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, 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.
Suzanne Carreker, Ph.D., CALT-QI, Secretary
Suzanne Carreker, Ph.D., CALT-QI, is Principal Education Content Lead at Lexia Learning Systems in Concord, Massachusetts, and was formerly Senior Vice President of Innovative Solutions at Neuhaus Education Center in Houston, Texas. Dr. Carreker is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and is the author of numerous systematic literacy curricula, journal articles, and textbook chapters on reading and spelling. Currently, she serves on the Board of the International Dyslexia Association as Secretary and is coordinating IDA’s new certification program for teachers of reading.
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.
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.
Rick Smith, Chief Executive Officer (Ex-Oficio, Non-Voting Member)
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.
C. Wilson Anderson, Jr., MAT, F/AOGPE
Wilson Anderson has spent 28 years as a junior and senior high English and social studies teacher in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has been honored by the Minnesota Association for Children with Learning Disabilities as a General Educator of the Year, and by the Upper Midwest Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. In 1997, he received the “Samuel T. Orton Award” from the International Dyslexia Association. He serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Kildonan School in Amenia, New York. He is a Fellow, Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.
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.
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).
Joe Fuld has been fighting for causes and campaigns for the past 20 years. Joe has worked for a long list of clients, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the California Nurses Association, Defenders of Wildlife, D.C. Vote, the Human Rights Campaign Fund, as well as many other groups, candidates and ballot measures. Prior to becoming a political consultant, Joe served as the Northeast Political Director at the DNC in 1996, and between 1991 and 1995 managed 10 political campaigns throughout the country.
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.
Monica McHale-Small, Ph.D.
Monica McHale-Small, Ph.D. is currently superintendent of the Saucon Valley School District in Hellertown, PA. She has spent twenty-five years as a public educator in Pennsylvania as a school psychologist and more recently, an administrator. Monica has long advocated bringing sound research into practice in public schools. Recently, she has been an active member of the Pennsylvania Dyslexia Literacy Coalition and the Coalition for Reading Excellence. Monica is part of the advisory council for Pennsylvania’s Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot. She earned her doctorate and masters degrees at the University of Pennsylvania.
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.
Edward C. Taylor. Ph.D.
Edward Taylor is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Jacksonville, Florida. His practice focuses on child and adolescent psychology. He received his PhD from the University of Florida and completed an internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the Kansas University School of Medicine-Wichita. He has held faculty appointments in the Department of Psychiatry of the Kansas University School of Medicine-Wichita and in the Department of Pediatrics of the University of Florida School of Medicine, Shands-Jacksonville. In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Taylor provides educational interventions to children with learning disorders through The Learning Specialists, an educational practice he developed 15 years ago. Dr. Taylor serves as the Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Florida Branch of the International Dyslexia Association and is a member of the American Psychological Association.
Carole Wills is currently the Head of School for the The Briarwood School, a private, non-profit school (Pre-K – 12) for students who present with learning differences, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADD and other language-based learning challenges. However her career began in 1986 as a classroom teacher. From there she held interim head of lower and special school positions as well head of middle upper school. She served as the Assistant Head of School juts prior to her current position. Carole has played an active role in IDA at both the national and branch level. She is a past president of the Houston Branch of IDA and has also served on the Branch’s Board of Directors, Advisory Board and Speakers Committee. Nationally, Carole has previously served on the national Nominating Committee as well as the Branch Council Executive Committee.
Liz Woody, M.Ed.
Liz Woody 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.