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Our Team


Our Leadership Team


Erin Johnson

Senior Director of Tutoring Operations

"...every child can be successful when given the right tools and support..."

Erin believes that every child can be successful when given the right tools and support.

She knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. Her experiences helping her brother with Williams Syndrome have given her a well-rounded perspective with regards to enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities. Watching him struggle throughout his school career solidified her decision to become an educator.

Erin graduated from Elmhurst College in Illinois with her Bachelor's Degree in Special Education. While earning her degree, she worked as a 1:1 aide in a private special education high school. Upon graduation, Erin became the Life Skills Teacher at that same school. From there, she went on to teach pre-k and then elementary-aged children as a self-contained classroom teacher and at the resource level.

Recently, Erin and her family relocated to Florida. In their spare time, they enjoy swimming in their pool, going to the beach, and exploring their new state. Her eight-year-old son is attending virtual school, and he loves it! Erin is looking forward to tutoring online and helping her students learn and grow in a way that focuses on their strengths and interests.

Rebecca Alsip


"...all students are capable of success, but the path for each student is different..."

Rebecca believes that all students are capable of success, but the path for each student is different.

Special Education Resource allows students to discover their potential and how they learn best through individualized instruction.

Growing up in a family of teachers, Rebecca knew early in life she wanted to work with special needs students. She has a bachelors in psychology with an emphasis in child and adolescent development and a masters in teaching special education. She is currently pursuing a second masters as a literacy specialist. She loves finding ways to incorporate student’s interests in reading and math content. She feels that engagement in content impacts retention. Because of this, Rebecca prides herself on getting to know her students on a personal level; creating lasting connections with each one.

Rebecca’s teaching philosophy is that each student is unique and our approach to teaching should be tailored to their individual learning needs. Great teachers can help break the barriers that prevent a student from learning. When this happens, students become confident in their education and are excited to learn!

The quote from Walt Disney, "if you can dream it, you can do it" keeps Rebecca continually aspiring to do more. Her love of teaching extends to her spare time where she teaches gymnastics at her local parks and recreation. She also enjoys being outdoors and working in her garden.

Andra Fust


"...the impact educators have on others can be contagious..."

The impact educators have on others can be contagious. It wasn’t until I worked under an amazing teacher as a paraprofessional that I found my passion for working with students with very unique needs. Through my experience in working with students with disabilities, I have grown to love being on my student's team to break down obstacles and challenges they face with learning. The ability to make learning fun and engaging through creative ways for each individuals’ needs gives me a great sense of fulfillment.

I graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education in 2019. While working on my B.S. degree, I was able to teach full time under a special license, which allowed me to immediately apply what I was learning to my classroom and students. I plan to obtain my Master’s degree in Special Education-Developmental Disabilities in May of 2021. For the past six years, I have worked with students with a variety of disabilities, mostly with severe developmental disabilities, to reach their full potential in academic and life skills goals.

As a teacher, I find it essential to be my students' biggest advocate and cheerleader to help them learn and grow--not only academically but physically and mentally as well. The feeling of wanting to do more to work with students who need extra help has to lead me to the opportunity to provide support services in an online format through tutoring.

Colleen Gallagher


"...discovering teaching strategies that assist students in learning..."

Prior to her career in education, Colleen was a lawyer for the NYC Police Department. She felt the law was not truly her passion and, after moving to North Carolina, she decided to pursue a career in education. She has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and an Advanced Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Colleen has taught Special Education kindergarten through 12th grade and various exceptionalities. The diversity of her students has helped Colleen develop as a teacher who differentiates instruction based on the needs of her students. Her favorite aspect of teaching is discovering teaching strategies that assist students in learning.

Colleen strives to encourage lifelong learning in all her students. This is accomplished through a variety of instructional strategies including: considering the learning styles of her students, using technology for instruction and actively engaging her students. She teaches her students responsibility, critical and creative thinking, problem solving and communication skills. She engages in reflective practice and encourages open communication with parents. It is Colleen’s
belief that every child can learn and we must communicate high expectations for all of our students.

Colleen enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two daughters. She loves animals and has a small “petting zoo”, including beagles, cats, a guinea pig, a rabbit, turtles, goats, ducks and chickens. She likes to spend her weekends participating in dog shows with her beagles. Colleen doesn’t look at teaching as a job, but as an experience to help all students reach their maximum potential.

Michelle Gregg


"...Michelle's desire to never stop learning has led to her earning a Bachelor's..."

Michelle Gregg is described as a compassionate educator who believes that all students are capable of learning. She is passionate about trying all avenues to help students learn and reach their full potential. She believes in building relationships and encouraging students to keep trying even when learning is difficult. Michelle's analytic, strategic and "lifelong learning" approach in all areas of her life is something she uses every day to help students feel successful in their learning.

