University with a master’s degree in special education administration and earned a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State College. She holds administrative approvals as both supervisor and director of special education, and has certification in learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, emotional impairment, and K–8 regular education.

Panel on Preparing

Erin Maughan – Director of Research, National Association of School Nurses (NASN)

Dr. Erin Maughan currently serves as the Director of Research for the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), where she is responsible for several national research initiatives that target increasing the capacity and knowledge of school nurses. She oversaw the development of NASN’s Framework for 21st Century School Nursing Practice. Dr. Maughan is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, co-leads a Global School Nurse Research Consortium, and has provided school health consultation internationally. She was a member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) School Health Services Guideline Develop Group, and currently sits on the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Educational Institutions and COVID-19. Prior to joining NASN she was faculty at Brigham Young University (Utah), where she was a tenured Associate Professor teaching public health/community and global health nursing. She has also worked as the State School, Adolescent and Migrant Education Nurse Consultant for the Utah Department of Health; and as a school nurse. Dr. Maughan earned her undergraduate degree in nursing from Brigham Young University and her master’s and PhD in nursing from the University of Utah. She is passionate about helping at-risk populations, particularly in issues related to children's health.


Cathy Kea – Professor of Special Education, North Carolina A&T State University

Dr. Cathy Kea, Professor of Special Education in the Department of Educator Preparation, joined the faculty on January 4, 1991.  A native of Durham, North Carolina, she received her B.A. degree in elementary education from North Carolina Central University, M.S. from the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse in special education with an emphasis on learning disabilities and emotional disturbance, and Ph.D. degree in special education and administration from the University of Kansas. In addition, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville in multicultural special education. Since 1992, she has been a continuous recipient of OSEP personnel preparation grants totaling over $6 million in scholarship support. Dr. Kea’s work is continuously cited in journals and special education textbooks, based on her exemplary work as a research practitioner in culturally responsive instruction.  

Dr. Kea is an accomplished scholar who is widely recognized in her field. She is the recipient of the North Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s 2020 Felix S. Barker Special Education Leadership Award and the 2019 recipient of the University of Kansas Leadership to the Special Education Field Award. She has authored and co-authored 30 refereed journal articles, monographs, and book chapters. Her articles appear in the most respected journals, including Exceptional Children, Teaching Exceptional Children, The Journal of Special Education, Focus on Exceptional Children, Beyond Behavior, Multicultural Perspectives, Multiple Voices, Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, and Teacher Education and Special Education. Dr. Kea’s research interest and engagement focuses on the intersection between general education, special education, and multicultural education - a trilogy to be transformed. Her current research focuses on preparing preservice teachers to design and deliver culturally responsive instruction in urban classrooms and ways to infuse diversity throughout course syllabi and teacher preparation programs.

Her recent longitudinal works examine how preservice teacher candidates who are being exposed to cross-cultural experiences and culturally responsive strategies during coursework, infuse them in lesson plan development and delivery, clinical practices, and induction years.


Naomi Ondrasek, senior researcher and policy advisor, Learning Policy Institute

Dr. Naomi Ondrasek serves as a Sacramento-based senior researcher and policy advisor for the Learning Policy Institute. She works to advance evidence-based policy across a wide range of issue areas, including whole child education and educator quality, and is the lead author of California’s Special Education Teacher Shortage. Before LPI, she worked in the California State Legislature, where she reviewed, analyzed, amended, and drafted education-related legislation. Ondrasek holds a Ph.D. in the field of behavioral neuroscience from UC Berkeley and received a B.S. in Biology from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.


Robert Pianta – Dean, University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development

Robert Pianta, PhD, is Dean of the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development, Novartis US Foundation Professor of Education, Professor of Psychology, and founding director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia. Dr. Pianta‘s research and policy interests focus on the intersection of education and human development. In particular, his work has been influential in advancing the conceptualization of teacher-student interactions and relationships and documenting their contributions to students’ learning and development. He has authored or co-authored more than 300 articles, 50 chapters, and 10 books and led research and training grants totaling over $60 million. Dr. Pianta has led research and development on measurement and improvement tools that help teachers interact with students more effectively and that are used widely in the United States and around the world. Dr. Pianta received a BS and an MA in Special Education from the University of Connecticut and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Minnesota. He began his career as a special education teacher and joined the University of Virginia faculty in 1986. He is past Editor of the Journal of School Psychology and associate editor for AERA Open. An internationally recognized expert in both early childhood education and K-12 teaching and learning, Dr. Pianta regularly consults with federal agencies, foundations, universities, and governments. He was named a Fellow of the American Education Research Association and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota in 2016.


Erica McCray – Director & Associate Professor, School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies, University of Florida and Co-Principle Investigator, CEEDAR Center

Erica D. McCray is Director & Associate Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida. She earned her doctorate at the University of South Florida, Tampa. Dr. McCray’s experience as a special educator for students with behavioral and learning disabilities in elementary and middle school settings led to her interest in issues of equity and diversity. Dr. McCray is currently co-principal investigator of the CEEDAR Center, an Office of Special Education Programs funded technical assistance project as well as a National Science Foundation research project to broaden participation in engineering.

To learn more about the other panelists for the 2020 OSEP Summit please check out:

2020 OSEP Summit - Attracting Panel Biographies

2020 OSEP Summit - Retaining Panel Biographies