Meet Playworks Pro | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

Meet Playworks Pro

Playworks provides professional training and ongoing development to staff and paraprofessionals at schools and youth serving organizations. We teach techniques and games to promote healthy physical activity, inclusiveness, and positive behavior. Our comprehensive model trains adults in strategies that relieve chaos, improve playtime, manage groups and transitions, redirect challenging behaviors, and prepare students for learning. With our training programs, your staff will become more proficient leaders of play with the children you serve.
Hector Salazar
Director of Partner Experience

Considered key adviser and subject matter expert on account management, policies, and operations, Hector supports a national team of Account Managers and Regional Partnership Directors in building new relationships with potential school partners. In his 10+ years with Playworks, Hector has served as a Americorps volunteer, Program Coordinator, Program Manager and Account Manager.

He received both his bachelor's and master's degree in education from Oakland's Holy Names University. During his time at HNU, he served as a point guard and head assistant coach on the men's basketball team while working as director for the Youth Summer Hoop camp. A native of Sacramento, CA, Hector spends his downtime playing with his four children and laughing through life with his beautiful wife Anna.

Andrea Cruz
Training Operations Manager

Andrea comes to Playworks with five years of experience in education. She started in the classroom teaching sixth grade social studies, has worked in higher education, and most recently managed educational programs in the Bay Area. Andrea has experience in recruitment and hiring as well as training and instructional support for schools and teachers. She is excited to be working with the training team to impact the lives of students. In her free time, Andrea enjoys trying out new restaurants, experimenting in the kitchen and spending time with family and friends. 

Vivian Nguyen
Partner Experience Operations Coordinator

Vivian is a San Diego native who moved up to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley to study sociology and education. Her experience includes managing projects in educational nonprofits and supporting customers at multiple tech start-ups. She’s passionate about empowering students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, and is delighted to join the Playworks team to support the partner experience team. In her free time, Vivian enjoys discovering new restaurants/cafes, books, baking recipes, and hiking trails throughout the Bay Area.

Kristina Walden
Manager of Service Delivery

Kristina Walden joined the Playworks Training Department in 2012 with a decade of experience working in youth development, both as a human/social service provider and as an educational trainer. She also has a wealth of experience facilitating interactive diversity workshops, as a peer educator and independent training consultant. Kristina is an advocate for under-served communities and is inspired by the opportunity to expand minds and support educators and youth workers, through playful professional development. Two fun facts about Kristina are that as a youth her sport of choice in PE was badminton, and she admits that anytime someone mentions the word "icebreaker", she lights up a little inside.

Pro Regions

Please click the map above to find the appropriate Account Manager for your school/organization.

Meet Our Sales Team
David Badillo
Account Manager

David began his professional career as a New York City Public Schools teacher in Queens, NY. After almost 3 years of teaching, he began to pursue business development and now brings over 8 years of sales and marketing experience to Playworks. David has always remained passionate about impacting students. Before coming on board to Playworks, David served the role as School Marketing Director and Center Director for the Sylvan Learning Franchise in New York City. One of his favorite childhood memories was playing a game of stoop ball in the streets of his hometown in Brooklyn. Above all, David loves spending time with his wife and playing games with their 4 children.

James Barenbaum
Account Manager

Jamie joins Playworks with 25 years of professional sales and management experience. Jamie earned his degree in Business Administration from Robert Morris University graduating Summa Cum Laude. Jamie is married to his wife Kelly, an elementary school reading specialist and has two children, Caitlin, a High School freshman and Carter, a fourth grader. He spends most of his time as a volunteer coach for travel softball, basketball and football. Jamie enjoys spending time with his family, playing softball and basketball, and watching Chicago sports. His favorite playground game is kickball.

Philip Dizon
Regional Partnership Director

Philip Dizon is excited to join Playworks. He has several years of experience in business development, sales, and strategic partner management. He has worked at successful start-ups to major corporations in the tech and finance industry in Hawaii and the Bay Area, such as Intel Security, Smith Barney, and Bank of Hawaii. One reason that the Playworks mission resonates with him is that he also has volunteered for over 15 years to teach and work with kids in his local community. He enjoys seeing the kids learning, playing, and having fun. In his spare time, Phil loves being with his wife and 2 kids vacationing to theme parks or exploring the off beaten paths in California.

