Hannah Bookbinder founder and owner of AcademicAlly, LLC, has worked with students with ADD, ADHD, and NLD in grades 2-12, college, and graduate school, as well as adults since 1998. Her educational and professional background has enabled her to effectively counsel her clients to achieve personal, academic, and emotional success. Her approach to working with each client recognizes the nuances that come with each individual’s experiences, allowing her to create a customized plan of action for each person she engages with.
As a college admissions consultant, she has advised high school students with learning disabilities and ADHD as well as mainstream students and successfully helped them to navigate the admissions process. Hannah firmly believes in the importance of gathering as much information about the student and the prospective colleges they are considering in order to help her students to make the most informed decision possible.
As an academic coach, Hannah has worked with students and their families, utilizing a collaborative approach. She has successfully coached her clients to establish and maintain a strong skill set that enables them to become triumphant and independent in school and at home.
Laurie Dameshek holds a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology from Prescott College and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, with concentrations in Management and Decision Sciences. During Laurie’s 30+ year corporate career in healthcare information systems, she has worked with co-workers and students, in paid and volunteer positions, to focus on career and academic goals. She has mentored teens to help them establish and maintain their social and academic skills and has coached college students and working professionals to assist them in the development and maintenance of organizational, professional development, communication and leadership skills. Laurie’s professional experience has focused on person-centered analysis, which enables her to identify each client’s strengths while simultaneously working with each individual to identify their goals as well as a successful strategic plan to accomplish them. In addition to her academic consulting experience, Laurie has conducted small group training in the college admissions process.
Marsha Messinger, is a highly experienced and lauded teacher with over 35 years of experience, who holds both a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Education from Temple University. Over her years amassed as an educator, Marsha has worked with grade levels ranging from 1st through 8th grades in a classroom setting and students at all grade levels as a tutor/coach. Her primary focus with students is to enhance their reading and writing skills in order to reach a variety of audiences while conveying their message and voice appropriately and intelligently. She prides herself in helping students specifically in the skillset realms of time management, task-initiation, organization, and self-advocacy. Marsha believes that all students can reach their potential by being cognizant of their work load, prioritizing tasks, and breaking down large assignments into manageable sections.
In addition to her full-time position as a senior educator at Barrack Hebrew Academy, Marsha also holds a recurring position as a facilitator for the Penn Literacy Network, a division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and is an active member of the Association for Middle Level Education, the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Council for the Social Studies.
Randi Rentz is a special educator who has worked in the public school setting in Pennsylvania since 1993. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. and received her Master’s degree in Special Education from the Johns Hopkins University with an emphasis in the area of Autism.
She has experience with High-Functioning Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Non-Other Specified (PDD-NOS), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Learning Support in the areas of Reading, Writing and Math, Emotional Support, Dyslexia, Nonverbal Language Disorders and Intellectual Challenges, just to name a few. She understands how to create success with individuals with High-Functioning Autism and truly understands the importance of accepting people with differences. She is a wonderful collaborator with parents, professionals, paraprofessionals, doctors, psychologists, support groups and people diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Randi is very experienced at developing, implementing and evaluating IEP’S with related service providers, administrators, advocates, lawyers and parents.
As a High-Functioning Autistic Support Teacher, she has designed a researched–based social skills curriculum and all program components including communication, language and sensory strategies. Randi developed a newscast for children with Asperger’s Syndrome which modulates behavior, develops social and communication skills, and turns many of their differences into assets. The heart of her work is illuminating the often elusive and intangible world of Social Thinking, and developing practical strategies that can be easily used by parents, educators and service providers, across different environments, to teach the Social Thinking required for the development of real social skills. She has also implemented, designed, and facilitated behavior management programs, documentation/recording of objectives, academic interventions (all individualized), and has been trained in research-based reading and intervention programs which give her the ability to coach according to her clients’ capabilities. Randi is able to break down the research and abstract concepts and create concrete ways for success in all children.
She has received accolades for her educational, energetic and enthusiastic workshop presentations. She has been invited to train psychologists, counselors, parents, educators and government policy makers in the area of special education. She has coordinated and presented workshops nationally and locally in conjunction with the Delaware County Intermediate Unit on Asperger’s/Autism, behavior management, sensory integration, specially designed instruction, executive functioning, and education.
