Our Staff

For over 29 years, Bright Beginnings has helped thousands of children and their families experiencing homelessness achieve self-sufficiency.

The Bright Beginnings staff is deeply committed to delivering a high-quality early childhood education to children while supporting their families with the services they need to obtain self-sufficiency. Our staff is highly skilled and able to address the complex needs of our children and families experiencing homelessness to meet those needs we hold high standards for our staff. Our teachers to hold a four-year degree in early childhood education or a similar focus of study, as well as experience working with young children in a classroom setting. Our program staff hold advanced degrees in their area of service as well.

We believe investing in our staff is important for the continued success of our young learners and, therefore, require all staff to participate in at least 80 hours of professional learning each year.

Meet our Executive Director

Dr. Marla Dean

Executive Leadership

Dr. Marla Dean, a passionate educator and community leader, is the current Executive Director of Bright Beginnings. Dr. Dean is committed to the success and development of children and families in underserved communities. Dr. Dean is a native Detroiter.  Since 2007, she has lived in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C area. With nearly, 30 years in teaching and educational leadership in District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, and Virginia.

Dr. Dean is a leader in the two generational and whole child approaches. She believes in educating the whole child with excellence and equity by ensuring each and every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. She is a committed, passionate, and resolved advocate who believes in the potential of all children.  

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Shaquita Tillman

Director of Education

Shaquita Tillman is the Director of Education. She has extensive experience in early childhood education, with a concentration in early literacy.

Mrs. Tillman is responsible for ensuring high-quality education and child development programming and classroom design for the Center-Based Program for ages 6 weeks to five years old, and supervises instructional coaches and teacher staff. She works to set the educational approach of the program and ensures that the selected evidenced-based curriculum is implemented effectively across all program options. Mrs. Tillman earned a Masters of Arts in Community College from Trinity University and Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Morgan State University.

Darin Allen

Director of Development

Darin Allen in the Director of Development. Mr. Allen is responsible for establishing and implementing the infrastructure needed to grow Bright Beginnings’ budget through the solicitation of major gifts, federal and state grants, special events, and corporate foundation support.

Prior to Bright Beginnings, Mr. Allen was the Director of Development and Operations for NAESM, Inc. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the University of Alabama.

Hillary Garner

Deputy Director of Programming

Hillary Garner is the Deputy Director of Programming. Mrs. Garner is responsible for assisting in planning, coordinating, managing and administering programming to support a comprehensive two generation approach to supporting families self-sufficiency within our early learning and family development centers. 

Prior to joining Bright Beginnings, Mrs. Garner was a school principal at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School. Mrs. Garner earned a Masters of Education from Trinity University and Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Anthony E. Sims, Ph.D

Director of Instructional Improvement

Anthony E. Sims, Ph.D., is the Director of Instructional Improvement. He is responsible for leading the work of creating a data driven, evidenced based culture of continuous improvement to measure, assess and evaluate outcomes and impact of Bright Beginnings’comprehensive two generation approach for early learning and family learning centers in accordance with Federal, State and local policy, guidelines, and regulations.

Prior to joining Bright Beginnings, Dr. Sims was an improvement specialist in the office of Continuous Systemic Improvement at Prince George’s County Public Schools. Dr. Sims’ Ph.D., M.Ed., and BS are from Howard University. He was also a fellow at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.