Mary Watson Avery, M.S. | Senior Program Director

Mary Watson Avery

Mary Watson Avery, M.S, is the Senior Program Director of the Aspire Institute, in addition to leading Aspire’s program the Connected Beginnings Training Institute. Mary’s career has focused on work with children birth to 6 years, parent support, and early childhood practitioner professional development. Her special interests include infant mental health practices; the play of typical and traumatized children; therapeutic parent education; coaching practices in early childhood settings; and the mentoring of early childhood trainers. She has been a teacher, administrator and consultant in several urban early childhood programs in New York City and the greater Boston area. Her experience as an early childhood educator has focused on protective childcare as an element of family preservation efforts. Mary has also served on the faculty at Harvard Graduate School of Education, Risk & Prevention Program; and was the Director of Family Connections, a community mental health outreach program targeting parental depression, based at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Since joining the Connected Beginnings team Mary has focused her efforts on developing curriculum, planning trainings, as well as training, coaching and mentoring groups across the Commonwealth. Mary co-authored the curriculum The Foundations of the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) Pyramid Model (2010, Avery, Anthony, Leutz, McCracken, O’Neill & Robey) and has coordinated the roll-out of this course and other CSEFEL Pyramid Model trainings in all six regions of Massachusetts. As a member of the Massachusetts Master Cadre of Pyramid Model Trainers and Coaches, Mary has been trained in all aspects of CSEFEL Pyramid Model implementation: Train-the-Trainer, Train-the-Coach, Program-Wide Implementation and the CSEFEL Family Modules.

In addition to The Foundations of the CSEFEL Pyramid Model curriculum, Mary is an author of The Family Connections Materials (Avery, Beardslee, Ayoub & Watts), the Tell Me A Story Materials (Avery, Beardslee, Ayoub, Callejas & Watts), as well as several articles for Zero to Three and other early childhood and mental health publications. Mary earned an MS in Infant and Toddler Studies from Wheelock College and a BFA from Manhattanville College in Studio Art. She is also co-author and illustrator of the children’s book, What Is Beautiful? (Avery & Avery, 1995, Tricycle Press). Mary can be reached via phone at 617-879-1462 or our contact form.

Eric Burkes, M.A. | Program Coordinator

Eric Burkes
Eric Burkes received his Master of Arts in Professional Writing from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He has experience with several aspects of writing, including grant writing, technical writing and proofreading, as well as writing for internal and external communications.

Following his graduate studies, he served for three years as a Lead Teacher in an Afterschool program where he promoted the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children in K-8th grade.  Eric also has previous early childhood experience serving as an Administrative Assistant at Somerville Early Head Start. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations at Boston University. Eric can be reached via phone at 617-879-1064 or our contact form.

Emily Potts Callejas, Ed.M. | Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Content Manager

Emily Callejas Emily Potts Callejas is the Connected Beginnings Training Institute Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Content Manager. In this role, Emily supports the development, adaptation, and delivery of the Institute’s trainings across early childhood and family service settings. Emily’s career has focused on working with administrators, parents, and children in culturally and geographically diverse educational environments to improve educational opportunities. Emily holds an Ed.M. in Risk and Prevention from Harvard University Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in History from Barnard College. Prior to her work at Connected Beginnings, Emily served as a mental health consultant and materials development coordinator for Family Connections at Boston Children’s Hospital. In this role she worked with both children and adults to address depression and related adversities in Head Start programs. Emily is the co-author of several publications including the Tell Me A Story Materials for Working with Families (Callejas, Beardslee, Ayoub, and Avery) and the Tell Me A Story Materials (Avery, Beardslee, Ayoub, Callejas & Watts). Emily has also worked at the Florida Charter School Resource Center in Tampa, Florida, as an advisor to families and school officials on the strategies and challenges involved in starting up charter schools. Emily’s experiences in education reform began with Advantage Schools in Boston, where she wrote and oversaw implementation for special programs under Titles I, II, IV, and VI of the Improving America’s Schools Act for sixteen charter schools. Emily can be reached via phone at 617-879-1348 or our contact form.

Catherine Wakely, B.S. | Training and Technology Specialist

Catherine WakelyCatherine Wakely is the Training and Technology Specialist at Connected Beginnings, where she joined the staff in 2011. She got her B.S. in Animal Science from The University of Maine where she also worked for several years as an IT support consultant. She has also worked as an operations coordinator at Sun Life Financial. Catherine can be reached via phone at 617-879-1465 or our contact form.