Eugene Easter
Account Manager

After 15 years of professional experience in the IT sector, Gene read a copy of "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Richard Bolles. This book caused Gene to have an epiphany, and changed the course of his career forever. With a newly found fervor, and a new direction plotted for his life, Gene began a career in Education Sales. He has served in the roles of account executive, regional sales manager and regional sales director for such notable companies as Scholastic, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill Education. Gene is passionate about children having all the resources they need to get a quality education, including safe and healthy recess! He loves spending quality time at home with his wife, young adult children, and his Australian Miniature Labradoodle. His favorite game as a child: dodgeball, without a doubt!

Rachel Haig
Regional Partnership Director

Prior to joining Playworks, Rachel lived in and worked in Asia for eight years where she used play and sport to help children in disadvantaged communities. She has seen first-hand how the power of play can effect positive change in individuals, schools, and communities. With a diverse background in partnership development, non-profit management, and law, Rachel brings a unique mix of experience to her role as regional partnership director. Playing outside is Rachel’s passion and in her free time, you can usually find her kayaking, climbing, or tossing a frisbee around.

Tobie Halliburton
Account Manager

Tobie brings over 20+ years of inside/outside sales experience, relationship and consultative sales skills, and the ability to network with C-level executives, channel partners, and internal teams. Earning a degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona led her to pursue a Master of Science degree in Counseling from California State University Long Beach. Just shy of completing that degree she returned to Arizona, completed her K-12 teaching credentials, and taught middle school. Tobie is mom to two elementary children and is both a PTO member and board member of her son's gymnastics team. Her passion for children’s health and wellness fits well with the Playworks southern region. Tobie resides in Houston, TX and can be seen and heard on the soccer field sidelines cheering for her daughter or encouraging her son on the boys gymnastics team. She enjoys sailing, tennis, basketball, and walking her dog. Her favorite games are Red Rover Red Rover, Heads Up Seven Up and Duck Duck Goose.

Sheronda Helton
Regional Partnership Director

Sheronda comes to Playworks with over nine years of experience in education. She started her career as a Teach For America corps member teaching special education in South Los Angeles and Watts. She has experience with program management, partnership development, and program sales. A transplant from Detroit, Sheronda attended college at Grambling State University where she majored in Psychology and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles where she obtained her master’s degree in education.

Sheronda is an active member of Leadership for Educational Equality and The Collective, and volunteers with the youth and young adult ministries at church as well as with other community organizations. She also enjoys spending time with family and friends, trying new recipes, and exploring Los Angeles.

Melissa Kent
Regional Partnership Director

Melissa joined Playworks in the summer of 2014 as an account manager. She began her career as a special educator before transferring over to the supplemental education sector. Melissa most recently served as district manager for Sylvan Learning Center's Mid Atlantic Region. Melissa’s dedication to each student’s success and her understanding of the impact of individual experience on academic success motivate her to create and develop school and organizational partnerships so every child has an opportunity to play and grow every day! Melissa and her husband have a son, Carter, and two dogs, Zoe and Oscar. In her spare time she can be found in her garden, hiking with her dogs, playing with Carter, and routing for the Ravens and Orioles! Melissa’s favorite childhood games are hopscotch and soccer.

Laura Lamando
Regional Partnerships Director

Laura Lamando brings a lifetime of play along with a diverse portfolio of sales, marketing, account management, and teaching experience to Playworks. With a focus in sports marketing, retail, sales, and events, Laura relocated to Park City from New York to lead the licensing and merchandising team of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and has been hooked on the mountain lifestyle ever since. Laura started her career as an elementary school teacher and, with an itch for business, worked her way into computer education sales with Computech. She has also taught Brand and Retail Marketing for New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Laura enjoys skiing, hiking, CrossFit, team sports, photography, screenwriting, cooking, and hanging out with her dog, Max. She is also a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters Utah and gets much joy from the time spent with her little.

Kara Largent
Regional Partnership Director

Born and raised in Phoenix, Kara spent the first fifteen years of her career in public education, first as a teacher then Assistant Principal and finally Principal. She received her Bachelors in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University and her Masters in Education Administration & Supervision from Arizona State University. Kara first heard about Playworks as a news story on the radio driving in to school one day during her first year as a Principal. She was so excited about the program she called Playworks Arizona that same day for more information. Kara believed in the power of Playworks so much she spent two years working to bring the Playworks TeamUp Program to her school. She saw the benefits first hand with the change in her students and her staff. Her career focus has always been to make a difference for kids and the community—she is thrilled to now be able to do that with Playworks! In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors and trying new adventures with her husband and two kids.

