Directors & Executive Committee


Executive Committee

jennifer-topple-5

Jennifer Topple, M.S., CCC/SLP, Chair

Jennifer Topple, M.S., CCC/SLP, has been elected by the Delegate Assembly as the new Chair of the IDA Board of Directors. Ms. Topple has been on the Board of Directors and has served as Chair of the Branch Council Executive Committee (BCEC) and as President of the Georgia Branch. She is the Director of Assistive and Instructional Technology at The Howard School, a K-12 school for students with language-based learning differences in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Topple has been a speech-language pathologist in both hospital and school settings for more than sixteen years with a focus on language-learning disabilities and assistive technology. She has presented and held workshops on the topic of assistive technology both locally and internationally. Ms. Topple holds an M.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of New Mexico and a B.A. in Public Relations from Auburn University.

Paul Carbonneau

Paul Carbonneau, Vice Chair

Paul is a partner in McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm. He serves as a counselor to senior executives across multiple industries, directly supporting them on their strategy development and transformation agendas. Paul earned an MSE in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan.

 

Mary Wennersten, M.Ed., Vice Chair

Mary Wennersten works for the Arizona Department of Education in the Exceptional Student Services (ESS). She is one of the lead developers for the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) which is focusing on 3-8th grade reading along with developing the state Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) for both behavioral and academics. Mary has spent 29 years in public education at the school, district and state level as a teacher, coach, instructional specialist, professional developer and director focusing on improving K-6 literacy skills for all students.

 

Larry Orrach, M.Ed., Treasurer

Larry Orrach recently retired from as Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Technology for North Olmsted Schools, a K-12 school district in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He continues to assist the district with the development of its Literacy Education program. He has held similar positions in other districts in Ohio for the past 30 years. His teaching experience includes middle school science and health and methods instruction at the university level. While all curricular areas of the district’s program are within his responsibilities, the district’s literacy and RTI programs receive most of his attention. For the past ten years he has focused upon organizing professional development programs to improve reading instruction for students with dyslexia. These programs have been not only for teachers in his school districts, but also for teachers across northern Ohio. He is past president of the Northern Ohio Branch of IDA. He holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum from the University of Toledo and a B.A. in Psychology from Oberlin College.

Liz Woody

Liz Remington, M.Ed., Secretary

Liz Remington is the Co-Founder and the Director of Professional Development for The Learning Alliance (TLA), a Florida non-profit dedicated to revolutionizing the teaching of literacy skills to children birth through grade 3. TLA, in collaboration with the Indian River County School District and the wider community, has set the Moonshot Moment goal of having 90% of third grade students reading at or above grade level by 2018. Liz’s efforts reached a world-wide audience when her work with TLA was featured on the PBS NewsHour in September 2014, and TLA/Moonshot Moment has twice earned the Pacesetter Award from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Liz earned her BA (English Lit) from the University of Delaware and her Masters (Learning Disabilities) from American University, where she was one of the last students to work with the legendary Sally Smith, the founder of the Washington Lab School. Liz has served on the Florida IDA board for the past several years.

 

Janet Thibeau, Branch Council Chair

Janet Thibeau is founder and president of BTA Education, a special education advocacy, parent coaching, and school/college consulting firm in Massachusetts. She presents at the national and regional conference and to parent groups. Prior to founding Barlow Thibeau & Associates, Janet worked as a corporate trainer and consultant, delivering education services to Fortune 500 companies in North America and Europe. She has a Bachelor of Arts in both history and economics from Marietta College. Janet is also the parent of 4 children with dyslexia.

Sonja Banks, Chief Executive Officer

Sonja has over 25 years of experience in nonprofit administration with a diverse background in organizational leadership, capacity building and human relations. She is coming to us with a background of running a national organization with a similar branch structure, where she ran an annual conference and developed a national certification program, which she built from the ground up, making her the perfect fit for IDA.

   

At-Large Directors

 

Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D.

Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D., is the Centennial Endowed Professor of Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development at Southern Methodist University. Previously, she was an Associate Professor at the Florida State University (FSU) and was on faculty at the Florida Center for Reading Research. Dr. Al Otaiba received her Ph.D. in 2000 in Human Development from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, A former special education teacher, her research focuses on early literacy interventions for students with or at-risk for disabilities (including dyslexia), response to intervention (RTI), and on teacher training. She enjoys teaching graduate students and mentoring doctoral students. Her research has been supported by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the Office of Special Education Programs, and the National Institute of Health (NIH). She is the author or coauthor of over 130 articles and chapters. Dr. Al Otaiba is the Past President of CEC’s Division for Learning Disabilities, she is the editor of the Journal of Learning Disabilities, and serves on review boards for many journals in education and psychology and on review panels for the Institute of Education Sciences.

Dean Bragonier

Dean Bragonier is the Founder and Executive Dyslexic of NoticeAbility Inc, a nonprofit organization that designs and delivers proprietary curricula to students with dyslexia. Grounded in social-emotional learning, executive function methodology and project management techniques, NoticeAbility offers authentic inquiry experiences in vocational subjects that cater to the neurological strengths of the dyslexic mind: entrepreneurship, engineering, architecture and narrative storytelling (film, literature, and stage). Shaped by the challenges associated with his dyslexia and after struggling through the traditional secondary education system, Dean became a diligent and successful college student who developed a true love of learning at Bates College. Upon graduation, Dean embraced his entrepreneurial instincts and acquired a small seasonal restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard Island that he transformed into a successful full-scale enterprise. It was through this endeavor that he was able to contextualize his years of laborious academic learning and discover the true gifts of his dyslexic mind. As a social entrepreneur, Dean has founded his own nonprofit organizations and served as board member and advisor to a number of others. NoticeAbility is the culmination of Dean’s passion for education and his conviction that the advantages of dyslexia far outweigh its associated challenges.

Tom Brennan

Tom has a 20 plus year career in finance and served as CFO of various divisions in Prudential Insurance.

 

 

Josh Clark

Josh is the head of the Schenck School in Atlanta. He is an educator and now school executive with experiencing improving both in class results as well as fundraising and financial performance. He is an energetic and committed leader in the dyslexia private LD school community.

Don Compton, Ph.D.

Dr. Compton is Professor of Psychology at Florida State University/Florida Center for Reading Research. He was formerly Professor and Chair of Special Education and a John F. Kennedy Center Investigator at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. Don is also a member of IDA’s Scientific Advisory Board.

Dean Conklin, Ed.D.

Dean is the executive director of The Frostig Center, a non-profit organization in Pasadena, CA, that is dedicated to helping children, teens and young adults with learning differences live to their full potential. The largest program at The Frostig Center is Frostig School, which enrolls 130 students in grades 1-12 who have a wide range of learning challenges, including dyslexia, processing disorders, and high functioning autism. Prior to joining The Frostig Center in 2013, Dean enjoyed a long and successful career in public education. He started as a special education teacher and gradually rose through the ranks to become superintendent of two Southern California school districts. Dean has held numerous leadership positions in the California education, including president of the regional Superintendents’ Council; member of the Cal Poly Pomona Doctorate in Education Planning and Development Committee, and member of the Azusa Pacific University Dean’s Advisory Council. Dean earned his doctorate in school administration from the University of Southern California.

Carolyn D. Cowen, Ed.M.

Carolyn earned her master’s degree in reading education and learning disabilities from Harvard University. She is an educator and social entrepreneur known for developing and managing innovative programs and initiatives that improve the teaching-learning landscape for people with learning differences. In her 40-year career in education and nonprofits, Carolyn has worn many hats—teacher, reading therapist, speaker, author, editor, consultant, professional-development planner, executive director, think-tank convener, fundraiser, funder, and research coordinator. These days, she is especially interested in harnessing the power of digital media to make complex information accessible and actionable for the spectrum of decision makers working for change on behalf of students with dyslexia and other reading challenges. Carolyn received the Alice H. Garside Award from the New England Branch of IDA (before splitting into state branches), chaired IDA’s Nominating Committee, and served as Digital Media Strategist/Content Editor for IDAs Examiner. Currently, Carolyn serves as Executive Editor-in-Chief of the IDA’s editorial boards. She brings a wealth of experience in reading education, dyslexia, nonprofits, and strategic communications to the board.

