2019 WAVE Conference Presenters
Michelle Aldrich, Ph.D.
Dr. Michelle Aldrich is the Wyoming State CTE director for the Wyoming Department of Education. Aldrich is a long-time educator at the secondary and post-secondary level as a Family & Consumer Sciences teacher most recently at Triumph High School in Cheyenne, WY.
Ann Armel has been with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation since 2005. She has worked as a counselor and consultant in that time. As a counselor she worked with eight (8) high schools in two (2) counties. Ann serves on the WY Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities (WAPSD) with WY Dept. of Education. She also works with the UW/WIND/ Project Echo for Secondary Transitions. Ann enjoys building collaborative networks to meet the principle of working smarter, not harder. She brings general knowledge from VR and Education and enjoys working with staff to increase their knowledge and ability to assist youth and citizens of Wyoming. Ann has had a 30 year career in various settings working with individuals with disabilities. She brings knowledge from those programs and other states when creating and developing programs that will fit Wyoming’s unique culture and geography.
Tessie R. Bailey, Ph.D.
Dr. Tessie Rose Bailey is Principal Technical Assistance Consultant at American Institutes for Research. Her primary responsibility is providing high quality technical assistance and professional development in data-based individualization within MTSS/RTI to states, districts, and institutions of higher education though several national centers: National Center on Intensive Interventions (NCII), Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center, National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI), and College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS). She is a former special education teacher, professional development provider, and faculty member with extensive experience in special education law and policy, data-based individualization, data-analysis for program improvement, and MTSS/RTI implementation. She has provided special education and MTSS/RTI support and professional development to practitioners and leaders in 43 states. She completed her PhD at the University of Utah in special education curriculum and assessment and post-doctoral work in RTI/MTSS and transition at Lehigh University’s Center for Promoting Research to Practice.
Laurel Ballard – Student/Teacher Resources Supervisor, Wyoming Department of Education.
Jillian Balow was elected to a second term as Wyoming’s twenty-second State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2018. As State Superintendent, Jillian serves as one of Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials. She is constitutionally entrusted with supervision of Wyoming’s public education system and sits on critical state boards and commissions such as the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees and State Board of Land Commissioners. Jillian’s policy decisions stem from her core beliefs that the role of parents in education is paramount, that curriculum and school district operations are best determined at the local level, and that our education system should provide as many opportunities as possible to make our youth successful citizens. Jillian is passionate about career and technical education, support for our military, and rural education. Nationally, Jillian serves as the Treasurer for the Education Commission of the States and is the president-elect on the board of directors for the Council of Chief State School Officers. She is also on the council’s School Safety Steering Committee. In 2017, Superintendent Balow received the State Policymaker Award from the State Education Technology Directors Association. In 2016, Superintendent Balow received the Patrick Henry Award for her contributions to the Wyoming Military Department. In Wyoming, Jillian also holds a number of leadership positions as the co-chair for the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt, board member on the Wyoming Congressional Award Council, Wyoming Business Alliance Steering Committee, Governor’s Post-Secondary Attainment Council, and numerous education-related boards and commissions. Jillian is a fifth-generation Wyoming native. She taught for over a decade in Wyoming classrooms and has worked to support children and families her entire career. Jillian has an undergraduate degree in education from the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree in education from Regis University. In addition to teaching, Jillian has consulted in the private sector, served as an administrator at both the Wyoming Department of Education and Family Services, and was a policy advisor to Governor Matt Mead. Jillian and her husband, John, have two children. Their daughter, Paiton, serves in the United States Army. Their son Jack is in 7th grade and involved in sports, music, 4-H, and FFA.
Tricia Berg, Ph.D.
Tricia Berg is a national and international education consultant who has worked with schools, districts, and states to develop multi-tiered systems of support for students. She has provided professional development and coaching support to educational organizations in the areas of mathematics, design of instruction, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), data-driven decision making, and special education compliance. She has worked as a district-level PBIS coordinator, behavior specialist, special education teacher, general education teacher, and paraprofessional. She has her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in Special Education with an emphasis on the relation between behaviors and academics, effective professional development practices, and interventions for students. She is the co-author of “Teacher’s Guide to Tackling Attendance Challenges.”
