Board of Directors

Alicia Smith (President)

Alicia worked hard early in life to hide her dyslexia. Although she quickly learned computers could disguise her challenges, her secret was discovered in high school after submitting her first essay exam. Fortunately, a caring teacher arranged for her to be tested and she was given the option to write future exams on a computer, an accommodation that was not common at the time. Uncertain how she would manage in post-secondary without this accommodation, Alicia enrolled at the University of King’s College in Halifax where first-year students take oral debate-style exams. With written exams on the horizon for the second year, Alicia chose to leave university to pursue her passion for cooking. After training at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Alicia spent seven years working as a chef aboard luxury yachts. In 2004, after settling down with her husband in a small town near Georgian Bay she returned to school to study web development and computer science. After her first child was identified as dyslexic, Alicia became passionate about supporting him and changing public perception. She knew doing this would require her to do something she had hidden from her entire life. To stand with her son and others facing similar experiences she made an active choice to start speaking openly about her own challenges.

Jill Kearney (Vice-president)

Jill Kearney is a certified IDA Dyslexia Practitioner and has Associate Level certification from the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.  Jill has a B.Sc. (Biology ) and an M.Sc. (Applied Statistics) and worked for over 30 years in environmental health research and risk assessment.  She became interested in understanding dyslexia when a family member had unexpected difficulties in learning to read.  She now enjoys private tutoring and is often found looking at the latest scientific articles about reading and participating in workshops and webinars on dyslexia, assessment, effective interventions, fluency, morphology, etymology, assistive technologies, and other learning issues.  By working with IDA Ontario she hopes to share what she has learned in order to help people with dyslexia, their families, and educators.

Joanne Bertrand (Vice-president)

Joanne Bertrand is a certified IDA and CERI Structured Literacy Dyslexia Specialist. She is also a certified Wilson Reading System Level 2 Instructor, a program that is based on the Orton Gillingham approach. Joanne is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. She began her career as a Child and Youth Worker and then went on to teach and be a school principal for 27 years. She obtained her Specialist Qualifications in Reading, Special Education, and French as a Second Language early in her career. In 2010, when asked at a seminar whether she could teach a non-reader to read, she could not answer the question. This would lead her to embark on a journey, into multisensory language instruction which has evolved into structured literacy instruction. Helping children and adults with dyslexia and their families is a priority for her. Remaining current with research and information about effective structured literacy instruction and effective interventions helps her to ensure that her students are achieving their true potential as readers and writers. With IDA Ontario, Joanne hopes to bring structured literacy instruction to all students, educators, and organizations.

Daniella Green (Secretary)

Daniella's passion for dyslexia advocacy stems from beginning on a research journey to discover the best way to assist her child after they were diagnosed with dyslexia.  She began her career in marketing where she graduated from Advertising at Sheridan College and went on to attend Athabasca University for Administration and is a Certified Bookkeeper (CIB) through Durham college.

Her ability to assist in furthering IDA Ontario's mission is informed by over 10 years of experience providing a broad range of corporate administrative, communication, and financial services. She is currently Senior Manager of Administration and Finance of a software technology company that focuses on digitalization and provision of learning applications focused on using immersive technologies. She wants to continue her lifelong commitment to learning, aid in the dissemination of information to dispel misconceptions about dyslexia and create a cultural shift to embrace meaningful and impactful change for those affected by dyslexia.

Marisa Tartari (Treasurer)

Marisa graduated from Rotman Commerce at the University of Toronto with a Finance and Economics specialization and is pursuing the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. She started her career in mergers and acquisitions and currently is more focused in the private capital space. Marisa has previously been involved in educational volunteering with UNICEF and the Red Cross, supporting children and teenagers. She has just begun learning about dyslexia and is passionate about language and literacy. She is excited to use her finance skills and experience in support of IDA Ontario’s mission and activities.