Michelle's desire to never stop learning has led to her earning a Bachelor's of Education in Biology (and quickly realized special education is where her heart resided,) so she went on to earn a Master's Degree in Education in Secondary Administration, an Educational Specialist Degree in Elementary Mathematics, and finally an Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership. Michelle is going to be published very soon and she is constantly learning new ways to encourage students to continue their learning in the classroom. She believes this approach has greatly impacted the students she's worked with who are particularly apathetic to the learning process.

Michelle taught for 13 years before accepting her current role as process coordinator where she works with educators regarding compliance of special education. Michelle looks forward to continuing to build strong relationships through tutoring individual students in this one on one setting that Special Education Resource provides.

Lauren Brauns


"...helping children with their different needs while building relationships to earn their trust and dedication..."

Lauren Brauns is a hard-working, dedicated, and passionate educator who believes the most important role is making a positive impact in a child’s life. It is very important to develop a strong relationship with both the student and their family to help them be successful and confident.

Lauren graduated from National Louis University in Wheeling, IL, with her master’s degree in Special Education. Lauren currently works with elementary-aged students at a virtual academy in Wisconsin. Lauren has worked with a variety of disabilities and knows how to support students through a virtual setting. She enjoys using a variety of technology to help students learn while staying engaged in the lesson. Lauren found her passion for teaching when she worked as a Special Education teacher assistant helping her students learn basic skills they would use in their everyday lives. She has always enjoyed helping children with their different needs while building relationships to earn their trust and dedication.

In her spare time, Lauren enjoys spending time outdoors, biking and hiking in Wisconsin, spending time with family and friends, and going to various sporting events. She is a huge Notre Dame and Chicago Bears Fan! Lauren is excited to join the Special Education Resource family and continue building confidence in every student.

Jayme Riley


"...developing strong relationships are essential in understanding each individual students’ talents and interests...."

“The adventure of life is to learn. The goal of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change.” -William Arthur Ward

Jayme Riley believes that developing strong relationships are essential in understanding each individual students’ talents and interests in order to differentiate their learning so as to magnify their achievement.

Jayme developed her passion as an educator in high school, volunteering in special education classrooms. After graduating early, she moved from her hometown in California to pursue an education degree in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over the next eight years, Jayme would spend her time working in a variety of educational settings and developing a profound passion working as an educator and changing the lives of each student she came across. Jayme graduated from Nevada State College with a BA in elementary and special education which allowed her to pursue her dream of becoming an autism teacher.

After some time as an autism teacher, Jayme realized that her passion resided in teaching in unconventional ways, so she sought other opportunities where she could engage with, and teach students outside of the classroom. While moving to Arizona, Jayme discovered Special Education Resource and realized that this was the job that she was meant for.

In her spare time Jayme loves to travel the world and spend time with her husband and dog. When she isn’t traveling, Jayme loves to read, cook, and watch Disney and Harry Potter movies.


Special Education Experts


Michelle Mayes, MSED


"...a belief that every child is equally entitled to a quality education..."

Michelle earned a Masterʼs degree in Inclusive Education at Binghamton University in New York State. In 2009, she began working as a special education teacher at The Institute for Child Development, specializing in providing ABA therapy for students, ages 6 thru 11, with ASD. During her years of teaching, Michelle has demonstrated a commitment to the families she serves, an instinct for perceiving and appreciating the unique qualities and characteristics of her students, and above all, a belief that every child is equally entitled to a quality education.

Michelleʼs enthusiasm and love for learning are infectious! Michelle takes pride in developing engaging and entertaining ways to meet her studentsʼ individual needs; every endeavor is met with the same enthusiasm and every student is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Michelle is a willing collaborator. Some of her best ideas have been born through a combination of team meetings, talking with parents, consultations with specialists and good old fashioned google searches! A quote that she lives by daily is, “Leave your ego at the door.”

Michelle has embraced the opportunity to reach her students in a new way. Becoming an online tutor has opened up new doors for her continued growth as an educator. She is grateful for every planned and incidental teachable moment in her life, especially those that have originated from the smallest souls with the biggest hearts.

Allison Sutton


"...acknowledging that success looks different for each person..."

Allison has a passion for giving each student the tools they need to be successful and acknowledging that success looks different for each person.

For Allison, the most critical components of education are to increase independence, communication, and collaboration for all stakeholders for each student. Allison desires a team-minded approach for collaboration and communication.

Allison’s love of special education started in high school through volunteer experiences and has been unwavering. She graduated with a Bachelors in Elementary and Special Education in 2013. She went on to earn a Master’s in Low Incidence Special Education in 2018 from Wichita State University. Through teaching, Allison has taught students in grades kindergarten through 8th grade.

Samantha Williams


"...Along with teaching experience, Sam also brings 26 years of parenting to the table..."

Samantha Williams, better known as Sam, began her “superhero” journey to help all children once she graduated from Brewton-Parker College in Georgia with a degree in Psychology. As a Child and Adolescent Counselor, she enjoyed the interaction with children but after some time wanted to do more and teaching was her calling.