Gad Elbeheri

Gad Elbeheri

Dr. Gad Elbeheri is the Founder and Managing Director of Global Educational Consultants (Egypt). Previously he was the Dean of the Australian College of Kuwait and the Executive Director of Centre for Child Evaluation & Teaching.
An applied linguist who obtained his PhD from the University of Durham, UK, Dr. Elbeheri has a keen interest in cross-linguistic studies of specific learning difficulties and inclusive education.
Dr. Elbeheri has made over 40 conference and seminar presentations around the world. He has published over 8 books in both English and Arabic in the field of dyslexia, and over 10 peer-reviewed journal articles on dyslexia and its manifestations in Arabic. He has participated in producing nationally standardized tests and computer-based screening programs in Arabic.

 

Angus Haig

Angus Haig was recently appointed as the SVP & General Counsel of Cox Automotive, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia.
Cox Automotive Inc. makes buying, selling and owning cars easier for everyone. The global company’s 34,000-plus team members and family of brands, including Autotrader®, Dealer.com®, Dealertrack®, Kelley Blue Book®, Manheim®, NextGear Capital®, VinSolutions®, vAuto® and Xtime®, are passionate about helping millions of car shoppers, 40,000 auto dealer clients across 100+ countries and many others throughout the automotive industry thrive for generations to come. Cox Automotive revenues exceed $9 billion and is a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises Inc., a privately-owned, Atlanta-based company with revenues exceeding $20 billion.
Mr. Haig was formerly the International General Counsel – Asia Pacific for The Coca-Cola Company.
He is a seasoned International General Counsel with over 24 years of extensive global legal and business experience (19 years with The Coca-Cola Company) who has lived and worked overseas in Asia Pacific, Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and the United States. A proven proactive hands-on Leader and People Manager, he prides himself on providing pragmatic commercial, strategic and innovative legal counsel and solutions to complex and day-to-day business issues and objectives. He has deep experience in partnering closely with Senior business executives and cross-functional Leadership Teams such as Finance, Human Resources, Operations, Risk Management, Marketing, M&A, Tax and Public/Government Affairs. He is also skilled in efficiently solving legal, regulatory and business issues across multiple jurisdictions while taking into account diverse cultural sensitivities and implications. Mr. Haig began his career in Adelaide, South Australia, where he was born. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree and his Bachelor of Laws Degree from the University of Adelaide. After working as an Associate to a Supreme Court Judge then as a solicitor in Adelaide for several years he moved to Sydney, Australia and joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1998 as Division Marketing Counsel for Coca-Cola South Pacific. In 2001 he completed a short-term assignment in Shanghai, China, and upon return to Australia was promoted to Region Counsel for Coca-Cola Australia. Shortly thereafter he moved to London for three years as Group Marketing Counsel for Coca-Cola Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East before moving back to Sydney to become Division General Counsel for Coca-Cola South Pacific and Korea. In late 2006, Mr. Haig moved from Australia to The Coca-Cola Company headquarters in Atlanta as Senior Managing Counsel responsible for Global Marketing, Worldwide Licensing, Food Law, Environment & Sustainability, Occupational Health & Safety, Technical & Regulatory. In December 2013 he was promoted to International General Counsel Asia Pacific Group and General Counsel Japan and relocated to Tokyo Japan. Mr. Haig currently serves on the Board of the International Dyslexia Association and its Ethics & Standards Committee and its Nominations & Governance Committee. He is a Member of the Board of Trustees of The Howard School (a school specializing in educating children with Learning Differences/Disabilities) in Atlanta; as well as serving on the Advisory Board of InTheHouse.org, an online In-house Counsel Networking and Development Community. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of i–command, a Phoenix-based company with products leveraging AI voice technology.
Mr. Haig is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D.

