The Diener School Staff Group Photo on Playground

about us

2022-2023 Faculty & Staff

Kathy Chumas The Head of the Diener School

Head of School

Kathy Chumas

Kathy received her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education/Health and Fitness from Frostburg State University and completed her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at Shenandoah University. She is a registered and licensed occupational therapist (M.S. OTR/L). Kathy began working at The Diener School in 2007. Prior to becoming Head of School in 2019, she served in a variety of roles at Diener including Occupational Therapist and Director of Admissions & Therapeutic Support. In pediatric clinical settings, Kathy has performed assessments and developed occupational therapy treatment plans for children with a variety of diagnoses including sensory processing disorders, developmental delays, and communication disorders. Kathy has attended various workshops on cutting-edge treatment strategies for children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, visual processing disorders and language-based challenges. A sample of trainings include: Sensory Integration, Anxiety Among Children, Learning without Tears, Zones of Regulation, Social Thinking, and Executive Functioning Strategies for Educators. 

Administrative Staff

Kim Hiller The Diener School Staff

Kim Hiller

Director of Elementary School
Kim holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Miami and a Master of Special Education with a concentration in Learning Disabilities from the University of Maryland. Kim began working at The Diener School in 2007 when the school started. She has served in various roles, including Learning Skills Specialist, Director of the Upper School, Director of Education and Student Services, and is now the Elementary School Director. Kim taught as an Inclusion and Resource Teacher in MCPS at Argyle Middle School. She also ran her own tutoring company, Tutor Rx, providing strategy instruction, remediation, or curriculum-based support. Additional course study and certifications include Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center; Multi-Sensory Math Course I and II; Multi-Sensory Writing Instruction; Wilson Fundamental Reading Program; Character Education; Kingsbury Tutor Training; Safety Cares; Crisis Prevention Intervention.
Kristine Manlove Casa The Diener School Staff

Kristine Manlove-Casa

Director of Middle School
Kristine received her Master’s of Science in Education, Teaching Students with Special Needs, in 2011 from Kaplan University, Chicago, Illinois. She also received a BS in Business Administration in 2009 from Wesley College in Delaware. Kristine started at The Diener School in 2011 and has served in a variety of roles including Lead Teacher, Learning Skills Specialist, and Director of Curriculum & Instruction. She played a crucial role in developing the Middle School and has been the Director since its inception. Kristine is a certified Phono-Graphix Tutor and continues to attend workshops on Orton Gillingham, Executive Functioning, Kinesthetic Learning, Teaching the Anxious Child, Effective Ways to Deliver Reading Comprehension, Teaching Phonics and Spelling for Beginning and Transitional Readers and Foundations of Number Sense. Kristine is also a certified trainer in CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention.

Laurie Aaronson

Director of Operations & Development
Laurie has been part of our Diener Team since 2009. She began her career at Diener as the Office Manager and later expanded her role to Director of Operations and Development. Laurie oversees the Operations and Finance Manager as well as the Advancement Coordinator and is the liaison between our Board Treasurer. Laurie also organizes activities, community events and fundraisers. She is committed to building and fostering relationships with parents, alumni and the greater community while creating mutually beneficial relationships with new donors to support Diener.

Lois McCabe

Director of Admissions
Lois became the Director of Admissions at Diener when we opened our doors in Fall 2007. She then stepped into the role of Head of School from 2013-2016. After a brief absence, she returned in 2019 to take on her current role as Director of Admissions. Lois earned her Bachelor’s Degree from American University and her Law Degree from Temple University. Lois has been advocating for special needs families for over two decades. She became a Special Education Advocate for Children in the D.C. Superior Court Family Services where she managed cases which involved advocating for children with special needs through school visits, IEP meeting, school placement, and due process hearings. Lois also worked as a special education consultant providing professionals and parents with pragmatic information regarding the ever-changing needs, issues, and options facing the special needs community.

Alicia Evers

Advancement Coordinator
Alicia attended Pennsylvania State University, with an interest in Human Development and Family Studies. She joined our Diener community in the fall of 2019. She comes to the Diener School from Erie, PA where she spent the past four years working and volunteering at a grieving center for children, adolescents, and their families. Prior to this, she spent several years at the Barber National Institute as a special education para-educator in classrooms and as an administrative assistant in the Adult Day Program.

