Team

Our Team

jessica bennett

Director

Structured Literacy: Phonology, Morphology, Etymoloty
Writing
Executive Functioning Coach
Grades 6-12.

 

Jessica is a scholar, an athlete, a meditator, a yogini, a CrossFitter, a tennis player, a former collegiate rower, a mother to three young girls, and a wife to Dan. 

Dr. Bennett has a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in Special Education with a focus on using structured literacy instruction for children with reading disabilities. Specifically, her dissertation focused on delivering an oral reading fluency intervention to elementary aged students. She completed her associates level practicum through The Orton-Gillingham Academy and is also a Certified Academic Language Practitioner (CALP through ALTA). 

As a licensed intervention specialist preK-12, Dr. Bennett has over 17 years experience as a teacher.  Most of her career was spent with elementary aged kids, but her first year (2005) and most recent years (2020 to present) have been spent with middle and high school students.  In 2020-2021 she started integrating executive functioning and mindfulness skills with the teenagers who showed up in her basement classroom. 

Dr. Bennett has been training and coaching teachers since 2011 at The Ohio State University, Battle for Kids, Otterbein University, and throughout the state of Ohio.  

Jessica is the Founder and Director of Mindful Literacy Columbus (501C3) and the host of the Mindful Literacy Podcast. 

Angela Smith

Structured Literacy and Executive Functioning

Grades 6-College

Angela Smith has been an educator for over 17 years.  She has her BA from Kent State University in Deaf Education; a MA degree from the Ohio State University in Reading; and a MA degree from Kent State University in Educational Technology.  Angela has worked at the Ohio School for the Deaf since 2006.  She has also been an Educational Therapist (doing executive functioning coaching) with META since 2018.Angela has worked with every age group, but she is passionate about working with young adults.

Angela has two young boys who are her whole world and who make sure that she never has a moment to sit down, but she prefers it that way. Angela is an avid Crossfitter and instilling a healthy lifestyle in her boys and her students is a passion. Angela’s gift in this life is working with kids of all ages.

Brian Gerson

Reading/Writing Specialist

Grades 3-8

Brian Gerson has been a middle school English teacher for 15 years, teaching at two Catholic schools in Los Angeles and Venice, California. After relocating to Columbus in 2017, Brian was a stay-at-home dad for Willa (10) and Gus (6).

Brian ran a distance learning pod in South Bexley in the 2020-2021 school year. He taught 11th and 12th grade English at Franklinton High School in Columbus in 2021-2022. He is now the 5th/6th grade English teacher at St. Catherine’s.

Brian gives his students the perfect combination of structure, positive praise, meaningful feedback, and is playful and fun-loving. He is ever present with the people he shares his time with and he never misses a Celtics game.

 

Brooke Denby

Structured Literacy: Take Flight 

Grades 2-4

Brooke Denby is originally from Austin, TX and moved to Columbus in 2016. Her son struggled with reading in elementary school and she and her husband soon discovered he was dyslexic.  It was during this challenging time that Brooke became aware of how difficult it can be for parents as they attempt to get help for their kids who are dyslexic.  Brooke’s  son was extremely fortunate to participate in an Orton Gillingham program.  His progress sparked an interest in Brooke to learn more about the curriculum.  She soon realized that helping dyslexic children succeed was a passion. This led her to complete a two-year training program from the Dyslexia Center of Austin, a Scottish Rite Hospital affiliated program.  Brooke has been helping dyslexic children of varying ages ever since.  She is thrilled to be working for Mindful Literacy. 

Brooke’s  mission is to support the educational, emotional, and social well-being of students with dyslexia.  It gives her great joy to see their faces light up when they succeed. 

Brooke is our go-to tutor for traditional Orton-Gillingham style lessons.  She is a phenomenal tutor for kids with dyslexia who are in Grades 2 and up. 

 

Christina Rouse-Billman

Structured Literacy

Grades K-5

 

Dr. Christina Rouse-Billman is a Bexley native and is currently a full-time senior lecturer with OSU. One of the courses she teaches is to  undergraduate and graduate level special education majors in how to prescribe, diagnose, and design explicit, systematic, direct, multisensory reading instruction to children who are at risk for reading failure in a clinical setting.  This course not only allows her to teach teachers theory of reading instruction, but also allows her to coach teachers in practice as they tutor elementary aged kids in a 1:1 setting. Dr. Billman has been an author in multiple peer-reviewed journal articles and her dissertation was focused on improving reading comprehension in upper elementary aged students.  Dr. Billman is also an adjunct instructor and student teacher supervisor with Cap U. Dr. Billman served as principal and director in a private charter school serving students ages 3-21 with autism spectrum disorder and other behavioral disorders for 4 years. She was an elementary teacher with dual licensure (general education and intervention specialist) for 10 years in Georgia where she was first trained in Orton-Gillingham methodology.  In her spare time, Dr. Billman loves to garden, take her chocolate lab (Lindor) for long walks, try out new restaurants with her husband, and spend time with her niece and nephew.

