Lead Parent Educator and Educational Consultant
Over the last five years, Pam has served as Parent Educator with the Learning Program Boston. As part of the Learning Program’s teaching team, she leads parent workshops on topics in Down syndrome education, bringing evidence-based research into practice to homes and schools. She is a frequent presenter on best practices for teaching literacy and numeracy to children with Down syndrome and has presented annually at Down syndrome regional conferences, reaching both parents and educators. She also serves on the Board of the 3-21 Foundation, guiding the growth and delivery of its education programs.
Pam began her career in the disability community 11 years ago, leveraging her professional skills to benefit families who have children with disabilities. In the field of education she has represented families as an Advocate, re-established her local Special Education Parent Advisory Committee, and piloted reading and education programs for students with disabilities. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Pinecroft School, an independent school in Massachusetts. Her work in the policy realm has included positions with Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC), and Southeastern MA21 Council, a disability policy collaborative. Previously, Pam’s professional career included senior management positions at Thomson-CompuMark, a Thomson Reuters company, where she led various business units and had extensive experience starting up new operations. After leaving Thomson, Pam was an independent management consultant for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where she was instrumental in developing Mass.Gov, the Commonwealth’s portal for the delivery of cross-governmental information and services.
Maureen Blazejewski, MS Ed
Director of Student Programs and Educational Consultant
Maureen has spent her entire career supporting families of students with significant learning, behavioral and executive functioning challenges. She has been involved with the Learning Program since its inception, engaging closely with students, staff and families to design and implement educational programs. Within our consulting practice she collaborates with school teams in a direct coaching role to support districts in the ever-evolving process of developing individualized educational programs for students with complex learning needs. In 2013 she was awarded the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) Outstanding Educator Award for the positive impact she has had on her students, their peers and other educators. She is also currently serving as Chair of the MDSC Education Task-Force and continues to consult to the MDSC to provide continuity in her previous role as MDSC Education Director. Before than she worked in various public school settings in a number of different general and special education roles. She holds a Master’s degree in Special Education from Wheelock College and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication & Elementary Education from Stonehill College.
Leslie Bodkin, MS, OTR/L, CEIS
Leslie received both her Bachelor’s degree and her Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of New Hampshire. Her primary practice has been early intervention over the past 15 years, accompanied by forays into school-based practice and outpatient pediatric rehabilitation. Early intervention remains her first love because of the family-centered component, as well as the opportunity to work with very tiny babies! Her special interests include young infants with significant motor delays, feeding disorders, and sensory-processing disorders, as well as providing support to parents and helping to calm their anxiety in their journey with their child who has a disability. She provides community education opportunities to facilitate the inclusion of children with disabilities and provides training to her staff around family-centered care practices. Leslie currently works for Cambridge-Somerville Early Intervention. She also serves as Director of Enable Boston (disability ministry) at Park Street Church in downtown Boston. Previously she also served on the Board of Joni and Friends, a non-profit providing training and resources to churches to welcome, serve and include people with disabilities. Leslie has been involved with the Learning Program since its inception in 2009.
Karen Burtnett, MS Ed
Special Educator and Educational Consultant
Karen received her Master’s degree in Education for moderate special needs at Lesley University and her BA degree from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in Family and Community Services. Her life’s work has encompassed supporting and enabling those with learning differences to live with independence, beginning with her first job after college with the North Shore ARC residential and family support program. After more than a decade at the ARC she transitioned to academia, continuing her work with children and families as social worker, educator and researcher. She has served in leadership positions as her town Parent Advisory Council (PAC) Co-Chair and on the MDSC Education Task Force. Karen keeps abreast of educational practices through continuous professional development, and has completed the Federation for Children with Special Needs’ Advocacy Training, LIPS reading program, Nancibel Visualizing and Verbalizing and RAV-O. Her current work as an educational consultant is based on child-centered approaches for reading, writing and math instruction, with an emphasis on highlighting children’s strengths and interests. Karen has been involved in the Learning Program since its inception and provides direct service support to students and families.
Sarah Burton, MS CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Sarah Burton has a Master of Science Degree in Speech and Language Pathology from Northeastern University. She holds ASHA clinical certification and is a licensed speech-language pathologist in Massachusetts. She is also certified to teach Orton Gillingham, a multi-sensory program used to teach reading, spelling and writing skills to students with specific learning disabilities. For the past nine years she has been the speech and language pathologist at the Mitchell Elementary School in Needham, working with students who have language-based learning difficulties, receptive and expressive language delays, and social communication needs. Previously, Sarah spent four years at The Learning Center in Waltham, a private, community-based special education school that serves students with primary diagnoses of autism, developmental disabilities and emotional and behavioral challenges. Sarah has been involved with the Learning Program since its inception in 2009.
Gina L. De Burca, MS Ed
Special Educator and Educational Consultant
Gina has been working with students with special needs for over 15 years. She has spent her entire career advocating for students and supporting teachers within inclusive environments in Massachusetts public schools. She holds a Masters Degree in Special Education from Lesley University and a Bachelors Degree in Communication Disorders (Speech and Language) from Emerson College. She began her teaching career in the Newton Public Schools, initially supporting students with behavioral and cognitive challenges and then as a Special Education classroom teacher in an integrated-classroom for students with language-based learning disabilities. Following this she served for 10 years as a special educator in the Cambridge public schools, primarily as an inclusion specialist for students in grades 5-8, where she worked to create accessible programs for students with moderate to severe special needs in the general education classroom. In 2013, Gina joined the team at Learning Program Boston where she now works as an educator and consultant, coaching and training educators and working with district administrators to develop inclusive programs for students with global special education needs. She is also a member of the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) Education Task-Force. Gina lives in Arlington with her husband and daughter.
