Meet the Board


    Co-President - Anna Cassalia, Williamson County Schools, ​[email protected]:  Anna Cassalia is a gifted   educator and author dedicated to ensuring learning opportunities for all students to reach their highest potential. For   the past 20 years, she has honed her craft in gifted education, writing curriculum, and presenting her work at both   state and national conferences. Anna has authored multiple articles published in journals such as Gifted Child   Quarterly, Teaching for High Potential, Creative Learning Today, and Tapestry of Knowledge.  Working with Emily   Hollett, she has authored numerous units written for gifted learners, one of which was awarded the Curriculum Award   from the Tennessee Association for the Gifted ("Views from the Zoo", 2021). Most recently, Anna and Emily have   published a five-book series of Integrated Lessons in Higher Order Thinking Skills (Routledge, 2022), targeting gifted   learners in the upper elementary grades. Anna is passionate about advancing excellent curriculum and services for   all gifted students.



Co-President - Emily Hollett, Williamson County Schools, ​[email protected]:  Emily Hollett is an award-winning gifted educator who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She has taught all elementary grades throughout her career and has been in gifted education since 2014. Working with Anna Cassalia, she has authored numerous units written for gifted learners, one of which was awarded a Curriculum Award from the Tennessee Association for the Gifted ("Views from the Zoo", 2021). Most recently, Emily and Anna have published a five-book series of Integrated Lessons in Higher Order Thinking Skills (Routledge, 2022), targeting gifted learners in the upper elementary grades. Emily and her husband are also the parents of gifted children, and Emily is passionate about advancing access to excellent curriculum and services for all gifted learners.



Past President:  LeAnn Simmerman[email protected]  LeAnn is honored to serve as a Teacher of the Gifted in Maury County Public Schools.  For the past 12 years, she has worked with gifted and twice exceptional students in all grade levels.  After graduating from East Tennessee State University with degrees in Special Education and History, she began her career as an elementary Resource Teacher in Johnson City Schools.  LeAnn previously served on the Students with Disabilities and Gifted Students Sub-committee for funding review and TN Board of Education Gifted Focus Group.  She earned an appointment to the national Discovery Education Network Leadership Council and is recognized as a LEGO Master Educator. LeAnn and her family live in Middle Tennessee but hold strong ties and consider “home” to be East Tennessee.





Co- President Elect - Ashley Biggs  Ashley Biggs  is passionate about providing high quality academic content for all students and  eliminating barriers to identifying gifted students from historically underrepresented groups in gifted education.  In her free time, she enjoys writing an d creating educational materials to challenge and engage students.  She enjoys coming up with new tasks and materials that will make her students smile, and creating rubrics to help students evaluate their own growth as creative and critical thinkers.  These hobbies began while Ashley attended Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College (M. Ed., 2016).  She completed her Master’s Capstone on gender equity in advanced STEM education.  Ashley has hosted numerous trainings supporting fellow district and school staff members in establishing fair screening and assessment practices for identifying gifted children.  She advocates to establish equitable, data-based strategies for finding and identifying historically underrepresented populations of gifted children (particularly students identifying as members of underrepresented minority groups, students with coexisting disabilities or impairments, and students from low-income backgrounds).  Ashley is honored to be a gifted educator in Tennessee and a member of the TAG Board, with the support of a community of expert educators who share a passion for advocating to maximize services and secure appropriate funding for gifted programming across the state.

Vice President, West- Judy Paine  Judy Paine is thrilled to serve as the Vice President West of the Tennessee Association for the Gifted. Paine has spent her entire educational career working with gifted students in Memphis-Shelby County Schools. She prides herself on providing high quality learning opportunities for her students to not only challenge them but help them reach new learning heights. In addition to working with her own students, Paine serves as a CLUE Teacher Mentor with MSCS. As a Teacher Mentor, Paine assists in IEP compliance and curriculum development and guides other teachers through the processes to help them in creating high quality opportunities for all students within the district. Paine looks forward to working alongside the TAG Board of Directors to drive opportunities for gifted learners across the state.