Dr. and Mr. Billman also became parents in summer of 2021!

Dr. Billman is Dr. Bennett’s right hand woman and Mindful Literacy’s biggest cheerleader. She and Dr. Bennett have been dreaming of opening a center for almost 10 years!  Christina takes on 1:1 tutoring, recruits her super star students for the organization, and keeps our Mindful Literacy Grant Writers Guild moving forward! 

 

 

Dalrena Roberts

Math Specialist

Grades 3-7 

Dalrena Roberts is a passionate educator and the owner of a private mathematicstutoring company, Rena’s Rithmetic, LLC. Dalrena is originally from Toledo, Ohio and moved to Columbus, Ohio in 2001 after graduating from the University of Toledo. Her career goal is to decrease the anxiety children have in mathematics and to see themselves as problem solvers. Dalrena is a certified elementary educator who has 20+ years of teaching mathematics in Columbus City Schools and has earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction as well as an Administrator license during this time. The passion Dalrena has for mathematics is to shift the focus from memorizing facts and procedures, but to promote conceptual understanding of number sense, to build confidence and critical thinkers in students and to provide engaging math instruction.

Dalrena is the mother of one son, a sister to four siblings, an aunt to two nieces, and a “big” cousin to many.  When she is not teaching, you can catch her listening to music and dancing the night away.

Delayna Green

Structured Literacy: SPIRE Grades K-5

Mental Math Fluency 

 

DeLayna Green has been teaching for Columbus City Schools as a Special Education Teacher for the past 8 years. Delayna is also the founder of Layna’s Learning Circle, a private tutoring company for elementary students where she also makes and sells some really amazing learning boards. She attended Kentucky State University for undergrad, where she received her B.A. in elementary education and The Ohio State University for grad school where she received her M.A. in Special Education.  DeLayna is so good at lifting students up and meeting them where they are. She also is really good at lifting heavy weights!

DeLayna serves one of our Mindful Literacy Columbus scholars on scholarship!

Diana Pryor

Reading, Writing, Math, and Social/Emotional Specialist

Grades 2-3

 

Diana is an educator with more than 30 years of extensive classroom experience, the majority being in the primary years.  She started her career as a part of the team piloting the first Columbus City Schools Montessori Magnet School.  She also taught in a CCS Arts Impact School and at The Columbus Academy before her final tenure with Bexley City Schools. The bulk of Diana’s teaching experience has been with second and third grades, which is her jam! 

Diana adores this developmental stage! As an educator, she values a whole child approach. Supporting the social, emotional and academic needs of a student as they are actively engaged in learning, positively connected to the school and providing opportunities for children to make big and small connections to the world are key components of a successful educational experience.  But most importantly, allowing children to find joy, comfort and success at their own personal pace has and always will be what Diana considers to be the best gift we can our young global citizens! 

Kristina Hoffman

K-5 Reading,  Math fact fluency and Mental Math Fluency

Middle School Math

High School Algebra and Chemistry

 

Kristina Hoffman is a recent graduate from Otterbein University, where she received her undergraduate degree in Primary Education and Intervention. She is currently pursuing dual licensure for PK-5 general education and special education students. She has 5 years of experience working with students at the preschool and elementary school levels in both public and private school settings. Additionally, she has tutoring experience with high school students in Algebra and Chemistry. She is skilled in assisting students in individual and group instruction while exhibiting strong enthusiasm for students and teaching. Outside of the learning environment, she loves to spend time with her son, Tobias (2).

 

Martha GALLAGHER Michael

Structured Literacy: Morphology 

Grades 4-12

Dr. Michael received her doctorate in Special Education from The Ohio State University and licensure in MH and OH in 1990. She is a Columbus native and is recently retired from 35 years in educational settings. Here is a summary of her career: 

  • Intervention Specialist for 11 years in Columbus City Schools and Minneapolis City Schools
  • Led the Fine Arts Department at a residential boarding school in California.
  • Established the special education licensure undergraduate and graduate programs at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio.
  • Taught at Ohio Dominican University for 2 years 
  • Taught in the Education Department at Capital University for the past 13 years. There she established 2 valuable decade long partnerships with Ethiopian Tewahedoh Social Services for tutoring by Capital students of ELL children from The Republic of Myanmar and at the Juvenile Intervention Center tutoring incarcerated youth.
  • Isabel and Howard Cotterman endowed chair established for a distinguished full professor of education.
  • Beginning at Ursuline College in 2000, she advocated and taught her students about Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia, and the importance of using explicit, systematic, and multisensory approaches derived from Orton- Gillingham, as well as Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports for working with students who have behavioral needs.