Matthew Murphy

Operations and Finance Manager
Matt graduated with a bachelor’s in Business Administration with a focus on Management from Eastern Connecticut State University. He started out at a national wireless communications franchise, assisting extensively on franchisees’ operations of their businesses. From there, he moved into a dual role of studio operations and customer experience management for a regional paint and sip company. In 2018, he and his partner relocated to the DMV area where he was an integral part of two non-profit’s operations and their management teams. Matt began at Diener in 2021 and brings an eclectic mix of skills from these past experiences to the team.

Lead Teachers & Teaching Partners

Jenni Cook The Diener School Staff

Jenni Cook

Lead Teacher
Jenni obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University in 2000 and completed her Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins in Early Intervention Special Education in 2009. Jenni joined The Diener School in 2009 and has held a variety of positions while at Diener including Elementary School teacher, Learning Skills specialist, and Director of the Lower School. She returned to the classroom in 2017 to work more directly with students and capitalize on her considerable skills as an educator. Jenni has been trained in The Character Education Virtues Project, Zones of Regulation, Social Thinking, Multi-sensory Math, Phono-Graphix, Read Naturally Fluency Program, and Orton-Gillingham.
Tatiana Francisco The Diener School Staff

Tatiana Francisco

Lead Teacher
Tatiana holds a Bachelor of Science in Family Science from the University of Maryland, with a minor in Human Development. She recently received her master’s degree in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University in Spring 2022. Prior to joining Diener, Tatiana worked in Montgomery County public schools as an intern in their Special Education programs. In 2017, Tatiana completed a semester externship at The Diener School, and in 2018 she began working full-time as a Teaching Partner at Diener. With her Master’s degree in hand, this year, she will be starting a new role as a Lead Teacher in the Elementary School. Tatiana has extensive training in Social Thinking, Multi-sensory Math, IMSE Orton Gillingham, Applied Behavior Analysis, and CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention.

April Hill

Lead Teacher
April graduated from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and is also a Certified Maryland Educator in Special Education Grades K-8. April began at Diener as a long-term substitute during the 2020-2021 school year and fell in love with “the Diener Way”. She then joined Diener as Lead teacher in the Elementary School in Fall 2021. April has an extensive training in classroom management having worked in Early Childhood Education and Head Start for 25 years in various positions both as a teacher and administrator. While at Diener April has received training in Social Thinking, Executive Functioning strategies and is a great collaborator. She is also trained in TACT II Crisis Intervention and De-escalation curricula.
Kathy Koetz The Diener School Staff

Kathy Koetz

Lead Teacher
Kathy Koetz graduated from Long Island University in 2008, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Adolescent English Education. In 2018, Kathy earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and later published a children's book, Rosie's Rescue Ranch. Kathy began at Diener during the 2020-2021 school year. Before joining Diener, she taught Special Education at The Lourie Center for Children's Social and Emotional Wellness.

Michelle Mahon

Lead Teacher
Michelle has joined The Diener School Team for the 2022-2023 school year. Before coming to The Diener School, she co-led the second grade class at The Maddux School and has been taking classes towards a second Master’s degree in Special Education. Michelle also holds a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University. Michelle is certified to teach Handwriting Without Tears and Orton Gillingham Reading and Writing Program. She has been a teacher for over 16 years, first in a nursery school setting, then at The Maddux School for the last 14 years. Michelle completed specialized training in The Maddux School Social Learning Curriculum and demonstrates expertise in creative arts and curriculum integration.
Franny McHale Diener School Teacher

Franny McHale

Lead Teacher and Social Studies Teacher
This is Franny’s first year at Diener after five years working in Early Childhood in an inclusive Preschool in NW DC. Franny loves to collaborate with kids and adults to discover what makes everyone unique. Franny holds a Masters of Arts in Learning Disabilities from American University where she graduated in May of 2022. She also studied Early Childhood Education as an undergrad at the College of Wooster in Ohio. She has worked with children in many different capacities: ski instructor, swim instructor, tutor, camp counselor and lead teacher for 3-4 year olds. She is excited to become a part of the Diener Owl Family!