Karen has worked in the education field for over 20 years including time in a school district and the last 5 years with the Wyoming Department of Education. She received her BS degree from the University of Wyoming in secondary science education studying geology, Native American studies and psychology. Throughout her career, whether by accident or design, she has been involved in informal education including summer camp on an Air Force base, leading a group of Young Astronauts for 6 years, and writing grant proposals. Karen’s passion for STEM learning has had an impact on her current work as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Manager for the Wyoming Department of Education. She works to create capacity in local programs to teach STEM content as well as enabling staff in local programs to be consumers of cutting edge science in the field of teaching and learning. Her continuing goal is to have student-centered programs available across the state for pre-K-12 children and youth that honor their social/emotional needs and support their learning in and out of school.
Jordan Brock has worked as the Dispute Resolution Coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Education, Special Education Programs Division since 2016. He has a M.S. in Negotiation and Alternative Dispute Resolution from Creighton University. Jordan is a certified mediator and trained conflict resolution specialist who oversees Wyoming’s IDEA and Chapter 7 Rules concerning dispute resolution policies and procedures. When not working at the WDE he enjoys fly-fishing and spending time with his wife and two young daughters.
Inspired by her grandmother who taught for 42 years, Valerie Bruce knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. With the purpose of helping others learn, sharing curiosities, igniting passions, and aiding children in finding their futures, Valerie began her pursuit at the University of Montana-Missoula. She graduated in May 2009, with a degree in Elementary Education and began teaching in CCSD #1 in July 2009. She then pursued her Masters in Educational Administration from Chadron State College-Nebraska, graduating in May 2017. She currently teaches first grade at Rozet Elementary in northeastern Wyoming. Valerie is an enthusiastic educator, champion for students, and a lifelong learner who places relationships as a top priority. Valerie makes sure to greet every student outside the door with a smile and a genuine “How are you?” followed by a warm “I’m so glad to see you today!” Valerie attends extra-curricular activities of students and believes seeing students during soccer, gymnastics, football, karate, rodeos, and wrestling positively impacts student teacher relationships and strengthens the parent-school connection immensely. Goal setting and celebrating student growth are everyday occurrences in Valerie’s carefully cultivated classroom community built on trust, hard work, and a growth mindset. She believes every student can grow, achieve at high levels, and believe in themselves. Valerie focuses on fostering a love of reading, inspiring the craft of writing, and thinking about your thinking. Students refer to themselves as readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, thinkers, and friends who identify as a group of learners working toward individual goals.
Richard Carter, Ph.D.
Richard Allen Carter, Jr. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Advocacy, and Design (CLAD) at the University of Wyoming. Richard earned his doctoral degree at the University of Kansas, specializing in Instructional Design, Technology, and Innovation (IDTI). His current research focuses on the implementation of self-regulation practices for students with disabilities in both fully online and blended learning environments. In addition, Richard has led and assisted studies that examine a broad range of effects of online instruction for students with disabilities for the Center on Online Learning for Students with Disabilities (COLSD). Currently, Richard is part of a research team that is implementing technology-enabled personalization for students with disabilities in a public elementary school.
Janine Cole is the Supervisor for Outreach Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing at the Wyoming Department of Education. She holds a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Wyoming, and an MA from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, in Special Education with an emphasis in deaf education. Janine also has the Early Childhood Special Education and Director Endorsements. Her experience includes schools for the deaf and inclusion programs. She lives in Cheyenne with her husband Jim, and has three grown children.
Alisa Cook is the Personalized Learning Consultant with the Wyoming Department of Education. Alisa is passionate about meeting the needs of every student in the classroom. She provides support to districts, schools and teachers through Open Educational Resources, Digital Learning and professional development opportunities. Outside of the office, Alisa loves to spend time with her husband, two year old son, and energetic dogs. Alisa enjoys baking, binge watching Netflix, and re-reading the Harry Potter series.
Penny has been in field of special education since 1976. Her experience includes classroom teacher; early childhood consultant to public preschool programs, Head Start disabilities consultant, Part C interventionist and administrator, consultant and trainer for Colorado’s PTI, and consultant to national early childhood technical assistance centers. She has many years as a trainer in the field of early childhood special education and has also been a Parents as Teachers home visitor, a local Part C director, instructor at both 2 year and 4 year colleges/universities, Colorado’s Part C CSPD coordinator, Colorado’s Child Find Coordinator, and Colorado’s 619 Coordinator. Early on in her career she was hired to develop and implement an early childhood special education program overseas. Currently Penny is an adjunct professor at the University of Denver and also works with the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center out of University of North Carolina.