Melanie Schneider
Regional Partnership Director

Melanie has over 18 years of account management and business development experience working in the corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors. She has a degree in Human Nutrition and has enjoyed various volunteering roles in schools. Melanie is thrilled to contribute to the Playworks mission as she is passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of children as well as those who care for and teach them. She firmly believes that children live and learn best when they’re having fun, engaging in physical activity (preferably outdoors), and empowered to develop healthy social and emotional skills. A recreational runner since high school, Melanie especially enjoys trail and beach running. In her free time, Melanie loves cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband and three children.

Meet Our Trainers
Neetu Agrawal
Pro Trainer

"Knee-2" Agrawal is a proud native of Maryland and graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park - GO TERPS! After graduating college, she spent a year providing experiential learning opportunities to students in Costa Rica and France. Wanting to empower students from her hometown to have the same experiences, Neetuserved a year of AmeriCorps in Baltimore City, mentoring adjudicated youth with The Choice Program. Wanting to provide that same transformative experience for others,Neetu joined Playworks Maryland in 2009 as their Program Associate, working alongside AmeriCorps members to serve the students and their community. Neetu moved to Chicago in October 2014 to join the Training Department as the Midwest National Trainer to bring the power of play to every kid across America. 

Jill Barry
Pro Trainer

Jill comes to the role of pro trainer for Playworks after eight years of working in education, including a year serving as a Playworks program coordinator in Boston, Massachusetts. Her experience facilitating learning with adults is varied, from creating original theater with military veterans in New York City to designing and implementing workshops with college students at the University of Rwanda. She is passionate about impacting the children of New England by working with educators to bring safe, healthy play back into learning! Jill holds a BA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MA in Applied Theatre from the City University of New York.

Bertina Denogean
Pro Trainer

Bertina "Coach B" Denogean came to Playworks as an AmeriCorps member in 2012. As an educator on the playground, Coach B thrived on the opportunity to make a positive and meaningful impact on the students and adults she served. In 2014, she was thrilled to join the local office team and pilot our current TeamUp model as one of the first site coordinators in Playworks history. Prior to becoming a national trainer, Coach B served as a program manager supporting the efforts to create more opportunities for safe and meaningful play to children throughout Southern California. Bertina is excited to further our vision that every child plays, bringing her passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for play through the delivery of our Playworks Pro services. A California native, Bertina enjoys frequent trips home to San Diego, golfing, cooking with friends, and attending a wide variety of sporting events.

Jo Doyle
Pro Trainer

Jo Doyle is thrilled to be back at Playworks as a national trainer after working as a manager and director of youth programs with a couple of nonprofits in San Francisco since 2008. Jo's passion for youth development continues to grow as does her love of facilitating programs, delivering presentations, and public speaking. She is proud of her work with community based organizations that serve disadvantaged youth and positively impact the children of San Francisco and the Bay Area. She continues to be inspired and driven by the adult learners she meets and works with.

Jo truly believes in teaching life lessons through sports and play. Her love for travel, her ability to connect with adult learners, and her ongoing efforts to make a positive difference in a youth's life make her an outstanding trainer. When she's not leading an awesome Playworks workshop, Jo loves to snowboard, eat pizza at her home in New York, and experience new cultures and new people in her travels around the world. Play on!

Rhett Etherton
Pro Trainer

Rhett Etherton is a national trainer based out of the Playworks Arizona office. Rhett first experienced Playworks Arizona as a classroom teacher. After witnessing the positive impact the program had on his students, he decided to join the Playworks team. After coaching for 4 years in both Arizona and Colorado, he became site coordinator and empowered staff at four different Arizona schools to implement safe and healthy play at recess. He became a national trainer in 2016. Rhett holds a BA in multilingual multicultural elementary education and is a certified trainer of the Nurtured Heart Approach—an approach that builds authentic relationships with youth while increasing their self-esteem. He is originally from Grand Island, Nebraska and enjoys yoga during his free time.

