Meet Our Specialists

Beth Gonzalez-Karcs

Speech & Language Pathologist

Beth Gonzalez-Karcs, M.S.-CCC is a speech-language pathologist who has worked at Star Academy since 2005. Beth received her B.S. in Speech Pathology from The College at New Paltz in New York, and earned her M.S. in Communicative Disorders from San Francisco State University. She worked in the San Francisco Unified School District and also did several years of private contracting. Beth is originally from San Francisco, and is married with three children and a dog.  In her down-time, she enjoys taking her dog on walks and doing zumba!

Brenda Baskerville-Graff

Math Specialist

Brenda has been part of the Making Math Real Team since January 2012. She has taken MMR courses through geometry. She has her special education credential, BA in Social Work and MA in Wilderness Psychology. She lives in Glen Ellen with her kittens Thunder and Lightning and enjoys spending time with her 27 and 23 year old sons. Her favorite activity is tide pooling and running from elephant seals.

Cathie Wiggs

Occupational Therapist

Cathie grew up in Great Falls, Virginia where she was raised by a neruo-psychologist and a physicist. Put them together and what do you get? An OT of course! She is a mom of an awesome 7 year old redhead named Ben and loves the outdoors and traveling with her family. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy in 1991 followed by extensive training to include SIPT certified, Perceptual Enrichment Program, Therapeutic Listening, Interactive Metronome, Masgutova Reflex Integration, HandWriting  Without Tears to name a few. She loves working at Star because of the amazing staff, wonderful families and rockin' kids.

Christina Jarema

Speech & Language Pathologist

Christina earned her Master of Science Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from California State University, Sacramento. She is particularly interested in utilizing a variety of methodologies and modalities to incorporate a therapeutic and learning experience such as: Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® curriculum, Leah Kuyper’s The Zones of Regulation® concepts, and the Hanen It Takes Two to Talk® concepts. She collaborates with other professionals and involves families to provide a holistic approach to treatment. Christina enjoys traveling, snowboarding, hiking, camping, and exploring new restaurants with family and friends.

Deb Lyons

Speech & Language Tharapist/Music & Drama Teacher

Deb has such a wonderful mix of skills, experience and background which she will bring to both our music/drama program and our Speech department. She has been working as a Speech and Language Pathology Assistant for over 9 years in a variety of settings (public and non-public schools as well as in-home therapy). She has significant experience working with students on the autism spectrum as well as those with learning differences. She is trained in social cognition modalities and is very familiar with the IEP process. In addition, Deb is a musician who weaves her speech training into her music and drama teaching.

Gemma Plocki

1:1 Aide

Bio Coming Soon!

Jane Schwartz

Occupational Therapist

Jane received her masters in occupational therapy from Dominican University. She has worked for many years with people with varying developmental disabilities, but has found the perfect setting in the non-public school environment of Star Academy.  She loves working in a multidisciplinary program because it affords a wonderful opportunity for collaboration and the ability to provide therapy to students in the clinic, classroom and community enhances skill building and generalization. When not working at Star, Jane loves to hike, travel, garden and spend time with family and friends.

Jen Cariadus

Multisensory Language Arts Therapy / 8th Grade Assistant Teacher

Jennifer Cariadus, Star’s 2013 Specialist of the Year, joined the Star Academy family in January of 2008 as a Language Arts Specialist. Since then she has also taught Creative Writing, Yearbook, and Letterboxing classes at Star. She holds a BA degree in Human Development and Social Relations from the University of Michigan, When she is not teaching at Star, she is writing, painting, making music, or adventuring with her spouse and school-age twins, Aidan and Maia.

Julia Myers

Language Arts Specialist - Slingerland®

Julia joined the staff of Star in 2009. She is a Certified Slingerland® Teacher (CST) trained in multisensory Language Arts instruction using the Slingerland® approach. In addition, Julia is an IDA (International Dyslexia Association) Certified Dyslexia Practitioner.  Julia has previously lived and worked in London, France, Belgium and Switzerland and holds a M.A. in both French and International Relations. A former high school French and English as a Second Language teacher, Julia enjoys teaching using the Slingerland® approach due to its simultaneous, multisensory, structured nature. Julia lives in Marin.

Karli Grigsby

Behavioral Aide

Karli has a long history of and affinity for working with kids. As a high schooler, she coached volleyball and worked as a camp counselor. While at SSU, she studied and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in early childhood units. Karli has worked as a behavioral interventionalist, supporting students with behavioral goals and support plans for the past 2 years. She is calm, patient, enthusiastic and utterly unflappable.

Kathy Bermingham

Math Specialist

Kathy joined Star after a long career in a private school serving children with learning differences. She brings years of special education experience to the early elementary classroom. Kathy has trained with Michelle Garcia Winner and is knowledgeable in Making Math Real methods. Kathy believes there is nothing more satisfying than to see a student work so hard and then  finally understand a difficult concept… that “Ah ha” moment. Kathy enjoys spending time with her husband, Mike, two Border Collies, and three grandchildren.