Don Deshler, Ph.D.
Don Deshler is the Williamson Family Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Special Education and the director of the Center for Research on Learning (CRL) at the University of Kansas. Deshler serves as an advisor on adolescent achievement to several organizations including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the National Governor’s Association, the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Council on Families and Literacy, and the U. S. State Department. Through the Aspen Institute, he has worked with members of Congress to shape policies addressing the challenges of high school reform. Deshler was the first editor of the Learning Disability Quarterly. Among the awards he has received are the J.E. Wallace Wallin Award from CEC, the Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award, the Higuchi Research Achievement Award, the Distinguished Education Achievement Award from National Center for Learning Disabilities, the Educator of the Year Award from the Learning Disabilities Association, and the 2010 AERA Special Education Distinguished Researcher Award.
Gail Eisenhaur – Education Consultant, MTSS/Early Learning, Wyoming Department of Education.
Susan Fischer is a speech language pathologist with over 20 years of extensive experience working with children with hearing loss, autism and a wide range of other unique learning needs. She has a private practice in Fort Collins Colorado. She also works with Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices, providing services to WY families who have children with hearing loss, ages birth through 5 years of age, via the READ Plus Program. Susan lives in Fort Collins CO with her family.
Heather’s first career was as a Managing Director with Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York City. She is currently completing her master’s degree in Reading Science. Her son was diagnosed with dyslexia in 3rd grade at which point she moved with him from Wyoming to Colorado so he could attend a school for dyslexic students for two years. They commuted home to Cheyenne on weekends. While in Colorado, Heather completed substantial training in evidence-based literacy instruction and intervention and became a certified structured literacy teacher, tutoring dyslexic students at Vertical Skills Academy and Rocky Mountain Camp for Dyslexia. She serves on the Board of Directors of the International Dyslexia Association Rocky Mountain Branch. Heather was integrally involved in Wyoming HB 297. With her business partner Kari Roden, she co-founded WY LIT, a non-profit dedicated to empowering teachers with training about dyslexia and in evidence-based literacy instruction and intervention.
Christie Fritz is a Teacher of the Deaf who has worked as an educator in schools at all levels in South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. She currently serves as an Outreach Consultant for the Wyoming Department of Education, providing support to districts and child development centers across the state of Wyoming. This is her 25th year in Deaf Education, a field she is incredibly passionate about. Christie is located in the WDE Casper Outreach office.
Sarah Geldart, Ph.D.
Dr. Geldart is a Senior Technical Assistance Specialist with Anlar.com in Boston, MA. Dr. Geldart has extensive experience providing early childhood technical assistance and strategic planning at the state, district, and program level. At AnLar, Dr. Geldart oversees change management and capacity building projects, including work focusing on early childhood special education. She also serves as a national technical assistance provider for the Center for the Integration of IDEA Data (CIID). Prior to joining AnLar, Dr. Geldart worked for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as the Early Childhood Outcomes Coordinator and Data Analyst where she was responsible for supporting statewide strategic planning and implementing statewide training, technical assistance, and guidance activities. Dr. Geldart has a Doctorate of Education from Johns Hopkins University where her research focused on effective systemic intervention implementation for program improvement in early childhood, a master’s in education policy and management from Harvard University, and a master’s in the sociology of religion from Boston University.
Ms. Gillaspy is the Technical Assistance Program Director with Anlar.com. Ms. Gillaspy has over 25 years of experience as an early intervention and early childhood special education provider, program administrator, project coordinator, trainer and technical assistance provider. She currently serves as the Technical Assistance Program Director at AnLar; prior to coming to AnLar, she provided technical assistance at the state and national level through the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center and the Center for Early Childhood IDEA Data Systems (DaSy), both out of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Gillaspy’s areas of expertise include Part C early intervention and Part B Section 619 preschool special education, IFSP and IEP development, family engagement, early childhood outcomes measurement and practices, state systemic improvement planning, implementation practices and processes, using data for program improvement, effective management of early childhood councils and effective stakeholder engagement. Ms. Gillaspy holds a Master of Education in Early Intervention and Family Support from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is currently enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education doctorate program at Johns Hopkins University.
Trystin Green – School Foundation Program Consultant, Wyoming Department of Education.