Fiona Ara

Fiona Ara is an Orton Gillingham practitioner completing her Associate level training.  She has been active in supporting students with dyslexia for over 5 years; both in the classroom and in her private practice.  Previously she worked as an Industrial Designer, researcher, and manufacturing consultant for 17 years.  Seeing firsthand the challenges teachers face, she applied her research skills to a project developing a computer program based on the Orton Gillingham approach and Structural Literacy. Designed to train teachers, it prepares them for working with individuals with dyslexia. Fiona has a Bachelor of Design from OCAD University and a Post Diplôme from École Supérieure d'art et Design Saint-Étienne, France. She is an advocate of early childhood identification and supports research and policy aimed at improving education for all Ontarians.

Azza Daba

Azza Daba started out her career in the special education field. During that time, she began her journey as a lifelong learner and received a master’s degree in special education. Through her studies, she became fascinated by language and literacy acquisition, especially remedial pedagogy. Being bilingual has given her the opportunity to study the differences between two orthographies, which has lead to her deeper appreciation of the cognitive and linguistic demands of learning a language and its writing system. She has experience as a mainstream classroom teacher, a remedial tutor, and an English as a second language teacher. She is an IDA Certified Dyslexia Practitioner and currently runs her private practice of tutoring individuals with dyslexia. She enjoys and actively seeks further insight by staying informed about recent research and attending courses, conferences, and workshops. Azza feels that joining the IDA Ontario board provides a unique opportunity to participate in efforts to increase public awareness about dyslexia and improve services for individuals with dyslexia in Ontario. She believes that all educators should be informed about evidence-based practices to help provide dyslexic students with a fair chance to succeed in their education.

Jessica Duggan

Jessica Duggan is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) with 20+ years of experience fundraising in health care and education. She’s been at Queen’s University (Smith School of Business) for the last 10 years and previous to that worked at Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, St. Catharines General Hospital Foundation, and Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. As a volunteer, Jessica founded 100 Kids Who Care Kingston and was a board member, treasurer, and conference chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Southeastern Ontario. In 2017, Jessica was awarded the Outstanding Fundraising Professional Award from AFP. Jessica holds her BAH from McMaster University, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Public Relations from Humber College, and Queen’s Executive Program Certificate. Most importantly, Jessica is mom to Ben, who was diagnosed with dyslexia four years ago, and so began their journey of advocacy and awareness for dyslexia.

Melissa Klander


Veronika Overton

Veronika has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Guelph where she specialized in Hotel and Restaurant Administration. She worked in the field of hospitality for nine years before pivoting her profession towards education. She has worked for the past eleven years in a private Montessori School. She is an accredited infant/toddler Montessori teacher and has held many other roles within the school including assisting the elementary teachers to instruct a reading/writing program, teaching AIM French language learning, and physical education to the elementary community and is the school's special events coordinator. Veronika lives in Oakville with her husband and two children. She has a daughter who is dyslexic. As a parent of a child with dyslexia, she has taken a keen interest in advocating for early identification and the right for every child to learn to read. Veronika is currently working towards becoming an Orton Gillingham practitioner.

Tracy Shepard

Tracy graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and English and graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Education. She has taught in BC. and Ontario in the Primary and Junior grades. Tracy and her husband Dave have three boys one who has been identified as being Dyslexic. As a parent of a child with dyslexia, she has spent time learning about ways to help her son receive the appropriate support and education to meet his learning needs. She also completed the Associate level course in the Orton-Gillingham approach. Tracy feels strongly that all children should receive the appropriate education to meet their learning needs and by educating people about Dyslexia we may reach more students, parents, and educators to increase their understanding of these learning differences.

