Our Staff 2017-01-27T14:16:16+00:00

Our Staff

Vanessa Weiner
Executive Director

With a practice that started in adolescence, Vanessa Weiner is passionate about sharing mindfulness with people of all ages. She founded the organization in 2012 initially to serve our next generation. Now in its 8th year, she and her team have worked with over 7,000 students in a unique school-based social and emotional learning program, the first of its kind in RI. Evolving to best serve the needs of the community, Vanessa and her team expanded the mission of the organization in 2015 to bring these trainings and practice opportunities to an increasing number of adults in the workplace and community groups - facilitating classes so that people of all ages can become more empowered, resilient and self-aware. Vanessa authored a chapter in the recently published book, “Teaching Mindfulness Skills to Kids and Teens”, and is a contributing author for “Best Practices for Yoga in Schools”. She has presented locally at the Rhode Island Business Group on Health Wellness Breakfast, Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance conference, Rhode Island Occupational Therapists Association conference, the Social Enterprise Ecosystem for Economic Development Summit, and is a regular guest lecturer at Brown and Rhode Island College. Nationally, she has spoken at the National Kids Yoga Conference and the Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference. She can also be found creating in the kitchen or hanging out with her greatest teachers, her husband and two children. Vanessa is grateful to be able to facilitate instruction through a wide variety of techniques with different groups of kids and adults every day, and continues to be amazed at just how transformational these practices can be.

Shannon Smith
School Integration Specialist

Shannon is a native Nebraskan who grew up with a daily reminder to stop and notice the little things, and to treat others the way you want to be treated. When Shannon started her own yoga and mindfulness practice 10 years ago, she quickly realized that they enhance and reinforce her personal beliefs about how we look at the world, how we treat others, or how we approach new situations. Passionate about teaching mindfulness, she is energized, motivated, and inspired by her students. There is nothing like teaching a child how to be in charge of their own feelings, how to be less reactive, and how to foster mindful behaviors and actions! Shannon has 17 years of classroom teaching experience; a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. As the School Integration Specialist, Shannon gets to work closely with the Resilient Kids instructors, with the schools, and the students. Shannon looks at life as a learning opportunity and is always eager to expand her knowledge and understanding. She has completed a variety of workshops and trainings on mindfulness and contemplative teaching and learning (Mindful Schools, Little Flower Yoga, Still Quiet Place, Creative Relaxation). Each of these opportunities has helped Shannon develop into the person she is today.

Jodi Castallo
Training Implementation Specialist
Jodi Castallo is passionately committed to helping others learn, grow, and change through the simple power of paying attention in the present moment. Jodi has been exploring this easy but not-so-simple concept, for over 17 years through the practice of yoga and mindfulness. She is a graduate of the Yoga Life Institute’s 200-hour Classical Yoga Teacher Training, is certified through the Yoga Alliance, trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, completed Massachusetts General Hospital’s “Stress and the Relaxation Response: The Fundamentals of Mind Body Medicine” course, and has attended many other workshops and retreats. These opportunities have afforded her the unique ability to customize practices that work for her and a more intuitive sense of how to share them with others. Through her role at Center for Resilience, Jodi feels honored to be working with both the students at school as well as the adults through training programs. This gives her a unique lens on what is needed in the workplace though not necessarily being taught in the schools. Jodi has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from Bucknell University and a Master’s of Science degree in Environmental Science from Antioch New England Graduate School. Before coming to work with Center for Resilience, she spent 18 years collaborating with, educating and helping communities in both Maine and Rhode Island with land-use planning issues.
Kerry Berthelot
Instructor

Kerry brings 13 years of classroom experience working as an elementary teacher and is inspired to do this work to equip her students with a set of basic life skills that will help them focus better, manage stress, self regulate, and increase their compassion and empathy toward others. With this skill set in place to handle the ever-increasing pressure and demands being put on them academically, socially, and in their extra curricular activities, she is certain mindfulness and increased resilience will continue to positively influence their well-being throughout life.