Lindsey Menard

Lead Teacher
Lindsey earned a dual bachelor’s degree in English and Education from Bucknell University. Lindsey is currently pursuing her Master’s in Special Education at American University. After graduation, she worked as a one-to-one Literacy Tutor at an elementary school in Washington DC and spent a year working with a small group of elementary students who were participating in distance learning through the. Lindsey joined Diener for the 2021-2022 school year as a Teaching Partner. In addition to supporting classroom teachers, she worked to fill in the curriculum with multi-sensory reading, arts, and cooking activities throughout the year. She is excited for another great year at Diener!
Katelen Muriel The Diener School Staff

Katelen Muriel

Lead Teacher
Katelen earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Multicultural Special Education from the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Katelen started at Diener in Fall of 2019 as a teaching partner and after a year, she was promoted to a Lead teacher/Science teacher position for the middle school. Before starting at the Diener School, Katelen lived in New York City working as an ABA therapist at the Center of Autism and Related Disorders. She gained 2 years of experience applying behavioral analysis principles with children/adults who have ASD. She also has over 4 years of student teaching experience in elementary schools throughout the Bronx, New York. Katelen has training and is certified in executive functioning strategies, Multi-sensory Math, Social Thinking, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED), first aid, and CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention. She is beyond excited to return to Diener for her fourth year!
Susan Nolan The Diener School Staff

Susan Nolan

Lead Teacher
Susan received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education as well as an elementary education master’s equivalency at Hood University. Susan joined Diener in Fall 2019 as a Lead Teacher. Prior to joining Diener, Susan taught for Montgomery County Public Schools for 11 years. Prior to joining Diener, Susan was teaching preschool at a private school in Damascus for seven years. Susan has been a lead teacher at Diener for the past two years. She has also enjoyed being a camp counselor at Diener’s Summer Camp for the past three summers.
Katie Smith The Diener School Staff

Katie Smith

Lead Teacher
Katie received her Master of Science in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University in 2009 as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development from Sonoma State University in California. Katie joined The Diener School in 2018 as a Lead Teacher and continues in this role. Katie has extensive training in Orton Gillingham Plus and has been implementing this program for children with Dyslexia. Before coming to Diener, Katie taught at the Woods Academy, where she worked with preschool to grade school-age children. Prior to becoming a teacher, Katie worked for AmeriCorps and as an assistant in an occupational therapy camp.
Jem Waldmam The Diener School Staff

Jem Waldman

Lead Teacher
Jem began teaching at Diener in the Fall of 2013. She received an undergraduate degree (BA) in Psychology at Swarthmore College. After college, Jem worked at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center as a research assistant for the departments of geriatric psychiatry, neuropsychology, and psychopharmacology. Jem then attended the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, earning an M.S. Ed with a specialization in psychological services in education. Prior to coming to Diener, Jem worked as a children's therapist in a community mental health care center serving at-risk children in Philadelphia, as well as serving as the lower school counselor at the Kingsbury Day School in Washington, DC. She has completed Orton-Gillingham training via IMSE.
Diener School Staff Cyd

Cyd Igot

Teaching Partner
Cyd has joined The Diener staff for the 2022-2023 year. Cyd received a Bachelor of Behavioral and Social Science from the University of Maryland, with a major in Sociology and a minor in Women’s Studies. She began her love of working with children initially as a tutor for Kaplan, an ESL teacher in Santiago, Chile, and a homeschool teacher for the Assisi-Bridge School Co-op. Cyd worked in mental health, helping young people suffering from persistent mental illness find employment. She has since begun the A Letter For You Project, collecting thousands of anonymous handwritten letters for people having a hard time in life, to help them realize there is love, support, and encouragement in the world. In 2016, she was invited to do a TEDx Talk sharing the lessons learned and wisdom gained from the project. She self-published A Letter For You; A Collection of Handwritten Letters for Survivors in 2020. Her work has also included disaster relief, fundraising, logistics, delivery of food, clothing, construction materials, and medicine in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. She has dedicated herself to the empowerment of all people, big and small, and enjoys salsa dancing, traveling, and making a difference where she can.

Kathleen Nel

Teaching Partner
Kathleen joined Diener in Fall 2021 and in Spring 2022, she earned her Master’s degree from American University in Special Needs: Learning Disabilities. Kathleen received her Bachelor of Education degree majoring in Mathematics and Sciences from Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016. Since graduating, Kathleen has held a variety of teaching positions over the past 5 years in both public and special needs schools. Her prior experience included being an instructional assistant for children with various educational needs ranging from autism to cerebral palsy and more recently was a lead 6th-grade teacher who collaborated extensively with learning support specialists. Kathleen is beyond excited to continue working at Diener this year!
Danielle Oakley The Diener School Staff

Danielle Oakley

Teaching Partner
Dani earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education and Elementary Education from Indiana University in 2019. Dani is currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in Special Education-Autism Spectrum Disorder. She joined Diener in Fall 2019 as a Teaching Partner. She has her teaching license in grades K-6 for general education and special education and is trained in the multi-sensory Orton-Gillingham phonics curriculum. She is excited to be returning to Diener for her 4th year!
Jo Pittman The Diener School Staff

