Introduction  .
Patricia Phelan, Ph.D.  .
Ann Locke Davidson, Ph.D.  .
Nancy Altenburg, RN, BSN, CSN  .
Kristin Kajer-Cline, M.A.  .
Jennifer Pruyn Heckman, PhD, MACP  .


Drs. Phelan and Davidson opened their firm, Educational Connections in 2000 in Portland, Oregon. Together they bring a wealth of experience to their roles as educational consultants. Their backgrounds include therapeutic work with children, adolescents and families, research on at-risk youth and mental health issues of children and adolescents, program assessment and evaluation, curriculum development, teaching, and teacher education.

Particularly relevant and important to their work as educational consultants, Drs. Phelan and Davidson endeavor to keep up-to-date on the latest research related to learning differences, mental health issues, and chemical dependency, as well as research concerned with “best practices” in the fields of education and treatment.

Drs. Phelan and Davidson regularly give presentations to schools, community organizations, mental health clinics, and therapeutic and psychiatric facilities as well as to professional organizations throughout the country.

Patricia Phelan, Ph.D.

Dr. Phelan brings a twenty-seven year history of professional experience with children, youth, and families to her current role as an educational consultant. Her professional background includes work as a therapist with at-risk youth and their families, a group facilitator with adolescents experiencing trauma, drug and alcohol issues and grief and loss, a professor researching and teaching in the areas of mental health and at-risk youth, and a member of the Stanford Evaluation Consortium focusing on the design and evaluation of specialty programs for adolescents.

Born in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Phelan attended Portland Public Schools and earned her B.S. Degree in Education at Oregon State University. In 1973, she joined the Urban/Rural School Development Program at Stanford University where she consulted with and provided assistance to programs and schools serving low-income, ethnically diverse children and families throughout the United States. Subsequently she obtained her Masters Degree in Anthropology (1978) and her Ph.D. in Anthropology of Education (1981) at Stanford University. Dr. Phelan's dissertation involved research in one of the first programs in the country to work with incest victims and their families. In addition to her research agenda, she worked as a therapist for nearly six years with women incest survivors, adolescent victims and father incest perpetrators and their wives.

Dr. Phelan's interests in education and mental health led to her appointment as a faculty member in the Medical Anthropology Program at the University of California, San Francisco (1982-1988) where her research continued to focus on mental health issues of children and adolescents. She also held an appointment as an adjunct faculty member at Stanford University. From 1989-1992, as a Senior Research Scholar in the School of Education, Stanford University, she continued her research on the relationship between adolescent's lives and contexts and their involvement in school. During this time she spent hundreds of hours in high schools in California to understand, from the perspective of youth, those things that impact students' connection with schools and learning as well as the kinds of pressures and problems that youth face. This work resulted in the publication of numerous articles, books chapters and two books co-authored with Dr. Ann Davidson, Renegotiating Cultural Diversity in American Schools and Adolescents' Worlds: Negotiating Family, Peers, and School.

In 1992, Dr. Phelan joined the faculty as a Professor at the University of Washington where she helped to develop a Masters Degree Program for teachers and designed an academic concentration on at-risk children and youth. Her teaching included such courses as Psychosocial Problems of Youth, Seeing Promise in At-Risk Youth, and Social Contexts of Youth. For three years Dr. Phelan’s research was supported by a Spencer Foundation Grant to study programs, policies, and practices that support students’ social, emotional, and academic well-being. During this time she was also awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and was one of six invited senior teaching and research scholars from the United States to Australia where she served on the faculty at the University of Launceston, Tasmania. During her ten years at the University of Washington, Dr. Phelan continued her involvement in schools as a teaching assistant in a fifth grade classroom, a reading group facilitator in a sixth grade classroom, a member of the Nathan Hale Teen Health Clinic Advisory Board, and as a facilitator for grief and loss groups and drug and alcohol groups for high school students.

Dr. Phelan is an active member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, regularly attends meetings of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. She is the mother of a 22 year old son.

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Ann Locke Davidson, Ph.D.