So back to school she went to pursue a degree in Education. Sam received a degree in Interrelated Special Education, entered the classroom in 2000, and has never looked back. She is certified to teach in all subject areas and through the years has taught 6th grade through 12th along with Adult Education. She currently teaches in the Middle School setting as an inclusion/co-teacher in math and science classes. She has taught all subjects but thinks…. let’s change that to KNOWS math is the greatest!

Sam’s teaching style is driven by two statements:
1. Before a child will care to learn, we should learn to care.
2. If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.
Along with teaching experience, Sam also brings 26 years of parenting to the table. Raising four children (two are adults now) and adding a grandson to the mix 4 years ago has helped with being able to interact with children. Sam is excited to become a part of the Special Education Resource team and looks forward to your child becoming a “superhero” as well!

Ryan Larson


"...Ryan has years of experience working with students who had a difficult..."

Ryan is described as a nurturing and supportive teacher. Ryan believes that making connections with students and families is the key to learning. Ryan enjoys forming positive relationships with students as well as families and believes in getting to know the whole person.

Ryan has bachelor's degrees in History and Philosophy as well as Master’s degrees in the areas of specific learning disabilities and Emotional and behavioral disorders. Ryan also has an interest in technology as well as counseling. Ryan has years of experience working with students who had a difficult time attending school in a traditional setting. Ryan believes that each student's education should be individualized to meet their specific needs and that each student has a unique learning style.

In his years as a special education teacher, Ryan has helped many students graduate in alternative settings who might not have earned their diploma without individualized support.

Whitney Small


"...all children can succeed when taught in a way that meets their learning styles..."

Whitney Miles-Small is described as a caring, charismatic educator who has dedicated her professional career to increasing academic confidence and achievement in children. She holds an advanced professional certificate in special education grades 1-8 and general elementary education 1-5. She has worked in the field of education for 14 years teaching students in a variety of educational settings and disabilities. The last seven years she mentored and trained special education teachers at the elementary and middle school level.
She firmly believes that all children can succeed when taught in a way that meets their learning styles and engages them.

Madison Lund


"...Madison taught her first four years in Boston, MA and is currently on..."

Madison Lund is an educator raised by educators. From a young age Madison found her passion in teaching Special Education. After graduating from St. Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Madison went on to attain her master’s degree in Moderate Disabilities ages PreK-12th grade from Lesley University.

Her experience in the field has helped her to gain true understanding of what her professors had preached during her grad school days that is that when it comes to educating students fair is not equal, fair is every child gets what the need to succeed!

Madison taught her first four years in Boston, MA and is currently on her second year of teaching in the English Language Arts field at the Middle School level in Charlotte, NC. After Covid-19 impacted the lives of educators, students, and families Madison has truly fallen in love with the potential of remote learning and is excited to join the team at SpecialEducationResource to continue to make strong students even stronger!

JoAnn Brito-Riel


"...her students need to be taught strategies in order to cope with their disabilities..."

JoAnn has been teaching Special Education for 20 years with the Los Lunas School District. She has both a Bachelors of Science in Special Education/General Education and a Masters of Arts in Special Education from the University of New Mexico.

Currently, JoAnn is the Community Enhance Learning Teacher, where she works with students at the severe and profound level of Special Education. She believes that her students need to be taught strategies in order to cope with their disabilities. These amazing children need to be taught how to use the resources around them so that they are able to achieve their goals and objectives as stated in their IEPs.

JoAnn tends to have high expectations for her students and feels that each student is able to learn in their own unique way. She hopes that the skills and strategies that these children are taught will assist them in their life’s journey!

If JoAnn finds any spare time, she greatly enjoys partaking in family dinners with her two sons and their wives. Even more exciting is that she is expecting her first grandchild in August! JoAnn is truly grateful that she is able to play such a big role in the education of such incredible children and the success that countless students have had as they make a positive contribution to society.

Anna Rivera


"...building rapport and having a genuine concern for students are two of the most important aspects of teaching..."

Anna Rivera can be described as a compassionate and understanding teacher who is willing to go the extra mile to help her students. She enjoys helping children overcome challenges and be successful in learning. She tries to create a calm and caring environment where children feel safe taking risks. She pushes her students to grow and reach their goals.

Anna received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education/Special Education and her Master's degree in English from the University of Memphis. She has been a Special Ed teacher since 2008 but has worked with children with special needs far longer than that. She has volunteered with the Special Olympics and was a personal assistant for a child with cerebral palsy before becoming a teacher. Anna has taught grades 5-12 in public education both as an Inclusion teacher and a Resource teacher. She has also worked as both a teacher and principal in a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. Her teaching experiences have helped her realize that building rapport and having a genuine concern for students are two of the most important aspects of teaching.

Anna enjoys spending time with her husband and son. She also loves reading, traveling, and watching movies. Anna feels like all of the time she has spent with children and teenagers has helped to keep her young. She is looking forward to continuing her education journey as a tutor.

April Lindsey


"...April believes that every student can succeed no matter the obstacles..."

April earned her bachelor’s degree in Multicategorical Special Education from Anderson University. Since then, she has been working with students with various learning, emotional and intellectual disabilities for over five years.

