Early Childhood Education Faculty

Baumgartner HeadshotDr. Jennifer Baumgartner is an associate professor in the School of Education. She teaches in the PK-3 teacher certification program and early childhood education graduate program. Her research centers around two major issues: 1.) how philosophies and/or knowledge are translated into practices in children’s developmental contexts and, 2.) stress among teachers and children in early care settings. Her work is published in several journals, including Journal of Health Psychology, Early Child Development and Care, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education and Young Children. She has experience directing early child development laboratory schools and teaches critical perspectives in early childhood education, child development and stress in education courses. She serves as co-faculty advisor to the LSU student chapter of the Association for the Education of Young Children.

Benton HeadshotDr. Alica Benton received her PhD in curriculum and instruction in 2018 from Louisiana State University. She earned a master’s degree in reading and learning exceptionalities from Appalachian State University. In 2000 she became a National Board-Certified Teacher in Early Childhood.  She has spent much of her career as an elementary school educator and mentor teacher. Dr. Benton is an assistant professor for the Early Childhood and Elementary Grades 1-5 Programs in the School of Education and teaches literacy and child development courses for both programs. Her research interests focus on literacy practices in K-6 schools, language development, foster care, and attachment issues.

Dicarlo HeadshotDr. Cynthia Fontcuberta DiCarlo holds the W.H. “Bill” LeBlanc LSU Alumni Association Departmental Endowed Professorship of Early Childhood Education and is the Executive Director of the Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool at LSU. DiCarlo also serves as the Coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Teacher Education Program and her research focuses on interventions to improve outcomes for young children and clarification and innovations in recommended practices in early childhood. Prior to joining LSU in 2004, she was a Clinical Assistant Professor at LSU Health Sciences Center (New Orleans). Dr. DiCarlo has been recognized for her research, teaching and service; her research on children's attention during whole group instruction received the 2012 Research Paper of the Year from the Journal of Research in Childhood Education; she was recognized for excellence in teaching receiving the Tiger Athletic Foundation Teaching Award (2010). Additionally, she has received recognition for her service, receiving the College of Human Sciences and Education Faculty Service Award (2016) and the Louisiana Champions of Service Volunteer of the Year: Plantation Region (2013). Dr. DiCarlo has incorporated her passion for research into the courses she teaches and her work in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. Since its inception in 2014, Dr. DiCarlo has mentored 67 undergraduate students who have subsequently presented at LSU Discover Day. She currently serves on the editorial boards for Infants & Young Children, the Journal of Teacher Action Research, and Beyond Behavior. 

Eisworth HeadshotDr. Hillary Braud Eisworth is a faculty member in the PK-3 Early Childhood Teacher Education Program. She teaches courses on the development of young children and pedagogy in early childhood. Dr. Eisworth earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, with a specialization in early childhood education, from The University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the School of Education faculty in 2007, Dr. Eisworth taught pre-kindergarten, first, and second grade in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in Portland, Oregon. Her areas of interest include multicultural education, teacher education, and teacher inquiry. Currently, she is the faculty advisor for Score a Friend, a campus organization whose mission is to promote and provide opportunities for Unified Friendships through school and community-based sports and clubs.

Dr. Michelle Grantham-Caston serves as the ECELP Director. She is responsible for the day-to-day operation of ECELP.  She has served as a public school preschool teacher, CLASS assessor, and coach, working with teachers of children from birth- preschool in a variety of settings including Head Start, childcare, public and private schools. She has worked in the field of early childhood since 2007 and holds a teaching certificate in PK-3. Michelle is a certified Pathways trainer and CLASS certified observer – infant, toddler, and preschool.

Dr. Laura Piestrzynski is an Assistant Professor of Early and Elementary Literacy at Louisiana State University.  She earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Illinois.  Dr. Piestrzynski earned her doctoral degree in Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University.  Prior to entering academia, she worked as an early childhood educator in the Saint Louis Public School District and the Chicago Public School District for twelve years. Dr. Piestrzynski’s research focuses on early literacy, specifically teachers’ supportive practices for emergent writing, differentiated support for emergent writers, and how teachers make decisions for providing support to young writers.