Our Team

Senior Leadership Team

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Michele Baird

Chief Executive Officer

Michele Baird is the Chief Executive Officer of Freedom Learning Group and serves on its board of directors. 

Before coming on board as CEO in April 2022, Michele had cultivated 35 years of experience in the education space, most recently as Chief Operating Officer of Six Red Marbles and was responsible for the company’s worldwide sales and operations. Prior to joining Six Red Marbles, she was Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at Cengage Learning, where she built a content services organization that developed over a thousand customized online courses for Higher Education customers. She also led the custom solutions line of business and brought the first outcomes-based online course product to market, which won a gold IMS Learning Impact award for impactful use of technology in support of learning and was named a CODIE finalist for best instructional solution. Michele earned a Bachelor of Economics at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and resides in South Carolina.

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Jason Howe

Vice President, Business Development

Jason Howe joined Freedom Learning Group in October 2021 and serves as our Vice President of Business Development. Jason comes from a family of service members as his father is a Coast Guard Academy alum, his father-in-law is a Vietnam War Marine Veteran and both of his grandparents served in World War II. He brings years of sales and leadership experience in both the educational technology industry and the SaaS Applications sector. Most recently, Jason served as the Applications Sales Manager for ERP Cloud Applications at Oracle. Prior to that role, he was the Director of Digital Solutions at Cengage and Sales Leader at Pearson.

Jason is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, double majoring in Business Management and Marketing with a minor in Advertising. He also studied abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia, which sparked his interest in travel. In his time away from work, Jason spends as much time outdoors and with his family as possible. He is always looking for ways to stay active. Coaching his kids’ sports, home improvement projects, hiking, basketball and golf are common activities. Jason and his family love to travel and experience new places every year.

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Mary Plese

Executive Director, Human Resources

As one of its first employees, Mary has worked with Freedom Learning Group since 2017. Partnering with the FLG Co-Founders, she provided operational support in several areas. In 2020 Mary moved into Human Resources becoming SHRM-CP certified. Mary is the Executive Director of Human Resources and enjoys working with the fantastic FLG team.

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Melissa Sanderson

Senior Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition

Melissa joined FLG in December 2020 bringing her Talent Acquisition expertise to further the organization’s mission and vision. Joining from a Fortune 500 company and a fierce advocate for our diverse and military communities, Melissa brings years of knowledge around hiring in this space. Melissa is a U.S. Army military spouse.

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Natalie Skadra

Executive Vice President, Learning Content Operations

Natalie Skadra joined FLG in August 2022 as the Executive Vice President of Learning Content Operations. Natalie’s commitment to learner-centered design spans over 25 years in adult and higher education.

Natalie began her career as an English as a Second Language and English composition instructor before turning to instructional design. Most recently, she spent nearly 15 years in educational publishing and technology leading teams of learning and instructional designers, educational technologists, project managers, and accessibility specialists collaborating with faculty and institutions to develop accessible, engaging, and inclusive learning content and curriculum.

Natalie’s recent interests are in the processes and practices of equity in design and design that creates a sense of belonging for learners. This passion for DEI undoubtedly stems from her life experiences growing up in a biracial Air Force family. Natalie holds degrees from The George Washington University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and certificates from the University of Wisconsin and University of South Florida. Natalie also spends her time mentoring other women in technology and supporting the needs of first-generation college students. She resides in Kansas City with her husband and their two rescue dogs.

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Salman Yusaf

Head of Finance

Salman Yusaf joined FLG in September 2022 as the Head of Finance. He has two decades of finance experience in diverse industries including ad tech, data storage, hospitality, and financial services. Salman has built and scaled teams in companies big and small and shepherded them through mergers, acquisitions and transformations. Most recently, Salman was Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis for Cardlytics – a small-sized publicly traded ad tech company. Prior to Cardlytics, he spent ten years at Hilton Hotels in various finance roles.

