Virtual Conference Speaker Bios

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Speaker Bios


Margie B. Gillis, Ed.D., CALT, Keynote Speaker: Transforming How Reading Is Taught: Partnerships to Change Policies and Practice & Panelist, AM-3: Teaching the Science of Reading in Higher Education

Margie B. Gillis, Ed.D. is a nationally recognized Certified Academic Language Therapist who has been teaching children of all ages to read for over 40 years. She received her Doctorate of Education from the University of Louisville in Special Education. In 2009, Margie founded Literacy How, Inc. to provide professional development opportunities and coaching for teachers on how best to implement evidence-based reading practices in the classroom.

Margie has worked at the policy level through the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE).  She was instrumental in Connecticut’s adoption of a universal screening test for K-3 students, implementing the Connecticut Foundations of Reading Test as part of the certification process for pre-service teachers, and for the design and execution of the Connecticut K-3 Literacy Initiative. Margie was recently a member of the CSDE’s SLD/Dyslexia Workgroup.

She is the co-founder and former president of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, the former president of the CT Branch of the International Dyslexia Society, a board member of the Dyslexia Society of CT, New Alliance Foundation, and The Alliance for Accreditation and Certification of Dyslexia Specialists, and an executive board member of the Academic Language Therapy Association. In her capacity as Research Affiliate at Haskins Laboratories and at Fairfield University, Margie explores promising evidence-based literacy practices with the potential for scaling up. In 2010, Margie founded the Anne E. Fowler Foundation to support scholarships for teachers to earn their sixth year Professional Certificate in Reading and Language Development at Fairfield University, an IDA-accredited program she co-founded.  

The Literacy How Reading Wheel: Components of Comprehensive Literacy Instruction

The Progression of Phonological Awareness

Brady, S., Gillis, M. et al. (April 2009). First grade teachers’ knowledge of phonological awareness and code concepts: Examining gains from an intensive form of professional development and corresponding teacher attitudes. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 22(4): 425-455.

Gillis, M. and Stotsky, S. (Spring 2014). A Literate Nation White Paper. A Licensure Test for K-6 Teachers Using Common Core’s Reading Standards: What It Should Include and Who Should Take It.



Jan Wasowicz, PhD, CCC-SLP, AM-1 and PM-1: Reading, Writing, and Spelling – It’s about oral language and building the brain for literacy

Dr. Jan Wasowicz has more than 30 years of experience as a language, literacy, and learning specialist. She has worked with students who have language-based reading, writing, and spelling problems in a variety of educational settings, including public schools and private practice. 

Dr. Wasowicz is frequently invited to speak about best practices in literacy assessment and instruction at national, state, and local meetings and has taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses, holding faculty positions at Northwestern University, Elmhurst College, Rush–Presbyterian–St. Luke’s Medical Center, and Governors State University. 

She has authored articles appearing in scholarly journals, is the inventor of the original Earobics® software, and is co-author of SPELL and SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing. Dr. Wasowicz is an ASHA-certified and IL-licensed speech-language pathologist, and she holds a professional educator license with multiple endorsements from the State Teacher Certification Board of Illinois.


LeDerick Horne,  AM-2: Supports for Success: Seven Tips for Families & PM-3 Panel: Building Resiliency and Bridges for Children with Disabilities

Diagnosed with a learning disability in the third grade, LeDerick Horne defies any and all labels. He’s a dynamic spoken-word poet. A tireless advocate for all people with disabilities. An inspiring motivational speaker. A bridge-builder between learners and leaders across the U.S. and around the world who serves as a role model for all races, genders, and generations. 

The grandson of one of New Jersey’s most prominent civil rights leaders, LeDerick uses his gift for spoken-word poetry as the gateway to larger discussions on equal opportunity, pride, self-determination and hope for people with disabilities. His workshops, keynote speeches, and performances reach thousands of students, teachers, legislators, policy makers, business leaders, and service providers each year. He regularly addresses an array of academic, government, social, and business groups, including appearances at the White House, the United Nations, Harvard University, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and the State Departments of Education across the US. His work addresses the challenges of all disabilities, uniting the efforts of diverse groups in order to achieve substantive, systemic change.

