Meet Our Team

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Mel Sauder
President & Founder

“MVP Kids is the culmination of my lifetime professional mission, providing tools for parents to raise great kids. Children don’t come with an instruction book and most of what is available is heavy on entertainment and light on preparing them to live productive lives. I founded MVP Kids Media to provide entertaining resources for parents, encouraging them to make their own decisions for what is best for their children, and becoming actively involved in their lives to mentor and prepare them for the rest of their lives.”

As the Founder and President of MVP Kids Media, Mel has been involved in the successful creation, production and marketing of books and media in several companies. Mel was President of Enhance Products, a distribution/rack jobbing company marketing value-oriented books and media for all ages selling family products from Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hallmark and the like. Mel served as President of Futech Interactive Publishing and Media, an interactive kids publishing, toy, game and distribution company with special trademarked interactivity technologies. Mel also partnered with best-selling children’s author Joy Berry to create a publishing and media company, Gold Star Publishing and Media. Joy is the world’s pioneer in self-help children’s books, boasting sales of more than 85 million books.

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Stephanie Strouse
Creative Director

“I started illustrating children’s books for MVP Kids out of a love for communicating story through color and characters. But, as the process has gone on, my favorite part about my job is seeing the real life versions of our characters out and about. It gives me such joy to know that what I’m doing can make a huge impact in a child’s life.”

Stephanie is MVP Kids Media’s creative director and is the illustrator for our preschool and elementary series. Since working with MVP Kids, she has illustrated and designed 32 books and worked with the second illutrator on designing 13 more. Recently, she designed the MVP Kids’ Instill SEL Curriculum notebook and accessories. She received a BA in Visual Communications Design from Virginia Tech, developing a passion for communicating through illustration and color. She served two years with Cru at The Ohio State University as a designer, leader, and mentor. While mentoring with college-aged girls, she witnessed the effects of hard home lives. This stirred within her a desire to help parents and children be inspired towards character and especially the parents or guardians be equipped to lead healthy lives that benefit the child. Stephanie is passionate about representing ethnic, cultural, and abilities diversity in our MVP Kids products. She continually pursues a deeper knowledge of how we can learn and love others while celebrating differences.

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Megan Johnson
Writing Director

“Writing with MVP Kids is a natural overflow of my life’s work raising and educating my children. Life moves quickly with little ones in the house and they have lots of big questions. Parents need tools that help them prepare for, create and maximize teachable moments. It is a privilege to work with the Creative Team to bring story and life to the character, values and education Real MVP Kids inspires. Watching my children identify with the characters and put the lessons into action is immensely rewarding.”

Megan is the author of our Celebrate!™ series for preschoolers and Help Me Understand™ series for elementary children. Megan has a strong foundation for writing, having studied and worked in linguistics for several years before completing her degree in Educational Ministry with an emphasis in counseling. Megan has lived on three continents and visited more than 15 countries, giving her a wide range of cultural experiences and a love for people of various backgrounds. Her work experience includes language survey, curriculum development, orientation and debriefing program coordinator for Americans working overseas, office administrator and director of children’s ministries. Megan and her husband have five children who are the inspiration for her writing. As a special needs and adoptive family it is especially meaningful for Megan to be involved in Real MVP Kids’ goal that every child can see themselves in our sixteen main characters, who vary in ethnicity, abilities, culture and background.

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Kayla Pearson
Writing & Studio Manager

“The past several years I’ve been passionate about serving and teaching children. As I think back to when I was a kid, I remember the adults who positively influenced my life. Now I strive to be that role model for the next generation. When the opportunity came for me to join the MVP Kids® Team, I excitedly jumped in to help make an impact in the lives of children by helping produce books that inspire honorable character.”

Kayla is MVP Kids’ studio manager and the writer of the Help Me Become™ and Mighty Tokens™ series. She has 10+ years experience teaching kids and teens through various youth programs. From 2012-2014, she spent time studying culture and teaching youth in East Africa. She has studied elementary education at Liberty University. Her experience also includes data entry, children’s ministry director and administrative assistant. As studio manager, Kayla is responsible for all incoming orders and outgoing packages, social media and customer service.

