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Company: Stern Center for Language and Learning
Title: Director of the Orton-Gillingham Institute
Age: 35

Favorite Part of Job? My favorite part of my job is spending time in classrooms across Vermont and observing lessons as I witness children’s literacy skills blossom. I still consider myself first and foremost a teacher, only instead of my own classroom of children, my students are talented educators across New England. I also love working with my colleagues at the Stern Center, who are not only experts in the field of learning differences, but are kind and generous individuals.

Most Inspiring Mentor: My most inspiring mentors are Sheila Costello, the president of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham (OG) Practitioners and Educators and my former boss in South Carolina, and Christine Evans, my OG Fellow in South Burlington who mentored me for almost three years. Sheila exemplifies how to effectively train teachers by honing their critical thinking skills and strong leadership for the OG Academy. Chris Evans exudes great wisdom in all of her work with students and educators and is my touchstone whenever I have a question.

Tell us something fun about yourself that few people know: I had a National Public Radio themed wedding! A producer from WABE, Atlanta's NPR station, came to our wedding to interview guests and my husband and I were interviewed twice at the NPR station. Pieces from the interviews are regularly played during WABE pledge drives and one piece is played nationally.

Favorite Vermont Escape: I love walking along the waterfront and Battery Park with my family. Lake Champlain is both breathtaking and calming.

Favorite Downtime Activity: I love yoga and dancing, whether taking a class at the YMCA, Evolution Yoga, UVM's gym, or just at home with my toddler.

Favorite Super Hero: My favorite superhero would have to be Sherlock Holmes.

Person you would like to share a Vermont beverage with: Professionally as an educator and personally as a parent, I would like to share a Vermont beverage with Dr. Lewis First, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

What is the best career advice you have received? The best career advice is from my favorite psychology professor and undergraduate advisor, Dr. Matthew Johnson at Binghamton University, who told me to think about how I want to spend my day instead of a title when I was unsure whether or not to pursue a career in research or as a teacher. He also reassured me to do what you love and that passion will lead to a livelihood instead of choosing a career solely based on financial security.

Where do you see yourself professionally in ten years? In ten years I see myself working at the Stern Center, still the Director of the Orton-Gillingham Institute, but with a team of other full-time Orton-Gillingham Fellows and Clinical Supervisors working under me who travel across our state and internationally to teach Orton-Gillingham courses and work with schools. I have already been given the chance to work with such a phenomenal team of people, such as the Fellows I work with, Chris Evans and Marcella Fulmer, as well as Janna Osman, who created the Stern Center's OG Institute in 2010. My dream is to fully capitalize on what we have began building here until we are helping educators and students worldwide reach their full potential. I would love for the state of Vermont to be a national leader for using evidenced-based literacy instruction by taking similar measures taken by Virginia and Ohio, whose departments of education are funding Orton-Gillingham training. Every child has the right to become a literate member of our society, and every teacher deserves the knowledge and training to make this happen.

What motivated you to live and work in Vermont? My husband and I wanted to live somewhere aligned with our values, including valuing education, family and community, and environmental stewardship. After living far away from my parents for eight years, they planned to relocate wherever we moved, so I considered where they would be happy, too. We had a detailed checklist and Vermont met each criteria!

Career Highlights: By far the most important highlight of my career has been witnessing my own students' success. My students and their families' tenacity and determination inspire me. I have the opportunity to be part of the lives of countless dedicated educators because of the increased accessibility we have been able to achieve at the Stern Center. In four years I have grown the Stern Center's Orton-Gillingham (OG) Institute from one summer graduate course a year to five and from about ten to over forty practicum teachers a year pursuing OG certification. I have also incorporated technology to broaden our reach through webinars and video conferencing to observe teachers while they teach. This is in large part due to the Cynthia K. Hoehl Institute for Excellence, which provides grant opportunities to teachers and schools.  It has been an honor to have spoken on behalf of the Stern Center's OG Institute at the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators national conferences and annual webinars.

Community Involvement: Being part of a Jewish community is important to me, and I love the inclusive and progressive Jewish community in Burlington, Vermont. I am involved with my son's school, Gan Yeladim Preschool at Chabad of Vermont. I am also involved in my synagogue, Ohavi Zedek, and I am one of their Tot Shabbat teachers. I taught Tot Shabbat at my synagogue, Shearith Israel, in Atlanta, Georgia for five years when I moved to Atlanta for graduate school, and now it is such a treat to teach Tot Shabbat with my own toddler in tow. I also teach a weekly Pilates class at the YMCA of Greater Burlington. I have taught group exercise classes, including yoga and Pilates, since 2003. In 2011, I developed Yoga Body, Jewish Mind, a yearlong series to explore the connection between Yamas and Niyamas and Jewish philosophy integrating yoga practice and chavruta study. I led a free Yoga Body, Jewish Mind workshop at Connecting Jewish Women Annual Conference in Charleston, SC a few years ago. I often volunteer to teach a yoga class as a way to give back to my community, whether it is for Shearith Israel's Women's Shelter, UVM's Connecting Cultures Bhutanese Refugee Support Group, or UVM's Honor's College.

I also volunteer my time for the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, including serving as co-editor of the Academy's newsletter. I believe it is vital to build a strong collaboration between researchers, educators, and families because literacy is the gateway for success in school and in life. Publishing a free newsletter is a platform for this collaboration, highlighting student success stories around the country and bridging the connection from neuroscience and research to the classroom.



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