Jo Pittman, MT-BC

Teaching Partner & Music Therapist
Jo is a licensed & board-certified music therapist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and psychology from the University of Miami. Jo joined the Diener staff in Winter 2021 and has training in the multisensory Orton Gillingham phonics program, Zones of Regulation, Social Thinking, and Neurodevelopment in Music Therapy. In addition to her teaching partner role this year, Jo will be leading a push-in music therapy class within the elementary division. She will also continue to offer private music therapy sessions and adapted music lessons for Diener students before and after school. Prior to joining the Diener team, Jo was an intern at Levine Music in Washington, DC, where she provided music therapy sessions to students and families in the community and public school system. Jo is excited for another fun school year with Diener’s awesome students and staff!
Teo Rogers Diener school Teacher

Teo Rogers

Teaching Partner
Teo Rogers graduated with a B.A. in History in 2018 and, in 2021, an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, both from George Mason University. He has held various educational positions in the Washington, D.C. area since 2012, including at Blessed Sacrament School; Burgundy Farm Country Day School the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth; Fairfax County Public Schools; Episcopal High School; and George Mason University. Teo joined Diener in Fall 2021 working in a Middle School classroom. His favorite aspect of teaching is sharing his love of the written word with students.
Diener School Staff Megan

Megan Shockey

Teaching Partner
Megan received her Associate of Science degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant from Penn State University in 2022. She is working towards her bachelor’s degree at PSU in Integrated Social Sciences. Megan completed her fieldwork level II at Diener for 8 weeks in Fall 2021. At Diener, she provided interventions to the elementary students on executive functioning skills, sensory integration, self-regulation tools, functional independence, and gained an understanding about the mission of Diener. Megan is excited to join the Diener community as a full-time staff member.

Sammy Bales

Teaching Partner
Sammy has joined the Diener team for the 2022-2023 school year. Sammy graduated from Virginia Tech with a dual degree in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Sociology and Criminology. Prior to working at Diener, she worked at Ivymount School as an ABA Therapist in the Autism Program. In the past, she has worked in many special needs settings and her ABA background has prepared her well for Diener. She is looking forward to a great year at Diener!

Becky Flaherty

Teaching Partner
Becky received her Bachelors of Arts in Justice and Law from American University in 2022. Prior to Diener, she worked as a Teaching Assistant at Georgetown Day School, primarily in the Elementary School division. Becky has a passion for working with children (and adults!) with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Becky also completed a service year through Americorps City Year, where she worked at MLK Jr. Elementary School. There, she led both academic and behavioral small group interventions in her 5th grade class. Becky is a classical flutist, and extremely musical. One of her favorite teaching memories was leading the student Drumline at MLK Jr. and introducing her students to music from around the world.

Jennifer Simpson

Teaching Partner
Jennifer has a Master of Science in School Counseling from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Dickinson College. Prior to working at Diener, Jennifer worked for 5 years at Ivymount School and 16 years at The Maddux School. She has worked with Pre-K through 2nd-grade students and enjoys supporting students, families and teachers wherever most needed. This is Jennifer’s first year and she is looking forward to being part of the Diener community.

Behavioral and Therapeutic Team


Dr. Joy Kolb

Licensed Psychologist
Dr. Joy Kolb has been consulting with families and schools for over 20 years. She is a licensed psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst in private practice in Gaithersburg, MD. Dr. Kolb’s treatment focuses on providing evidence-based strategies and manageable recommendations that can be applied to each setting. Her treatment emphasizes realistic interventions that are individualized to the unique needs of each student. Dr. Kolb’s clinical interests include individual treatment as well as providing trainings for caregivers and school staff.
Colleen Simpson The Diener School Staff

Colleen Simpson, M.S, BCBA, LBA

Behavior Analyst
Colleen is a Board Certified and Licensed Behavior Analyst practicing in Maryland and has been a proud member of the Diener family since 2019. She has obtained experience in schools, private practice, and clinic-based settings; working with students and clients aged between 2 to 22 years old. Colleen has been working in the field of education for over 10 years and has held positions within the classroom as a paraprofessional and as a lead teacher in multiples roles. As a behavior analyst, Colleen values collaboration with other professionals across various fields to meet the ever-changing needs of her clients. She is passionate about remaining up to date on research and educating others on evidence-based practices and least-restrictive approaches to promote student and teacher success. Specific clinical interests include helping families to manage times of crises in the safest ways possible, identifying ways to incorporate best practices into the behavior-change program at Diener using curriculums such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Accept. Identify. Move. (AIM) curriculum, as well as finding moments during the school day to add some positivity and fun for our teachers and students when possible! Colleen also enjoys collaborating with teachers and families to develop function-based interventions that can applied to home and outside settings.
Bailey Lane Diener School Speech