Antoinette is an English Learner and Foreign Language Consultant at the Wyoming Department of Education and has been part of the Standards and Assessment Team since October 2017. She holds a Master’s degree, is ELL certified, and is a National Board Certified Teacher who has worked in both national and international English Language Programs. Antoinette was an educator in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she worked in English language-learner classrooms with a diverse group of students. She also taught in International schools in Egypt, Thailand, and Indonesia, educating students from various backgrounds.
LeDerick Horne is a poet, advocate, and co-author of the book “Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities: A Path to Pride and Success” – Released by Brookes Publishing Co. Within this presentation, LeDerick Horne will share his own experience as a student with a learning disability who was able to graduate from college with a BA in mathematics. LeDerick is now one of the nation’s most sought after speakers dedicated to improving the outcomes of youth with disabilities. During this family focused presentation, LeDerick will give advice to help all students develop positive identities as people with disabilities. Strategies for helping students reach their transition goals will be shared as well as advice on helping students develop positive relationships in school and the adult world.
Tiffany Lynn Hunt, Ph.D.
Tiffany L. Hunt is a faculty member in the Special Education Program at the University of Wyoming. Dr. Hunt’s research interests include bullying and students with disabilities, school violence, social and emotional disabilities, special education leadership, competency based learning modalities and professional preparation and development. Her areas of expertise also include affective needs, learning disabilities, inclusion services, special education law, and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) compliance. Dr. Hunt has a wide range of experience both in the classroom as well as at the administrative level. She has taught both general education and special education. Dr. Hunt has worked with a variety of students with special education needs ranging from preschool to 8th grade. She was a member of the education faculty at Clarke University in Iowa, where she taught in a professional development school and worked at the Wyoming Department of Education, as the Special Programs Division Director. This range of experiences has helped Dr. Hunt grow and advance her knowledge and skill in the field of special education. She has her undergraduate degree in elementary education from the University of Wyoming. She earned her master’s and doctoral degree from the University of Northern Colorado.
Lindsay E. Jones is the President and CEO of NCLD, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 individuals with learning disabilities and attention issues. Lindsay has been with NCLD for over 5 years and previously served as NCLD’s Vice President, Chief Policy & Advocacy Officer. In that role, she designed and implemented NCLD’s legislative strategy in Washington, DC, aimed at advancing government policies that support the success of individuals with learning and attention issues in school, at work and in life. She also developed advocacy campaigns and worked closely with NCLD’s grassroots network of committed parents. Before joining NCLD, Lindsay was the senior director for policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), where she led CEC’s federal legislative advocacy and worked with dedicated educator advocates across the country. She was instrumental in developing and pushing forward many policies at CEC that supported classroom teachers in their work with children with disabilities and their families. Lindsay has a lifelong passion for education. She grew up in a family of advocates committed to working for individuals with disabilities. Prior to her national policy work, she was a partner with the law firm of Gust Rosenfeld in Phoenix. As a practicing attorney, she advised schools and families on special education compliance and litigation. Her practice included Office for Civil Rights investigations, state department of education complaints, IDEA and Section 504 due process hearings and litigation. She is admitted and has litigated before the US Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the federal district courts and state and administrative courts in Arizona. Lindsay earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Arizona, and has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico. She lives in Virginia with her husband and son, who attends public school.
Thom Jones is the current State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) coordinator, and the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) Director for the division Special Education Programs at the Wyoming Department of Education. Thom spent nearly 15 years as a classroom teacher and as an Adjunct Professor at Western Kentucky University. Thom earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Educational Leadership from Western Kentucky University. In addition to his other roles, Thom also serves as the Early Education consultant for the state of Wyoming.
Bart Lyman – Wyoming State MTSS Coach.
Jessica McComb has been with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation since 2013. She worked as a counselor for four years and in 2018 and started as one of two Program Consultants for the Division. As a Program Consultant, Jessica works to establish or advance disability and employment services through improving relationships, communication, and collaboration with school districts, community agencies, employers and VR counselors. Jessica serves with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program to develop services throughout the State with WY Department of Education. Jessica has a passion for working with youth and has been lucky to be part of some model youth initiatives and programs. She worked for the University of Wyoming and TRIO programs throughout the state for eight years.
Deb Montoya – Fiscal Analyst, Wyoming Department of Education.
Ray Reutzel, Ph.D.
