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The Capitol Area Association for the Education of Young Children (CAAEYC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We are a chapter of the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children (ILAEYC) as well as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). CAAEYC is a leading professional organization in anticipating and responding to the training, advocacy and networking needs of all individuals who are interested in the care and education of young children and their families. In particular, CAAEYC serves early childhood professionals in the following Illinois counties: Adams, Brown, Cass, Macoupin, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, and Schuyler.

This mission of CAAEYC is two-fold:

ONE: To serve and act on behalf of the needs, rights, and well-being of all young children and their families, with special emphasis on developmental and educational services and resources.

TWO: Foster the growth and development of those in direct services to young children in their professional growth in the early childhood field.

Marlena Constant


I have been a Preschool Teacher at UIS Cox Children’s Center for two years where I enjoy observing children’s thought processes and watching them create as their learning experiences unfold. I am active in my community, am constantly finding ways to continue learning, and enjoy working on two early childhood boards. I have been a board member of Capital Area Association Education for Young Children for two years where I am a Member at Large and also have served on the Illinois Education Association of Young Children as Affiliate Delegate and Vice President of the Central East Region.

I am a junior at UIS where I will graduate with my Bachelor’s and then on to my Master’s! The education field has inspired me to find ways where I can reach more children and families in order to develop a positive relationship as we work together in the best interest of their child. I plan on continuing to work in the early childhood field where I can be a mentor to those who a beginning their journey in this field.

Ashley Earles


Ashley has been working in the Early Childhood field and working with children and their families for almost 18 years.  She has worked with Infants all the up to School Age Children.  She currently works for the local CCRR in Springfield, Community Connection Point.  Ashley’s current position there is their Community Engagement Specialist. She has been in that position for almost 2 years now. Ashley has actively been the VP of Programming for CA-AEYC for almost 5 years.  This role entailed planning trainings and family events for the local communities. Ashley has a true passion for ECE and loves sharing this passion with others in her community. She has a Bachelor Degree in Social Work and she is currently working on becoming a Mental Health First Aid Instructor. 

Lacey Buss

Past President/Publicity Chair

I began working in the field of ECE in 1999 and have been a teacher, center director, professional development specialist, consultant, and trainer. I have been on the CAAEYC board for four years, serving as Week of the Young Child chair, newsletter/publicity chair, treasurer, and most recently, President.

Stephanie Neuman 

VP of Membership

Stephanie Neuman is the owner of Kountry Kids Learning Center in New Berlin and Rushville, as well as Capital City Learning Center in Springfield. 

Sandra Cole


Sandra has been a family child care provider for the past 18 years.  She is an accredited provider (since 2005) and holds numerous credentials.  She is Gold Circle of Quality Provider and teaches ITN trainings and is the current President of the Home Day Care Providers Association and is a cochair for the Family Child Care Credential Committee as well as working on several other advisory boards.  She is also a CDA (child development associate) Advisor and a PDA (professional development advisor).

Lisa White


Hello! My name is Lisa White. I am the Infant/Toddler Lead Teacher at Memorial Child Care. I have been at Memorial Child Care for 25 years. I am married and have 2 children and a dog. I love being in the Early Childhood Field. I enjoy working with the families and most of all the children. I get to see the babies do so much the year they are in my classroom. I have the best job!

Danyle Watkins

Public Policy Chair

Danyle Watkins has been a board member for CAAEYC for several years, first serving as the ILAEYC Board Delegate, and then moving to Public Policy Chair. Additionally, Danyle has held several roles on the ILAEYC board, most recently being elected as the NAEYC Affiliate Council Representative. Danyle’s full-time role in ECE is educating the future early childhood workforce as an Instructor at Lincoln Land Community College, which she has done since 2010. Danyle also participates in statewide committees and is a Special Olympics volunteer. Danyle was also an ILAEYC Children’s Champion in 2016.

Daphne Southern

Publications Chair

Hi, My name is Daphne Southern.  I currently serve as the Publication Chair on the CAAEYC board.  I have been on the board about 6 years.  I have worked in Early Childcare for over 20 years.  I have worked with all ages, but have been the lead teacher working with toddlers for the past ten years.  I am married and the proud parent of two wonderful children.

Donna Smylie

Hospitality Chair

Donna Smylie is a Family Child Care provider in Springfield, IL.