April believes that every student can succeed no matter the obstacles. She believes in forming positive relationships with students and helping them grow not only academically but socially and emotionally as well. She believes that learning should be fun and that students should enjoy their academic journey. Her goal as an educator is to help students grow their confidence in themselves and their abilities.

April enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, musicals, and anything Disney-related. She is extremely excited to have the opportunity to help other students and build connections with a variety of families.

Michelle Benson


"...Michelle can be described as a goofy and energetic teacher. She likes to help her students..."

Michelle can be described as a goofy and energetic teacher. She likes to help her students really have fun learning. She enjoys building meaningful relationships with her students, learning what makes them unique and special. One of the most exciting parts of teaching is watching a student’s eyes light up with pride and confidence when they learn something new and accomplish their goals.

Michelle has a Bachelor’s in Child Development and Family Studies and a Master’s in Special Education. She taught students from age 3 to 22 in different moderate/severe special education classrooms for 6 years. Three years ago her and her husband decided to move from a small town in Northern California to Southeast Texas, where her husband grew up. This move provided Michelle with the opportunity to stay at home with her 3 children.

In her spare time Michelle enjoys sports, reading, baking, playing with her kids and spending time with her husband. Soon she hopes to have her own little farm complete with a garden, cows, pigs, chickens and maybe even a donkey.

Beth Ephlin


"...Beth is excited to work with students one-on-one to help them succeed and grow..."

Beth is a 15-year educator who teaches special education at a rural high school in Arkansas. She began her career in education in an alternative high school setting, and she realized quickly that working with students with special needs is her passion.

In 2005, Beth graduated from Arkansas State University with a Master's degree in Political Science and began to pursue her dream of teaching high school English. After working with several exceptional students in the general education classroom, she decided to continue her education by studying for a special education certification, which she received in 2017. She currently teaches Post-Secondary Transition, Physical Science, Geometry, and Life Skills Math at her alma mater, Rivercrest High School.

Beth lives within five miles of her hometown in Mississippi County, Arkansas. She is the aunt of two nephews and a niece whom she adores, and she is the "mom" to Buddy and Beau, two spoiled but adorable Yorkies. In her spare time, Beth enjoys reading novels and short stories. She also enjoys shopping and taking trips to Memphis, Tennessee with friends to enjoy new restaurants and theater experiences. Beth is excited to work with students one-on-one to help them succeed and grow.

Tracy Hurlburt


"...Tracy Hurlburt believes the most important role as an educator..."

Tracy Hurlburt believes the most important role as an educator is making a positive difference in a child’s life. Making a difference begins with providing students with the care and instruction they need to become a productive citizen and a well-adjusted educated person.

Tracy had been teaching in the classroom for over sixteen years. She retired from Seneca School District as a Special Education teacher in May of 2020. Since then, she has found she has missed being around children greatly. Therefore, she has become a tutor. She taught special education for all sixteen and half years at mostly the high school level, though she has taught 3rd and 4th grade, and 7th and 8th graders. As a special educator, she co-taught in the general education setting, tutored individual students, and worked in small-group settings in the resource room. She taught a few times in the general classroom also. She has taught reading, social studies, ELA, speech and drama, job skills, and life skills.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the Missouri Southern State University. She holds certifications in k-12 Special Education (mild to moderate), 9-12 Social Studies, 9-12 Speech and Debate, and k-6 Elementary Education. Tracy has served on Missouri State Teachers Association and professional learning committees. She has a true love for struggling students and wants to help them be successful.

Tracy lives in Southwest Missouri near Joplin. She has been married to her husband, Tom, for 48 years. They have two daughters - Joella (47) and Megan (41), six grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. She enjoys horseback riding with her brother, sewing, swimming, traveling, organizing things, yard work, sitting and relaxing with her cat (Star) and her husband (Tom) on their patio swing, and spending time with her family.

Christina Singh


"...She holds both a teaching license and a master’s degree in special education, as well as a doctorate..."

Christina Singh grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she began her teaching career in secondary education before moving to North Carolina. She holds both a teaching license and a master’s degree in special education, as well as a doctorate in educational leadership. She has worked in the education field for twenty years, teaching kindergarteners through adults. Christina moved to Colorado in the summer of 2021 where she teaches special education part time virtually. Happily married for the last nineteen years, she has two teenagers, a Spinone Italiano, and a British shorthair. Christina is passionate about health and wellness, and classic novels.

Tammy Mangrum


"...Tammy received her bachelor's degree in Special Education from the University of South Florida..."

Challenges come in all shapes and sizes, but with support, all students can and will rise to our expectations. This idea is at the heart of Tammy's educational philosophy. Tammy believes that individualized education and support should not be challenging to find. She feels her specialty lies in finding the best way to support each child she teaches.

Tammy received her bachelor's degree in Special Education from the University of South Florida. She taught 5th grade, transitioned into special education, and has taught within each grade level. Tammy loves teaching reading, but math is her real passion. Tammy has taught math at all levels, from identifying numbers to college-level skills. Algebra is her favorite niche of mathematics, but all areas have their strengths.