Dr. Ray Reutzel has served as Dean of the College of Education at the University of Wyoming since 2015. Previous to his current position, he was the Emma Eccles Jones Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair of Early Literacy Education at Utah State University, a position he held for 14 years. He is the author of more than 230 published research reports in top tier research journals, articles, books, book chapters, and monographs. He is the co-author of the best-selling book on the teaching of reading, Teaching Children to Read: The Teacher Makes the Difference, 8th Edition published by Pearson Education, Boston, MA. He has received more than 17 million dollars in research/professional development grant funding. He has been active in securing legislative and private foundations gifts in excess of 40 million dollars. He is the past Editor of – Literacy Research and Instruction, The Reading Teacher and is the current Executive Editor of the Journal of Educational Research. He received the 1999 A.B. Herr Award and the 2013 ALER Laureate Award from the Association of Literacy Researchers and Educators. Ray served as President of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers, ALER, from 2006- 2007. He was presented the John C. Manning Public School Service Award from the International Reading Association, May 2007 in Toronto, Canada and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the International Reading Association from 2007-2010. Ray was a member of the Literacy Research Association’s Board of Directors from 2012-2015. Dr. Reutzel was elected a member of the Reading Hall of Fame in 2011 and is serving as its President from 2017-2019. He is also an author of school-based literacy instructional materials with Curriculum Associates® and is a newly appointed member of the prestigious Literacy Research Panel of the International Reading Association (ILA) until 2021. In October 2019, Dr. Reutzel will receive the literacy field’s most prestigious award, the William S. Gray Citation of Merit, from the International Literacy Association in New Orleans.
Margee Robertson is the Director of the Special Education Programs Division for the Wyoming Department of Education. Margee has been a teacher at the high school, junior high, and elementary level. She has also worked as a building level administrator in Wyoming for 8 years.
Kari has a master’s degree in Literacy and worked for 12 years as an Elementary educator in Laramie County School District #1. In 2017, at the age of 7, Kari’s daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. Realizing that teachers receive little to no training about dyslexia or evidence-based reading instruction, she was concerned that her daughter would not receive adequate instruction and decided to homeschool her. This was also when she began her work as a literacy advocate for the State of Wyoming. Kari was instrumental in the passing of Wyoming HB 297, a bill related to dyslexia and evidence-based literacy instruction and intervention. She co-founded a non-profit called WY LIT to provide funding for teacher training in evidence-based literacy instruction and how to recognize the signs of dyslexia. Kari has completed the Comprehensive IMSE Orton-Gillingham training and worked at the Rocky Mountain Camp for Dyslexia. Kari serves on the Board of Directors of the International Dyslexia Association Rocky Mountain Branch. She is passionate about empowering teachers to provide the most effective reading instruction and intervention to all children.
Patrick Schwarz, Ph.D.
Dr. Patrick Schwarz is a dynamic and engaging professor, author, motivational speaker and leader in Education (Inclusive Education, Special Education, General Education, Educational Leadership) and Human Services. He is the CEO of Creative Culture Consulting LLC and Professor Emeritus at National Louis University, Chicago. He is the author of From Disability to Possibility®, You’re Welcome (with Dr. Paula Kluth), Just Give Him the Whale(with Dr. Paula Kluth) and Pedro’s Whale (with Dr. Paula Kluth) and From Possibility to Success. His new book is Special Education Makeover 101 Transformational Ways to Promote Mindful Inclusive Practices.
Dicky currently serves as Chief of Staff at the Wyoming Department of Education. In this capacity, he oversees the policy and operations of the 128 employee, $2 billion Department of Education charged with serving Wyoming’s 48 school districts and 93,000 students in the K-12 system. Prior to serving as Chief of Staff, he was in private law practice and served as an Assistant District Attorney for Laramie County. Dicky also currently serves on the Cheyenne City Council, the Wyoming AdvancED State Council, the Wyoming State Bar legislative affairs committee, the Wyoming High School Activities Association Board of Directors, the Wyoming Department of Transportation TAP Committee, and is a member of the Cheyenne Kiwanis Club. He is also the past Chairman of the Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts.