Randi has also presented at The National Autism Conference at Penn State University in August 2007. She has been published in The Autism File, Summer 2008 covering Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, ADD and other related disorders. Randi was profiled in the “Educator Spotlight” section in the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was also featured in Main Line Today Magazine, “Doing Good”. In addition, Randi has appeared on several news segments within the Philadelphia area with her students as well as a children’s news magazine show called, Fast Forward with ABC News Anchor, Rick Williams. In 2014, Randi was named as a “Woman of Note” by The Wall Street Journal for her work in Autism.
Based in suburban Philadelphia, Randi has two cats, Henna and Harlow, who remind her daily that Social Thinking crosses species.
Jessica Vigoda, a Pennsylvania state certified teacher, is an academic tutor, coach, and classroom teacher with over fifteen years of experience working with students from elementary through adult education, including students with learning differences. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from The George Washington University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, Jess went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from The University of Pennsylvania. While teaching at Haverford High School, Jessica continued to further her own education, receiving a second Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from St. Joseph’s University, where she graduated with top honors and was granted membership in several prominent national academic honor societies.
Jess’ interest in tutoring blossomed at The George Washington University, where she was a highly sought after peer tutor in the University’s writing center; her passion for teaching has continued to grow.
Jess is committed to meeting students where they are, and helping them thrive, reaching academic potential they may have previously thought unattainable. Currently, Jess is a learning support teacher at Kohelet Yeshiva High School. Her areas of expertise include writing, organization and time management, study skills, reading comprehension and standardized test preparation. One of Jess’ strongest attributes is her ability to connect with, and meet the needs of, students of all ages.
Justin Menda has been a coach and teacher for seven years. His passion and biggest successes have been in helping students not only to succeed at their chosen academic goals, but also to build resilience, self-awareness, and drive. He helps a large variety of students prepare for the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and various academic subjects. From grade school through his Master’s Degrees from Drexel and U. Penn, he has overcome a wide range of personal and academic challenges along the way, and now devotes his career to helping his students do the same. When he is not tutoring, he is teaching entrepreneurship classes, working on his car, or spending time with his new family.
Eric Glass is a retired teacher from the School District of Philadelphia. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from LaSalle College, a Master’s Degree in Education from Chestnut Hill College, and his Elementary and Secondary Certification from Beaver College.
Eric began his career working at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, a Psychiatric Institution. He was a staff member and counselor for the Strecker Program, which provided treatment to individuals with substance abuse and addiction. He ran group therapy sessions, as well as individual counseling sessions. He also worked at Eugenia Hospital, counseling substance abusers, and working with patients with acute psychiatric disorders. Additionally, Eric was involved in the mental health court commitment hearings. His tenure in the mental health field continued as a Drug and Alcohol Prevention Specialist in the School District of Philadelphia where he taught children in grades K-8, a state-mandated curriculum, Here’s Looking At You, 2000; coached teachers to implement the curriculum; educated parents about substance abuse issues; counseled students in individual and group settings; and instructed teachers in the school district’s Continuing Education Program. Eric’s extensive experience in the mental health field enables him to meet each student where they are emotionally and academically, building on their strengths to provide the support they need to learn and grow. His work has included assisting students at risk of academic failure and behavioral concerns. He and his students establish a strong rapport so his advisees can process their feelings and establish and utilize strategies to help minimize behavioral issues in the classroom and maximize academic success.
When the program was disbanded, Eric became a classroom teacher, working at the Lawton Elementary School in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia. Eric taught first grade for two years. For the next ten years, Eric taught third grade, followed by two years as the school’s Comprehensive Student Assistance Program Coordinator, the Title I Coordinator, and a Prep Teacher for Social Studies and Language Arts. Eric was moved to the second grade for the following year. Eric worked diligently to develop relationships with each student, enabling special needs children to meet the goals of their IEP plans, as well as classroom goals for success. He established common ground between students of all abilities, creating a nurturing and supportive environment for all children, regardless of their ability. Eric’s biggest challenge was working with children with attention deficits. Using engagement, attentional strategies, and challenging activities, Eric enabled these children to flourish in the classroom.
Eric held many positions at Lawton. He was elected as the school building representative for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, a position held for seven years. He was a grade chairperson for third grade, and the second and third grade Small Learning Community. Eric was also a member of the school leadership team. Eric was selected as the Teacher-in-Charge for the school’s after-school programs and instructed students on the game of chess.
Other work experience includes working as a summer camp counselor at the Willow Grove Day Camp, teaching Archery and teaching Hebrew School at Tiferet Bet Israel. He has worked as a program/souvenir salesperson for the Phillies, Eagles, college football and basketball, soccer, boxing, and concerts.
