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CAFE Staff

Mariela Puentes

Mariela Puentes

Senior Education Equity Specialist

Mariela serves as Program Manager for the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement Center (CAFE) and as a Senior Education Equity Specialist for MAEC. She works with educators and families to help them build effective partnerships for supporting student learning and well-being. Mariela has helped school leaders across several states develop skills and strategies for equitable and effective family engagement practices. She has led professional development on culturally responsive and equitable family, school, and community engagement for community school coordinators across the state of Maryland.  

Mariela has spent her career working with educators, families, and communities to promote equitable learning outcomes for all students. Prior to her role at MAEC, she hired and supervised staff, and directed the summer program at a public charter school in Washington, D.C., and managed enrichment programs for educational nonprofits in New York City. Mariela holds an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, where she was also a Donovan Scholar with a focus on urban education, and a B.A. in Educational Psychology from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. 

Mariela enjoys gardening and practicing yoga in her spare time.  

Carol Gant

Carol Gant

Associate Director of Early Childhood Programs

As Associate Director of Early Childhood Programs, Carol provides leadership and vision in the establishment of policy and procedures to effectively deliver comprehensive services, technical assistance, and training to assist state departments of education and local education agencies in improving education services and educational outcomes. These projects address all children’s needs with a focus on equity for vulnerable or underserved children. Carol represents MAEC in key education policy and advocacy stakeholder networks and serves as a liaison with community-based organizations and coalitions. She also serves as a leadership team member on the MAEC Strategic Planning team.

After starting her career as a special education teacher at Prince George’s County Public Schools, Carol served as the Early Head Start and Head Start Special Education Program Coordinator for Johns Hopkins Hospital/Department of Pediatrics and Educare of Washington DC. She has also worked at Bowie State University as Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Special Education and Bethany College as Assistant Professor of Special Education. Carol joined The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning (NCQTL) in 2013, where she served as a Regional Field Specialist in the Migrant and Seasonal Program Branch of the Federal Office of Head Start (OHS) and transitioned to the same position at the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning (NCECDTL) in 2015. In this position, Carol supported the OHS staff by delivering training and technical assistance, providing consultation on data collection and analysis, and overseeing grantees to assess program performance.

Carol holds a BS in Interpersonal Communication from Ohio University and a Masters of Education from Bowie State University with a concentration in Special Education. Carol completed her doctoral coursework in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Maryland and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Non-Profit Organizational Leadership at Columbia International University.

Carol was born and raised in rural Ohio in a harness horse racing and farming family and always had a garden. Her garden is her lab; she feels that she learns something from every garden and season that she can pass along to others.

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