Erin Swilling is the Director of the Parent Information Center. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wyoming. Ms. Swilling is the parent of a sixteen year old son who was diagnosed with a disability at 20 months of age. In addition to being an advocate for her son, she has also been instrumental in her work in early childhood education and intervention. Ms. Swilling has spent the last twenty-two years working with children and families with the belief that connecting them to their community and resources helps build capacity and sustainability as productive, successful citizens. As part of those efforts she has been the director of the Wheatland Early Childhood Center, and the Open School, where she spent her time fostering the growth of comprehensive development in young children through early learning, health and family well-being initiatives. This led to the opportunity for Erin to serve as the Executive Director of the Wyoming Citizen Review Panel where her commitment to supporting community and statewide initiatives continued to grow; recognizing that it takes a team to affect change in the community. This cumulative experience created the opportunity for Ms. Swilling to transition to her current role as the PIC Director, where she has found her home. Along with Ms. Swilling’s professional commitments to children and families, she has taken an active role in the community and is currently a member of the Wyoming Early Childhood State Advisory Council (2016-present), the Wyoming Home Visitation Network (2016-present) the Wyoming Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities (2017-present), and the State Advisory Council on Juvenile Justice (2018). In addition to her son Kade, who at sixteen years old is on his high school cross country and track team and is a 3.8 honor roll student, Ms. Swilling has two other teenage children, a daughter and a son.
Sheila Thomalla – Education Consultant, Continuous Improvement Team, Wyoming Department of Education.
Susan Wagner, Ph.D.
Dr. Susan Wagner. Dr. Wagner has a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. As President of Data Driven Enterprises, Dr. Wagner has over 25 years’ experience in research, program evaluation, professional development, and statistical analysis and reporting. Dr. Wagner has worked with 25 states in various roles surrounding data analysis, data interpretation, and data usage. She has analyzed data to help educational agencies determine their areas of success and their areas of improvement; she has analyzed data to determine which variables have the greatest impact on student outcomes; and she has taken data analysis to the next level in order to create systems and reports so educational staff can easily and readily use and act on data. Dr. Wagner’s mission is helping states, districts, and schools improve outcomes for students, and her motto is: If you can measure it, you can improve it.
Stephanie Weaver is a principal partner in Pingora Consulting, LLC. She offers over twelve years of experience in state education agency administration, strategic planning, fiscal controls and program improvement. Business finance and data analysis expertise served as the foundation for Ms. Weaver’s career, which proved invaluable as she followed her heart (and her parents) into a career in the field of education. Now considered a national expert and an indispensable resource on all matters pertaining to special education, school finance, and refining education systems, Ms. Weaver is regularly engaged to work with school districts and states in programmatic finance, data analysis, legal compliance, and systems management.
Billie Wortham is in her 9th year with the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) and has been in the field of Audiology/Special Education since 1981. As part of WDE she has been part of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach as well as Special Education Compliance. She has training in IDEA, 504, Facilitation as well as Mediation. Prior to joining WDE she was in private practice and is trained in Clinical as well as Educational Audiology. Her office is in Riverton, Wyoming.
Selene Almazan has represented students and families for over 30 years. Selene is a former Supervising Attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland where she represented children in the foster care system, including representation in special education matters. For nearly 23 years, Selene represented parents in special education matters with a primary focus on least restrictive environment (LRE) issues at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Selene is the Legal Director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) where she supports the work of the Amicus Committee as well as works on federal and local policy issues. In this position she writes appellate amicus briefs for appellate courts as well as the United States Supreme Court. Selene maintains a private practice focusing on parent and student representation in special education matters, including LRE. Selene represents families at IEP team meetings, state complaint proceedings, mediations, due process hearings, suspension/expulsion proceedings and federal court proceedings, including matters involving violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She has extensive experience training families, teachers, school administrators, attorneys and advocates on legal issues related to special education law as well as disability discrimination issues.
Jason H. Ballum
Jason H. Ballum is a partner in the Richmond, Virginia office of the international law firm of Reed Smith LLP. Jason has practiced law for over 16 years and his practice focuses on the representation of public school boards and assisting school boards in disputes regarding special education. Jason also represents school boards in the areas of: student discipline, student privacy and records, policy development, employment, and constitutional law issues. Jason has experience in state and federal court litigation, due process hearings, all manner of school-related administrative hearings, and he represents school boards during state and federal government investigations and enforcement proceedings. Jason is a regular presenter at state-wide and national conferences on legal issues that impact public school boards. Jason received his undergraduate education at Colgate University and was a double major in education and psychology. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia.