Bailey Lane

Speech & Language Pathologist
Bailey began working at the Diener School in December 2021. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Following her undergraduate studies, Bailey spent 3 years working as a behavior therapist in a therapeutic preschool in Michigan. She then went on to complete her Master's in Communication Science Disorders at Northwestern University. Before coming to Diener, she spent 5 years working in public and therapeutic schools in the Chicago area. Bailey also spent time providing services to students in the clinic setting. She has experience with children from pre-k to high school. Bailey recently moved to Maryland with her husband and dog from the Chicago area. She is currently licensed as a speech-language pathologist in Maryland and Illinois. She also holds the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP). Bailey is passionate about working with students of all ages and backgrounds to support functional communication and social skills. She has completed trainings in the Social Thinking curriculum to help students improve their social competencies including problem-solving, perspective taking, and social-emotional learning. She enjoys working with staff and parents to support the whole student.
Emily Cross The Diener School Staff

Emily Cross

Speech & Language Pathologist
Emily completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology at SUNY Brockport in Upstate New York. She then moved to North Carolina where she earned her teaching license in special education before completing her Master’s in Communication Disorders from NC Central. Before coming to Diener, she spent 3 years working in a therapeutic treatment program for children with emotional disabilities in Washington, D.C. She is currently licensed as a speech-language pathologist in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., and North Carolina and holds the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP). Emily has worked with children of all ages, from preschool to high school in various settings including in-home, clinic, and public and private schools. Emily joined the Diener community in 2019. She provides training to staff on Social Thinking Curriculum and integrates social pragmatic tools and strategies to our Elementary school students through a push-in therapeutic model. Emily has attended several trainings with Michele Garcia Winner and brings to Diener a wide knowledge of social skills supports to our community.
Paris Woolford The Diener School Staff

Paris Woolford

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
Paris received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and a minor in Dance from Old Dominion University in 2016. She received her Associate of Applied Science as an Occupational Therapy Assistant from Eastern Virginia Career College in 2019 and completed her Level II Fieldwork at The Lab School of Washington. At the Lab School, Paris provided interventions to middle school-aged children in study skills, functional independence, self-regulation, and executive functions to students with ADHD, various learning disabilities, and anxiety. Paris joined Diener in Fall 2021 working closely with our Middle School students and enjoys collaborating with our staff.

Sheri Present

Occupational Therapist, OT/L
Sheri holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Kansas and a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Towson University. Her focus is working with children who experience sensory integrative and developmental differences. Sheri has worked in private practice, schools and has extensive experience consulting in various educational settings. Sheri began working part-time at the Diener School and is now a full-time staff member. She has presented at local and national conferences to colleagues, other professionals, and lay persons on the foundations of sensory integration and various aspects of child development. Sheri’s passion is educating and collaborating with parents, teachers, and other professionals on behalf of the children that she serves. Sheri has been teaching swimming to children and adults for more than 25 years. Her unique approach to teaching swimming by incorporating occupational therapy principles and techniques has transformed the lives of hundreds of children and adults.

Annie Pitts

Behavioral Assistant & Social Skill Support
Annie is a Behavior Specialist, having graduated with a master’s in special education and certification in Applied Behavior Analysis from George Mason University in 2021. Annie joined Diener in Fall 2021 working primarily with our Middle School students and staff. In 2004, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. For the last 5 years, Annie has worked in both private and public school settings as a special education paraprofessional and student support specialist. Her graduate work included supporting families through in-home therapy and collaborating with a team of professionals to support the needs of children.

