Starfish Academy Staff
Director/Principal in SarasotaSusan CarneySusan Carney is the Principal/Education Director of the Starfish Academy at The Florida Center. Susan has a degree in Early Childhood Education and over 20-years-experience working with young children and families. After moving to Florida from New York, she began her career as an early childhood educator teaching preschool at a non-profit agency. Susan continued in the field training teachers, serving as program administrator, and developing programming for preschool centers. Most recently Susan served as Executive Director at a nationally accredited, award-winning preschool and family education center.
Director/Principal in Sarasota
Emily Kasper M.Ed., Ed.S., RIMHC,
Social and Emotional ConsultantEmily Kasper M.Ed., Ed.S., RIMHC,Emily earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology and a minor in public health from the University of South Florida. She went on to receive her masters and specialist degree in education with a focus on mental health counseling from the University of Florida in 2017. Emily has experience working with traumatized and abused children and families for the last three years, and specializes in play therapy and mindfulness techniques. Emily has been working with children and families formally and informally for ten years. She practices mindfulness, journaling, art, cooking, exercise and gardening during her free time.
Social and Emotional Consultant
Social-Emotional ConsultantStephanie EssexStephanie earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology from the University of South Florida in 2012. She went on to achieve her master's degree in clinical mental health counseling from Argosy University in 2018. Stephanie is currently a certified parent educator for the Circle of Security parenting program and has been working with children for over four years. Previously, she worked for Kids and Families Matter where she provided supervised visitation services to children and families in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Stephanie enjoys being active and exploring nature. She finds that frequent bike rides, hikes, and nature walks improve her state of mind and help her feel more relaxed at work and home.
Director/Teacher in North PortTanya RuizTanya earned her an associate degree in early childhood education from Tidewater Community College. Tanya is currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in the same field. She earned an advanced director’s credential in childcare management and has completed extensive course work in behavioral strategies. Tanya has spent the last 25 years in her life working in early childhood education. She has taught preschool-age children from 6 weeks to 5 years. She’s spent the last 15 years employed at the Florida Center where she dually serves as a teacher and director at the Starfish Academy/North Port. Tanya is expertly trained in home-based, educational and behavioral strategies for parents. She enjoys working outside in her home garden. She often teaches her students to appreciate nature and uses nature to practice mindfulness.
Director/Teacher in North Port
Yang Tran, MSW
Social-Emotional ConsultantYang Tran, MSWYang earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing and management at the Art Institute of Seattle in 2009. She went on to achieve her Masters of Social Work with a concentration in children, youth, and families at the University of Washington in 2016. Yang has been working with children for over 10 years. Before moving to Florida in 2018, she was an adoption social worker and a child protective investigator at the Children's Administration. Yang was also a family resources coordinator at Children's Therapy Center working with children birth to 3 years who had developmental disabilities.