Board of Directors

Manna Middleton, Chair
Manna Middleton

As Chair, Manna believes in the future success for Alberta’s children and wants to ensure the best opportunities for children and educators are happening in our province. She believes in the mission set by AECEA and its national partners at CCCF and will adhere to all it stands for. Her prior experience in running Bee Hive Child Care Centre alongside drawing from her experience working on projects and boards in rural Alberta such as the Child Care Directors' Association of Southwest Alberta and County of Lethbridge Early Child Mapping Project is what drives her passion to be involved in the AECEA. 

Carol Sullivan, Vice Chair

Bringing over 30 years of experience in the field to AECEA, Carol has logged extensive frontline time with children and their families, coordinated and managed various early childhood and family support programs, taught part time with MacEwan University, Early Childhood Development Program and worked in a mentoring capacity with the Alberta Resource Centre for Quality Enhancement. Carol believes that high quality child care can improve the quality of life for children and families and has the potential to play a significant role as part of a strong social infrastructure that enhances the overall quality of community life, education and care.

Patricia MacDonald, Treasurer
Patricia MacDonald

As treasurer, Pat brings over 30 years of early childhood experience to the position. Pat has worked in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta as a front line staff as well as serving a program manager role for Family Day Home Agency and working as a Day Care and Early Intervention consultant. Pat has been employed with the Alberta Association for the Accreditation of Early Learning and Care Services as Accreditation Consultant/Moderation Coordinator since 2007. Pat has also participated in the Curriculum Framework Project Phase III Leaders Learning Community and the Community Learning Series.

Susan Garrow-Oliver, Secretary
Susan Garrow-Oliver

Susan is an Associate Professor at Mount Royal University teaching in the Bachelor of Child Studies and has been active in the ECE profession in Alberta for over 25 years. Susan's research for her MA looked at childcare directors' critically reflective communities of practice, while her recent PhD research explored ECE Directors' understanding of leadership. Her key interests are in leadership, social justice advocacy, ethical practice, critically reflective practice and communities of learning and strengthening the ECE profession.

Nicki Dublenko
Nicki Dublenko

Nicki has been honored to work with the AECEA over the past few years to work toward a future of well educated and recognized early childhood educators in Alberta. She graduated from the University of Alberta with a Master’s of Education in Early Learning in 2013 and is currently enrolled in the flex Early Learning and Care PhD program at the University of Toronto. Nicki serves as the Executive Director for Child Development Dayhomes, Edmonton and Fort McMurray, and is a member of the Alberta Early Learning and Care Leaders Caucus, a member of the End Poverty Edmonton - Early Learning and Child Care Steering Committee and the program advisory for the MacEwan ELCC program and has served on many boards and committees including the Alberta Family Child Care Association and the Success by Six Council of Partners. She believes in a strong professional association for early childhood educators and value the professionals working with young children for the very important work we all do.

Joanne Keilty
Joanne Keilty

Joanne has been a member of the field of Early Childhood Education for 36 years. For the largest portion of her career she was an instructor at Lethbridge College in the Early Childhood Education program. Before, and during her tenure as an instructor at the College she was involved with group and family child care programs, kindergarten programs, and out-of-school programs. She is passionate in her belief that Early Learning Programs are foundational to our community and society. Joanne believes that educators have a significant role to play in children’s learning, family support and development and the health and well-being of our communities. As a board member of AECEA she believes it is important to work with government and communities to support educators and move the field of ECE forward as a necessary right for children and families.


Jennifer Usher
Jennifer Usher

Since 2009, Jennifer has worked as the coordinator of the Medicine Hat & District Child Care Association. This is a non-profit organization that provides a support network for the child care centres, preschools, day home agencies and out of school cares operating in Southeast Alberta. In addition, she operates a program in a number of preschools across Medicine Hat teaching sign language to the children and Educators through a combination of games, activities, art, songs and rhymes. 

Jennifer believes that families deserve quality, accessible and affordable Early Learning and Child Care programs. Capable and knowledgeable Educators play a key role in the delivery of these services to our young ones. She is excited to serve on the AECEA board so she can encourage even more Educators to become involved with this important professional organization.

Cheryl Kinzel

Dr. Cheryl Kinzel is the Director of the Centre for Early Development Applied Research (CEDAR) at Bow Valley College in Calgary Alberta. 

Cheryl’s 25 year long career in education has included teaching and research in early childhood, primary, special education, and Indigenous education.

Cheryl holds a Bachelor degree in History from the University of Victoria, a Bachelor degree in Education and a Master degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of British Columbia and a doctoral degree in Educational Research from the University of Calgary.  She also volunteers on numerous committees supporting the wellbeing of children, family, and community.

Whitney Stevens

Born in Manitoba and raised in Ontario, Whitney moved to Alberta in 2012 to pursue a career in Early Childhood Education. Whitney has a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature and is currently taking Management Studies at MacEwan University. Whitney brings a passion and talent for childcare and is a strong advocate for a well-paid and educated workforce. She and her husband have a young family. Whitney is a long-distance runner and loves outdoor adventure.