Barbara Didona, MS Ed
Parent Educator and Educational Consultant
Barbara holds a Master’s degree in Education from UMASS Lowell and taught high school English for a short time until she discovered that her true passion is teaching adults. After graduation, she worked as a professional development trainer at Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in CT, working in a group devoted to promoting corporate culture change through education and training. She spent six years as the Professional Development Coordinator for the Greater Lawrence Educational Collaborative, providing and coordinating training opportunities for the teaching and support staff in 10 MA school districts. She now works as a Training Specialist and Social Thinking Coordinator at Moore Center Services, providing training and facilitation for a wonderful staff that supports adults with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injury. Barbara is a writer and editor for the recently published MDSC Educator’s Manual. As the recipient of the 2013 Dr. Allen C. Crocker Fellowship through the Institute for Community Inclusion, Barbara developed a series of free on-line training materials for paraprofessionals in Massachussetts public schools. She also works as a consultant providing professional development opportunities to paraprofessionals in the Chelmsford school district.
Diane Gomes, MS Ed
Diane received her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Stonehill College in 1997. She earned a Master’s degree in elementary and moderate special needs from Wheelock College in 2002. She is also certified in the Wilson Reading Program. For the past 13 years Diane has been a special education teacher at the J.F. Kennedy Elementary School in Franklin working with children with mild to moderate disabilities. She services children from Kindergarten through fifth grade in both small group and inclusion settings. Previously, Diane taught first grade at a private school in Rhode Island before moving to Massachussetts. She then worked as an educational assistant at the Bigelow Middle School in Newton, where she decided to pursue a career working with children special needs.
Stephanie is a graduate of Lesley University with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Special Education: Severe Disabilities. Stephanie has worked in special education in both private and public school settings for over ten years, teaching in an integrated public preschool for six of those years. With a focus on early childhood education, Stephanie considers the development of self-regulation, play and social skills to be critical components to developing a successful inclusive experience. She provides school teams with strategies and interventions to support students meeting goals in these areas. She also brings her training on research-based methods of instruction to enhance current approaches to curriculum. Within Learning Program, Stephanie has taught in our student classrooms and is currently leading parent workshops. She has been involved with the 3-21 Foundation since 2014 and enjoys the opportunity to reach students, teachers and families through her various roles.
Paula graduated with an MS in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College and quickly discovered that teaching is a tough job! She entered the world of educational publishing and then moved on to high-tech marketing and now office management. She has two kids and applies her education background and gut instinct to guide them as best she can. She credits her children for teaching her more than any professor ever could, and strives to be the best advocate possible. She is also the Chair of the Sudbury Special Education Parent Advisory Council, bringing the world of special education into the mainstream view. Her family enjoys occasional events such as The Buddy Walk, D.A.D.S. group meetings, and other local Ds get-togethers. Paula has been involved in the Learning Program since its inception.
Melissa is an employee at the State House where she works for Senator James Eldridge as an official aide. She is also a self-advocate, Special Olympics athlete and a Special Olympics Global Messenger. Melissa has always enjoyed working with young children, beginning in high school when she took courses in early childhood development and volunteered as a teacher’s aide at Mt. Calvary Christian School in Acton. After graduation from high school Melissa worked as a classroom helper and ASL facilitator in an integrated preschool, the New Horizon Preschool in Alaska. In addition, for many summers she worked as a camp counselor at the Boxborough Recreation Department’s Summer Program. Melissa graduated from the Middlesex College Transition Program and continues to take classes at the college. In 2010 Melissa was inducted into the Special Olympics Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. In 2013, she represented the United States in Alpine skiing at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Peong Chang, South Korea. Melissa presents to many groups on a regular basis and has delivered the keynote address at numerous events. Recently, she was invited to present the keynote address at the Northwest Center’s Golden Hearts Luncheon in Seattle, WA. She has been involved with the Learning Program since its inception in 2009.
Stephanie is currently attending Salem State University majoring in Psychology and Elementary Education. Stephanie found her passion working with students in the Life Skills classroom as a peer mentor during her sophomore year at Melrose High School in 2008. She continued volunteering throughout High School and decided to major in the field of teaching. Her enthusiasm, consistency and commitment to the children she mentors and teaches is reflected by the many hours she works each week for individuals with special needs. She is a reliable and effective professional with diverse experience with children and young adults. Her experience includes classroom instruction, home support, 1:1 and small group work, following IEPs and behavior plans, and an inclusive mindset facilitating success for all children – infants through teenage years.
Renee graduated with her BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Utah. She started out at Raytheon Corp. as an Amplifier designer then moved on to Agilent Technologies where she worked as a Systems Engineer supporting the sales staff in their efforts to sell test and measurement equipment. She has been involved in the Learning Program since its inception and has served in numerous capacities including most recently as Parent Educator.