Fumiko is Professor of Psychological Sciences, Director of Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) at UCONN, and Director of Laboratory for Learning Engineering and Neural Systems (brainLENS.org) located at UCONN/UCSF. She also has appointments as Professor of Psychiatry at UCONN Health, Senior Scientist & Senior Advisor of Strategic Planning at Haskins Laboratories, Co-Director of Haskins L2 (Language & Literacy) Global Innovation Hub, and Adjunct Professor of UCSF Psychiatry, Weill Institute for Neurosciences and Dyslexia Center. Her current research program focuses on brain development, and brain mechanisms underlying skill/reading acquisition, dyslexia, and educationally relevant concepts such as motivation and stereotype threat. She received research training at Harvard, Caltech, and Stanford. Recent honors include awards from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA; 2014 – Geschwind Lecturer), Learning & the Brain Foundation (2015), University of California Office of the President (2016), Int’l Mind Brain & Education Society (IMBES; 2018), and Society for Neuroscience (SfN; 2018). She has published over 130 articles, reviews, and book chapters, and has delivered over 160 keynotes, talks and workshops at venues such as local schools, International conferences, TEDx and the White House. Her work has been widely covered in media such as The New York Times, NPR, CNN, the New Yorker, and Scientific American. She also serves on many boards at organizations such as the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), Bay Area Discovery Museum’s (BADM) Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC), and Boon Philanthropy.

 

Mervyn Jones

Robert “Bob” Lane, Ed.D.

Bob is the Director of Admissions at The Lab School of Washington.  Previously, he served as Academic Dean at the Kildonan School, a boarding school for students with dyslexia.  His additional years of experience in education include working as a diagnostic clinician, a student teaching and Masters program coordinator, an inclusive curriculum consultant, an elementary and high school teacher, and an Orton-Gillingham tutor.  In addition, he has been an active member of the New York State Association of Independent schools, where he has directed their Beginning Teachers Institute, was a founding coordinator of their annual Brain conference and served on the Council for Professional Learning and Collaboration.  Currently, he serves on the Admissions Committee for the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington and has presented on the intersection of race and learning differences in Independent Schools.  Bob earned his Doctorate of Education, Masters of Education, and Master of Arts from Teachers College, Columbia University.  

Mary Jo O’Neill, M.Ed.

Mary Jo O’Neill, M.Ed., was appointed by the BCEC to fulfill the remainder of Ms. Topple’s term as Chair of the BCEC. Ms. O’Neill has also served as President of the Northern Ohio Branch. She is the Founder and Director of Creating an Equal Playing Field—an independent practice that helps families of children with dyslexia and other learning differences discover valuable resources and programs available in their schools and in their community. Ms. O’Neill works closely with McCarthy Lebit’s Education practice team to add value to and provide support for their clients. In the past, she has worked as an outreach education coordinator with Lawrence School. Ms. O’Neill has taught in both public and private schools, including the Julie Billiart School. She also initiated and developed the administrative function of the Academic Support Center at Notre Dame College. Ms. O’Neill earned her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education at Vermont College of Norwich University and her master’s degree in Mild/Moderate Learning Disabilities at Cleveland State University. She is a licensed intervention specialist.

 

Shawn Anthony Robinson, Ph.D.

Shawn is Director of Pure and Complete Phonics, LLC, and Senior Research Associate in the Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei LAB) at the University of Wisconsin Madison. His research focuses on the intersection of race, giftedness and dyslexia. He brings a wealth of academic experience, training and knowledge about the psychological development of dyslexia. Robinson graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) with a bachelor’s of science, a master’s in education from DePaul University, and a PhD in language and literacy from Cardinal Stritch University. 

Joaquin Serra

Joaquín Serra, Senior Executive Vice President and CBDO of Natura Bissé Group, focuses his
efforts on targeting and bringing the firm’s strategic lines of growth to fruition. His role has
been fundamental in making Natura Bissé synonymous with luxury, innovation, and quality.
Joaquín executes the firm’s entrepreneurship activities both at a social and at a business
level within the firm. He is also the founder of Project Difference, an educational initiative
dedicated to the detection of learning disabilities such as dyslexia and cross-handedness
among others. He is a member of the Fortuny Circle, a member of the Board of Director of the Association
of Renowned Brands and member of the Board of Barcelona Global. He is President and co-founder of Reimagine Food, a company focused on groundbreaking innovation in the world of culinary science and food, bringing entrepreneurs and investors
together over big ideas in those fields. From 2013 to 2016, Joaquín Serra was President of Feed your Skin, the company behind
Beauty & Go, innovative bio-active drinks aimed to take care of the skin from the inside.
In October 2017 he was named a member of the Board of Trustees of the International
Dyslexia Association (IDA). Joaquín is Ambassador of Singularity University in Spain, whose mission is to inspire leaders
on how to apply new technologies to solve the great challenges of humanity, such as
education.

Viveca Serafy