Salman holds undergrad and graduate degrees in finance and accounting from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later studied management and leadership at the Harvard Business School. He lives in Virginia, with his wife and two boys. Outside of work, Salman is a voracious reader, rides motorcycles, plays cricket, and recently picked up pickleball.

Our Team

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Melissa Crouch, MS

Executive Director, Content Operations

Melissa currently serves as the Executive Director of Content Operations. She joined Freedom Learning Group in 2019 as an Information Technology Subject Matter Expert. She has also served as a Project Manager and a Senior Project Director for FLG.

Melissa is a retired US Air Force veteran where she worked in the Information Technology field. While on active duty, she was assigned to various IT sections before being assigned as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of a training department. It was here that she found her passion for content development and training. She also enjoyed working in IT Operations with a focus on continuous process improvement.

Melissa holds a Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Management and Leadership, and several Information Technology certifications.

Melissa is married to Joseph, an Army veteran, and they have one son.

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Coston Daugherty, MS

Learning Designer

Coston Daugherty currently serves as a Learning Designer at Freedom Learning Group. Before joining the team, Coston graduated from East Carolina University with a BS in Science Education and Lenoir-Rhyne University with an MS in Online Teaching and Instructional Design. She has been married for 15 years to her husband who served in the Marine Corp and is now with the U.S. Army. Originally from the coast of North Carolina, Coston currently resides in Tennessee with her husband and three daughters. She loves baking, walking, gardening, and traveling.

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Amy Einck

Marketing Manager

Amy Einck joined  Freedom Learning Group in 2022 as the Marketing Manager overseeing internal communications and external marketing and brand development. Before coming on board in December, Amy had cultivated 18 years of experience in marketing and business development, most recently as the owner/operator of West Meets East Creative agency serving nonprofits, schools, small to mid-size businesses, and military units with strategic consulting and design services. Prior to starting her own firm, Amy was the Segment Manager for Corporate and Foundation Partners at World Vision. There she led the strategic refresh of corporate identity, messaging, materials, website, and marketing campaigns. Before World Vision, Amy’s career included marketing roles at Neighborly and Random House (Bertlessmann Group). Amy earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration at the University of Washington and is a volunteer with the Special Olympics of Washington at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She is the proud wife of a U.S. Air Force and Army veteran and resides with her family in Washington state. 

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Kori Gould

Client Portfolio Director, Publishing

Kori has worked at FLG since 2017. She started as a Subject Matter Expert, worked as a Project Manager, Senior Project Director and now serves as Client Portfolio Director, Publishing. Kori has worked with clients such as Wiley, Cengage, F.A. Davis, Psych Armor, Wolters Kluwer, Westchester, and Elsevier. 

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Worth Hawes, PhD

Solution Architect

Worth joined Freedom Learning Group’s Learning Content Operations team in 2023 as its Solution Architect, managing activities across sales, operations, and contracting. Prior to joining FLG, Worth spent the last 25 years working in higher education publishing and curriculum development. Worth started in sales and business development with Harcourt College Publishers, transitioned to marketing and editorial with Wadsworth/Thomson, and spent 15 years in curriculum consulting and instructional design with Cengage. Worth carries undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy from Lake Forest College and Vanderbilt University. Worth lives with his wife, Suzanne, along with their two dogs and two cats in Virginia. His son is a Junior at The University of Richmond; his daughter is a second year at Smith College. In his spare time, Worth enjoys playing guitar, writing songs, and performing with his band, Frayed Knots.

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Angie Hood

Manager, Talent Acquisition & Partnerships

Angie has worked at FLG since January of 2021 previously as a Recruiting Coordinator and now as Manager of Talent Acquisition and Partnerships. Before joining FLG, Angie was a non-profit grant writer, pharmaceutical representative, swim coach and teacher.