Advisory Council

Mark Foerster

Mark joined Munich Re in September 2000. Mark is responsible for all aspects of group operations including financial reporting and client servicing along with claims services for both lines of business – individual and group. Mark had 6 years of senior insurance management experience prior to joining Munich Re and 13 years of senior management/executive roles with a large financial institution. Mark began his insurance career in 1988 leading a start-up insurance operation within a large financial institution. Mark received his Honours degree in Business Administration in 1977 and a Masters degree in Business Administration in 1980 (both from the University of Western Ontario Ivey School of Business. He completed the requirements for a Certified Financial Planner designation in 1997. Mark has taught part-time as a university instructor in Strategic Management. He has also served on numerous charity boards and is currently Past Chair, United Way York Region. Mark is currently advising IDA Ontario in Strategic Planning.

Roby Hochman

Roby Hochman was one of the founders of the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. She also served as Vice President, Interim President, and Conference Co-chair.  Roby graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She worked at The Hospital for Sick Children and subsequently in private practice for over 35 years. Her initial interest in reading was piqued when she began to notice a relationship between language development and literacy skills. Roby went on to obtain an MEd from York University focusing her studies on the acquisition of written language skills, struggling readers and methods of instruction. Following graduation, she attended courses, workshops, and conferences provided by the International Dyslexia Association becoming a member of the Buffalo branch. Roby’s focus in her practice shifted to the development of written language skills using evidence-based intervention methods. Interactions with colleagues, parents and allied professionals led to an awareness that there was a need in the province for an organization to provide information, support, and advocacy for individuals with dyslexia, their families and educators. With that goal, she connected with other members of the Buffalo branch and two years later, in 2004, they established IDA Ontario. Roby has also served on the boards of both the Ontario and National Associations of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists as well as the Advisory Panel for the National Early Literacy Strategy, a project of the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRNet). She has also served on charity boards.  Roby is retired from her professional practice, however, she continues to support IDA Ontario in its mission to create a future for all individuals who struggle with dyslexia and other related reading differences.

Jan Maclean

Jan MacLean B.Sc.(O.T.), M.Sc. is the founder of The Reading Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Since 2001, the Centre’s YES! Reading, YES! Writing and YES! Math programs have helped hundreds of students achieve success. Jan is a Certified Orton-Gillingham Educator and Practitioner, and an IDA Dyslexia Therapist.  Jan is also a previous board member of IDA Ontario.

Elie Roth

Elie Roth is a partner with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP in Toronto, where he is a member of the taxation law practice group. Elie advises on domestic and international tax planning, corporate reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate finance, and also acts as counsel to a number of charitable and non-profit organizations. Elie has advised IDA Ontario on charity and taxation law matters since the Ontario Branch was formed and assisted IDA Ontario in its registration as a Canadian charity. In honour of Elie’s contributions to IDA Ontario, a scholarship fund was set up in his name.

Sally Shearman

Sally Shearman was one of the founders of the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Sally teaches Special Education and has been with the York Region District School Board since 1991. She was a member of the Advisory Panel for the National Early Literacy Strategy, a project of the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRNet), and a member of the Advisory Panel for the Effective Reading Instruction Resource Kit, CLLRNet. She has served in a variety of positions at the local and national levels within IDA since 1999. Sally has developed and delivered many different workshops and teaching modules to raise awareness amongst education professionals of research-based classroom approaches to teaching individuals with dyslexia. Dyslexia runs in Sally’s family and she is passionate about making sure that all children receive research-informed literacy instruction.

Dr. Sara Zimmerman

Sara Zimmerman first learned about issues in reading instruction during the height of the Whole Language era, while studying for her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Toronto. Sara had a unique opportunity to learn about essential concepts such as phonological awareness; unfortunately, in her subsequent role as a school speech-language pathologist, she realized that such concepts were pretty much unknown and mostly unwelcome in Ontario educational environments during the 1980s. Around that time, Sara developed a small private practice teaching children to read using the Wilson Reading System, and in 1992 she returned to U of T to complete a Ph.D. in psychology. Since 2001, Sara has been employed as a school psychologist at the Toronto District School Board, where she has become increasingly outspoken (some would say “passionate”) in the area of reading instruction, providing professional development and promoting the use of research-based practices in the classroom.