Meet Our Trainers

Our Trainers

This is the place to find details about our trainers and their contact links.

For most of our existence, the Explorations Early Learning training team consisted of Jeff. Just Jeff. Out in the world, talking about play, early learning, and caregiver self-care. But out there in the world, he ran across lots of interesting, informed, and engaging people who were just as passionate about early learning. Some of them have jumped on board and agreed to share their knowledge and insights on our platform.

Use the links below to browse trainings, or scroll down to learn more about our trainers.

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Our Trainers

Jeff A Johnson

Jeff A Johnson

Early Learning Speaker, Author, And Advocate

After 16+ years, in a moment of frustration and exhaustion, Jeff quit a job he loved with a large non-profit agency. He walked in the door as a volunteer and end up directing a child care program and community center that served hundreds of children a day. Twenty minutes after quitting, he realized he was burnt out and unemployed. His wife, Tasha, assistant director of the child care center, quit the next day–she had been burnt out for years.

They quickly resolved to start a family child care program that focused on child-led play and learning. They ran that program for 10+ years. During that time, Jeff had the opportunity to write some books for Redleaf Press that focused on play, relationships, and caregiver self-care. He also began to spend a lot of time traveling as an early learning speaker. In 2013, they closed their program to focus full-time on providing early learning trainings as well as creating and curating digital content promoting play, child-led learning, and caregiver self-care.

Jeff did his first presentation in the fall of 2000. Since then he’s presented across the United States, Canada, and Australia. He’s also done periodic online trainings for about 15 years. Attendees have described his sessions as heartfelt, inspirational, high-energy, and humorous.
Exhausted and homesick from spending up to six months a year on the road, in late 2017 He decided to cut back on live and in person events and focus on online trainings. Now he offers regular live and on-demand sessions via his website, collaborates with other agencies to offer open-to-the-public sessions, and is available for hire as an online trainer.

Jeff began podcasting in 2013. In additional to his original show, The Child Care Bar And Grill, he now hosts and produces several early learning focused shows featuring popular early learning authors like Lisa Murphy, Heather Shumaker, Angela Hanscom, Mike Huber, and Dan Hodgins. There are currently over 1600 episodes–totaling over 700 hours of content—available.

In 2016, Jeff founded Playvolution HQ as a home for original and curated early learning content. The site now houses all those podcast episodes as well as thousands of early learning quotes, do-it-yourself projects, article, and more.

Josie Schneider

Josie Schneider

Youth Librarian

Josie Schneider is an early childhood educator turned children’s librarian from Kansas City, MO. You can find her promoting play and early literacy as a Youth Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library- Central Branch. Feel free to reach out to her with early literacy questions or ask for book recommendations. Josie is also a frequent contributor to Playvolution HQ and podcast guest.

Kristen RB Peterson

Kristen RB Peterson

Early Childhood Play Based Learning Speaker And Advocate

Kristen RB Peterson is the founder of a play and nature preschool in central Minnesota and ECE speaker. She strongly believes that all people learn through play and advocates for play based learning on her podcast, The Play Based Learning Podcast, and through digital courses and content aimed to give early childhood educators tools, resources, and a community of like-minded individuals. Learn more at www.learning-wild.com.

Browse Kristen’s contributions to Playvolution HQ here.

mike huber

Mike Huber

Early Learning Author, Speaker, And Advocate

Mike Huber, MAEd has been an early childhood teacher since 1992. He is the author of Embracing Rough and Tumble Play as well as six picture books, including The Amazing Erik. He is the co-host of the podcast Teaching with the Body in Mind. Visit Mike’s website here.

Melinda Marshall

Melinda Marshall

Family Child Care Provider And Play Advocate

Melinda lives in upstate NY with her family and is the owner of her licensed home based program, Mountaintop Family Childcare. She has worked with children for over 30 years, with the most recent 20 years as a family childcare provider. Her program offers relationship based care that includes many aspects of farm life and the forest school model, with play being at the center of all that they do. She believes that family childcare is unique and has much to offer the world of early childhood education. She strongly advocates for family childcare providers and, with a passion for play based learning, is also a strong advocate for the children’s right to play.

Natashja Treveton

Natashja Treveton

Inspired EC Co-Founder

Tash Treveton is the Co-founder of Inspired EC a Newcastle based Early Childhood Consultancy and Training company that supports EC services nationally and internationally. Tash is a trainer and consultant for Inspired EC and has co-authored several books. She also co-founded Inspired Family Day Care and TimberNook Newcastle, the first TimberNook operation in Australia. Tash is passionate about children having access to natural, risky, and engaging outdoor play spaces for children.

Nicole Halton

Nicole Halton

Inspired EC Co-Founder

Nicole Halton is an early childhood consultant and one of the co-founders of Inspired EC–an early childhood consultancy company based in Australia. Nicole has co-authored several books and developed a variety of resources for educators. She’s also a cohost of the Child Care Bar And Grill podcast. Nicole and her husband live in Lake Macquarie, Australia with their three children, where they love exploring the outdoors.

Samantha Balch

Samantha Balch

Inspired EC Co-Founder

Samantha Balch has been in care work since she was legally allowed to volunteer in a church nursery at 13, and started ‘officially’ teaching ten years ago. From part-time volunteer assistant to camp counselor to second grade teacher to math club coach to live-in nanny, she’s done a lot of wild and wonderful things, and is currently a preschool teacher at a small, well-shaded school in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Sam’s work has appeared on the Playvolution HQ website and Childcare Exchange Magazine. She’s lucky to be a multiple-time guest of famed podcast That Early Childhood Nerd and has joined the long-running Child Care Bar And Grill podcast as a cohost. She earned her M.Ed. from Clemson University and her B.A. from American University, with additional coursework from UCLA and CSU San Marcos.

Browse Sam’s contributions to Playvolution HQ here.

Tamar Jacobson

Tamar Jacobson

Early Childhood Education Consultant

Tamar Jacobson is an early childhood development and education consultant for early childhood programs, organizations, and families. She was born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and traveled to Israel, where she became a preschool teacher with the Israeli Ministry of Education. Jacobson completed a doctorate in early childhood education at the University at Buffalo (UB). As Director of the University at Buffalo Child Care Center (UBCCC), she created a training site for early childhood students from area colleges, including UB.

Jacobson is a retired Professor from Rider University, New Jersey, and served as Chair of the Department of Teacher Education for seven years. Dr. Jacobson serves on the Consulting Editors Panel for NAEYC. She received the 2003 Director of the Year Award, National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers and the 2013 National Association for Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE) Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator Award. She is a former Fellow in the Child Trauma Academy.

Tamar Jacobson presents at International, National, State and Regional levels. She is author of: Confronting Our Discomfort: Clearing the Way for Anti-Bias (Heinemann, 2003), Don’t Get So Upset! Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own (Redleaf Press, 2008), Everyone Needs Attention: Helping Young Children Thrive (Redleaf Press, 2018).


Browse Tamar’s contributions to Playvolution HQ here.