From 2003 to 2012, LeDerick served as the Founding Board Chair of Eye to Eye (, the only national nonprofit mentoring program for students labeled with LD / ADHD, and he continues to serve on the board today. He is on the advisory board for The National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-determination and Employment (RAISE) Technical Assistance Center (  And he is a member of the governing board for the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education (

In 2016, he and co-author Margo Vreeburg Izzo, PhD, The Ohio State University, released the book Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities: A Path to Pride and Success — the definitive compendium on transition support for students with LD / ADHD and other hidden disabilities — published by Brookes Publishing Co.

LeDerick has released two spoken-word poetry albums (Rhyme Reason and Song in 2005 and Black and Blue in 2011) and co-created New Street Poets, a spoken-word play about the effect of gentrification on urban culture. The play received considerable acclaim including accolades at the New York City International Fringe Festival and toured extensively throughout the U.S.

LeDerick has earned a BA in Mathematics with a Fine Arts minor from New Jersey City University and also studied Mathematics at Middlesex County College. His poetry is available on iTunes and YouTube. 


AM-3 Panel: Teaching the Science of Reading in Higher Education

Moderator: Kathleen R. Biddle, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Education and Director of Rural Outreach & Reading Program, Juniata College.

Kathleen Biddle, Professor of Education at Juniata College, directs the Rural Outreach and Reading (ROAR) Program  which provides assessment and intervention services to struggling readers in local school districts.  Dr. Biddle teaches language and literacy courses with an emphasis on pre-service teacher preparation.  Biddle’s research explores pre-service teacher knowledge of language structures and reading disabilities before and after participation in seminar and clinical experiences. Biddle is co-author of Strategies for success:  Classroom teaching techniques for students with learning differences, second edition.  She has published in Journal of Learning Disabilities and Developmental Neuropsychology.  Biddle is a licensed psychologist and former special education teacher.


Carianne Bernadowski, Ph.D., University Professor of Education Coordinator of Reading Specialist Program and Bob and Joan Pierce Center for Structured Reading Teacher Training,  Coordinator of Secondary English Program, Robert Morris University.
Jaclyn Galbally, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Special Education, St. Joseph’s University.
Margie Gillis, Ed.D., CALT, Director Literacy Initiative, Haskins Laboratory.
Peggy Hickman, Ph.D.,  Associate Professor of Education, Arcadia University.
Richard Sabousky, Ph.D., Former Chair, Department of Special Education & Disability Studies, Clarion University.
Lori Severino, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Special Education, Drexel University



PM-2 Panel: I Am All Grown Up, What’s Next:

Moderator: Dr. Tracy Johnson is the founding President and CEO of Vessels of Hope ( a non-profit organization that helps individuals with learning disabilities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Harcum College and an Enrollment Counselor at Eastern University.  She has received an Associate’s degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Women’s Studies from Harcum College; a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor Human Resource Management from Cabrini University; a Master’s Degree in Multicultural Education from Eastern University; and an Honorary Doctorate degree in Ministry Science from the Accelerated School of Christian Ministry International, Inc. 

After being placed in special education in sixth grade and told she would never be able to attend college, Tracy was diagnosed with dyslexia as a young adult. Tracy’s faith and encouragement to other students with dyslexia helped to sustain her when she became discouraged over the course of her education.  Tracy is a dedicated role model and a leader in the dyslexia community and other populations with learning disabilities.

Dr. Tracy Johnson is a frequent speaker and panelist sharing her story of perseverance in the face of negative feedback. In 2019, she was featured in the HBO Documentary, Journey into Dyslexia, Great Minds Think Differently. Most recently she was featured in an edWebinar with Learning Ally titled A Life with Dyslexia: Why Education is a Right, Not a Privilege.

She is the author of a forthcoming book, Journey of Hope: An everyday Guide for Adults with Dyslexia, which will be available in November 2020.


