Board of Directors
Sharon began her teaching career at Del Valle Junior High School in a self-contained special education classroom. Sharon also taught English and Language Arts and became an Instructor for the New Jersey Writing Project.
In 1998, Sharon started a dyslexia program at her junior high and developed a reading lab program for struggling students. Despite her varied experiences in education, learning how to teach reading to students with dyslexia was a profound turning point in her career and life. As a result of the program and the students’ success, Sharon took on the newly created position of Secondary Dyslexia/Reading Coordinator.
For over a decade, Sharon served as the Dyslexia, §504, and General Ed Homebound Coordinator. During this time, she became a Master Reading Teacher, received training in several dyslexia programs, and continued to develop the district’s dyslexia program. Sharon returned to the classroom for the last four years of her career to reconnect with students, administer assessments, and work to implement the latest scientific reading research in the K-12 classroom.
Sharon has actively served on numerous boards, including previous service on the board of IDA Austin. She hopes to build on the work that has been done, keep the Board challenged, and honor IDA’s traditions.
In her free time, Sharon loves baking, scrapbooking, traveling, and all things grandchildren, including learning to fish and pitch baseball. She also enjoys making an annual beach trip every summer with the teachers she hired and trained during the course of her career.
As a dyslexic adult and mother of three dyslexic sons, Stefanie believes that everyone should have access to dyslexia intervention, supports, and services, as well as structured literacy education for all students. Her journey has led her to pursue and complete training with the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a special education advocacy training program, to gain the knowledge necessary to advocate not only for her children but for all children who need support. Presently, Stefanie is completing the Dyslexia Therapist Training program with the Dyslexia Center of Austin to become a Certified Academic Language Therapist. She is a homeschool parent and also works part-time for the Autism Society of Texas as an Information and Referrals Specialist.
Stefanie is in her second year on the Board with IDA Austin and is beginning her first year serving as Vice President. She joined the board to help make a difference for both children and families. She hopes to develop awareness about dyslexia and related SLDs, and to provide guidance to families in obtaining services and finding support.
Stefanie is a lover of nature and self-described crazy plant lady. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities with her family, including kayaking and hiking.
Carolyn Mixon, SLP, LDT, CALT
Carolyn is retired from Austin ISD where she had a 30-year. career as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT), and elementary reading specialist, and was involved in the early development of the district’s language and literacy RtI programs. She is also a former, certified local LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) trainer, and currently serves as a moderator on several Facebook pages related to the science of reading and structured literacy. Her passion has been working with beginning readers and their parents. To the board, she brings organization and a desire to explore projects that will increase IDA Austin’s visibility as a source of information on the science of reading among parents and teachers.
Carolyn’s other activities include cycling, hiking, and becoming certified as a Texas Master Naturalist. She and her husband share a home with Ginger Baker, a large orange tabby cat, and are the proud parents of Emily who is working towards her PhD in Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Thresea (Terri) Courtney, B.S.
Thresea began her career teaching first graders in Corpus Christi and, prior to retirement 35 years later, was teaching 8th grade science in Austin. The years in between found her teaching students of all ages, from preschoolers to middle schoolers, parents, and other teachers. As a teacher, Thresea sought to build a love of reading and self confidence in her students by building on a foundation of best practices. Thresea is a Certified Master Science Teacher and has certification in English as a Second Language.
Thresea continues to seek out professional development opportunities and is proud to foster this professional growth through service on the IDA board, supporting parents, teachers, and the community in learning about dyslexia.
Thresea has been married to her husband Chuck for 39 years, and they have two sons. During her spare time, she enjoys cooking, crafting, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.
Mary Bach, Ph.D., LDT, CDT, CALT
Mary is a retired educator with over forty years of experience in public education as a classroom teacher, dyslexia therapist, and curriculum coach. Her experiences as a dyslexia teacher led to her love of teaching students to read. She feels helping a student become a better reader is one of the most satisfying aspects of teaching. Mary is trained in Basic Language Skills, a certified dyslexia therapist and a member of the Academic Language Therapy Association.