As an educator, Tammy believes it is her responsibility to find a new way to teach, not the child's responsibility to learn in the way she is teaching. With that in mind, she has found, brainstormed, and created unique resources and developed many strategies to ensure understanding of concepts, including concepts that are challenging and abstract.

Jenny BeBow


"...Jenny has a bachelor's degree in vocational rehabilitation..."

Early in life, Jenny admittedly hadn't considered teaching as a career. However, that all changed because of a single crucial connection she made with a young man who had significant challenges but had overcome so much! This life-changing interaction set Jenny on a passionate course to help students be the best they can be!

Jenny has a bachelor's degree in vocational rehabilitation and certification in special education. She also has her master's degree in education. Jenny has spent her career teaching all levels of special education, focused on grades 6-12. However, her true passion in life comes from helping each student she works with become the best, happiest, and most successful they can be in the way that works best for them!

Jenny lives in Wisconsin with her husband, three kids, and several animals. She enjoys reading, gardening, crafting, repurposing old furniture, and COFFEE!!!

Rebecca Mackin


"...Rebecca loves to be able to teach each student depending on their learning..."

Rebecca loves to be able to teach each student depending on their learning style – this is the way to success! She is funny, energetic, and loves to keep her students engaged in their lessons to be able to accomplish their learning goals while having fun with technology.

Rebecca has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Jacksonville University and a master’s degree in Developmental Disabilities from Nova Southeastern University. She has been a special education teacher for the last 19 years, teaching in self-contained classrooms for disabilities of all types. She has taught preacademic skills, ELA, intensive reading, math, social studies, and science from PreK through 5th grade. She has been a teacher of the year finalist at her school, is Grade Level Chair this school year, and is the newsletter creator for the special education department at her school.

Outside of school, Rebecca has two children (ages 10 and 15). She also has a family run “zoo” with a dog, 2 cats, 2 rabbits, and a hamster. In her spare time, she loves to be outdoors and go to the pool, the beach, kayaking, and anything with her family. She also loves to learn and is constantly reading and researching for her own professional and personal development.

Jane Boritz


"...Jane has done advocacy work through the Council for Exceptional Children..."

From a young age, Jane felt called to Special education as she always felt very passionate about representing those who did not feel they had a voice or did not know how to advocate for the rights within the educational system. She has a Masters’ degree in Varying Exceptionalities as well as a Masters’ in Curriculum and Instruction (predominately based on character education) with a minor in trauma and resiliency in general education settings. Her path led her from a 5th grade classroom, to a 3-5th self-contained, then working as an inclusion teacher in a public k-8th charter school that focused primarily on the Arts. Jane worked as a behavior specialist in both Florida and North Carolina. Currently she works as a mediation coordinator, however, she missed that connection with her students and their families.

Jane has done advocacy work through the Council for Exceptional Children locally, state-wide and at the national level. She continues to focus on underserved youth and families in various areas in her community through volunteering for the Red Cross and Meals on Wheels. She believes that every child deserves a quality, supportive educational system that not only focuses on learning, but the whole child, which includes their social emotional learning in school and at home.

Jane values a community approach to children. Valuing the input of the family and their individual needs. Providing interactive, engaging learning experiences, providing skills such as executive functioning skills, and emotional support are all important pieces of a child’s learning environment. When all of those pieces are working in unison, children can become independent, confident adults.

Jane is blessed with three grown children, two of which currently resides in Florida and her eldest resides in North Carolina with she and her husband. In her free time, Jane enjoys walking outdoors, camping, reading, and spending time exploring North Carolina’s waterfalls and state parks

Kate Zerbe


"...Kate considers it an honor to serve students and families..."

Kate Zerbe has 14 years of classroom experience as a special education teacher and more than ten years of experience homeschooling children with exceptional needs.

Kate has a degree in Special Education from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. She also holds a teaching certification for secondary mathematics, including middle school math and advanced-level high school courses. She has worked with a wide variety of learners and has experience working with children from birth through high school. Kate’s most recent professional development has been centered around trauma-informed classrooms, inclusion in private schools, and in the area of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

Kate brings energy, flexibility, and a cheerful smile to the educational experience. She is passionate about helping students feel good about themselves, especially when facing a challenge. She is able to adjust her teaching style to meet a variety of needs and diligently works to find the right method for each individual. Kate considers it an honor to serve students and families, building meaningful relationships along the way.

Kate loves coffee and cool mornings. She enjoys reading and is a bit competitive at trivia games. She is learning to play the piano and likes to pretend she can sing! Her favorite free time activity includes a table full of friends and family with unlimited chips and salsa.

Lindsey Charles


"...Lindsey’s educational philosophy is that every student can learn..."

Lindsey’s educational philosophy is that every student can learn when they are given the tools they need to help them. She understands that everyone learns in a different way, and each student will have different needs. Lindsey is passionate about helping each student to grow and meet their goals. She believes that creating positive relationships is the key to helping students learn, and she is dedicated to creating a positive learning experience for everyone.