Jeff Adams is a Senior Vice President at Bank of America. He is the Chief of Staff to the Executive of Consumer Advanced Solutions and Digital Banking.  During his 25 years in banking, Jeff had numerous roles from Market Manager to Sales Executive.  When his second-grade daughter Lisa was diagnosed with dyslexia Jeff went through the process and was given the same diagnosis. Since that time, his family has been active in supporting students and adults living with dyslexia. Jeff and his wife helped found the Pittsburgh Group of the PBIDA.  Since returning to the Philadelphia area, he has been an active participant in PBIDA conferences, simulations, and fundraising. Jeff is a graduate of Lehigh University.

Jared S. Blank is an author, runner and Dyslexia and K-12 Education Advocate. 

In January 2018 Jarod ran the World Marathon Challenge (7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days) to raise awareness and $50,000 for the International Dyslexia Foundation.  He explains, “Why? Because at the age of five I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Sensory Processing Disorder, and with the support of my incredible family and community, I beat the odds.  I graduated from USC and then went on to earn two Masters degrees.  I kept this part of my life secret for a very long time, afraid that the stigma of a Learning Challenge would alter how people saw me and the opportunities that I’d have.  Now, I’m sharing my story and your support means the world to me; dyslexia is not a limiting factor.” World Marathon Challenge & Author of Running the Distance

Olivia Farrell is the office administrator for the PA Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (PBIDA). Olivia was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was 10 years old and the diagnosis changed her life for the better. Knowing something is “off” can do damaging things to a person’s self-esteem, therefore having a word that explains the way one thinks, is a wonderfully empowering gift. Olivia attended The Crossroads School from grades 5-7, which enabled her not only to learn to read, but to gain confidence in herself and her capabilities. She worked hard to earn high grades through high school and college and graduated from West Chester University with a B.S. in Business Management, Summa Cum Laude. Since graduation, Olivia has worked for PBIDA to help others looking for answers and resources for their dyslexic struggles.

Natasha Rennie is a frontrunner in Public Relations and Event Planning and is currently the Event Manager for the International Dyslexia Association. She  She executes PR campaigns and high-profile events that strategically meet organizational objectives.  Rennie’s experience draws from several parallel areas of expertise including marketing and brand management.  In 1997 Rennie opened Urban Public Relations, a boutique PR and Event Firm specializing in the development and management of high-profile publicity campaigns for celebrity clients in the entertainment and professional sports industries.  With a client roster that is affectionately known as the Clinton to Clinton list, Rennie has provided PR and Event services to NFL Great Clinton Portis and the Former President of United States William J. Clinton; and a bevy of A-listers in between. 

Having created a PR juggernaut serving some of the world’s most accomplished individuals and organizations, Rennie reflects on her path and obstacles in reading and spelling. “At 5 years old, I skipped kindergarten and was advanced to the first grade only to repeat the grade due to what was described as “reading difficulties.” Although not formally evaluated for dyslexia, my teacher uttered the words that changed my life:  ‘Your Brain Works Differently.” “Possibly driven by naïveté, the word different felt special.” Rennie approached life with a pass to be different and never regarded her struggles with reading, spelling and pronunciation as a disability but as a gift.  Paradoxically, Rennie went on to graduate from Florida A&M University with a BA in Journalism and later received an MBA from Strayer University.

Paul Shump blogs about making the most of dyslexia and the role of technology for people with dyslexia at He speaks from his own personal experience as a person with dyslexia who has navigated through the education system to achieve a BA in Psychology from King’s College and as a working adult coaching at the high school and college level and managing customer service. When he is not playing with new technology, you will find him on the golf course or building something with his young daughter. As an iPhone and iPad user, his most frequently used technology is the Apple digital assistant Siri. He uses Siri to read emails and text messages and to dictate responses. He uses Audible on a daily basis for the news and to read current books as well as a number of other technology tools to read other information sources for organizing and ideation.

Jim VanOstenbridge is a senior Solution Architect at Esri, the world’s leading producer of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.  In his role he applies the practices and principles of organizational strategy and enterprise architecture to help priority customers to make effective investments in Esri’s products and services by helping them to envision valuable business outcomes by enabling organizational personnel to work together applying geography.  In this capacity, he routinely works with people in a wide range of roles including executives, managers, geospatial subject matter experts, IT leaders, and technologists along with Esri leadership and cross-divisional personnel.  Prior to joining Esri in 2007, Jim led geospatial systems engineering and creative teams, was an entrepreneur, and held multiple consulting and technical roles across a broad range of industries.  He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from West Chester University in 1990.

