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    The Team

  • Susan Carney
    Susan Carney
    Director of Early Childhood Education
    Susan Carney
    Susan Carney
    Director of Early Childhood Education
  • Alexis LaRoux
    Alexis LaRoux
    Site Director/Principal of Starfish Academy North Port
    Alexis LaRoux
    Alexis LaRoux
    Site Director/Principal of Starfish Academy North Port
    Alexis earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art Education from Tufts University in 2007. Alexis has worked with children all around the world. In 2001, she went to India to participate in a summer program in a rural village. For the last 22 months, she was living in the Balearic Islands working in public schools. Alexis practices art and yoga in her spare time. She finds that regular creativity and relaxation are her best medicine.
  • Michele Duss, LCSW
    Michele Duss, LCSW
    Social-Emotional Consultant at Starfish Academy
    Michele Duss, LCSW
    Michele Duss, LCSW
    Social-Emotional Consultant at Starfish Academy
    Michele earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in child and family development from Georgia Southern University in 2005. She went on to complete her master's in social work at the University of South Florida in 2013. She received her license as a clinical social worker in 2020. Michele has been working in the social services field for over fifteen years and has served a variety of populations from VPK students to seniors in hospice care. Michele also has leadership experience developing social worker trainings. At home Michele practices moments of gratitude with her two young daughters, as well as mindfulness and meditation. She also includes yoga and other forms of exercise in her daily routine. These practices help her and her family balance life and maintain a positive outlook.
  • Stephanie Essex, LMHC
    Stephanie Essex, LMHC
    Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Supervisor
    Stephanie Essex, LMHC
    Stephanie Essex, LMHC
    Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Supervisor
    Stephanie 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.
  • Mariana Mackinnon, RCSWI
    Mariana Mackinnon, RCSWI
    Social Emotional Consultant (Easterseals)
    Mariana Mackinnon, RCSWI
    Mariana Mackinnon, RCSWI
    Social Emotional Consultant (Easterseals)
    Mariana earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in 2019, from Florida Gulf Coast University, with a focus on social work. She went on to pursue her advanced standing master's degree in 2020 with a focus on clinical social work. Mariana achieved her diversity and inclusion certification from FGCU as well as a certificate in youth mental health first aid. Mariana's previous relevant experience includes working with both Collier County Public Schools as well as the Sarasota County Schools. Her tasks ranged from drafting social-emotional learning external communications, providing financial assistance, counseling students, and partnering with local agencies to bridge the gaps in social service. Mariana enjoys being outdoors in her free time. Whether this is exercising, going for a walk, or swimming, she finds that it allows her to feel more connected to herself and helps her recharge to be fully present for her clients.
  • Linda Tobiassen, RMHI
    Linda Tobiassen, RMHI
    Social Emotional Consultant
    Linda Tobiassen, RMHI
    Linda Tobiassen, RMHI
    Social Emotional Consultant
    Linda earned her master's degree in clinical mental health counseling from National Louis University in 2021. Linda focuses on developing the whole child by working with parents, caregivers, and teachers. In the past year, she has worked with groups of young children to develop social-emotional learning skills. Linda strives to be present and genuine with her clients in order to give them a safe space to explore. She enjoys golf, going to the beach, and spending time with her family. She finds that running improves her mental health which helps her to live a balanced lifestyle.