Teaching Team

Pamela Booth
Lead Parent Educator and Educational Consultant

Pam serves as Lead Parent Educator with the Learning Program Boston, the 3-21 Foundation’s parent-focused educational intervention program.  In her role, 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 presents 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 is the proud mother of 17-year-old Christopher, who happens to have Down syndrome. She began her career in the disability community over a decade 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. Her work in the policy realm has included positions with Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC), and Southeastern MA21 Council, a disability policy collaborative. She currently serves on the Board of the Brockton Area ARC and Massasoit Community College’s Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICE).

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Maureen Blazejewski
Parent Educator and Educational Consultant

Maureen is a special education teacher at the Avery Elementary School in Dedham, Massachusetts.  Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to work in a variety of diverse roles within the field of special education, including as Educational Consultant through the 3-21 Foundation. In this role, she collaborates with school teams across Massachusetts in a direct consultation/coaching role, supporting school districts in the ever-evolving process of developing individualized educational programs for students with complex educational needs. In her previous position as Education Director at the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC), she worked to equip families and education professionals with information and resources around best practices for educating students with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has been involved with the Learning Program Boston, the 3-21 Foundation’s parent-focused educational intervention program, since September 2009, engaging closely with students, staff and families to design and implement programs for students with Down syndrome. She holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Wheelock College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Elementary Education from Stonehill College.

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Gina L. De Burca
Educational Consultant

Gina has been working with students with special needs for 20 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 the 3-21 Foundation, where she now works as an educational consultant, coaching and training educators and working with district administrators to develop inclusive programs for students with global special education needs.  She has also served on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) Education Task-Force.

 

Jean Kelly
Educational Consultant

Jean has worked in the special education field for over 30 years in both urban and suburban school districts.  More than half her career has been centered in the classroom as a teacher for students with language-based learning disabilities and moderate special needs.  As an early practitioner of the co-teaching model, she worked with math and science departments to pioneer the modification of curricula for high school students to meet state standards for a high school diploma.  Following teaching in the classroom, Jean started her administrative career as a Team Chairperson facilitating Individual Education Program (IEP) meetings for students in K-12 special education programs.  Jean also served as the Compliance Manager for the Boston Public Schools and as the Director of Special Education for the Lawrence Public Schools. In these roles, Jean has worked closely with Special Education Parent Advisory Councils (SEPAC), Special Education Teachers and Related Service Providers as well as General Education Teachers/Administrators to promote inclusionary practices and collaboration within the educational community.  Jean has a strong commitment and belief that all students should have an equal opportunity to learn and deserve a comprehensive and effective education that prepares them to be citizens of the world. Jean holds a Master’s Degree as a Reading Specialist from Lesley University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education & Elementary Education from Boston College.

 

Alexandra Lauric
Parent Educator

Alex’s interest in special education, inclusion, and strength-based learning strategies for children with intellectual disabilities started with the birth of her son ten years ago.  She is trained in special education policies and advocacy, and in inclusive practices for children with special needs and has completed the Parent Consultant Training Institute from the Federation for Children with Special Needs and the Family Leadership Series from Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change.  Alex received her PhD degree in computer science from Tufts University and is engaged in her other capacity as a research scientist in neurosurgery imaging. She has been involved with the Learning Program Boston, the 3-21 Foundation’s parent-focused educational intervention program,  since 2011 and enjoys the opportunity to connect with families as both an educator and parent.

 

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Renee Vekiarides
Parent Educator

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 with the Learning Program Boston, the 3-21 Foundation’s parent-focused educational intervention program,  since its inception and has served in numerous capacities.  Currently she is serving as our Parent Educator for our Middle School Program.

 


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Leslie Bodkin
Occupational Therapist

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 20 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 Riverside 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 Boston, the 3-21 Foundation’s parent-focused educational intervention program, since its inception and works directly to support our students and families.

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Karen Burtnett
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 with the 3-21 Foundation since its inception and provides direct service support to students and families.

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Sarah Burton
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 Boston, the 3-21 Foundation’s parent-focused educational intervention program, since its inception and works directly to support our students and families.

 

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Barbara Didona
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.

 


Melissa Reilly
Assistant Teacher

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, Massachusetts. 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. Melissa has been involved with the Learning Program Boston, the 3-21 Foundation’s parent-focused educational intervention program, since its inception and works directly to support our students and families.

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