Ann Locke Davidson completed her Ph.D. in Education and M.S. in Anthropology at Stanford University in 1992. While at Stanford she was a member of the Stanford Evaluation Consortium specializing in the assessment of programs for at-risk youth. Her interests and experience, spanning a period of 20 years, include work as a research scholar concerned with programs and environments that address the social, emotional and academic needs of struggling youth, program design and evaluation, teaching at-risk adolescents and adults, and teacher development and training. Dr. Davidson’s work over the last 20 years has involved literally hundreds of hours interacting directly with at-risk adolescent and adult learners as well as direct involvement with school and program environments designed to affect these populations. Building on this background and experience, Dr. Davidson founded Educational Connections with Patricia Phelan in 2000.

Dr. Davidson is the author of four books and numerous articles and book chapters. Her books Making and Molding Identity in Schools, Adolescents’ Worlds (with Dr. Patricia Phelan) and Renegotiating Cultural Diversity in American Schools (with Dr. Patricia Phelan) result from her work as a Senior Research Scholar at the University of Washington and Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University. Her research, supported by two major Spencer Foundation grants, focused specifically on psychosocial and environmental pressures and problems that impact students’ ability to engage optimally in educational environments. She also worked to identify school and classroom characteristics that exacerbate or ameliorate the problems that youth face, and worked directly in schools and within communities to understand how innovative programs designed to address students’ emotional, social and mental health issues affect their school involvement and success. As part of this work, she trained graduate students to conduct specialized interviews with youth about sensitive areas of their lives. In addition, she participated in a year long, large-scale evaluation of a community based program for at-risk high school youth, many of whom were involved with the juvenile justice system.

In addition to her role as a researcher, Dr. Davidson participated in numerous program design and evaluation efforts while on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and as a senior member of a Harvard University research team. With the Harvard team, she helped develop portfolio assessment practices for at-risk students. The emphasis of this project was on creating classroom practices that engage students who traditionally do not perform well on standardized tests. At the University of Pittsburgh, she helped develop and evaluate an innovative science curriculum designed to respond specifically to middle school children's developmental needs. In addition, she was a lead member of a National Science Foundation study of Internet environments and their impact on public school students’ academic and social experiences. The results of this study culminated in her fourth book, Bringing the Internet to School: Lessons from an Urban District.

Dr. Davidson also has a wealth of experience as a teacher. She began her career in education teaching English to adult immigrant students. As a teacher in the People’s Republic of China, she helped prospective Chinese teachers learn to teach English composition and literature. As a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, she headed a team working with seasoned middle school teachers to implement alternative assessment practices. At part of the Stanford University Teacher Education Program, she supervised prospective high school teachers, assisting educators with curriculum planning, pedagogical techniques, and classroom interaction methods. Finally, she has worked as an art literacy teacher and as a teaching assistant in various public and private elementary school classrooms.

Dr. Davidson is the mother of two school-aged boys. She is a member of both the Independent Educational Consultants Association and the American Educational Research Association. Davidson’s B.A. degree is also from Stanford, where she graduated with distinction and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa society. She is a former All-American long distance runner, placing sixth among American runners at the NCAA Division I 10,000 meter championships and participating on the second place team at the NCAA Division I Cross-Country Championships. She was raised in Boulder, Colorado and Anchorage, Alaska, where she attended public schools.

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Nancy Altenburg, RN, BSN, CSN

Nancy brings more than 20 years of experience working with mental health, educational, and physical health issues to her work with Educational Connections.  For the past eight years, she has worked closely with families and students (ages 5-21) as a school nurse for the Beaverton School District.  In collaboration with mental health professionals, one of Nancy’s roles has been to understand the impact of students’ emotional and behavioral issues on their academic functioning.  Further, she has designed individual programs to enable students to succeed in mainstream school and classroom settings.  And finally, she has worked to identify appropriate psychological and medical resources and to train teachers to work with medically, emotionally, and psychologically compromised students in classroom settings.

Having served as a member of the Special Education team at a variety of Beaverton schools, Nancy also has extensive knowledge of the special education referral, evaluation and placement process.  In this capacity she has participated in the evaluation process to determine factors impacting students’ capacity to function in school and she has collaborated with other professionals to determine the level and types of services students need.  