Lindsey graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and English Education. She has spent the past 7 years teaching high school in Wisconsin and has worked with a variety of students with different disabilities. She loves teaching and is excited to help students virtually while being their personal cheerleader!

Lindsey currently resides in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota where she enjoys reading, yoga, hiking, playing card games and board games, and spending time with her family and friends in her spare time.

Katherine Smith


"...Katherine is a middle school special education teacher. She is incredibly..."

Katherine is a middle school special education teacher. She is incredibly passionate about providing the best services possible to students with disabilities. Katherine has been teaching for quite a few years and has experience in many special education settings, including small group resources, small group self-contained, and inclusion settings.

As a result, she has strong knowledge of and experience with all eligibilities and disabilities. Katherine attended Georgia College for her bachelor's degree in special education. She loved their program so much that she returned for her master's and specialist degrees in special education. She currently lives in Middle Georgia with her family.

Amy Lew


"...Amy has been teaching Special Education for seven years in Queen Creek and Flagstaff..."

Amy has been teaching Special Education for seven years in Queen Creek and Flagstaff, Arizona. She has taught many different subjects, including pre-algebra, consumer math, science, study skills, and health.

Outside of her role with SER, Amy is working as a case manager and thoroughly enjoys working with her students on their IEP goals, along with helping them towards graduation. As a result, Amy has extensive knowledge of the IEP process and is happy to help guide parents in that area.

Amy believes wholeheartedly that every student can learn and succeed in their goals, but how they learn might differ depending on the student and their learning style. She enjoys bringing many different modes of teaching into her lessons, such as physical movement, games, and short stories.

When Amy isn’t teaching, she enjoys being outside with her husband and toddler. They love to hike, paddleboard, snowshoe, and leisurely walk to the park. Amy is also an avid runner and has completed many marathons and ultra-marathons. She is described as a very energetic and goal-oriented person, and can’t wait to bring her excitement and passion to each lesson she teaches!

Mandy Faulkinbury


"...Mandy graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree..."

Growing up, Mandy was surrounded by books and a mother who shared the joy of learning with her and her sisters. Mandy’s mother was a huge inspiration and was, coincidentally, her 5th-grade math teacher. Along with the love of learning, she also grew up with a close cousin with special needs. Mandy’s experience with family members and friends with special needs molded her as a person and placed her on a path to becoming a special educator.

Mandy graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education. During her time at SFA, she was a member and President of the Student Council for Exceptional Children. After graduation, she began her career as an Adaptive Behavior teacher back in her hometown. In the years to follow, she began teaching resource to 4th and 5th graders.

Recently, Mandy and her husband moved out of the city and purchased their first home. They have two dogs named Lucy and Annie. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, baking, crocheting, and being outdoors. Mandy always strives to help students learn the way that best suits their specific needs.

Tiffany Riggs


"...Tiffany has a true passion for working with her students..."

Tiffany has a true passion for working with her students. She believes that all children can learn and loves finding ways to make learning fun. She especially likes teaching reading and enjoys reading to her students as much as possible.

Tiffany graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s degree in special education. She has worked with students with mild to severe disabilities in some capacity for 25 years. Tiffany has taught in the traditional classroom, as well as being a tutor, a virtual and in-person homebound teacher, and a substitute teacher.

In her free time, Tiffany loves spending time with her family. She also enjoys reading, shopping, and traveling. She is extremely grateful to be a part of the Special Education Resource family and to help students successfully reach their goals.

Jessica Bale


"...Jessica has an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)..."

Jessica Bale lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and several pets. She loves everything about animals and nature! Her hobbies include gardening, reading, and nature walks in the park with her husband and dog, Carmen.

Jessica has an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and she pursued her Master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix (UOP) before transitioning to an Early Childhood Special Education endorsement and completing coursework at both the University of Phoenix and Virginia Commonwealth University. After earning her license, she taught preschool special education in her local public school system, transitioned to online classes during the pandemic, and has enjoyed making connections with students virtually. Jessica taught Early Childhood Special Education in the public-school setting for almost 20 years and has enjoyed working more closely with students and families to support individual needs.

Jessica has extensive experience with autism spectrum disorder and the principles supporting a behavioral approach to learning. She has helped prepare young students as well as develop individual education plans to support students' needs to transition from preschool to kindergarten in all content areas. She loves integrating hands-on activities and is always trying to build confidence in her students. Jessica feels as though there is something magical about watching children make new connections and build on their body of knowledge and individual ideas. She knows that we all perform better when we feel good about ourselves. Jessica believes all children have unique skill sets and gifts.

Brandi Rukovena


"...Brandi currently works as a full-time online secondary special education teacher..."

Brandi currently works as a full-time online secondary special education teacher. She also teaches as an adjunct professor at New Mexico State University. Along with teaching English, History and American Government, she also has experience teaching low incidence students. In addition, she has experience tutoring elementary and secondary students, in both small groups and individually, in an online setting.

