SERVING CHILDREN WITH
SPECIAL NEEDS & THEIR FAMILIES
Since 1950
physician referral

Meet the Team

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Gayle Coleman
Director

Gayle serves as director of the Early Learning Center and provides early intervention coordination. Gayle has more than 20 years of experience in early childhood development, early intervention and special education. Before joining the Institute, she served for 18 years as director of children's services at Signal Centers. She is past president of the Southeast Tennessee Interagency Council, served on the policy council for the Chattanooga Head Start/Early Head Start program from 2007 to 2010 and was a member of the Hamilton County Schools pre-K council. Gayle currently is on the Project Ready for School advisory committee and the Invest in Children and Youth/Ready by 21 Early Childhood committee.She received her degree in special education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.


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Julie Mickel
Education  Coordinator

Julie Mickel is the Education Coordinator at the Siskin Early Learning Center. In this position Julie provides support by maintaining and ensuring the quality of educational programming in the ELC through assessment, lesson plans, Individualized Education Plans (IEP), coaching classroom staff and training professionals on best practice for young children with and without disabilities. Julie has been at the Institute for twelve years. She began her career at the Institute providing Outreach Services to the community through professional and student training. Julie has presented at conferences nationally and locally. She has bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Prior to coming to the Institute, Julie taught preschool special education in Catoosa County, Georgia.


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allison thompson
Family and Classroom Coordinator

Allison Thompson is the Family and Classroom Coordinator at in the Early Learning Center. She has been at the Early Learning Center for 7 years. Allison began as a lead teacher in a pre-school age classroom. She spent 3 years in the classroom before accepting the position of the Family and Classroom Coordinator. In this position Allison coaches 7 of the ELC classrooms with implementing the Siskin Model. She also provides support to the teaching staff with behavior and lesson plan implementation. Through the use of checklists Allison provides feedback to the teachers to help them with classroom success. Allison maintains the ELC applicant list and provides tours to prospective families. The Early Learning Center Assistive Technology Library and the Assistive Technology Equipment Center, funded by UNUM, are also maintained by Allison. Allison has a BS in Exceptional Learning from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and recently completed classes at East Carolina University to obtain a certificate in Assistive Technology.


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Chelsea Rogers Hixson
Administrative Coordinator

Chelsea Rogers Hixson is the Administrative Coordinator for the Early Learning Center. She has been at Siskin since 2011, serving in many different roles. Prior to graduating from Auburn University, Chelsea completed an internship at Siskin as a student teacher and also shadowed our Home and Community Based Early Interventionists as they traveled serving families in the surrounding area. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child Development in 2011 then began working full-time in the Early Learning Center classrooms as a Lead Teacher until joining the administrative team. 

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Karen Coleman
Family and Support Coordinator

Karen manages both the library for the Early Learning Center and the Lending Library of resources for families, which includes a large selection of materials on parenting children with special needs. She also coordinates visits from students at local colleges who observe our classrooms as part of their coursework, and works with the Siskin Family Association. Karen received a BA in sociology and English from Albion College, certification in elementary and special education at Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Michigan. She has been with SCI for more than ten years.

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Renee Robinson
Records Specialist/Receptionist

Renee Robinson started working at Siskin, mornings & afternoons, doing bus transportation at its original location off Oak Street 26 years ago. Her background includes a degree from Career Academy Atlanta for dental hygiene and during her years at the Oak Street location, she acquired her certification for Tennessee Early Childhood Alliance (TECA). She has dedicated many years to Siskin, including 19 years as classroom teaching assistant and she holds the title of first infant room teacher. Though many years have passed and many changes have been made, Renee remains the same, now serving as Records Specialist and Receptionist for the ELC. If anyone needs to know anything and/or be pointed in the right direction, Renee is the person you want to ask. Everyone at Siskin can tell you “Mrs. Nea” IS the “Gatekeeper”! In her current position, she is the first face you see when entering the ELC and by the many children’s smiles, greetings, high fives and fist bumps, one can tell how much she is STILL loved and how much joy she brings to the ELC.