Prior to becoming a nurse, Nancy worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for chronically mentally disabled teens and young adults for two years.  As a counselor she served as the primary therapist for young people with a variety of severe mental health diagnoses including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety as well as chemical dependency.

Nancy has personally experienced the impact of substance abuse on family functioning.  Both of her parents were life-long alcoholics and her 18 year-old son is in recovery.  As a mother, she understands well the process of making the decision to send a child to a therapeutic wilderness program as well as a therapeutic boarding school specializing in addiction.  

Nancy is a native Oregonian born in Eugene and raised in Portland and Madras.  She graduated with honors from Southern Oregon University in 1978 and received her BS degree in Nursing from Oregon Health Sciences University in 1987 where she graduated with honors.  She also received the Elnora Thompson Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leadership.  During the next 12 years, Nancy was a hospital staff nurse for OHSU in oncology, cardiology, and general medicine.  She then assisted in the opening of the OHSU Primary Health Care Clinic in Beaverton, where she established the triage phone system and was one of the primary advice nurses.

Nancy has been happily married to her husband Grant for 25 years and they have three children ranging in age from 15-20.  She loves animals and hiking in the Arboretum with her husband and their big dog, Lily.  Nancy’s family also includes two cats and more bird feeders than she can count.  She enjoys reading, writing, gardening, being outdoors, and riding horses.  Nancy and her family love to travel and are looking forward to trips near and far in the future. 

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Kristin Kajer-Cline, M.A.

Kristin Kajer-Cline’s work for the past 10 years has focused on understanding and assisting children, adolescents, and adults struggling with emotional, social, behavioral, learning or mental health challenges. Having earned her M.A. in Education with a focus on At-Risk Youth from the University of Washington, Kristin has developed three key areas of expertise and experience: assessment of individual social, emotional and academic needs, evaluation of academic and treatment systems and direct intervention and communication with adolescents and their families.

Prior to her work with Educational Connections, Kristin was integrally involved in a number of research projects concerned with assessing the social, emotional and academic needs of individuals. Most recently she worked collaboratively to assess the impact that mental health and substance abuse problems play in people’s lives. As part of this project she conducted extensive interviews with individuals struggling with severe chemical dependency and mental health issues and documented how these challenges impact physical and emotional health, education, employment, legal status and family relationships. In another project at the University of Washington, Kristin assessed the needs and progress of high-risk students by conducting interviews, ascertaining students’ overall emotional needs, and determining their predisposition for suicide. In a third study, Kristin examined how students' mental health and substance abuse issues impact their school involvement and academic success. Finally, she facilitated parent and community focus groups with Southeast Asian parents in order to understand parenting styles and thus determine the most appropriate educational services for these families.

Secondly, Kristin has been involved in the research and evaluation of academic and treatment systems. For example, she worked collaboratively on a research team concerned with understanding the degree to which the Oregon Health Plan adequately serves individuals in need of substance abuse or mental health treatment and how monetary and service cuts impact quality of care. In another study, Kristin evaluated the extent to which school-based teen health centers serve students' mental health and emotional needs and considered the ways in which other school supports are frequently inadequate in addressing these issues. In both of these studies, Kristin conducted in-depth interviews with a variety of individuals including students, parents, teachers, counselors, principals and teen health center staffs in order to understand program strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, Kristin has worked directly with struggling youth and their families providing interventions, support, and informed recommendations. She has served as a liaison and advocate in schools and in mental health programs. For example, as part of the Redirecting At-Risk Youth Research Project, Kristin conducted interviews with struggling adolescents to determine suicide risk, often obtaining first-time disclosures of potentially harmful intentions and thoughts. At the close of each therapeutic interview she provided direct feedback and helped students to identify and utilize appropriate coping skills. Further, she facilitated communication between students and their parents helping students to disclose the pressures and problems they faced as well as harmful thoughts and actions. Finally, she worked to connect these previously isolated students with school counselors, teachers, school administrators, and other appropriate resources. As Skills Training Facilitator within this same project, Kristin taught coping and support skills to suicide vulnerable adolescents and documented improved student progress based on extensive professional team evaluations.