Dr. Michael was involved in the Dyslexia Task Force that helped to develop standards in 2012 led by Dr. Charlotte Andrist, and later was trained by Dr. Ronald Yoshimoto a fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham practitioners and educators (AOGPE).

Dr. Michael has a deep understanding of the profound effect learning and cognitive growth can have on the emotional and spiritual development of a child.

She lives in Columbus with her Cat ‘Slim Shady’ and especially enjoys being a grandmother to 5 amazing girls. She continues to be a world traveler, kayaker, swimmer, hiker, golfer, writer, metalsmith, painter, printmaker and photographer, and is currently working with encaustics to
embed and transfer her photographs from Africa, Baja, Galapagos islands, Mexico and Central Ohio for exhibitions in Ohio.

Naomi Zwelling

Structured Literacy: Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

PreK-2

Executive Assistant

Naomi Zwelling specializes in reading intervention and loves working with young emergent readers. Naomi has her Undergraduate Degree in Early Childhood Education, her Master’s in Literacy Education, and is certified under IMSE with the Orton Gillingham Multisensory Approach to Reading. Naomi has years of experience teaching in both the general education classroom as well as the small group and one on one reading intervention classroom. Naomi loves to connect and make learning to read fun for all students.

When Naomi is not teaching or tutoring she loves to bake, run, read, and spend time with family.

 

Patrick Billman

Math Fact Fluency Trainer

Structured Literacy Specialist for children with Moderate-Severe Disabilities 

For the last twelve years, Pat has worked at Haugland Learning Center, now New Story Schools Columbus, where he has worked with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has attended SSI (Morningside Academy summer school institute) twice where he has learned about Precision Teaching and how to apply those methods into a classroom setting.

Pat is also the head coach at Hilliard Davidson HS boys soccer program. He has coached high school and club soccer for the last seventeen years. He was a part of the 2007 Division 1 state championship team as an assistant coach. Pat is a proud Capital University alumnus where studied education and played soccer. He resides in Bexley with his wife Christina (aka Dr. Billman!), daughter Kennedy, dog Lindor, and cat Peachy. During his down time, he enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, and making homemade pizzas for his family!

Tolulope Sulaimon

Mental Math Fluency Trainer

Math and Structured Literacy Grades 1-5
Middle-High School Study Tables

Before moving to the United States, Tolu was a Math Intervention specialist for 4 years in an international school in Nigeria. He completed the masters’ program in Special education (mild to moderate) from the Cleveland State University.

Presently Tolu is a doctoral candidate in the Special education and applied behavior analysis program at The Ohio State University, focusing on reading intervention and technology. Tolu is the lead Graduate Assistant in the reading clinic at OSU. 

In the middle of all of this, Tolu and his wife became parents in the summer of 2021! 

Tolu is a Mindful Literacy 1:1 and small group tutor for math intervention/enrichment and for reading.  

As a collegiate soccer player Tolu couldn’t resist spending time this summer at the F3 Soccer and Enrichment Camp writing books with our scholars, teaching us how to sing happy birthday in his native dialect, and infecting us all with his passion for life! 

 

 

Uforma Kara

Advanced Math and Science

Study Tables

Grades 6-12

“Kara” [Car-uh] is a doctoral candidate at The Ohio State University in Chemical Engineering.  He is originally from Nigeria and met Tolu while they were at Cleveland State. Kara writes federally funded grants for the program at OSU, is a graduate teaching associate, and although he is a researcher (ask him about what he has been working on in the lab!) and has experience in the corporate world as an engineer,  he has a true passion for teaching adolescents and young adults.  He is a natural born teacher and is excellent at teaching executive functioning strategies to our teen scholars! 

 

 

Whitney Lorber

Structured Literacy K-3 

 

Whitney was one of Dr. Bennett’s all star Otterbein students in the summer reading clinic in 2021 and now has her own career as a teacher for a private school in Grandview.  She has also continued to tutor the student she met in reading clinic and loves seeing the gains students make during tutoring. 

Whitney serves one of our Mindful Literacy Columbus scholars on scholarship!