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.

Liisa Freure (Past President)

Liisa Freure, M.Ed., OCT, Fellow /AOGPE, CDT/IDA  has over 25 years of experience in the field of education in both public and private school systems.  Liisa’s initial interest in research-based interventions began when traditional methods of instruction failed some of the students in her classroom.  Then, after two of her own three children exhibited early signs of dyslexia, Liisa began to learn all that she could about strategies for intervention and remediation.  In addition to training with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators to become a Fellow, and becoming certified as an Education Advocate, Liisa continues to study language and expand her knowledge and skills including extensive immersion in Structured Word Inquiry. Liisa now runs a private educational consulting and tutoring practice for students of all ages and trains parents, teachers and other professionals in Structured Literacy.  She has been a presenter at local, national and international conferences and has been actively involved with the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association since 2007.  Liisa served as President from 2009-2012 and from 2017-2020.

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.

Yatin Dullabh (Treasurer)

Yatin Dullabh is a qualified Chartered Accountant and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) with over 12 years of financial audit, IT audit, and consulting experience. He is a highly accomplished Auditor Controls Consultant, and Accounting professional with a successful verifiable track record in corporate audit, IT audit, accounting, and business advisory services. He is well versed in performing controls gap analysis, and designing business process and system improvements. Yatin grew up in a household learning that those of us that are fortunate should always find means to help those that are less. He would like to give back to his community by dedicating his time and available skills and resources to the organization. He believes that education is the fundamental tool for growth and development, as individuals, as organizations, and as communities. Early childhood identification of learning disabilities and intervention significantly improves in managing and addressing those learning disabilities.

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 first hand 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.

Jackie Lincoln

Jackie Lincoln moved to Canada from Germany in 2006. Originally from the U.S., she spent the majority of her career managing projects for large corporations (Xerox and Citicorp). She studied Organization Development, Change Management, and Customer Service Management at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and is currently enrolled in Orton-Gillingham Associate Level training. Although she has just begun learning about dyslexia (with the goal of becoming a tutor), she’s always had a special interest in language and looks forward to being able to use her organizational skills and experience in support of IDA Ontario’s mission and activities.

Stuart Lulling

Stuart Lulling is an active life-long learner and passionate about making learning more effective, engaging, and inclusive. With over 10 years of experience in broadcast and digital media, Stuart has been at the front line of the audience shift from the TV schedule to the on-demand phone interaction. For the last five years, Stuart has focused his career predominately on e-learning. Bringing his media production and development experience into the e-learning environment is something that is well sought after as the integrated media demands within the learning experience is ever-increasing and expected. Stuart has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce, specialising in IT, and a master’s degree in Educational Technology from the University of British Columbia.

"We are only at the beginning of the e-learning revolution and making inclusive learning experiences that are engaging, timely, and rewarding is both exciting and challenging".

Stuart advises and works with IDA Ontario on media generation, media/e-learning costings, workflows, narratives, and audience interaction/engagement.

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.

Marisa Tartari

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.

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.