Eric’s interests are reading, traveling, playing puzzle games on the computer and newspaper, and watching and attending sporting events. He loves spending time with his wife, Janice, daughter, Elizabeth, and fur babies Ozzie and Bentley.
As a life-long resident of Lower Merion and the mother of a 2017 graduate of Lower Merion High School, Jennifer Trachtenberg knows how much parents can absorb the stress of their child’s school-related obstacles. She can help parents shift from being the homework police back to being a parent by offering students guidance in reading, writing and executive functioning challenges. With compassion and gentle humor, Jennifer uses her professional and life experience to help students learn to notice their own patterns of struggles, using their successes to overcome those obstacles. As a seasoned secondary-school counselor, Jennifer works with students to develop creative ideas for managing executive functioning challenges such as disorganization, perfectionism, and avoidance. As a former English teacher, Jennifer brings her passion for working one-on-one with students as well as for reading and writing. Students working with Jennifer learn how to prioritize and organize work and life tasks as well as strategies for studying and test-taking.
A diverse and comprehensive base of education and life experience informs Jennifer’s work with young people. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English from Haverford College, she earned a master’s degree in Secondary English Education from Teachers’ College of Columbia University and taught middle and high-school English in New Jersey, where she is certified. She also holds a master’s degree in Secondary School Counseling from Villanova and is certified as a secondary school counselor in Pennsylvania. For the past 14 years, most recently at Central Montco Technical High School, she served as a middle- and high-school counselor, advising students and parents, attending IEP meetings, managing 504 plans, and collaborating with district counselors and IEP teams. In other schools, she started and facilitated a Gay-Straight Alliance and a social-skills group for boys on the autism spectrum. In 2018, Jennifer completed training to become a Family Peer Support Specialist. In 2019, she completed a practicum in Mindfulness-Based Stress Management at the University of Pennsylvania, where she took the MBSR Foundations class in 2009 and has been practicing Mindfulness meditation ever since, both in her personal life and with students. Jennifer has also worked in publishing and as a hair stylist, both of which have come in handy as an educator.
Passionate about helping families, animals and the environment, Jennifer has volunteered with WePAC at Blankenburg Elementary School and with the Schuylkill Clinic for Wildlife Rehabilitation. She also enjoys spending time with her friends and family, including her rescue dog and two cats, as well as learning and talking about food, comedy and, of course, books.
Mary-Alice Michaels holds a Master’s degree in Counseling from Temple University and a BA from Villanova University. As a life-long resident of the area she is a graduate of The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr. Her prior employment includes working as a group therapist and life coach in a transitional living program for adolescents and adults, as well as supervising and running an adolescent unit in a residential treatment facility in Philadelphia. She has also worked as a therapist in the foster care system and spent a number of years working in the healthcare industry as a benefit consultant.
Mary-Alice specializes in working with adolescents, particularly those with the added challenges of ADHD and executive functioning deficits. She believes relationships are crucial to the process of learning and healing and works collaboratively with the student and his or her parent(s) and teachers. She believes that intrinsic motivation is the key to lasting change and enjoys helping others recognize and achieve their potential.
She is a member of the American Counseling Association and a member of the Learning and The Brain Society out of Boston, MA, a group committed to continued research and training in the developing mind and the application of best practices for learning and education. She is involved in various volunteer activities in her community through the Junior League of Philadelphia and is an avid artist who enjoys a variety of different mediums.
Heather Giersch holds a Pennsylvania certification in Special and Elementary Education, Reading, and English as a Second Language (ESL). She has over twelve years of experience working with students with specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and students who have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She has also taught students who need extra support with executive functioning skills such as organization, time management, planning and prioritizing, and task initiation.
After graduating from Cabrini College with her Bachelor’s Degree in Special and Elementary Education, Heather went on to earn a Master’s of Science in Reading and ESL from Saint Joseph’s University. She pursued her reading career further by receiving her Wilson Level I certification. She utilized her certifications while teaching in Lower Merion School District (LMSD) and at AIM Academy, a private independent school for students with language based learning disabilities.
Heather is currently a classroom teacher. She started tutoring when she was a substitute teacher in LMSD. She would volunteer at Bethel Academy in Ardmore to support students in the district with homework help. She believes in creating a safe and conducive environment for learning, and she is well versed in implementing research-based practices. When it comes to meeting family’s needs, Heather will be accommodating and flexible.
Scott Olster has worked as a public school math teacher for 10 years. He enjoys taking the unpopular subject of mathematics and finding ways for students to enjoy the nuances of learning it. He works with students to create different ways of learning and exploring mathematics so they can find the best way for them to problem solve. Scott has been tutoring students in mathematics for over 10 years and loves to watch a student progress through a task once thought to be ‘impossible’, but now can be completed with ease.