Brandi earned a BA in Political Science and a master’s degree in Applied Politics. She then went on to earn a master’s degree in Special Education from Eastern New Mexico University and has a Level 3 Instructional Leader teaching license in PreK-12 Special Education and PreK-12 English and Social Studies. She believes in building relationships with students and families and creating a positive and engaging learning environment and to help students reach their potential.

Brandi has three children, two in college and one in the Navy. In her spare time, she likes spending time with her animals-two dogs, a cat, three chickens, a guinea pig and a bearded dragon. She also likes to read, run and visit the beach whenever she can.

Marla Hollan


"...Marla Hollan comes from a family of educators, and she carries on the tradition..."

Marla Hollan comes from a family of educators, and she carries on the tradition as a dedicated Special Education Teacher with over 15 years of experience, teaching students with varying unique abilities in the self-contained elementary setting. Marla is committed to building bright futures for every student, by honing her skills in adapting and modifying instruction using a variety of resources and technology.

Originally starting her career as an elementary general education teacher, Marla quickly discovered her true calling in supporting and empowering students with diverse learning needs. This realization led her on a transformative journey, creating inclusive classrooms and fostering a positive learning environment where every child could thrive.

Marla finds immense joy in celebrating the small, big, and in-between breakthroughs with her students because she believes every achievement is worth celebrating. Whether it’s an academic milestone, a social skill development, or mastering an activity of daily living, Marla values each success.

Equipped with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Technology Leadership, Marla continuously seeks inventive and innovative ways to meet her students’ needs. She strives to build trust and rapport with each student, providing engaging, energetic, and fun instruction.

Beyond her professional life, Marla enjoys a fulfilling personal life as well. She is happily married with two children and two dogs. Her family shares a love for adventure, often exploring new places in the great outdoors. With a heart full of dedication and a spirit of exploration, Marla embraces the joy of teaching and the beauty of life’s adventures both inside and outside the classroom.

Daniella Collins


"...Daniella knew she wanted a career that allowed her to help children grow..."

Daniella knew she wanted a career that allowed her to help children grow. She found her passion in special education when she was a toddler teacher. One of the daycare kids had been evaluated for special education and was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Daniella loved being able to work with him and have him feel included.

Daniella worked full time as a paraprofessional while she attended Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. She loved being able to help students in the classroom and make modifications as needed to keep them successful in class. After graduating, Daniella became a setting III EBD teacher. She loves her job, the students she works with, and their parents. Daniella is a big advocate for her students, and she loves seeing them succeed!

When Daniella is not teaching wonderful students, you will find her spending time with her husband and two boys and volunteering in the community. Daniella is from a fire family and spends many hours at the fire station. When they aren't doing that, you can find them outside or walking the dogs.

Tom Casanova


"...Tom Casanova worked as a dedicated teacher for Maine Township High Schools, in Des Plaines, Illinois, for 25 years...."

Tom Casanova worked as a dedicated teacher for Maine Township High Schools, in Des Plaines, Illinois, for 25 years. Tom's primary focus was working with students diagnosed with specific learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. At the start of Tom's circuitous path to education, Tom worked as a teacher's aide and in-school suspension supervisor for three years, where he spent most of his time giving astute counsel to students on making better choices. Tom would eventually complete his Master's degree at Northeastern Illinois University in Special Education and Educational Foundations, where he would then take on his first classroom as a full-time special educator.

The first three years of teaching had Tom teaching as many as nine different courses of study to as many as 12 students during any given period. Tom would eventually settle into being a staple teacher of Mathematics and various Science topics for the duration of his tenure at Maine Township. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Tom spearheaded a gateway program called "Guided Study" for mainstream students at risk of failing mainstream classes. Some of these students would go on to be referred to the Special Education department due to Tom's observations and recommendations. Tom's philosophy to learning is: 1) Do you want it bad enough? 2) Are you willing to put in the time to improve your skills and 3) Are you willing to advocate for yourself when things get to be challenging and/or overwhelming? If you are willing to live by those three rules, then learning new and challenging skills is attainable.

Tom's extra-curricular responsibilities included coaching football and baseball and moderating the Italian American Club as well as the Movie Club. Outside of being an educator, Tom is a lover of his dog, Flossie, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Cincinnati Bengals. Tom's teaching mentor's words of advice that Tom always held close to his heart were, "The choices we make today don't impact us immediately; instead, they impact us somewhere in the future, and the gravity of our choices, good or bad, can stay with us for the rest of our life."

Carol Nowak


"...Carol has always had a passion for helping others. Her passion is helping her students to be...."

