Directors & Executive Committee

Executive Committee


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.


Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Ed.D., CCC/SLP, CALT-QI, CDT, Vice Chair

Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan is a Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist and a Certified Academic Language Therapist. She holds a doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is the Director of Valley Speech Language and Learning Center in Brownsville, Texas, and works with Texas Institute for Measurement Evaluation and Statistics at the University of Houston. Dr. Cárdenas Hagan is the author of Esperanza (HOPE): a structured Spanish language and literacy program designed to assist students who struggle with learning to read. Her research interests include the development of early reading assessments for Spanish speaking students in addition to the development of reading interventions.


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.

Paul Carbonneau

Paul Carbonneau, Secretary

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 Jo O’Neill, M.Ed., Branch Council Chair

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.

 Rick Smith Headshot

Rick Smith, Chief Executive Officer

Rick Smith joined IDA in January 2015 as CEO. Under his leadership, the organization has designed the IDA Destiny, implemented IDA’s first global brand advancement and development initiative, TeamQuest, and integrated planning and performance management. As CEO, Rick is responsible for the strategic advancement of the International Dyslexia Association, its brand, and all IDA programs nationally and globally. Rick has 35 years of experience in organizational management and is nationally recognized as a top organizational strategist and visionary having managed large organizations generating over $400,000,000 during his tenure.  He has been President and CEO of the American Liver Foundation, President of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Arizona and Maryland, CEO of the American Diabetes Association in California and New Mexico and Executive Director of the American Cancer Society in Maryland.


At-Large Directors


Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D.

Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D., has joined the IDA Board. Dr. Al Otaiba is 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, and prior to that, she was a special educator for over a decade in the United Arab Emirates. She enjoys teaching graduate courses in literacy, special education, assessment, response to intervention and mentoring doctoral students. Dr. Al Otaiba has served on review panels for grants for the Institute of Education Science and has reviewed for the Office of Special Education Programs. She was recently elected the Vice President of the Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children. She is an Associate Editor of Education Researcher and the Elementary School Journal and also serves on numerous editorial boards for scholarly journals in the field of education. Dr. Al Otaiba has consulted nationally and internationally related to early literacy intervention and assessment.

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.


 Nancy Coffman

Nancy Coffman, M.S., CALT-QI

Nancy Coffman is currently president of the Alliance and immediate past president of ALTA. Nancy is an adjunct instructor for DBU and serves as the Associate Director of Outreach at the Shelton School in Dallas, Texas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The University of the South, a master’s degree in special education from Vanderbilt University, is a Certified Academic Language Therapist and a Qualified Instructor in Alphabetic Phonics. Nancy is a member of the International Dyslexia Association, the Alliance for Accreditation and Certification of Structured Language Education, Inc. (Alliance) and the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA).


Angus Haig

Angus Haig is currently International General Counsel – Asia Pacific for The Coca-Cola Company based in Atlanta, Georgia. 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 since 1994 as an Associate to a Supreme Court Judge then as a solicitor in Adelaide for several years he moved to Sydney, Australia, and joined Coca-Cola 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 Middle East before moving back to Sydney to become Division Counsel for Coca-Cola South Pacific and Korea. In 2007, Mr. Haig moved from Australia to Atlanta as Senior Managing Counsel of Global Marketing for The Coca-Cola Company based in Atlanta, until December 2013 when Mr. Haig was appointed as General Counsel Asia Pacific Group and General Counsel Japan and relocated to Tokyo Japan.

 Fumiko Hoeft

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

Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Dyslexia Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and Director of Laboratory for Educational Neuroscience (LENS). 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 the 2014 Norman Geschwind Memorial Lectureship from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and the 2015 Transforming Education through Neuroscience from Learning & the Brain Foundation. She has published over 100 articles in journals such as the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Neuroscience. Hoeft has delivered over 120 lectures including remarks/keynotes at the White House and IMBES. Her work has been covered in media such as The New York Times, NPR, CNN and the New Yorker.


Mervyn Jones

 Liz Woody

Liz Remington, M.Ed.

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.


Shawn Anthony Robinson, Ph.D.

 Shawn is Director of Pure and Complete Phonics LLC and an Independent scholar. 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


Viveca Serafy

 Lee Siang

Lee Siang

Lee Siang is the Chief Executive Officer of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). He oversees their 13 learning centers which support over 3,000 children with dyslexia. He also sits on the Board of DAS Academy and DAS International. In line with the vision of DAS providing a comprehensive and holistic range of services for dyslexic people, Siang has encouraged the expansion of the DAS Literacy Program for Primary and Secondary School children as well as the Preschool Program and Mathematics Program. He also initiated the creation of an Exam Skills program, the Chinese Program and a Speech and Drama Program at DAS.


Thomas Strewler

Thomas Strewler is President of the Upper Midwest Branch, International Dyslexia Association. He is the owner of Enduring Achievenment, LLC, an educational services company providing academic tutoring and tutoring for children and adults with dyslexia. Thomas is a retired teacher. During his career, he taught special education working with learning disabilities; he subsequently taught elementary classroom. He served on and led numerous committees examining curriculum, leadership, assessment, technology, professional development, and instructional strategies. Thomas received a B.S. in Elementary Education at the University of Minnesota, a M.S. in Special Education from St. Cloud State University, and a M.S.E. in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Thomas was diagnosed with dyslexia and was tutored through the Orton-Gillingham approach. He is married with three grown children.