About Us

Why Our Services Matter: Improving Outcomes for Tennessee Families

We improve the lives of families of children with disabilities by guiding them through challenges they face accessing education and community programs.

We provide services that promote working together with school staff to resolve issues often faced by children with disabilities at school such as harassment, bullying, low expectations, and social isolation.

We believe every child matters; every child should have access to an education that leads to self sufficiency, employment, and meaningful community involvement.

With our services families and schools increase expectations and provide opportunities for students with disabilities to aim for high achievement standards.

With our services families are able to be actively involved in navigating the special education process; research show that when parents are involved in their child’s education, children have better outcomes.

TNSTEP’s Mission

TNSTEP’s Mission is to serve families of children and youth, young adults, and those who are involved in their lives.

We provide accurate, timely, and relevant information and training related to special education rights, equal access to quality education, and connections to community resources.

We believe that parents and caregivers are their children’s best advocates and that youth with disabilities should be self-advocates.

We know that families and youth who are informed, empowered, and engaged can effectively collaborate as part of a team for services and support that will lead to improved outcomes and success in life.

La misión de TNSTEP es servir a familias de niños, jóvenes y adultos jóvenes y todos los que esten involucrados en la vida de ellos.

Nosotros proporcionamos información precisa, oportuna y relevante, además capacitaciones sobre los derechos de educación especial, igualdad de acceso a la educación y acceso a recursos de la comunidad.

Nosotros creemos que los padres y guardianes son los mejores defensores de los derechos de sus hijos, y así también los jóvenes con discapacidades deberían ser autodefensores de sus derechos.

Nosotros sabemos que las familias y los jóvenes informados,  empoderados  y comprometidos pueden  ser parte del  equipo para  alcanzar servicios y apoyos que conduzcan a mejores resultados y éxitos  en la vida.


TNSTEP’s vision is to ensure a brighter future for children and youth in Tennessee, with an emphasis on those with disabilities, special health care needs, and mental health needs.

La visión de TNSTEP es asegurar un futuro brillante para los niños y jóvenes en Tennessee, con énfasis en aquellos con discapacidades, necesidades especiales de cuidado médico y salud mental.

  • Karen Harrison
    Executive Director
  • Katherine Williams
    Director of West TN Services
  • Patricia Valladares
    Director of Middle TN Services/Multicultural Liaison
  • Bernadette Gray
    West TN Family and Youth Education Specialist
  • Donna Jennings
    Business/Personnel Manager
  • Lisa Morelock Gosnell
    Data, Research & Information Coordinator
  • Joey Ellis
    Director of Youth Services
  • Dorca Rose Guayurpa
    Bilingual Community Outreach and Education Specialist
  • Derek Flake
    Juvenile Justice and Civil Rights Consultant
  • Stephanie Willis
    Director of Communications
  • Tanya Willis
    Director of Development
  • Joanne Cunningham, Chair
  • Carol Barnett-Lewis, Vice Chair
  • Dr. Susan Speraw, Secretary
  • Barbara Wagner, Treasurer
  • Karen Harrison, Executive Director
  • Bill Allen
  • Scott Finney
  • Tim Flack
  • Jennifer Jordan
  • Terry Long
  • Blake Shearer
  • Bertha Smith
  • Linda Taylor
  • Dr. David Wood

TNSTEP is funded by grants which all help us achieve our purpose, which is to ensure that the education of children with disabilities is made more effective by strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at home and school.


Since 1989, TNSTEP has administered the TN PTI grant and provided families across Tennessee, whose children experience the full range of disabilities, the information, training, and support they need to develop skills that foster collaborative partnerships between families and the professionals who work with their children.

Through a variety of products, services, and materials the PTI addresses four critical areas for parents and family members who have children with special needs:

  • Information Dissemination and Referral Services
  • Training and Support
  • Parent Leadership Development and Parent/School Partnerships
  • Outreach Services


The State Personnel Development Grants (SPDG) program, administered through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the U.S. Department of Education, assists state education agencies and their partners to improve results for children with disabilities through systems of professional development and dissemination of knowledge about best practices to educators and families.

The Tennessee Department of Education has selected TNSTEP as the funded family partner to help families participate in TN SPDG’s work and provide family engagement strategies and information to districts.

Visit the TN SPDG website for resources and information: http://www.tnspdg.com/


TNSTEP has been contracted by the Region B PTAC and entrusted with delivering information and technical assistance to a 12-state region of Parent Centers. The focus areas of our work under the Region B PTAC include:

  • Youth Engagement and Transition to Adulthood
  • Juvenile Justice and Civil Rights


We extend the reach of our services through the generous donations of people like you who believe that every family should have the information and support they need to advocate for a successful life for their child and young adults with disabilities, special health care needs, and mental health needs. We rely on donations and foundation grants to carry out our mission. You can become a TNSTEP Supporter today!

TNSTEP’s Family Equity Advisory Team (FEAT) is committed to charting a path forward by championing equity and inclusion in education by applying the lens of equity to our programs, practices, policies, and procedures.

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