Her second love is working with teachers. Becoming president of IDA Austin gave her the chance to work with a board of talented educators and parents. While completing her doctorate in Special Education Administration at The University of Texas at Austin, she taught pre-service teachers through Texas Teaching Fellows and earned the University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning Strategic Instruction Model Learning Strategies and Content Enhancement Routine Professional Developer (KU-CRL: SIM LS & CER) Certificates.
During her free time, Mary likes to spend time with her family, especially her grandchildren. She also enjoys gardening and spending time with friends.
Karen Ashorn, B.S., M.Ed., CALT
Karen began teaching in 1997, in public and in private schools, and has been a Certified Academic Language Therapist since 2013. She graduated from Texas A & M with a B.S. in Curriculum & Instruction, and from Midwestern State University with a M.S. in Special Education, Dyslexia Specialization. She had her CALT training through the Take Flight program with Scottish Rite, and has been doing dyslexia therapy through the public schools ever since.
This is her second year as a Director with IDA Austin, and she is excited to learn and grow in the knowledge of how to best help her students and others. She is a member of the International Dyslexia Association and the Academic Language Therapy Association.
Karen currently teaches 2nd grade, and has two sons, who are in their 20’s. She also has three rescue dogs that she enjoys doing agility training with in her spare time.
Cynthia Edwards, M.Ed., CALT
Cynthia is a national educational consultant who provides support to states, districts, and schools on issues related to school improvement, teacher knowledge, and literacy achievement. Cynthia is guided in the belief that all children will achieve educational success when provided highly effective teachers using research-based resources and strategies, along with a positive, supportive learning environment.
Cynthia dedicated 32 years to Austin Independent Public Schools, Austin, Texas. She taught for 18 years as a special educator, gaining comprehensive teaching experience in early childhood through high school settings. During this time she became one of the first teachers in Austin ISD to obtain certification as an academic language therapist. Cynthia also provided Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) and Early Childhood LETRS training on a national level. Eventually, she took on administrative roles in special education, curriculum, dyslexia, and Section 504, ensuring a multi-tiered system of support for the social-emotional and educational needs of all students.
Cynthia believes in the power of knowledge to empower advocacy and support. By joining the IDA Austin board, she looks forward to working with a devoted coalition as they continue strengthening advocacy and support for children, young adults, pre-service teachers, teachers, parents, and community partners.
Cynthia has been a resident of Austin for over 45 years. There’s a good chance you might find her on a trail hiking with her Aussie, tending her gardens, or in the kitchen concocting something healthy and delicious.
Lisa Flores started her advocacy work, like so many parents, as an advocate for her own children. She is a graduate of Texas Partners in Policymaking, class of 2018. She was appointed to serve on the HB3 Special Education Funding Allotment Committee. She is a self-taught legislative advocate and was an avid volunteer with many disability organizations before starting to work as an advocacy specialist for Autism Society, Texas Parent to Parent, and Easterseals. As a Latina, her area of interest is helping Spanish speakers learn to advocate, as well as teaching general advocacy skills and about special education advocacy. Her dedication to advocacy is born from a simple commitment to advocate at any and every opportunity.
As a Director with IDA Austin, Lisa hopes to lend a voice for students who are served by special education and also dyslexic (students who have co-existing disabilities).
In her free time, she sews for hairless cats and is an avid Star Wars fanatic.
Linda Halbreich, M.A. Ed., LDT, CALT
Linda has been teaching at the Austin Waldorf School since 2003, initially as a Certified Academic Language Therapist and Licensed Dyslexia Therapist. Since 2015, Linda has joined the AWS high school as the Student Support Coordinator, where she serves as an advocate and coach for students with learning disabilities. While working as the head of the kindergarten at the Dalton School in New York City, Linda was an intern at the Fisher-Landau Center for the Treatment of Learning Disabilities. Witnessing the powerful impact of academic therapy on children’s lives, and after her son was diagnosed with dyslexia, Linda pursued training as a CALT at the Rawson Saunders Institute.