Sean Strumpf

Behavioral Assistant & Social Skill Support
Sean joined our Diener team in 2016 as a Teaching Partner. For the past few years, he has been in the position of Behavioral Assistant and Social Skills Support. Sean earned an Associate of Arts degree from Montgomery College in 2012. He worked as a special education para-educator for Montgomery County Public Schools from 2014-2016. In addition, from 2015 to the present, he works at Changing the Lives of Children with Autism (CLCA) as an intensive individual support technician. He holds multiple certifications, which include: CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention; Prevention and Management of Aggressive Behavior (PMAB); Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED); and First Aid.
Sammi Rosenfield The Diener School Staff

Sammi Rosenfeld

School Counselor, MD LCPC/DC LPC, NCC
Sammi joined our Diener community in 2020. She works full-time as the school counselor for both elementary and middle schools. Sammi received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and Kinesiology from the University of Michigan and her Master of Science in Education in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in both Maryland and Washington, DC, and is also a National Certified Counselor. Along her journey towards The Diener School, Sammi taught performing arts and multiple body-mind-focused topics at Georgetown Day Lower/Middle School, Imagination Stage Inc. Inclusion and Access programs, and many other local educational programs. She also was a Rehabilitation Support Specialist at PRS Inc., an adult psychiatric facility. When she lived in Philadelphia, PA she worked as a K-2 School Counselor at a Title 1, inner-city, Philadelphia Public School serving students with severe trauma and diverse needs. In her career, Sammi has worked with students ages four to seventy with a variety of neurodiversity, backgrounds, and barriers. When not at Diener, Sammi maintains a small private practice in DC, teaches therapeutically supportive dance classes, and choreographs and performs when opportunities present. Her dance background, along with her studies in movement science and love of play and the arts, greatly influences her therapeutic approach. She loves supporting students at Diener through a multi-sensory integrative approach where modalities such as play therapy, expressive arts therapies including dance therapy and psychodrama, and somatic work such as biofeedback, blend together with cognitive behavioral supports.



Elle Baskin

Learning Skills Specialist
Elle has been at Diener for 12 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Hearing and Speech Sciences from the University of Maryland, with minors in Linguistics and Early Childhood Development and Education. She is currently working towards a master’s degree in Reading Science with a Dyslexia Certificate. Prior to Diener, she worked with various populations across multiple settings, including the Arc of Montgomery County, Montgomery County Public Schools, LEAP Preschool at the University of Maryland, Learning Together Early Intervention Services, and Imagine Possibility Academic Therapy. She has worked in a variety of roles at Diener, including Teaching Partner, Director of Summer Camp, Lead Science Teacher, and Distance Learning Coordinator. Elle has been trained in Applied Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior Therapy, Floor Time Therapy, Positive Behavior Intervention Systems, CPI Non-violent Crisis Intervention, The Character Education Virtues Project, Zones of Regulation, Social Thinking, Sarah Ward’s Executive Functioning Techniques, Kinesthetic Learning in the Classroom, Multi-sensory Math, Phono-Graphix, Read Naturally Fluency Program, Orton-Gillingham Plus, and IMSE OG.
Nicole Tanjutco The Diener School Staff

Nicole Tanjutco

Learning Skills Specialist
Nicole received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2014 from Towson University. She recently graduated in the Spring of 2022 with a Master of Science in Instructional Technology and Curriculum Development from Towson University. She worked in both Baltimore County and Montgomery County Public schools for two years prior to joining Diener. Nicole began at Diener in 2015 as a teaching assistant. After a year she was promoted to a lead teacher position. She has been in her current role as the Middle School Learning Skills specialist since Fall 2021. She also took on a new role as Camp Director during the summer of 2019. Nicole is the mentor teacher to new staff in the middle school program. Nicole has extensive training in executive functioning strategies, Multi-sensory Math, Phonographix, IMSE Intermediate Orton Gillingham, Study Sync, Learning Ally, Fast Forward and Orton Gillingham Plus. She is also trained in CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention, leadership training on Transformational Leadership and Professional Development, Leadership and Group Dynamics, and Project Management. Nicole is the Chair of the AIMS Accreditation Steering Committee at Diener.
John Soares The Diener School Staff

John Soares

Adaptive Physical Education
Coach John graduated from the University of Maryland in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition Food and Sciences. He continued his education at Montgomery College to pursue an advanced degree in Early Childhood Education. John worked at MoCo Movement Center Pediatric Therapy Gym as a Movement Coach and he brings his creativity and enthusiasm to the Diener team. He is also a dedicated soccer coach for the MSI Soccer League and is currently working for the former MLS MVP Golden Boot winner Luciano Emilio Soccer Club. John has been the Fitness Instructor at The Diener School since 2016.

Frankie Lydon

Art Instructor
Frankie began working at Diener as a teaching assistant and gradually moved into the field of art education. Frankie's passion for art design was evident and she took on the role of Art Instructor for several years. Frankie has been at Diener for over a decade and enjoys working with all our great kids.
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