Carol has always had a passion for helping others. Her passion is helping her students reach their potential, and she loves to challenge her students to be curious and take chances when learning. Developing connections with students helps her grow and learn along with them. Carol wants her students to know that mistakes are not only a normal part of learning but are crucial to developing a true understanding of concepts and ideas. They help accelerate their learning. Carol has a quote that she likes her students to know: “Take chances, make mistakes; that is how you grow.” -Mary Tyler Moore. Just like students, she makes mistakes, and they are opportunities for her to learn too. Carol’s favorite quote that she heard many years ago that has stuck with her over the years is, “Mistakes are the seeds from which trees of knowledge grow.” She honestly doesn’t remember where she even heard it from, but it sure stuck with her.

Carol attended Eastern New Mexico-Portales and received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education with a minor in history and psychology. She then went back and picked up classes in reading. This was so she could help her students who struggled with reading. Carol currently holds a teaching license in Georgia and three licenses in New Mexico.

Carol began her career as a middle school special education teacher. She had the opportunity to be involved in a training program called Capturing a Kid's Heart. It evolved into her teaching an elective class called Teen Leadership. She knows she learned more from it than her students probably did. It opened her eyes to know that the job was more than a job; it was a career. Carol continued after 5 years at the middle school level and transitioned into teaching high school special education and gifted education. She has taught credit recovery to high school students and did homebound. Carol taught both middle school and high school summer school for a total of 16 years. Her next adventure was to become an academic advisor and counselor for both an alternative high school and an early college high at the same time. She retired at the end of 2018.

Carol moved to North Carolina and began substituting for a class called Occupational Course of Study for 6 months at a high school in Cherokee County. The next year, she was called and asked to teach the OCS class in Hayesville, N.C., for that year. The Occupational Course of Study is a class that allows students with disabilities to earn a diploma and learn job skills to help them find a job after high school. She was only there for one year until they could find a teacher. She then went back to Cherokee County High School and was a teacher assistant for a student who was wheelchair-bound. Carol is now excited to make a change and teach in a different setting.

In her free time, she reads and walks her dog. She is a 16-month-old Rottweiler.


Student Success Team


Yos Enos


"...Yos' background and passion are deeply embedded in all things technology..."

Yos' background and passion are deeply embedded in all things technology. His contributions to SER are vast and include video editing, graphics, design, website development, curriculum development, and anything else the SER team needs to help children reach their excellence!

In his free time, Yos enjoys camping, hiking, traveling, and any other adventure he can find with his wife and daughter. Truly a lover of life, Yos is constantly looking for more ways to help children around the globe break free from any academic challenges that may exist.

A true pillar of the organization, Yos is often the first person to volunteer to help with ANY challenges that arise from a technology standpoint. As an outside-the-box thinker - solutions to more significant technology challenges seem to come quickly to Yos, who has been a big driver of all the behind-the-scenes work within SER.

Yos contributes his success to his profound belief that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams!

Dara Shinta


"...Dara’s passion involves videography and graphic design. This stems from a lifelong interest in all things art related!..."

Dara’s passion involves videography and graphic design. This stems from a lifelong interest in all things art related!

Most of her time within SER is spent creating expert graphics, videos, and other content for our educators specifically designed to help engage students and to hold their attention for the duration of the session.

Outside the organization, Dara enjoys a wide variety of interests, including relaxing with a good book, or spending quality time in nature, usually focused on areas she hasn’t yet been to. New experiences are a focal point for her, as she deeply enjoys broadening her horizons!

Kara Cira


"...Since Kara was a little girl, she knew she wanted to become a teacher. ..."

Since Kara was a little girl, she knew she wanted to become a teacher. Her Kindergarten teacher left an impact on her heart that she knew she wanted to provide to her future students. She believes every child can succeed and feel proud of their accomplishments if they feel seen and heard.

Kara graduated from Elmhurst College in Illinois with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Minor in Special Education. After graduating, she moved to South Carolina with her husband and two young children to start a new chapter in their lives. When Kara stepped into her daughter’s preschool, she knew she wanted to start her teaching career. She happily spent the next seven years as a Pre-K lead teacher. During this time, Kara welcomed their youngest child into their family. Being able to do something that she loved while watching her children go through their preschool years is a time in her life she will never take for granted.

After 13 years, Kara’s children are all in school, so she took a step away from the teaching world to practice self-care. Kara loves going to the beach, reading, scrapbooking, yoga, and spending time with her family. Kara is thankful to be a part of the SER family, and she feels at peace that she is still involved in the teaching world with amazing co-workers and families at SER.

Kris Ishler


"...Kris is from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and has lived there for nine years. ..."

Kris is from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and has lived there for nine years. Though Kris is originally from Washington State and most of her family still lives there, she loves living in the South and enjoys being near the beach. Kris began her career working office jobs but later discovered her true passion lay in education. She taught preschool for seven years and worked with various age groups. When she’s not working, she loves spending time with her daughter Kaitlynn, a University of South Carolina student. Kris also loves spending time with her many friends and frequenting Disney World. Kris loves being a part of the SER family!

Think Differently About Education.

We Believe…





All children are born with the innate ability to reach their OWN excellence.

That a growing group of children don’t fully prosper in overpopulated classrooms.

Through technology and one on one learning, their future path to success can be made clear again.