Scott grew up in the area, graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelors in Economics and a master’s in education from Cabrini College. Along with teaching he also coaches basketball, is an avid sports fan, and is most proud of being a father.
Michael Paci is an academic tutor, coach, and classroom teacher with certifications in Secondary Mathematics, General Science, Biology, and Chemistry. He graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Environmental Studies and a minor in Economics. Mike later went back to school to earn his Certificate in Secondary Education from Drexel University. During this time, Mike took part in the Philadelphia Teacher Residency program which focused on STEM education in high-needs schools around the City of Philadelphia. He earned a Robert Noyce Scholarship and participated in its nationally-recognized science education program for teachers. Mike is currently teaching at Marple Newtown High School where he teaches Integrated Science, Biology, and Human Body Systems. Additionally, Mike has classroom experience working with students with disabilities including ADHD, Specific Learning Disabilities, and Autism.
Rachel Strohm is a recent graduate student from the Community and Trauma Counseling M.S Program at Jefferson University where she also graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S in Psychology. Additionally, Rachel has completed an internship in both a school and inpatient setting. At KAPS Camelot Therapeutic day school, she worked as a counselor and offered classroom emotional support. While at Fairmount Behavioral Health Systems, an inpatient psychiatric facility, she provided both individual therapy to both adults and adolescents with a range of disorders and developmental challenges.
Rachel was a member of the Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society, and a board member for Jefferson’s CSI chapter Delta Sigma Mu (DSM).
She is experienced in working with children and adolescents who struggle with ADHD, executive functioning skills, and autism, while also providing assistance with academic areas and organization/time management. Rachel uses a strengths-based approach when working with her clients, in an effort to highlight their strengths and make progress towards goals. Rachel believes collaboration is key and works in conjunction with the client to identify needs and target goals. She is dedicated to creating a safe, supportive environment for individuals to establish a relationship and facilitate client growth.
In her free time, Rachel enjoys photography, going to concerts, and getting new vinyl for her music collection.
Anna Bachus holds a Master’s degree in Counseling and Student Affairs in Higher Education from West Chester University and a B.A. in Psychology from Duquesne University. She is also a National Certified Counselor. She has worked with individuals with disabilities in various settings and currently serves as the Director of Disabilities Services at a local university. She has expertise in working with students with a broad range of deficits, and tailoring coaching strategies to each individual’s needs. She is also skilled at assisting students with disabilities and their families to better understand the differences between high school and college and helping them navigate the transition. Anna is passionate about working with this population and believes in helping students explore their strengths as opposed to focusing strictly on their deficits. Her work with students is very much centered around developing self-advocacy skills, confidence, and identifying tools that will help them be successful even beyond the classroom.
Cynthia Olster is a graduate from The University of Scranton where she received her Bachelors of Science degree in Elementary Education. She continued on to Saint Joseph’s University where she attained her Masters in Special Education. During her coursework at St. Joe’s, Cynthia also became certified in The Wilson Reading Program. Cynthia has taught all elementary grade levels in a variety of classroom settings. She has over eight years of experience working with children of all abilities and making sure they are successful in the classroom. Cynthia believes that with the proper tools and motivation, all students are able to reach their highest potential.
Jake Rosen has more than a decade of experience as a classroom teacher, academic and college advisor, and teenage life-coach. He holds a M.A. in Religious Studies from NYU and graduated magna cum laude from Boston University with a B.S. in Social Studies Education. After graduating from BU and traveling the world, including a stint teaching English in Vietnam, Jake spent nine years as a Global Studies, U.S. History, and History of Music teacher at NYC’s renowned Beacon School. In addition to his duties in the classroom, Jake worked with students who struggled with the academic, social, and emotional demands of high school and college. He has also guided nearly 60 students (and their parents) through the college process including ESL students, first generation immigrants, and students with learning and behavioral issues. In each of these capacities, Jake is able to meet students on their own terms and to build relationships centered on compassion, trust, and the whole-person needs of each individual.
Crystal Hegarty has been an educator for the past ten years. She graduated from Neumann University with a degree in Early Childhood, Elementary and Special Education N-12. Over the past decade of her career she has had the opportunity to work with students ages preschool through twelfth grade. She has worked as a Special Education teacher responsible for IEP develop and implementation, which required her to support and accommodate students of all exceptionalities.