Colby Gordon
Pro Trainer

Colby is a native son of the great city of Oakland, and he joined the Playworks team in 2008 as an AmeriCorps program coordinator (coach) at Verde Elementary School in Richmond, California. He spent two school years as a coach at Verde bringing safe, meaningful play to the students and community. In the summer of 2010, Colby was chosen to be part of the Playworks expansion effort. He relocated to Philadelphia with the new title of program manager to help establish a Playworks footprint in the area. His love of the Bay Area brought Colby back to San Francisco in the summer of 2011, where he served for five consecutive school years as a program manager. In his time as a program manager in San Francisco, Colby was focused primarily on mentoring and supporting Playworks coaches, but he also had an opportunity to deliver Playworks' professional development trainings to teacher groups, after-school staff, and volunteers. In September of 2016, Colby took his training experience to the next level and became a full-time Playworks Pro trainer. He is excited to bring the Playworks mission, philosophies, and strategies to educator groups across the greater Bay Area and beyond! When he is not playing awesome games with Playworks clients, Colby can be found playing in pick-up soccer games, hiking trails in the Oakland hills, or spending time with his family.

Sean Keelan
Master Trainer

Sean Keelan began with Playworks in 2011 as a mid-year hire program coordinator in Baltimore; in 2012 he served as a Program Manager in Baltimore, and is now the Trainer for the Greater Baltimore Region.  Sean is thrilled to bring his commitment to Youth Development, love for the game, and knowledge of Playworks to everyone he meets.  Throughout his eight years in the field of Youth Development Sean has developed a love for collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas.

Rachel Miller
Pro Trainer

Rachel is a national trainer based out of the Playworks Pennsylvania office. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in international politics from Penn State, she worked in corporate law in Washington, DC and then moved to California to serve as an AmeriCorps member. Now, Rachel is grateful for the opportunity to be back in her home state to bring the power of play to every child and adult. With years of experience working and volunteering in community and youth organizations, Rachel is excited to serve communities across the Mid-Atlantic as play becomes a principal foundation for learning and growth in kids and adults alike. She is passionate about equipping educators and community members as positive role models in order to support every child through play. Rachel’s favorite things include volunteering, traveling, working with kids, being outdoors, and running.

Maya Posey
Pro Trainer

Maya Posey is a real live Southern Belle from Birmingham, Alabama. Shortly after graduating from The University of Alabama and moving to New York in 2014, she began her adventure with Playworks as an AmeriCorps program coordinator (coach) for New York/New Jersey. During her two years as a coach she brought safe and healthy play to students in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Newark, NJ. Maya is thrilled to be joining the impact team as an associate trainer for New York/New Jersey, and grateful to be equipping other adults to spread the power of play. Prior to Playworks she spent majority of her efforts with youth development in the academic realm implementing college readiness programs. Fun facts: Maya has a degree in Criminal Justice and Theatre and she loves the Alabama Crimson Tide football team (Roll Tide!).

Michael Tran
Master Trainer

Michael Tran got introduced to Playworks back in 2008 as a Flex Coordinator. He continued as a full time Program Coordinator at an East San Jose school from 2008-2010 and recently served as a Program Manager. Throughout his time with Playworks he has developed a great passion for play and what it can do to bring people together, as well as a pretty mean pirate accent. He is looking forward to sharing this passion for play and all that he has learned with everyone who is as passionate about bringing play into their lives. When he is not playing, he loves to do his other passion which is belting out songs as he sings along on the radio in the privacy of his car.

Jake Via
Pro Trainer

Growing up as a summer camp staffer, Jake Via has always been a passionate advocate of playing games to teach lessons and growth. Over the last 18 years, Jake applied that passion to training youth and adults of all ages by promoting the potential of play to build self confidence, teamwork, community, and joy. He has worked all over the country as a program director with summer camps, YMCA’s, school districts, and Grand Canyon National Park. When Jake isn’t playing for work, he is playing for fun with his wife and their dogs somewhere in the beautiful Wasatch Range. He was beyond thrilled to join the Playworks team in 2016 as a national trainer and to continue to share his enthusiasm for the transformative power of play in schools across the country. Jake enjoys asking “Why?”, is an avid explorer, is still amazed by magic, and loves to find comfort in the uncomfortable.