Gina Ferrara – Program Director
Gina grew up in New Jersey before moving to Pennsylvania to pursue her undergraduate & graduate degrees in education at Arcadia University. After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, she moved back to New Jersey to find a teaching job close to her family, while continuing her graduate work. This was when she discovered her love for early childhood education. After a combination of substituting, babysitting, and teaching in a private preschool while taking online graduate courses, she completed her Master’s Degree in Special Education with an additional certification in Autism. In her quest to find an early childhood special education teaching position, she had the opportunity to work with elementary and high school students in the classroom, focusing on academic and social needs, as well as in the home and community setting while focusing on social and functional life skills. These experiences helped shape her focus that students are most successful when home, school and community come together to support them. Her current position is within Fairfax County Public Schools as a preschool special education teacher and she is beginning her fifth year in this position. During this time within Fairfax County, she completed a second Master’s Degree program for Curriculum and Instruction for Diverse Early Childhood Learners. Her goal is to help support her students inside the classroom as well as support their needs, and the needs of their families, outside of the classroom as much as possible. When she is not at work, Gina enjoys reading, cooking/baking, camping and spending time with her dog!
Jenna Clifton – Social group facilitator & assistant
Jenna graduated with a BS in Family Science from the University of Maryland. She has been working in the special education field for over 8 years and has experience working with children with a variety of social, communication, and learning needs, including those on the autism spectrum. She has experience and training in Applied Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior, Positive Behavior Management, Safe Crisis Management, Relationship Development Intervention, and Social Thinking concepts. Jenna is currently a Preschool Autism teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools, as well as a home therapy based curriculum specialist/teacher for an adult with Autism. She previously developed social skill programs for both her school and home-based programs, and was a contributor to a study at her previous private school based on social relationships in the school setting with Social Thinking co-founder, Pamela Crooke as well as Unstuck and on Target author Lynn Cannon. She is currently working towards a Masters in Early Childhood Special Education at George Mason University. In her free time, Jenna enjoys spending time with family (she has 2 awesome nephews and an awesome niece) and friends, baking, cooking, being outside, especially at the beach, and taking adventures to new places.
Michael McDermott – Group Facilitator and Assistant
Michael is a Virginia native who is currently employed by the Food and Nutrition Department of Fairfax County Public Schools. In addition, he has earned his Emergency Medical Technician Certification and is a volunteer with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. Michael hopes to leave a positive impact on the lives of the children with whom he works by taking time to get to know them on an individual level and planning activities to reflect their interests and needs. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time outdoors and spoiling his dog.
Kate McClain – Founder
Kate McClain is a certified special education teacher with 15 years of experience working with children who have a variety of social, communication, and learning needs, including those on the autism spectrum. Kate has experience with and is trained in ABA, Floortime, positive behavior management, and conflict resolution. Kate also has an undergraduate degree in theatre and art.
From 2004 – 2007, Kate taught special education classes for kids on the spectrum in Language Arts, Math, History, and Science, as well as a course called “Communication Skills,” which taught social and communication skills in a small-group environment. There, she worked with a fantastic staff of Speech-Language therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and Behavior Specialists.
While she was a teacher, Kate saw the need for children to learn and practice social skills in a small-group, non-academic environment, and started Social Skills for Life in 2007 as a result. Kate has been involved in other organizations including: Cool Cats of NOVA, The Autism Learning Center, and the Wisconsin Early Autism Clinic. She finds great joy and satisfaction in working with all children, especially her own four boys.