Co-Secretary-Stephanie Higgs, Williamson County Schools, [email protected]:  Stephanie Higgs is a passionate, energetic, and engaging educator whose colleagues describe as radiating contagious joy. She has devoted her entire professional life to education, teaching in two of Tennessee’s three grand divisions. Stephanie earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she then taught for six years at a museum magnet school and helped students achieve up to three years’ growth in reading in a single year.  After relocating to Middle Tennessee, Stephanie became a fourth-grade teacher, which had been her dream since she was a fourth grader herself! In 2019, Stephanie became a gifted educator and differentiation coach for Williamson County Schools, where the staff quickly named her their Teacher of the Year before being named a region-level semi-finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Soon after, Stephanie was honored with the TAG (Tennessee Association for the Gifted) Horizon Award, which is given to a gifted educator demonstrating promise and leadership in the field. Later, Stephanie was named the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) Teacher of the Year. Stephanie recently graduated with an additional graduate degree from Tennessee State University in Instructional Leadership.  Stephanie knows that learning is not bound by the front and back of a textbook or the four walls of the classroom, so she offers engaging, enriching units filled with hands-on opportunities and community outreach to her students daily. Her primary focus is maximum impact on student achievement. Stephanie has presented professional development at the school, district, state, national, and world conference levels. Her dynamic approach to empowering educators, with a focus on solutions to daily classroom obstacles, has helped her reach many teachers who impact countless lives. Stephanie currently divides her time between daily gifted instruction and coaching teachers to enrich and extend learning to meet the needs of their diverse learners. Her fellow Crockett teachers know that Stephanie thinks she has the best job in the building!

Co-Secretary-Lisa Onusaitis Franklin Special School District [email protected]Lisa Onusaitis is thrilled to be a Co-Secretary for the Tennessee Association for the Gifted. She has spent much of her educational career working with high achievers and gifted students in Illinois and Tennessee Schools. She finds fulfillment in delivering critical thinking activities for her 5th -8th graders in Franklin, Tennessee at Poplar Grove Middle School. Lisa earned a Master's degree in Education with certification specialty in Gifted K-12. She has two gifted children of her own which has brought her into the realm of gifted education.  Lisa is both a parent and educator to the Gifted, bringing a unique perspective.  In addition to working with her own students, she has served as the Beta Club sponsor for 5 years at her current middle school. In Illinois, Lisa has written curriculum at the elementary level and was a mentor teacher to many staff. She has also been a supervisor to four student teachers over her 25 years of teaching.  Lisa looks forward to working alongside the TAG Board of Directors to help implement change across the state.



Dr.Heather Knox, Murfreesboro City Schools[email protected] Dr. Heather Knox is the Lead Gifted Specialist for Murfreesboro City Schools.  She has been in education for 10 years and has been teaching gifted students for over 7 years either in the role of Gifted
 Specialist or as a Gifted Cluster Teacher.  In her current position, Dr. Knox works in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University where she serves as the lead educator in the MTSU-MCS Gifted Academy that provides teachers with the Tennessee Gifted Employment Standard.  She also provides coaching and professional development to teachers on providing effective gifted instruction both in Murfreesboro City Schools and in other Middle Tennessee professional development opportunities . Dr. Knox’s work has been published in Tennessee Association of Middle School Journal and Gifted Child Today, where she currently serves as a peer editor.  In 2018, Dr. Knox won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and won the Murfreesboro Education Association New Teacher of the Year in 2016.  

Outside of her professional career, Dr. Knox also serves on the board of Stones River Manor, a non-profit Senior Living Community, and as Treasurer of the Darren Welker Servant Heart Fun, a non-profit organization facilitating mission, benevolent, and service opportunities.

Parent Liaison - Alli Finney, [email protected] :  Alli Finney is a former first grade teacher with a long-time passion for gifted education. When her son was born, she began the full-time job of finding creative outlets suitable for his busy mind. In 2012, Alli joined and later became President of Williamson County Gifted Support (WillCoGS) with a mission of supporting, educating, and empowering gifted students and their families. Working as TAG’s Parent Liaison has been a rewarding natural extension of that local work. Along with her husband and son, Alli enjoys traveling and learning about different places, people, and cultures.
Advocacy- Sarah Simonovich, Sarah Simonovich has been an educator in public schools for 20 years. Her career began in rural Georgia as a high school English teacher. Sarah earned her credentials in Gifted education along with a master’s degree in Secondary Education in 2009 and has worked with Gifted students ever since. Sarah is a Williamson County Schools graduate herself, and she returned to WCS as a teacher in 2012; in 2021, she stepped into the role of Student Support Services Specialist and supports the areas of Gifted and Twice-Exceptional. Sarah is passionate about helping all students learn and about holding the professionalism of teachers in the highest regard. She is looking forward to joining the TAG board and advocating for Gifted education at the state level.