Track: Educational Success

Level of Learning: Doer

Education systems are increasingly realizing that social-emotional aspects of a child’s education are critical to long term academic achievement and success in life. While there is significant progress still to be made in helping schools embrace trauma-informed practices and approaches, several members of the network are advancing this work in exciting ways.

The Educational Success Alliance Peer Exchange (APEX) group will moderate this interactive working session with three organizations that are implementing effective practices in trauma-informed care to create positive school climates for students. Each organization will share how it is applying trauma-informed expertise in a unique way and with a specific population. Participants will have the opportunity to share their own expertise and generate discussion topics for panelists to address. Efforts include:

  • Training for all staff at a K-8th charter school
  • Creating a special education model for a public school

Attendees will engage in hands-on learning and discussion to consider how they might develop or enhance their own use of trauma-informed practices in education settings.

The Educational Success APEX group was established in 2018 to focus on the unique role that the social sector can play in helping children succeed in school and realize their full potential. This group brings together committed, innovative leaders to work on shared goals that will increase individual and organizational excellence in educational success, with special attention on positive school culture and climate.

Panelist Perspectives

Derek Allen, vice president of programs at Starr Commonwealth, will share the organization’s partnership approach to helping an entire charter school transform its operations to become trauma informed.

Robyn Ganelese, assistant director of clinical intervention services at Seneca Family of Agencies All-In Partnership Project, will discuss how the implementation of a trauma-informed model used at Cox Academy in Oakland created an alternative to restrictive special education placements for student with intense behavioral and emotional challenges.

Learning Objectives  

  • Learn about multiple models for implementing trauma-informed practices in educational settings
  • Discuss effective practices and shared challenges with colleagues in the network involved in school partnerships
  • Gain useful tools for application in their own education partnerships or schools  


  • Amy McQuillan, program director, Pressley Ridge School for the Deaf
  • Andrea Roberts, program director, Pressley Ridge Day School Johnstown


  • Derek Allen, vice president of programs, Starr Commonwealth (@starcommon)
  • Robyn Ganeles, assistant director of clinical intervention services, Seneca Family of Agencies
  • Emily Scharfenberger, director of strategic parnerships, Beech Acres Parenting Center

Derek Allen
Vice President of Programs
Starr Commonwealth

Derek Allen is the vice president of programs at Starr Commonwealth and also serves as senior Starr Global Learning Network trainer/consultant and senior Glasswing trainer/consultant.

In these capacities he trains professionals throughout North America in use of the Circle of Courage model, leads adults through complex discussions related to diversity and racial healing, and provides practical, evidence-based training in trauma-informed care. He also provides thought-leadership to the Starr Commonwealth organization in strengths-based approaches in education and treatment and building resilience in children and families.

Allen is currently pursuing a doctorate from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Robyn Ganeles
Assistant Director of Clinical Intervention Services
Seneca Family of Agencies

Robyn Ganeles, LMFT, is the Assistant Director of Clinical Intervention Services with Seneca's All-In Partnership Project.  Robyn began her work at Seneca Family of Agencies over eight years ago and held the roles of TBS clinician, outpatient therapist, and clinical intervention specialist before she stepped into the assistant director position. In addition, she was the Project Coordinator for the Developmental Trauma Disorder field trial study, a research project that Seneca did in partnership with the Justice Resource Institute at the Trauma Center in Massachusetts.  In her current role, she provides clinical supervision for school-based therapists and works closely with academic professionals and administrative staff to support schools in developing trauma informed education programs.  Robyn has a special focus on the impact that trauma has on child development and learning.  She has conducted trainings on attachment theory, trauma-informed practices, and behavior/learning theory for school, district, and office of education staff across the San Francisco Bay Area and has presented at the following conferences: Foster Youth Education Summit, California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth, Supporting Student Resiliency in Trauma-Sensitive Schools, California Charter Schools Conference, and the Conference on Advancing School Mental Health.  Robyn has an MA in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco, an MFA in acting from Yale University, and a BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley.

Emily Scharfenberger
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Beech Acres Parenting Center

Emily Scharfenberger is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Beech Acres Parenting Center. Emily began her work at Beech Acres Parenting Center 13 ½ years ago and held the roles of Intake Coordinator, School Based Coordinator, School Based Team Lead, School Based Program Manager and then stepped into the Director of Strategic Partnerships a little over a year ago. In addition I recently lead our Whole School Solutions Lean Six Sigma groups to look at piloting a model in our schools around Family Engagement, specifically around engaging parents more intentionally in our schools.  In my current role, I am responsible for building and managing long-lasting relationships between all levels of Beech Acres Parenting Center and all levels of our high value customers. I am a dedicated resource for key accounts (schools) that is committed to helping them solve problems; realize their business/schools goals; support planning to achieve targeted outcomes; and accomplish overall success. In my role I develop a deep understanding of each schools individual need and partner with them to help them be successful through focused integration of Beech Acres services. In my current role I also have ownership of the engagement and selling process for all new schools that we go in to and building strategic partnerships.

Andrea Roberts
Program Director
Pressley Ridge Day School Johnstown

Andrea Roberts is the Program Director of Pressley Ridge Day School Johnstown. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of education services involved with the operation of a Private Academic Licensed School. She is liable for the supervision of service delivery, staff adherence to internal policy, as well as external regulation and licensing requirements, sound fiscal operation, and communication and liaison with local community groups, schools, service agencies, and local state offices and courts of the county and state.

Andrea worked many years as an elementary teacher within the public school setting before joining Pressley Ridge in 2009. In addition to working at Pressley, Andrea continues to fulfil her love for teaching in the Education Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Through outreach, Andrea spends time empowering and educating individuals as member of the Board of Directors with Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies and as a Practice Coordinator with the Alliance Educational Success APEX Leadership Group.

Amy McQuillan
Program Director
Pressley Ridge School for the Deaf

Amy McQuillan is the Program Director of Pressley Ridge School for the Deaf. She oversees educational and residential services for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing and have emotional and behavioral needs. This involves the operation of an Approved Private School and licensed residential programming. She is responsible for the supervision of service delivery, staff adherence to internal policy as well as external regulation and licensing requirements, sound fiscal operation, and communication and liaison with local community groups, schools, service agencies, and local state offices and courts of the county and state.  

Amy has worked in Deaf education for 22 years. She joined Pressley Ridge in 2007, starting as a Teacher of the Deaf/hard of hearing. Amy is a strong believer in implementing a Re-Education approach to serving children and families. Re-Education, or Re-ED, focuses on the strengths of each child and family. This approach asserts that it is possible to teach competence, that change is possible, and that the development of trusting relationships with caring, committed adults is the most significant factor in turning around the lives of troubled children. All of Pressley Ridge services are guided by the Re-Ed philosophy.

Amy recently completed phase 1 of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics training and is currently working towards certification in the Neurosequential Model of Education. NMT and NME are trauma-sensitive, developmentally-informed, biologically-respectful models to working with at-risk children. Amy holds Masters of Education degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and from George Mason University. She is a lifelong learner who is always eager to expand her professional and personal knowledge and skills.