Kerry received a BA in Elementary Education from Plymouth State University, with a minor in health. She holds a current, RI teaching certificate, and was awarded the Sallie Mae First Year Teacher award. As a lifelong learner herself, she continues to grow and develop her own mindfulness practice. Most recently she completed the Deep Play for Kids (LLC) Foundations teacher training.

Outside of the classroom, Kerry loves to spend time with her husband, Rich and their two boys, Luke and Cooper. She also recently became a certified Pet Partners (LLC) therapy team with her rescue dog, Finley. She enjoys spending time outside exploring and is passionate about photography.

Chrissy Collins
Instructor

Chrissy has been working in Early Intervention for 25 years. Beginning her human service career at Bradley Hospital, Chrissy worked with special needs children as a Milieu Therapist. She earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Rhode Island College. Chrissy then began helping families and finds it rewarding to offer nonjudgmental support for parents to better understand their children. She says her greatest teachers have been her spouse and two children. Chrissy has had her own yoga and mindfulness practice for 13 years; and in 2016, she completed the Little Flower Yoga Teacher Training.  Chrissy’s philosophy is that happy and confident parents have the strongest influence on raising well-adjusted children. She says confidence is the key to parenting and her goal is to provide concrete solutions to common parenting problems.   

Sarah Dwyer
Instructor

Driven by the quote “be who you needed when you were younger,” Sarah Dwyer has taught yoga and mindfulness to kids and teens through the YWCA, YMCA, after-school programs, and nannying. She studied at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where she received a 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification and Kripalu Yoga in Schools teaching certification. Sarah has additional certifications in Deep Play for Kids, LLC, Zumba Fitness, and Zumbini. As a dancer, Sarah came to her own mindfulness practice through movement - using music and dance as a form of moving meditation and then developing a regular yoga practice while obtaining her BFA in writing at Emerson College. As a result, Sarah loves to incorporate movement and music as she teaches mindfulness to all ages. Sarah strives to empower adolescents to connect to their own body, mind and spirit, and to create an intention each student can bring with them out into the world.

Autumn Francesca
Instructor

Autumn has been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years.  She has studied Iyengar, Hatha and Yin yoga styles, as well as Qi Gong.  Autumn obtained her Master of Arts in Education from Antioch University Seattle in 2005, with the topic of her thesis being:  "Facilitating a conscious breathing practice in the classroom to improve concentration, focus and well-being." As an active member of Nonviolent Schools RI, Autumn mentors students and educators in the practice of mindfulness, nonviolence, and conflict reconciliation.  She has a Level 2 Kingian Nonviolence Trainer certification from URI and a Mediator certificate from the Center for Mediation and Collaboration RI.  Autumn promotes the power of setting intentions for well-being at festivals and other community events with her project Intention Peace.  She also tutors math and plays drums with various musical artists in RI.  Prior to living in RI, Autumn worked for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington as a Program Manager and Technical Support Trainer.  She was born in New York City and has an undergraduate degree from New York University.

Valerie Nunes-Danca
Office Admin & Training Support
Massachusetts native Valerie has been working with youth since she started babysitting at age twelve. Her work with youth has continued throughout high school and college, with jobs in childcare, camp, and instructing dance. In 2016, Val graduated from Rhode Island College with a B.A. in Youth Development and a concentration in psychology and communications. She especially enjoyed the opportunities she had to work with individual students during some of her courses, helping them to feel success in their work. Valerie also instructs barre classes for adults, teaches dance classes to children ages 18 months-18 years, and nannies for various families in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Sophie Sandweiss
Program & Admin Support
Sophie is an undergraduate at Brown University studying Cognitive Neuroscience. She worked with the creation of peer mentoring programs in high schools in order to increase mindfulness and social and emotional for stress management and life balance. She is passionate about increasing neuroscience research and implementation of whole child education, and hopes to help make mindfulness resources more accessible for adolescents and adults.