Gesell Staff

Peg Oliveira, PhD

Executive Director

Dr. Peg Oliveira is a child development expert and an activist. Since receiving her doctorate in developmental psychology from Brandeis University, Dr. Oliveira has advocated for fair pay for early childhood educators, child care assistance for working parents and equitable access to high quality education.

Peg is a member the Board of Directors of the Calvin Hill Day Care Center, and serves as the President of the Board of Directors of 108 Monkeys, a yoga service organization. Peg serves as a Consulting Editor for the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Click here to view Peg's CV

What have you enjoyed most about working at Gesell?

“Growing! I have learned so much from my colleagues here at Gesell. In my time here I have learned a great deal about how to connect with kids, how to imagine their intentions, understand their motivations, and empathize with their impeccable choices.”

How have you seen Gesell’s theory of child development at work in your own life?

“When my daughter Willow was finishing Kindergarten we were told that, unlike her peers, she was not falling in love with reading. It was suggested that some encouragement might be useful over the summer break. So, as a family we went swimming, crab catching, sea shell gathering, mountain climbing and camping. At some point during these excursions, I found her one rainy afternoon holed up in a blanket fort. She was reading The Trumpet of the Swan, a book I had read to her numerous times before. Dr. Arnold Gesell encouraged us to see each child as a unique being, and to allow them to find their own path & pace through the rituals of child development. Keeping this in mind allowed me to get out of the way, to put my own anxieties on the shelf and allow my daughter the space to find the deep connection she now has with story.”

Erin Akers, MEd

Director of Education and Development

Since beginning work with Gesell in 2010 as a National Lecture Staff member, Erin Akers has been an integral part of Gesell’s leadership team. Erin’s ability to fully utilize her first-hand experiences in roles such as classroom teaching, school administration, professional development, and a parent of four brings immeasurable value to Gesell as an organization. Being a career educator, Erin also works tirelessly to engage everyone around her in meaningful learning that progresses toward a better learning environment for all young children. From developing teaching tools to motivating her trainees and beyond; Erin builds a foundation for the institute to grow stronger each day, just as she has done for so many children throughout her career.

Click here to view Erin's CV

How have you seen Gesell’s Theory of Child Development at work in your own life?

“I had already completed my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree as well as taught Kindergarten for a few years before taking my first Gesell training. The training changed everything about the way I saw my students and my own children! It made me a better teacher and parent in so many ways! The youngest of my four sons is now 9 years old, so I have seen the Gesell developmental stages play out four times over now! The greatest impact was viewing each child as an individual regardless of their chronological age, and being able to truly see the developmental growth unfold uniquely in each one.”

What have you enjoyed most about working at Gesell?

“Our work is so rewarding! I am able to directly impact children and those who care for them on a daily basis, what more could I ask for! On top of that, I also get to work together with several amazingly dedicated professionals who have the same passions I do for education and child development.”

Kids say the funniest things! What's one of the funniest things a child in your life has said to you?

“Teaching young children and raising your own kids allows for so many of these stories! One of my favorites went something like this; “Honey let’s switch your shoes, they’re on the wrong feet.” (child looks down at their feet) “Mrs. Akers, stop kidding me, I know these are my feet!””

Anju Mathew, MBA

Office Manager

Anju is responsible for scheduling, billing, and quality assurance systems, working with educators and parents as well as staff to ensure smooth and accurate operations of The Gesell Institute. In addition to all of this, Anju is the world’s connection to the office, answering phones and email, maintaining our website and troubleshooting when needed. Anju is immensely capable, has an inordinate amount of common sense, and is an extremely kind person.

In addition to working for The Gesell Institute, Anju completed her MBA at Quinnipiac University. She participates in MBA organizations and volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician. Sometimes her cat comes to the office, too.

Who was your favorite teacher as a kid and why?

“I’d have to say second grade teacher Ms. Heller! She was absolutely the sweetest person ever! She would put homemade trophies and ‘Great job!’ certificates in my book-bag so I would see them at the end of the day.”

What was your favorite subject in school and why? 

“Science, specifically astronomy! I think I consider it my favorite subject because there's so much uncertainty with space, not to mention learning about the "unknown" and discovering anything new outside of Earth is just so fascinating. Our teachers also did a lot of fun activities so all of us could learn something new by interacting with the subject first-hand.”


Helena Ellis Sweet

Professional Development Specialist

Kiki Ammons, MEd

National Lecture Staff - Florida
Bailey Bunch

National Lecture Staff - California
Sally Coleman Keller, MAT

National Lecture Staff - Michigan
Cecilia Locke, MAC, LPC

National Lecture Staff - Texas
Cheryl Wolfe

National Lecture Staff - North Carolina