Conference Speakers

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Conference Speakers

Margie B. Gillis, Ed.D., CALT,
President, Literacy How, Inc.,
Research Affiliate, Fairfield University and Haskins Laboratories

“The Science of Reading:
Comprehensive Literacy Instruction for ALL Students”

Students in K-12 classrooms must read throughout the day for a variety of purposes. How has the science of reading informed what this instruction should look like and include? This session will define and describe methods of instruction for each component of comprehensive literacy instruction.

“Using Literacy Screening Data
to Support Students with Reading Difficulties”

The current focus on identifying students with dyslexia calls for screening students in a well-informed effort to identify and provide effective instruction and supports for students who struggle with reading. This session will focus on using data to inform instructional programming and supports to promote student literacy learning.

Margie Gillis is a Certified Academic Language Therapist, teaching children of all ages to read for more than four decades. Her interest in reading developed at the University of Connecticut, studying with Isabel Liberman.  Her certification as an Academic Language Therapist was through Teachers College, Columbia University, and she earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of Louisville in Special Ed. where she provided professional development to teachers of reading.

In 2009, Margie founded Literacy How, Inc. to provide professional development opportunities for teachers on implementing research-based reading practices in the classroom.  As President of Literacy How and as Research Affiliate at both Fairfield University and Haskins Laboratories, Margie has and continues to create new opportunities to empower teaching excellence.

She is the co-founder and former President of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.  Margie serves as an Executive Board Member of the Academic Language Therapist Association and The Alliance for Accreditation and Certification.

Mary Wennersten, M.Ed.,
Vice Chair of the IDA Board of Directors

“Maximizing Student Engagement – A Critical Component for Reading Gains”

This session will provide participants with strategies to engage all students (K-8) during reading instruction.  This active and engaging session will be full of examples and models of what whole group and small group reading instruction can look like.  Participants will engage in hands-on, evidence-based practices and evidence-based reading activities designed to actively engage students.

Mary’s professional career encompasses more than 30 years in public education, as a teacher, Academic Language Therapist, Instructional Coach, State Program Specialist, and State Director of K-5 Literacy. She currently is a Structured Literacy Consultant.

Mary earned her BA in Elem. Ed. from the University of Arizona, and her Masters in Special Ed. from N. Arizona University.  As a Certified Dyslexia Therapist, she has provided professional development for teachers, instructional coaches, interventionists, and administrators, in effective reading instruction, MTSS/RTI, data analysis, coaching, and implementation science.

Because of her own experience as a struggling dyslexic student, and parenting a child with dyslexia, Mary has devoted her career in public education to improving instruction for all students. She is the Past-President of the Arizona IDA, and currently serves as Vice-Chair for the International Dyslexia Association.


Jennifer Topple, M.S., CCC/SLP
IDA Board of Directors

Jennifer has been elected by the Delegate Assembly as the new Chair of the IDA Board of Directors. Ms. Topple has been on the Board of Directors and has served as Chair of the Branch Council Executive Committee (BCEC) and as President of the Georgia Branch. She is the Director of Assistive and Instructional Technology at The Howard School, a K-12 school for students with language-based learning differences in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Topple has been a speech-language pathologist in both hospital and school settings for more than sixteen years with a focus on language-learning disabilities and assistive technology. She has presented and held workshops on the topic of assistive technology both locally and internationally. Ms. Topple holds an M.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of New Mexico and a B.A. in Public Relations from Auburn University.


Kim Papastavridis, M.Ed. CCC/SLP
Director of Language and Literacy, The Howard School

Kim is a speech-language pathologist and foreign language educator who is the Director of Language and Literacy at The Howard School. She holds degrees from Purdue University and Georgia State University, and has previously worked as a speech-language pathologist, Spanish teacher, and high school principal.


Holly Lane
Director of the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

Dr. Holly Lane is an associate professor of special education and director of the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies. She also coordinates the doctoral program in special education and directs the University of Florida Literacy Initiative. Her research focuses on literacy intervention and prevention of reading difficulties through effective early literacy instruction and teacher education. She has conducted studies of tutoring interventions, increasing access to books in the homes of children from low-income families, and teacher knowledge of literacy. She has worked on projects to study reading intervention in juvenile correctional facilities and to develop professional development materials for teachers. Dr. Lane has also been the principal investigator of two doctoral training projects focused on preparing scholars in literacy intervention research.


Bridget Lyons
Arts & Literacy Educator/Manager, Learning Alliance Moonshot Moment Reading Rocket Bus

Bridget Lyons has nearly 25 years of teaching experience, internationally and in the United States. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, and certification in Gifted Education and Visual Arts. Bridget has been living in Vero Beach since 2007 with her husband, and was named “Teacher of the Year” at two district schools for 2011 and 2017. She was the first recipient of the Willie C. Reagan Award for Educational Arts Leadership awarded by the Cultural Council of Indian River County. Bridget is actively involved in the Art for Health’s Sake program and The Lullaby Project with the Vero Beach Museum of Art. Bridget currently serves as the Educator and Manager of “Voices: A Community Tapestry of Stories” which is a project of The Learning Alliance: Moonshot Moment Initiative.


Gayle Harrell
Florida House of Representatives

Representative Gayle Harrell was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000. With over 16 years of service in the Florida House of Representatives, Rep. Harrell is a leader in setting policy for the State of Florida. She is currently Chair of Children’s, Families & Seniors Subcommittee, and is a sitting member of the Health & Human Services Committee, Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Judiciary Committee and the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Currently, she is sponsoring HB 79 which will establish dyslexia programs in Florida public schools. These bills complement other dyslexia legislation that is being sponsored by Representative Aaron Bean (SB 656).

Gayle Harrell also has over 28 years of experience in healthcare. She is President and CEO of Health IT Strategies, LLC and has worked as a Healthcare Administrator, managing the Ob-Gyn. practice of Dr. James E. Harrell and founder of the Breast Imaging Center, a mammography center specializing in preventive care for women.
In addition, Harrell is a nationally recognized leader in Health Information Technology and was appointed by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to the national Health Information Technology Policy Committee as established under ARRA 2009 (Stimulus Bill).

Harrell has won numerous awards for her legislative service. Among her many awards she has received the Legislator of the Year by the Florida Medical Association, the Legislative Leadership Award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Legislative Award by the Florida Children’s Forum, an “A” Ranking by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Friend of Free Enterprise Award by the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Legislative Achievement Award by Keep Florida Beautiful, and the Distinguished Legislator Award by the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Harrell has been married to Dr. James Harrell for 50 years, has four children and eight grandchildren, and is an active member of the First Presbyterian Church in Stuart.

Share this page with your friends…