Honoring Pioneers in Improving Early Language Development

By LENA Team

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Terry Paul “Making a Difference” awards. These awards are given at our biennial conference, to recognize outstanding contributions to fostering talk with children birth-3 – the critical age for stimulating brain development through interactive talk.

In keeping with the “Paths to Opportunity” theme of the 2017 conference, this year’s recipients represent organizations addressing three different large-scale avenues for improving school readiness – parent group programs, home visitation, and early childhood education.


The School Readiness Team from Huntsville, Ala., City Schools. The Huntsville school district adopted the LENA Start® parent-group program in 2015, to help parents better prepare their kids for the district’s pre-school program. They were one of the first to recognize that a school district’s mission to educate all students must include a vision of birth to three. Parents have benefited from practical strategies for increasing early talk, social capital resulting from group sessions, and the enthusiasm and energy brought to every session by the Huntsville team. They’ve consistently demonstrated the largest impacts when it comes to improvements in home language environments and child outcomes. They’re starting to see their hard work pay off as the first Huntsville LENA Start babies begin entering pre-K this fall.


Jennifer Calderon, Recruitment Specialist with Providence Talks, Providence, R.I. Since 2014, the city of Providence has used LENA technology to provide feedback and coaching on early talk to parents through the city’s providers of social services. Jennifer completed Providence Talks as a parent when it first began, now serves as a Recruitment Specialist connecting with and encouraging other parents to sign up for the program, and has begun coaching families through home visits. The LENA Home™ solution is based on learnings from Providence Talks.


Vicki Nall Pugh, Program Improvement Director of Early Learning Coalition, Escambia County, Fla. Vicki’s work with the “Grow with Me” initiative is making a difference in children’s lives by lifting up early childhood educators in childcare centers all over the country. She’s supported by an incredible team of coaches, center directors, and educators in Pensacola, but the initiative would not exist without her vision and passion. “Grow with Me” uses the LENA Grow™ solution with childcare teachers, combining feedback from LENA technology with coaching on increasing interactive talk in the classroom to bolster infants’ and toddlers’ language skills. Vicki was unable to travel to Beaver Creek to receive the award in person due to Hurricane Irma, but was honored at the ceremony by her colleagues and friends.


“These three award recipients, with their different approaches to increasing early talk, are great representatives of the theme of our conference, ‘Paths to Opportunity,’” noted Dr. Stephen Hannon, president of the LENA. “While everyone agrees early talk is the essential ingredient to build brighter futures for kids, no one approach meets all needs. You have to reach the adult caregivers where it will do the most good, one adult and one child at a time. These wonderful people and their organizations have done that, and they richly deserve recognition and thanks.”

The Making a Difference awards are dedicated to the memory of Terrance Paul, co-founder of the LENA. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of LENA technology, the leading technology for measuring and providing feedback on early talk between adults and children ages birth-3.

LENA Team

The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers and linguists.

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