Linda holds a Master’s degree from Adelphi University in Early Childhood and Elementary Education with an emphasis on identifying children who have learning disabilities. Previously, she attended Bank Street College of Education to study Reading Instruction, and SUNY Buffalo, earning a BA in Human Services/Child Development.
Linda is pleased to join the IDA Austin board to provide advocacy on a larger scale by supporting students, parents, and educators, and by promoting the Science of Reading to a wider audience to foster early successes for all students as they learn to read.
Linda enjoys gardening with native plants, identifying wildflowers on her hikes through Barton Creek Preserve, and listening to live music. Spending time with family and friends is at the top of her list along with cooking, reading, and traveling near and far.
Alexis Juusola, M.Ed., Ph.D.
Alexis is currently an Ed.D. candidate at Concordia University Austin. Her research focuses on effective curriculum and instructional practices for students with dyslexia, the Universal Design for Learning framework, data literacy, and assistive technology practices. She also earned her M.Ed. from Concordia University with a masters case study titled, “Effectiveness of Spanish Intervention to Improve Phonemic Awareness, Concept of Print and Decoding.” She is currently the Master Reading Teacher Education Specialist at Education Service Center Thirteen, to prepare classroom teachers to design and implement reading instruction to addresses the varied learning needs of all students with reading difficulties, dyslexia and reading disabilities.
Paula McCoy, BFA, ALT
As a parent of a child with dyslexia, Paula is passionate about connecting other parents with the resources they need to navigate what can be a very stressful diagnosis. Paula’s son struggled with reading in kindergarten, and by the end of first grade, he had made little progress, despite summer tutoring, after school reading groups, and extra help. Once he was officially diagnosed with dyslexia, Paula’s son began receiving services by a Certified Academic Language Therapist. After two years of language therapy and continued support, he is now a flourishing and confident student who enjoys reading and loves going to school. As a result of this experience, Paula was inspired to start a parent group at her elementary school for parents of struggling readers.
As an IDA Austin Board member, Paula is replicating these experiences in new contexts, focusing on Membership and Outreach, and co-managing the branch’s social media outlets.
As a professional, Paula runs an online stationery business and works as a graphic designer. She enjoys karate, camping, and exploring national parks with her family. Inspired by her son’s progress with reading therapy, she began training as an Academic Language Therapist to provide children with the services they need to succeed in reading.
Randa Pedneau, BBA, CALT
Randa holds a BBA from Texas A&M, achieved a teacher certification with a reading specialization through the Texas State graduate program, and is a Certified Academic Language Therapist trained in Basic Language Skills through Neuhaus, Scottish Rite, and Rawson Saunders. Randa’s life experiences include owning a gym, raising three kids, and working with students who learn with dyslexia and dysgraphia since the early 2000s. She is a member of the International Dyslexia Association and the Academic Language Therapy Association. Currently, she is in training to become a Cognitive Behavior and Mindfulness Practitioner with the goal of adding these techniques to her CALT training in order to enable learners to control their thoughts and impulses in a way that increases self-esteem and academic success.
As a member of the IDA Board, Randa hopes to participate in a forum where ideas are freely shared and where educators and parents are empowered to help struggling learners.
When Randa isn’t working with students, she enjoys creating art, going to movies, working out, and spending time with family and friends.
Megan Pinchback, MBA, LDT, CALT
Megan is a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist through the State of Texas. She completed her Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) training from the Scottish Rite Dyslexia Center of Austin in 2011. After a 10-year career as a special education teacher in the Texas public school system, in 2012 she transitioned into private practice as a dyslexia therapist and CALT servicing children out of her office in Dripping Springs, Texas. As she continues to grow her business, her understanding of the shortage of quality dyslexia servicing for children on a national level propels her daily to stretch her knowledge, voice, and reach. Megan is a member of the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA) and the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Additionally, she holds both a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Business Administration through Louisiana State University.