Prior to discovering her passion for understanding and working with struggling students and their families, Kristin taught French to middle and high school students in Washington. She also spent two years with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching English as a foreign language to high school students in Guinea, West Africa. Though most of her upbringing and education took place in Minnesota, she was born in Kenya and attended private, public, international and boarding schools in England, Sri Lanka, India and France. Kristin is the mother of a 10 year-old daughter and 8 year-old son. Currently, she is a provisional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

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Jennifer Pruyn Heckman, PhD, MACP

Jennifer Heckman has a long history of working in the areas of education and mental health, with particular emphases on children, families, and family-systems. Upon completing her Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Colorado in 1977, Dr. Heckman returned to her home in Hawaii to work with the local Easter Seal Society’s Residential Services program. This program, developed to serve multiply handicapped children who were unable to live in their parents’ home, included group and foster “teaching home” placements. While with Residential Services, Dr. Heckman worked initially as a group home counselor and then became responsible for providing psychosocial and educational support for the foster teaching home parents; during her last year and a half with Residential Services, Dr. Heckman served as the Director for the program.

Desiring to further her work with children and families, in 1980, Dr. Heckman returned to the mainland to pursue graduate work in Education at Stanford University. She subsequently completed her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Educational Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford in 1981 and 1987, respectively. While at Stanford, Dr. Heckman worked as a research assistant and treatment group leader for a study on the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral coping strategies for children, ages 9-12, with recently divorced parents. Dr. Heckman also worked on studies of school effectiveness and at-risk adolescents and developed a violence prevention curriculum for use with at-risk families and management training materials for school administrators. Immediately following the completion of her Doctoral dissertation, Dr. Heckman served as a Senior Research Associate for the Department of Psychiatry in Stanford University’s Medical School. Following her work with the medical school, Dr. Heckman worked with a non-profit research and technical assistance organization in Los Altos, California where she conducted program evaluations of educational programs designed to assist at-risk adolescents.

Dr. Heckman’s research interests have always been coupled with her interests in clinical work. To further her clinical training and experience, Dr. Heckman pursued additional graduate work at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (ITP) in Palo Alto, California and received her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from ITP in 1995. As a part of her training, Dr. Heckman provided therapy for children, families, and adults. Particular areas of focus included relationship and family system issues, adolescent acting-out behaviors, and coping with life threatening illnesses and grief.

In 1997, Dr. Heckman joined ETR Associates in Scotts Valley, California as a Senior Research Associate and worked as the Principal Investigator for the evaluations of two federally-funded San Joaquin County (California) substance abuse treatment programs for women. In 1998, Dr. Heckman began her work as a Principal Investigator for the federally-funded Women, Co-occurring Disorders, and Violence Study (WCDVS). This study was designed to assess the effectiveness of integrated services for women with mental health and substance abuse disorders who also had interpersonal trauma histories ( From 1998 through March 2004, Dr. Heckman provided conceptual input and oversight, monitoring, supervision, and leadership to the development, implementation, and analysis of this study.
Over the final year of the WCDVS, Dr. Heckman, along with the other WCDVS Principal Investigators and three women with lived experiences of substance abuse, mental health problems, and trauma histories who had worked with the study, formed the National Trauma Consortium (NTC) ( The NTC’s mission is to disseminate knowledge gained from the WCDVS through trainings, technical assistance, and products, and to further research on the inter-relationships between trauma, substance abuse, and mental health disorders as well as research on effective service models for assisting adolescents and adults who have been impacted by these issues.

Dr. Heckman has co-authored several articles presenting the findings from the WCDVS, including an article on trauma survivors’ spiritual coping practices. Dr. Heckman was also a lead author on a monograph, It’s My Time to Live: Journeys to Healing and Recovery, based on qualitative case study data collected from WCDVS women. It’s My Time to Live illustrates how hope, meaning, and caring connections with family members and service providers help to further healing and recovery.

Dr. Heckman was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii where she attended Punahou School. Dr. Heckman is a swimmer, an equestrian, and, once upon a time, was a long distance runner. Dr. Heckman has served as a peer reviewer for the Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research and has been a member of the American and California Associations of Marriage and Family Therapists, the American Public Health Association, and the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Heckman has two school-aged daughters.

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