Jose Martín is a partner with the school law firm of Richards Lindsay & Martín, L.L.P. in Austin, Texas. For the last twenty years, his practice has focused on matters involving the education of disabled students under the IDEA and Section 504. He is a graduate of the University of Texas and the University of Texas School of Law. A background in journalism has led Jose to frequent publication in the area of disabilities laws and their effect on public schools. He currently serves as Contributing Editor to the national LRP publication The Special Educator and LRP’s online-based Special Education Connection. As a speaker, Jose presents numerous topics on disabilities laws to numerous audiences at national, regional, and state conferences, as well as local education agency staff development programs.
Kathleen S. Mehfoud is Senior Counsel in the Richmond, Virginia office of the international law firm of Reed Smith LLP. She has practiced law for 40 years and has concentrated her practice in education law and, most particularly, in special education law. Ms. Mehfoud provides consultation services, in-service training and advice to numerous school boards, state education agencies and other educational groups. She has been recognized for many years in the publication Best Lawyers in America in the field of education law. Ms. Mehfoud was recognized as one of the top Influential Women of Virginia in 2011 by Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Ms. Mehfoud has served as Chairman of the University of Mary Washington Foundation for nine years and served on the Board of the Foundation for almost 20 years. Ms. Mehfoud is also Past-President of the University of Mary Washington Alumni Association and a former Rector and member of the University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors, serving on the BOV from 1989 through 1997. Ms. Mehfoud received her undergraduate education at Mary Washington College earning a B.S. in Mathematics. She earned a Masters of Commerce and J.D. from the University of Richmond.
David Richards is a partner in the Austin law firm RICHARDS LINDSAY & MARTIN, L.L.P., where his practice is focused on the defense of school districts and special education co-ops. He is the General Counsel for the Council of Educators for Students with Disabilities and is a frequent presenter on §504, IDEA, NCLB and other school law topics at education service centers, school districts, and conferences in Texas and throughout the country. His analysis on education law issues frequently appears in LRP’s publications The Section 504 Compliance Advisor, The Special Educator, and Your School and the Law. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University, and the University of Texas School of Law.
Aleyta Zimmerman is the Projects Manager/Policy Analyst for the Wyoming Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. She is also the state administrator for WYABLE Accounts. Her dual roles at the council office provides a wealth of opportunities to network with many people in the field of disabilities about a variety of issues including advocacy, employment, guardianship and education. She is responsible for coordinating the Wyoming Developmental Disabilities Conference and the Employment First Summit hosted by the council each year. In addition to the many hats she wears she also conducts research and analyzes current policies on issues affecting the disability community and reports the findings to Wyoming legislators to educate and increase awareness about disability affairs.
Since starting with the council in 2014 she has helped to reinstate Wyoming’s interest in the National Core Indicators project; aided in the creation of the Employment First Policy in the State of Wyoming; facilitated the reestablishment of Wyoming’s APSE group and championed the partnership with the state of Ohio to bring WYABLE Accounts to Wyoming.
Aleyta obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Human Services Management in 2012. She volunteers for several organizations in Cheyenne and is a member of the Wyoming State Rehabilitation Council, WYAPSE, the WIND Consumer Advisory Council and the Wyoming Health Advocates Alliance. Her vision for people with disabilities is that they are fully inclusive in their communities worldwide: living where they choose, working the jobs they want, and having access to quality services and supports.
Perry A. Zirkel is university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University, where he formerly was dean of the College of Education, subsequently held the Iacocca Chair in Education for its five-year term, and continues to co-direct the Lehigh Special Education Law Symposium. He has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut, and a Master of Laws degree from Yale University. He has done presentations in every state in the U.S. He has written more than 1,550 publications on various aspects of school law, with an emphasis on legal issues in special education. He writes a regular column for Exceptionality journal, NAESP’s Principal magazine and NASP’s Communiqué newsletter, and he did so previously for Phi Delta Kappan and Teaching Exceptional Children. Past president of the Education Law Association and co-chair of the Pennsylvania special education appeals panel from 1990 to 2007, he is the author of the CEC monograph The Legal Meaning of Specific Learning Disability; the more recently published books, A Digest of Supreme Court Decisions Affecting Education and Student Teaching and the Law; and the two-volume reference Section 504, the ADA and the Schools, now in its fourth edition. In 2012, he received the Research into Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Excellence in Research Award from AERA’s Division A (Administration, Organization & Leadership). In 2013, he received the University Council for Educational Administration’s Edwin Bridges award for significant contributions to the preparation and development of school leaders. In 2016, he received the Education Law Association’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, and in 2017 he received the Council for Exceptional Children’s Special Education Research Award.