Megan is passionate about dyslexia advocacy, legislation at the state and national level, and supporting students and parents through the social-emotional impact of dyslexia and the struggle to receive appropriate servicing.She hopes her time on the board of IDA Austin can be her small commitment to the pursuit of a better educational environment and greater successes for all children impacted daily with dyslexia.
Megan is a wife and the mother to five wonderful children ranging in ages from 3 to 22 years old. She and her family enjoy spending as much time as they can together and outside in the beautiful Texas hill country.
Nelda Reyes has 22 years of teaching experience. She began her career as a first grade classroom bilingual teacher in La Joya ISD in the Rio Grande Valley and Alief ISD in Houston. She has served in many other capacities in her teaching career, including reading specialist and special education resource/co-teacher for grades K-5. Nelda is currently a dyslexia practitioner and reading specialist at De Zavala Elementary in Austin. Nelda has a passion for advocating and teaching others about literacy and dyslexia in innovative ways, such as facilitating parent nights at her campus and bringing therapy dogs to read with her students.
Nelda holds an undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology and certifications in Early Childhood, Bilingual/ESL, Special Education, MRT and a Wilson Level 1 Practitioner. She is currently working on her Level 2 Wilson Therapist certification. She is also a member of DKG, a teacher organization in Central Texas.
Nelda joined IDA in hopes of learning from others and networking with other dyslexia specialists in the surrounding IDA region. She is excited to now serve as a Director on the IDA Austin board, and she hopes to educate parents, colleagues, and the community about dyslexia.
Shonna Skarda, M.A., LDT, CALT
Shonna is a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist and Certified Academic Language Therapist trained in Take Flight. After working for more than a decade in the field of horticulture, Shonna decided to return to her experience in and love for language and education. She feels blessed to have found such a rewarding career and vocation in the field of dyslexia therapy. After completing her training at the Scottish Rite Dyslexia Center of Austin in 2014, Shonna formed a joint practice in north Austin. She sees students in individual and group settings. In addition to her private practice, Shonna is also the After School Program Coordinator for the Dyslexia Center of Austin, a non-profit working to provide low-cost intervention services for underserved communities. Shonna holds a double B.A. in English and Linguistics from UT El Paso, and an M.A. in English from UT Austin. She is a member of the Academic Language Therapy Association.
Shonna is in her fifth year as a Director with IDA Austin. She manages the IDA Austin website and is an active member on our Programs Committee, with a special interest in developing our annual conference and the Experience Dyslexia® workshops.
Born in Lubbock and raised in El Paso, Shonna has lived in Austin for over twenty years. She and her husband love living in north Austin, and in her spare time, Shonna enjoys gardening, reading, and swimming.
Suzann Vera, M.S. Ed., LDT, CALT, CDT
Suzann is a Certified Academic Language Therapist and Licensed Dyslexia Therapist working full time as a reading interventionist in Central Texas. With over 22 years in public education, Suzann has had the opportunity to work with students, parents, and fellow educators. Trained in both Texas Scottish Rite Hospital’s Take Flight and Neuhaus’s Basic Language Skills, Suzann has taught children identified with dyslexia and those who struggle in language arts to read, write, and spell. She is a member of IDA and the Academic Language Therapy Association.
Since her own child struggled to read in the first grade, Suzann has become passionate about providing staff development for other educators and holding parent workshops on dyslexia identification, the referral process, intervention with direct, explicit multisensory instruction, and other resources.
Suzann is in her sixth year as a Director with IDA Austin. She joins the Executive Board this year as Corresponding Secretary. Suzann chairs the Membership & Outreach Committee with enthusiasm to celebrate, educate, and advocate for dyslexia.
When not working with students, Suzann likes to play board games with her husband and son, read books, cook, and camp.
Check out her school’s FB group, Raising Readers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cowanreaders/