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Our Team

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Stephanie Gerstenblith, Ph.D.

Founder and Owner
Academic Therapist
Executive Function Coach

I am passionate about helping others overcome challenges. During and after graduate school, I focused on preventing children from becoming involved with crime and drug use. Later, I supported students’ transition from community college through graduation from the University of Maryland. After observing the difficulties my students had learning, studying, writing, and managing their school, work, and family lives, I expanded my focus to assist students to develop the skills and systems they need to navigate through their academic journeys and to help professionals maintain organization in their work and home lives.

​Upon completing Orton-Gillingham (OG) Plus training with Fran Bowman in 2012, I immediately fell in love with my role as an academic therapist.  To be honest, it has never really felt like "work." Creating games and activities, helping my students improve their skills, and collaborating with parents and children's support teams are the most fulfilling job requirements I can imagine. ​

While it may sound strange to some, I am drawn to organizing.  Whether writing lists, scheduling my day or organizing my closet, office, or pantry, I find comfort in keeping things in order. It wasn't until much later in life that I learned my organizational skills fall under the umbrella of Executive Functioning (EF) and that I'm uniquely situated to help others improve their executive function skills. I can't express the thrill I've seen students experience when they've weighed the pile of papers they've emptied out of their messy binders (one student's load weighed 6 pounds!). Or the relief they've expressed when they've come up with a strong 5-paragraph essay. Or their excitement when they've memorized all of their vocabulary words after making and playing a matching game. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with ways to help both children and adults improve their executive function skills. 

​Since I take a strengths-based approach, I spend a lot of time getting to know each of my clients and their needs so I can design individualized instruction and approaches to support their success. 

I received a Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice in 2000 from the University of Maryland and was trained in Orton-Gillingham "Plus" in 2012. In addition to helping others achieve success, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two boys, playing the violin, practicing yoga, taking walks, and reading. 

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Nancy Fernandez, M.Ed.

Literacy and Learning Specialist
Executive Function Coach

In fourth grade, besides being voted class worry wort, I designed my first classroom in my basement. I taught my stuffed animals math from extra homework assignments my teacher would gift me. While I pretended I didn’t want to be a teacher for most of my young adulthood, I spent my free time teaching kids swimming, windsurfing and canoeing, drama, and music at my favorite summer camp. Finally, I came to my senses and earned a Masters in Secondary Education from SUNY at Buffalo. After teaching in New York State and California for 10 years, I moved back to Buffalo and discovered arts integration and my entire life of balancing the worlds of film and music and my love of kids and learning fell into place. I discovered that I could combine the engagement of summer camp and the rigor of college prep while creating a supportive team of parents and caregivers. 

 

Throughout my years of teaching, I have used the skills I learned working with high-powered executives in Hollywood to help me stay on track and anticipate student needs. My mind automatically maps my immediate and intermediate future and files it in a flexible, mental filing cabinet that I can access at any moment. Being married to someone with severe ADHD has helped me understand that not everyone is born with these important skills. Now, I can share my systems and methods with students as an Executive Function coach with EYS. 

 

After 21 years of teaching, I encountered my first dyslexic students and found that I knew little about dyslexia and even less about how to help those students. That is when I got in touch with my old friend Stephanie, who told me about Orton-Gillingham (OG) Plus. I realized that I could make a bigger impact by helping students learn to read and become an integral part of the literacy conversation early- rather than dealing with the frustrating results of years of pushing reading challenges under the table in order to avoid stigma and judgment. Now, as a trained OG provider, I am excited to help readers of all ages with game-based, multi-sensory techniques.

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Erin Upchurch, B.A.

Executive Function Coach

My passion for helping children and families with their executive function challenges stemmed from personal experiences with my own children. When my oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD, I felt lost, overwhelmed, and had no idea which direction to go for support. Exploring online for any information brought me to the term “executive function”. I realized my son struggled in almost every category. I finally had a direction that would eventually put me on the path to becoming an executive function coach. 

 

I believe every child has the ability to live a bright and successful future. It takes work. It takes time. It takes dedication from both student and parent. Together, we create effective scaffolds to hone your child’s executive function skills. My coaching empowers the child to overcome obstacles related to their EF challenges and celebrate every win, big or small. The best part of my job is watching students shed their pessimistic self-narratives and evolve into confident and capable young learners. 

 

I earned my Bachelor’s degree from George Mason University in History. Currently, I am pursuing a professional certification in Learning Differences and Neurodiversity with a specialty in Executive Function through Landmark College in Putney, VT. In addition, I actively attend virtual conferences run by experts in the neurodiverse field. Some include Seth Perler (TEFOS), Penny Williams (Behavior Revolution), and Debbie Steinberg Kuntz (Bright & Quirky Summit). 

 

My three active children challenge me every day to practice mindful parenting. I am a leader in my community, taking an active role in everything from scouting to youth sports. On most weekends, you can find me cheering on my children at the hockey rink, the swimming pool, or any of the multitude of scouting events. I enjoy camping, hiking, and any other outdoor activities. 

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Madison Hagar, M.Ed.

Literacy and Learning Specialist

Four years ago, I had a 15-year-old student in my 9th grade World History class who was illiterate.  I'm not exaggerating when I say "illiterate!"  She could read and write her name, and that was it.  She took "notes" in class, which looked perfect on paper, but she could not read what she had written back to me.  She stayed after school with me almost every day for extra help, but I didn't know how to help her.  At that point, I could teach reading comprehension, but I had no idea how to actually teach someone how to read from scratch. I was a high school teacher, after all! That experience was so heartbreaking. I saw a student in need and I didn't have the skills to help her.  I was also angry- who allowed her to get to that point where she was in 9th grade and she couldn't read? That experience inspired me to become a certified Orton-Gillingham teacher.  Now, when I come across another child who is struggling with reading, I know exactly what to do and how to help.  

Past Presentations

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