Before he learned he was dyslexic in his mid-40’s, Jim acknowledged that he had some unique abilities, specifically in making intuitive big-picture leaps that others struggled to keep pace with, but also recognized that he needed to be more persistent to achieve what came easily to others.  His abilities to envision both the broad strategic view and the associated details quickly have become valuable innate skills that, today, he leverages more fluently.  Today, in acknowledging the root cause of both his strengths and weaknesses, he has become a more effective professional, engaging with both creative and sequential thinkers, guiding them toward working more effectively, together, applying geography.

 Article on LinkedIn: 



PM-3 Panel: Building Resiliency and Bridges for Children with Disabilities

Moderator: Maria Toglia, M.S.- Maria obtained a Master’s degree in Clinical Child Psychology from Vanderbilt University and a Certificate in School Psychology from Immaculate University. She is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership and Management, with a concentration in Public Policy at Drexel University. Maria began her career as a child, adolescent and family therapist. For the last 15 years, she has worked as a Certified School Psychologist with K-12 students in Pennsylvania. Maria has extensive experience working with students with a broad range of learning and mental health profiles, including students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. She is a current PBIDA board member and actively involved in the Read By 4th campaign in Philadelphia. Maria is the mother of a young adult son with dyslexia. 


Lisa Goldstein, MD: Lisa earned her medical degree from Temple University and completed her residency in psychiatry at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatry Hospital. As a Board-Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Lisa has been in private practice for 20 years. She specializes in working with children who present with complex learning and mental health profiles.  Lisa has extensive experience advocating for students with disabilities and working with families and schools to develop appropriate educational and mental health supports. Lisa is a PBIDA past president, and the parent of a young adult with dyslexia.

Georgette Helbling, M.A., M.S.– Georgett earned a Master’s degree in Education with concentrations in literacy studies, reading specialist, and teaching English to speakers of other languages, as well as a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, with a specialization in Urban Libraries. She is a Certified Academic Language Practitioner, holds an ESL Certification, a Certificate in Digital Literacy and is a Certified Adult School Librarian. Georgett is an Academic Language Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in theoretical instruction and teaching in the Orton Gillingham approach.  As an adult with dyslexia and the parent of two children with dyslexia, Georgett has actively advocated for children as the founder of the Ferocious Readers Center for Dyslexia & Struggling Readers, and a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia, Pennsylvania.

LeDerick Horne, B.A.: LeDerick is an author, poet, national speaker and disability rights advocate. Diagnosed with a learning disability in third grade, LeDerick went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a minor in fine arts from New Jersey City University. He is a founding board member of Eye to Eye, the only national nonprofit mentoring program for students labeled with LD/ADHD, and on the advisory board for The National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-determination and Employment Technical Assistance Center (RAISE) and on the governing board for the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education. Le Derick is the co-author of Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities: A Path to Pride and Success.

Penny Moldofsky, M.S.- Penny holds a Master’s Degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Pennsylvania Reading Specialist, holds a Wilson Reading System® Level II Certification, and is a Wilson Reading System® Certified Teacher and Teacher Trainer. She currently serves as the Director of the Literacy Institute at the Woodlynde School, and has been an educator for over 50 years, and a Level II PA Certified Reading Specialist for more than 40 years. Penny is in private practice as The Strategic Reader, she is a national speaker, and a former PBIDA board member.

Hollie Woodard, M.A.– Hollie holds a Master’s Degree in Education and is a veteran teacher with over 20 years of experience. She is currently a high school English teacher and technology coach at Council Rock High School and is a finalist for the 2021 PA Teacher of the Year award.  She serves as an Action Coordinator and Legislative Chair at Decoding Dyslexia, PA, advocating for legislative change to support early identification and remediation of dyslexia.  Hollie is the Advocacy Chair for the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology, and a member of the Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee.  Hollie is the parent of two sons, one with multiple disabilities, including dyslexia.



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