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Georgia Jones, PhD

Manager, Talent Aquisition & Analytics

Georgia Jones is an experienced content expert, curriculum and assessment author, subject matter expert, and instructional designer. She has been developing instructional content since 2018 in a variety of formats and settings, including online learning and professional development platforms.

Georgia is an experienced training facilitator, presenter, and online instructor. For nearly a decade, she has provided training and informational lectures in a wide variety of settings, including: military installations, school districts, government contractor offices, and online as a university adjunct. She has provided training to a variety of audiences in both government and private sector organizations. She has developed and facilitated new hire onboarding training in her previous role at Military OneSource, and as a contractor for the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. She has provided program and policy training to US Air Force and Department of Defense senior leaders, commanders, and unit personnel, traveling frequently to various military installations, and tailoring her presentations to specific audiences. In her most recent role as Training Specialist with the non-profit, Military Child Education Coalition, she has facilitated training to educators, counselors, and military personnel in various communities. In addition, Georgia is a Certified Resilience Training Assistant, and provides resilience training to Air Force squadrons and Key Spouse volunteers as requested. In her role as adjunct faculty at the University of Phoenix, she provides online instruction of Organizational Psychology curriculum, and fosters student learning by engaging in meaningful discussion and dialogue.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Georgia is a volunteer leader in her community. She serves as the Key Spouse mentor for her spouse’s squadron, provides training to new Key Spouse volunteers at the local military base, and has co-authored textbook material on military spouse employment. In her free time, she enjoys travel, running, golfing, stand-up paddle boarding, and coaches classes at a local gym.

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John Jordan

Director, Strategic Partnerships

John Jordan brings nearly 40 years of publishing experience to the FLG team. John began his career New York City’s magazine business in New York City with stints at The Runner Magazine, US, Rolling Stone and Esquire. He found his true calling by moving to the Educational Publishing business Prentice Hall (later known as Pearson Education) working on textbooks in STEM disciplines and later managing a crew of nearly 30 producing print & digital products.

Later John moved to the product side as a Media Editor in the Humanities division creating A Classics in Psychology DVD series and a groundbreaking PoliSim product. Later he moved to the Health Sciences division and produced the first of its kind digital Real Nursing Skills as well as online EMT Achieve test prep products.

After a short stint at Oxford University Press’ ELT division. John moved to Wolters Kluwer Health Sciences and acquired an educational electronic medical record (EMR) iCare from the University of Tennessee. He managed the rebuild prototype to the first online educational EMR and rebranded it as DocuCare which is still sold today.

John’s final stop before joining FLG was with Second Avenue Learning, an edtech company dedicated to educational gaming where he developed multi-user simulations both in Cyber Security and Constitutional Law for American Public University as well as leading the development of VotersEd, a simulation in the US Presidential process both in the primary and electoral systems.

In 2017 John had the pleasure of hiring Freedom Learning Group to accuracy check courses for Knewton and was so impressed by FLG’s founders Nathan and Stacey Ecelbarger that he joined FLG as its Director of Strategic Partnerships in 2018. In that role he attracted following clients: Adtalem Global Education, Cengage, Coursera, Google, John Wiley & Sons, LinkedIn Learning, Mbition, OnCourseLearning, Pearson Education, Udacity, and Udemy among many others.

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Tina Maier

Project Director

Tina is a military daughter, sister, spouse, and mother. She has worked at FLG since 2020 as a subject matter expert and a Project Manager. Tina possesses fifteen years of people and project management experience, five years of this as a Director. She is passionate about process improvement and making her teams as effective as possible. Tina’s newest role with FLG as a Content Operations Project Director will allow her to continue flourishing in her capacity as a leader, bringing projects to their fullest potential.

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Shane Merritt, MA

Client Portfolio Director, Academic

Shane started as a Subject Matter Expert at FLG in 2018 developing content for Wiley/Knewton’s mathematics courses. After 3 years of developing content, Shane began working as a project manager for FLG and soon after as a Senior Project Director. Shane has worked with over a dozen clients within the corporate, publishing, and university spaces. Prior to joining FLG Shane worked in management, as a freelance content developer, and as a TA while completing his Master of Arts degree in mathematics.

