Josh Clark, Chair
Josh is the head of the Landmark School in Boston, MA. Prior to his current role he served as head of The Schenck School in Atlanta, Ga. from 2016-2022. Prior to this role, Josh was head at the Bodine School in Memphis, Tenn.
Josh began his career in education at Lausanne Collegiate School, an International Baccalaureate World School in Memphis, Tenn., where he served as assistant head of the Middle School and a middle and high school English teacher for seven years.
Josh is very interested in promoting the science of reading as a vehicle for education reform and social good. He’s involved with several professional organizations and currently serves as the chair of International Dyslexia Association. When he was the Head of the Schenk School, he was also was selected by Made By Dyslexia, along with other schools, to serve as a content expert for digital resources intended to reach dyslexic students, their parents, and educators around the world.
Jennifer Topple, M.S., CCC/SLP, Immediate Past Chair
Jennifer Topple, MS, CCC-SLP, is the current 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 Language, Literacy, and Assistive Technology at The Howard School, a K-12 school for students with language-based learning differences in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Topple has twenty years of experience as a speech-language pathologist in both hospital and school settings 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 MS in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of New Mexico and a BA in Public Relations from Auburn University.
Mary Wennersten, M.Ed., Vice Chair
Mary has over 30+ years working in public education. She has been a teacher, an instructional coach, state level program specialist and the Director for K- 5 Literacy for the Arizona State Department of Education (ADE). While at ADE, she developed resources and professional development for teachers and coaches in the areas of reading, writing, data analysis, instructional coaching, assessment system and RTI/MTSS. Mary has worked with school and district leadership in providing classroom observations, follow-up coaching and instructional leadership training to improve literacy instruction for K-5 classrooms. Mary has spent her career improving instruction for all students in language and literacy. She is the past-president of the Arizona International Dyslexia Association (AZ-IDA), currently the vice-chair for the national IDA, a Certified Structured Literacy Dyslexia Specialist and a literacy consultant.
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.
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 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.
Geoffrey Seegmiller, Treasurer
Geoff Seegmiller is Senior Director in the Transaction Strategy and Execution practice at EY Parthenon, focusing on Divestitures in Consumer Packages Goods (CPG) and Oil and Gas with a specialty within Finance and Accounting vertical. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Queens University (Smith School of Business) Kingston, ON, Canada and is
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, Ph.D.
Dr. Gad Elbeheri is the Founder and Managing Director of Global Educational Consultants (Egypt). Previously, Dr. Elbeheri was the Dean of the Australian College of Kuwait (2012/2017) and the Executive Director of the Centre for Child Evaluation & Teaching (2006/2011). 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 9 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 was recently appointed as the SVP & General Counsel of Cox Automotive, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia.
Joanna Price has more than 25 years’ experience in public affairs and communications, primarily in the food and beverages sector.
Prior to her current role, Joanna was Vice President for Global Communications for The Coca-Cola Company, overseeing strategy for financial, executive leadership, digital, employee and corporate reputation communications. She also managed communications for the company’s largest brand acquisition, Costa Coffee, and fundamentally reshaped how the company reported financial communications and measured corporate reputation.
During her Coca-Cola career, Joanna has held multiple public affairs and communications roles in Australia, Hong Kong, China and the U.S., where she developed and executed strategies to enhance and protect the reputation of The Coca-Cola Company. Joanna spent her early career in senior corporate positions at Kellogg’s and ACNielsen. She holds tertiary qualifications in Masters of Marketing from Charles Sturt University and Bachelor of Business from Queensland University of Technology.
Michael is a retired executive who spent thirty-three years in senior executive roles in The Coca-Cola system in both Canada and the United States. Mike is a professional accountant and a member of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountant. Michael has extensive background in the development and execution of complex strategies and leverages over three decades of hands on business experience in the areas of finance and information technology.
Michael’s son Andrew was diagnosed with Dyslexia at an early age. It is this experience with navigating through the world of Dyslexia that has sparked Michael interest in contributing more to helping others with Dyslexia. Michael is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Dyslexia Association – Georgia Branch, Executive Board member of the Swift School for Children with Learning Disabilities, and Executive Board member of Georgia Intellectual Property Alliance. Michael is also a partner at Consequent Executive Consulting.
Michael is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States and lives in Marietta, Georgia with his wife Patricia.
|Elena L. Grigorenko, Ph.D.
Elena L. Grigorenko is an American clinical psychologist and the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston, where she has taught since September 2015. She is also a professor in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. Grigorenko received her Ph.D. in general psychology from Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia in 1990, and her Ph.D. in developmental psychology and genetics from Yale University in 1996. Before joining the faculty of the University of Houston, she was the Emily Fraser Beede Professor of Developmental Disabilities, Child Studies, Psychology, and Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University. Grigorenko has received the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Award for Early Career Contribution to Developmental Psychology and the American Educational Research Association Sylvia Scribner Award, among other awards.