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 7th year, she and her team have worked with over 6,500 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 9 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.
Chrissy Collins
Instructor
Chrissy has been working in Early Intervention for twenty 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 two greatest teachers have been her spouse and two children. 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.
Steve DeCollibus
Instructor
Steve has spent the last five years facilitating the Prison Mindfulness Institute’s, Path of Freedom curriculum at the ACI. After watching David Row’s TED Talk, “Lessons from Death Row” Steve realized that while the prison work he does is of benefit to the men he works with, many of them would not be in prison had they been exposed to mindfulness strategies earlier in their lives. Mr. Rows talk solidifies his desire to bring mindfulness and resiliency to kids. He has been a quahoger, high school teacher and advertising executive, for the last twenty years he had been Director of Marketing and Communications for a global electronics manufacturing firm. His mindfulness practice developed during his many business trips to Asia specifically; China, Japan and Singapore. His daughter Marisa, a student and ResilientKids instructor introduced Steve to the program and Vanessa, the rest as they say is history.
Holly Loew
Instructor
Holly Loew loves teaching with Center for Resilience because she is able to help kids develop coping strategies that will help them to deal with the stresses and challenges of every day life. Holly has worked as a therapist with children of all ages in various school settings. She has a master’s degree in social work, and specialized in working with children with social, emotional and behavioral challenges. Holly is drawn to the fun nature of working with children and is inspired by their resilience. Holly finds ways to apply her mindfulness to her own life, including running on a daily basis and also practicing yoga when she can. Holly has completed the Mindful Life Schools Training Program.
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.
Robin Shapiro
Instructor
As a school guidance counselor in Richmond, Virginia, Robin enjoyed helping children build their confidence and self-esteem in her daily work. Giving children coping strategies and behavior management tools was a key aspect of her job and this is what initially drew her to ResilientKids after relocating with her family to Rhode Island in 2012. ResilientKids encompasses what Robin had been teaching her students in Va. with the addition of a new set of tools: yoga and mindfulness. Robin is inspired by how basic yoga techniques and mindfulness helps to diffuse and prevent unproductive situations as well as enhance the positive, healthy ones. Watching the successful collaboration between the students and the teachers has been an added bonus. Robin enjoys her weekly yoga practice and seeing the benefits of her own mindfulness work. She has completed the Mindful Schools Training course and is thrilled to be a part of the Center for Resilience Instructor team.