Miss Hegarty was a case manager and learning specialist assigned to work with and support a select group of students from the time they were in seventh grade until their graduation. Part of her responsibilities included writing Learning Profiles for students so they would receive the specific modifications and accommodations that helped them find the most success in their content and extracurricular classes. During those years, she supported students individually with organizational, time management and test taking strategies. She worked directly with them to improve their writing skills as well as their ability to self- advocate and find academic success.
Miss Hegarty currently teaches 6th grade in a Learning Support environment and works with students who need accommodations and behavior intervention plans. She has had the privilege of coaching students who need extra guidance with organization, time management, test taking skills, critical reading and writing support, math intervention, ACT/ SAT prep, Praxis preparation and Driver’s test readiness. Working individually with students and watching their academic abilities as well as their self-confidence improve is one of her greatest joys, and the reason she enjoys coaching and academic support.
Gabrielle Kerbel is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where she earned her B.A. summa cum laude in mathematics and philosophy. She has four years of experience as a Teaching Assistant, working with students in Calculus III, Linear Algebra, Discrete Mathematics, Symbolic Logic, and Logical Thought. In addition, she has worked in the Mathematics Learning Resource Center at Villanova University, tutoring students in topics ranging from Calculus I to Linear Algebra. Gabrielle adamantly believes that mathematics is a subject that can be fun and accessible for all. She finds great joy in helping students identify their strengths and gain proficiency with new areas of mathematics. She is a lifetime resident of the Philadelphia area and a graduate of Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood. In her free time, Gabrielle enjoys reading about quantum mechanics and working on jigsaw puzzles.
Beth has been teaching for 30 years. After teaching Philosophy for 5 years at the NYU and Binghamton University, she switched to math and has been teaching K-12 for 25 years. During that time, Beth has worked both one on one and in small groups tutoring everything from Pre-Algebra through Calculus, from Reading Comprehension and Composition through test prep for the SAT and ACT.
A former question writer for ETS, Beth teaches both high-performing and struggling students and has had a great deal of success in helping students to not only raise their scores (especially on standardized tests), but also in helping students really understand the subject matter at hand. Briefly put, Beth helps students understand why we ask them to do the things we ask them to do.
Beth holds degrees from Binghamton University and City University of NY. She is ABD in Philosophy and hopes to someday return and finish her doctorate
Lisa holds a BA in History from the University of Virginia as well as an MA in Educational Leadership from Columbia University. An educator for over 20 years, she has served as a teacher, academic support instructor, department chair, and dean at multiple outstanding independent schools.
Lisa provides a high level of personalized, compassionate, and expert guidance for each student. She loves working with middle and high school students, focusing on students’ strengths and helping them to thrive in their educational pursuits. She has coached a wide range of students, including twice exceptional, LD, and ADHD students. Her approach engages and empowers students while providing them with the support and skills they need to succeed.
Joe MacNichol (or “Mr. Mac,” as his students call him) has more than a decade of teaching science in Lower Merion School District, including AP Biology, higher-level IB biology, Honors Biology, Honors Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. In addition to these courses, he has extensive experience tutoring AP Chemistry and for the SAT subject tests in Biology and Chemistry. As a learning coach, Joe places extra focus on the development of problem-solving techniques, resiliency, and metacognition allowing the learner to be more able to apply their knowledge in the future regardless of the nature of the task.
When Joe is not teaching science, he serves as a coach for Harriton High School’s Science Olympiad team, working closely with his students while they compete at a national level. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the College of Charleston in Biology, as well as a minor in Philosophy and a M.Ed. in Secondary Science Education from Arcadia University. Joe has a passion for fostering curiosity in his students and encourages them investigate with awe the natural phenomena in their daily lives.
On the weekends, Joe loves doing science activities with his two young daughters, who also share his enthusiasm for experimentation and exploration – from catching (and releasing) frogs to mixing up new solutions and even the occasional mini-rocket launch.
Marcel Werder (he/they) holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he graduated on the Dean’s List and as an Honors Scholar. He was raised in Narberth and is a proud Harriton alum.
Marcel has experience in both tutoring and college counseling, his most recent clients attaining admission to Ivy League and other top-tier universities. He believes that greatness comes when one’s core passions are nurtured, and he is committed to empowering each student to define and lead their own journey.
Marcel is prepared to meet every student (and family) where they are and go from there, together. He prides himself on his organization skills, compassionate teaching style, and facility for cultivating strong client-coach communication.
SOS: Specialists of Schools
NASW: National Association of Social Workers