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Timothy Zowada
Illustrator

“I believe the biggest influence over culture and beliefs is art. Whether it’s movies, music or books, people are largely influenced by the media they consume. That’s why I think it’s important to create media that tackles real issues and influences in a positive way. I’m a big fan of how MVP Kids is using books to give parents tools to grow kids into mature people. I’m very excited to use my art to influence kids in a positive way!”

Timmy is an illustrator for the series Help Me Become™ and Mighty Tokens™. He has been drawing for his whole life and has gone through many art classes. Timmy received an Associates in Fine Arts from Mesa Community College. He has spent many summers working with kids, most of which were working at a summer arts camp. He loves working with kids and helping them tackle their fears and insecurities through art. Timmy has always wanted to draw for a living and working with MVP Kids Media is a dream job!

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Jim Castle
Media Director

Jim Castle is partnering with MVP Kids in our initiative to integrate television into our overall media vision. Jim is also a director of the company. He is a producer, director, writer, designer and visual effects master. He has been involved in various capacities on more than 400 prime time series, TV movies, mini-series and theatrical films. He has won numerous awards, including five National Emmy Awards. He has produced shows for PBS, National Geographic and Discovery channels among others, as well as feature films. He studied directing with Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther) at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, starting in the mailroom at Walt Disney Studios. Jim has won five national prime time and daytime Emmy Awards for his design work and has been nominated a total of eight times.

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Celestte Dills, M.A. Ed.
Curriculum Writer

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the foundation on which academic success is built. By teaching children to be self-aware and how to build meaningful relationships we help them personalize goals far beyond the classroom. I have focused my career on teaching children, coaching educators, and supporting families on how to practice and implement SEL skills in order to create positive change for the individual, the classroom, and the community. MVP Kids creates beautiful and meaningful stories that help strengthen character development. MVP Kids’ thoughtful mission spoke to my heart and my own wish to leave a legacy of positive change. It is an honor to work with people who care deeply about providing our children with quality materials and quality content.”

In her thirty years of working early childhood education, Celestte has extensive and successful experience as teacher, administrator, curriculum developer, and education consultant. Due to her experience, knowledge, and passion for creating unique, high-quality and engaging learning experiences, she was selected to develop a new national curriculum to be implemented in 39 states. At the completion of the curriculum development project, Celestte was recruited to join the Inclusion Services team where she provided coaching and content development surrounding inclusive best-practices, creating equity and celebrating diversity. Through this work, she discovered her true passion and conducted deeper research into teaching children foundational social-emotional and 21st century skills. She has used her talent of developing meaningful curriculum activities and providing teachers with easy-to-use tools for teaching pro-social behavior to develop a social-emotional curricula which features a theme of respect, compassion, and understanding for the diversity of the world.

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Marla Conn, M.S.Ed.
Curriculum Team

“"The MVP Kids book list has heart and soul! Each title reflects the mission to mentor, teach life skills and inspire character in maturing children. MVP kids’ books are teaching important life skills through diverse, lovable characters, realistic plots and beautifully detailed illustrations. MVP Kids represents a global society where self-awareness, tolerance and kindness prevail.”

After receiving a Master of Science degree in Elementary Education/Reading N-12 in 1991, Marla became a reading specialist in the New York City public school system where she taught for 15 years. She focused on staff development, instructing them in the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading approach and balanced literacy classroom instruction. As an educational consultant, Marla has been assigning Guided Reading Levels, connecting trade books to curriculum, and developing teacher resources that enable educators to see the instructional value of book titles. Marla’s work with students, parents, publishers, authors, and educators has given her a deep understanding of how the reading process, books, environment, and implementation of instruction can provide rich, meaningful experiences that build a strong foundation in literacy skills and will allow all students to achieve a love of reading and learning.