Kati Skulski

Assistive Technology

Kati Skulski M.S.-CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist and Assistive Technology (AT) Specialist has provided consultative AT Services at Star since 2016. Kati received her B.S. in Psychology from Humboldt State University, and earned her M.S. in Communicative Disorders from Cal State East Bay. Outside of Star, Kati works with a variety of schools and organizations as a private contractor and with her non-profit organization, The Nika Project.  Kati is originally from Maryland and lives with her husband and two cats in Oakland. In her downtime, she enjoys cooking, hiking, traveling, and music.

Kris Stephens

Math Specialist

After teaching Language Arts in the middle school for the past several years, Kris has moved on to the math department and is taking additional Making Math Real training throughout the 2019-20 school year. He also continues to be a multi-sensory language arts specialist, which he has done at Star since 2005. Prior to joining Star, Kris worked at Lindamood-Bell® Learning Processes. He also taught ESL for 14 years, including six years in Japan. Kris coaches the Star volleyball team along with John McLaughlin.

Lani Bass

Emotional Wellness

Lani has worked in school settings as a school counselor; providing academic and social/emotional support to students in grades K-12 for over ten years. Lani has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from John F. Kennedy University and a Pupil Personnel Services Credential with a specialization in School Counseling from Sonoma State University. In her role as a school counselor she worked with students 1:1, in small groups and classroom settings. Lani enjoys exploring new places, hiking, cooking and spending time with her family. 

Maribeth Walsh-Villa

Occupational Therapist

Maribeth has been with Star since 2014. She has a Masters in occupational therapy from Samuel Merritt University as well as a Masters in recreation (emphasis therapeutic recreation) from San Francisco State. Among her many jobs before becoming an OT, Maribeth worked as an adminstrative director of Playmates Cooperative Preschool, a recreation therapist at Laguna Honda Hospital, a childrens' leader at the Janet Pomeroy Center and training director for Santa Barbara Special Olympics. She loves Star Academy for its small, nurturing, caring and creative environment!

Marina Karam-Wijelath

Emotional Wellness

Marina earned her BA in Social Work at Humboldt State University and her Master’s in Psychology from the New College in San Francisco. She has been working as a mental health counselor in San Francisco and Oakland for the past eight years. She has also taught psychology courses at City College of San Francisco. Marina is an Associate Marriage Family Therapist and has 20 years experience working within schools with students and families. She is a mother of two teenagers and has a pet Corgi named Smores.

Melissa Buell

​Multisensory Language Arts Therapy

Melissa is originally from the East coast and moved to the beautiful Bay area eight years ago. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and is currently working towards her Master's degree in education from Dominican University. Her passion is helping children with learning differences and feels lucky to have this amazing opportunity at Star Academy! Her two passions outside of work are her family and trail running. 

Nicole Ezcurra

Speech & Language Pathologist

Nicole graduated from a Masters of Sciences in Speech Pathology program at Eastern New Mexico University and has completed over two years of internships at a variety of settings including a local public school district where she provided group and individual therapy to elementary and middle school students. She has experience with the IEP process, social cognition curriculum and working with students in a private practice setting. Nicole’s range of experiences also includes delivering speech services via equine therapy and she earned her Autism Fitness certification.

Nicole Sachar

Language Arts Specialist - Slingerland®

Nicole is a very seasoned Slingerland® Specialist with 13 years in private practice and many years of teaching experience as a Slingerland® specialist, resource teacher, interventionist, literacy and math specialist, drama teacher, science teacher and she even coached soccer. In addition to her 3rd year Slingerland® Master Teacher certification, she holds a Masters in Education, certification in teaching bilingual students and is Spanish bilingual.

Renee Trimarco

Speech & Language Pathologist

Bio & Photo Coming Soon!

Wyatt Bessing

Multisensory Language Arts Therapy

Wyatt Bessing has been a multi-sensory language arts specialist at Star since 2005. Prior to joining Star, he worked at Lindamood-Bell® Learning Processes. He has also taught high school and middle school language arts classes. A published short story writer and essayist, for many years he has helped facilitate the National Novel Writing Month's Young Writers Program at Star. He earned his MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts in 1999. Besides writing, Wyatt enjoys traveling and playing games with his wife, Sarah.

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DISCLAIMER: Star Academy is NOT Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes nor is it affiliated with, certified, endorsed, licensed, monitored or sponsored by Lindamood-Bell, Nanci Bell, Phyllis Lindamood or Pat Lindamood.  Lindamood-Bell  – an international organization creating and implementing unique instructional methods and programs for quality interventions to advance language and literacy skills – in no way endorses or monitors the services provided by Star Academy. Star Academy may not recommend and/or provide the Lindamood-Bell methodologies at the same frequency and/or duration as the methodologies recommended and/or provided at the Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes Centers.

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