Founding Board Member and President of the organization, Diane Swan earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education followed by a Master of Science from Southern Connecticut State University. Her career as an educator began in Kissimmee, Florida Public Schools. Currently she is employed by East Lyme Public Schools, 1996 - present, as an early childhood educator.
In addition to her teaching responsibilities at Niantic Center School, Diane serves as the building's science coordinator. Her collaboration with the East Lyme town engineer secured a grant for an Outdoor Stormwater Classroom. Since its inception, over 1000 third grade students from East Lyme and Salem have learned about storm water runoff and its impact on the environment.
Diane taught a science summer camp, “Camp Phenomena,” for several years. Additionally, she worked for LEARN conducting a week-long science camp for the region's students. Diane produced and presented "Simple Science” after school activities for the Niantic Center School PTA.
Diane is committed to community service and chaired the PTA's assembly, fundraising and beautification committees. As a volunteer for the Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for special needs children to participate in recreational, educational, and cultural activities, Diane assisted with fundraising for the organization's cause.
Founding Board Member and serving as Secretary and Treasurer of the organization, Linda Raffa is an East Lyme resident retired from a long career in education and business. Her experiences include Kindergarten teacher and Director/Head Teacher of two preschools.
Her most fulfilling role was that of an educator. In addition, Linda helped manage several businesses, primarily as bookkeeper. Her volunteer work includes roles as secretary, treasurer, and president of parent/teacher organizations and other various organizations.
More recently she was employed at the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, currently known as the Niantic Children's Museum, where she was Director of Operations.
As a former educator and devoted grandparent, Linda enjoys spending time with young children and looks forward to expanding this interest with STARS To STEM's planetarium project.
Planetarium Technology Specialist
The planetarium's technology specialist is Kyra Elliott, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Astronomy and Physics from Vassar College and completed her teaching certification in Technology Education through the Alternate Route to Certification program.
Kyra has been a planetarian for over 20 years. As Assistant Planetarium Director at the Travelers Sciencedome Planetarium at The Children’s Museum in West Hartford, she developed programs for camps, classes, and homeschool students. She also presented shows, created animations and graphics for use in the dome, as well as explored and recommended technology upgrades for the theater. In order to further focus on animation, graphics, and show production, Kyra accepted the position of Producer & Animator at the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium at Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
As a Technology and Engineering teacher, Kyra is dedicated to sharing her passion with students and their families. She believes the planetarium is a unique environment where students can learn and practice a variety of 21st century skills. The sky is the limit!
Board of Directors member Leslie Brown currently serves as Associate Professor of Physics at Connecticut College, having joined the college's staff in 1992. Leslie completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Delaware and earned her Master of Arts and Doctoral degrees from Brandeis University.
While on staff at Connecticut College, Leslie has shared her wealth of knowledge at national speaking engagements. Topics included: "The Past, the Present and the Future of Undergraduate Research in Astronomy at Connecticut College," presented at the American Astronomical Society's January 2004 meeting, and also the AAS's special session on "Instrumentation for Small Observatories in 2006.
Leslie has been a recipient of numerous grant awards and is adept at operating various telescopes and related technologies. She has extensive experience in the fields of astrophysics and astronomy and brings her love of education to our team.
Also a member of the Board of Directors, Gillian is currently a senior enrolled at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University. She is a graduate of East Lyme High School (Class of 2020).
Susan Lynch comes to this organization with a wealth of experiences in various areas of finance including income tax analysis, real estate and investment procedures, medical billing, and real estate appraisals.
Susan attended Three Rivers Community College and earned an Associate of Science degree. She spent many years as an accountant at a local hardware store, was a tax specialist while employed by H &R Block, completed medical billing and insurance claims for Fort Hill Pharmacy in Groton, and currently operates as an appraiser of real estate for Burns Appraisal, LLC.
Susan is active in her children’s sports activities and encourages their academic pursuits. Her dedication and support of STARS to STEM demonstrates an ongoing interest in community-related initiatives.