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Taylor Murphy, MEd

Learning Designer

Taylor Murphy joined the Freedom Learning Group team in August 2022 and started in her role as a Learning Designer in March 2023. She is a passionate instructional designer with experience designing, developing, and delivering training solutions to corporate, government, and higher education clients. Taylor holds a Master’s degree in Education from Liberty University, a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and is an Army spouse.

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Ellen Prescott, PhD

Project Director

Ellen has worked at FLG since 2018 as a Subject Matter Expert, Instructional Designer, and Project Manager – working across many clients, such as Wiley, Cengage, Actively Learn, Coursera, USAAEF, Udacity, Parsons, and OCL, with tremendous success. Before joining the FLG team, Ellen worked as a curriculum developer and adjunct professor at various companies and institutions. Ellen holds a Ph.D. in Education.

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Rose Richart

Finance Administrator

Rose Richart is the Finance Administrator for Freedom Learning Group. Rose holds a degree from Champlain College and has served in various Administrative, Office Manager, and Bookkeeping roles in the following fields: Insurance, Legal, State Government, Defense Contractor, the Mortgage Industry, and currently the Horticulture Industry.  Rose originally joined FLG in October 2017 as the Bookkeeper.

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Comel Rooms, MEd

Executive Director, Learning Quality

Comel is passionate about teaching and learning, her philosophy is “meet the learners’ where they are and help them get to where they need to be.” Comel is currently the Executive Director of Learning Design at FLG but has worked in virtually every position in the company since starting with them in 2017. During her 30+ years as a Military Spouse she taught, trained, and developed curriculum since 1996 at the Secondary Level, with the Department of the Army, Penn State University, and the Department of Defense. Comel holds a Master’s degree in Education.

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Lisa Russell, MEd

Project Director

Lisa has worked as a Senior Project Director for FLG since 2020. She works across many clients, such as Parsons, MH Actively Learn, ASU, Learn to Win, USAAEF, and the University of Phoenix. Before joining the FLG team, Lisa was a high school math teacher, curriculum developer, and coach in Hawaii. She loves the Ohana feel of working with all of the amazing humans at FLG.

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Elizabeth Sandler

Operations Manager

Liz started working with FLG in 2019, building partnerships within the military spouse community. Liz transitioned from MarComms to Operations in 2021. Currently, Liz serves as Operations Manager.

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Anne Townsend, MEd

Project Director

Anne currently serves as a Project Director on the Learning Content Operations team. She has worked at FLG since 2020 as a Subject Matter Expert and Project Manager. Anne has successfully completed projects with clients including Wiley, Cengage, OCL, CompTIA, TopHat, Westchester, and Solera. Before joining the FLG team, Anne was an Advanced Placement Physics educator. Anne is a military spouse and holds an M. Ed. in Educational Administration.

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Jennifer Warkentin

Copy Editor I

As a new member of the FLG team in 2023, Jennifer brings a passion for copy editing and is thrilled to work with FLG, whose mission aligns with her personal values of caring for community and lifelong learning. She brings 20+ years of hands-on copy editing and marketing experience for clients in the healthcare, entertainment, and nonprofit sectors. Jennifer lives in the ‘burbs of Phoenix with her husband and teen son and is the proud mom of a University of Arizona Wildcat. She is a former soccer and lacrosse player who coached at the high school and college level. She shares her home office with Chief Canine Officers Rosie and Harley, who take their duties very seriously.

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Kim Webb, MA

Project Director

Kim joined Freedom Learning Group in 2019 as a curriculum developer and reviewer and project manager. She currently serves as Project Director for Academic clients.  She is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Leadership & Administrative Studies with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of West Florida. Prior to joining FLG, Kim received her B.A. and M.A. to teach ESL and Spanish.