Joanne Robbins, Ph.D. - Executive Director

Joanne Robbins is a cofounder and Executive Director of PEER International, as well as the Principal of Morningside Academy in Seattle, Washington. Joanne has over twenty-five years of experience in program development, curriculum design, and teaching and supervision of programs for children and youth. Joanne's experience has been in both educational and mental health settings. She developed programs for Pre-K through college level.

Prior to moving to Seattle, Joanne lived in Chicago for many years. While there, she was the Activity Therapy supervisor for a 120-bed children's state psychiatric facility, served as an adjunct faculty member in the Psychology Department at Northeastern Illinois University, and designed and implemented problem solving and thinking skills programs, study skills programs, and learning acceleration programs for inner-city children and college students for the University of Illinois at Chicago and the City Colleges of Chicago. She also served as program developer and instructor in the federally funded Nation of Tomorrow program, training Chicago Public School teachers how to use computer technology in their classrooms. Joanne served as a research assistant in the Instructional Research and Development Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a frequent presenter at professional meetings and has published experimental work in human clinical decision-making. Joanne has served as an instructional design consultant to private industry in the production of instructional video and interactive laser disks including Learning-to-Learn, Inc. in Cambridge, MA, and Focus International, Inc. in Huntington, NY. An expert in the teaching of thinking and reasoning skills, Joanne is the author of Talk Aloud Problem Solving: A Script for Teachers, and co-author of Fluent Thinking Skills: A Generative Approach. Joanne was a board member and Vice President of the Illinois Art Therapy Association. She is currently a member of the Association for Behavior Analysis. She founded and co-chairs the Spectrum Alliance, a community group advocating for the Seattle Public School's highly capable students. Joanne earned an MA in Behavioral Sciences (Art Therapy concentration) from the University of Houston, Clear Lake Campus. A native of New York, she earned a BA in Sociology from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Joanne completed her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago under the mentorship of Dr. Sue Markle, Dr. Phil Tiemann and Dr. Herbert Walberg.

Amy Weisenburgh-Snyder, Ph.D. - Director of Curriculum Design and Evaluation

Amy Weisenburgh-Snyder is a co-founder of PEER and the current Director of Curriculum Design and Evaluation. Amy has dedicated her professional life to developing educational programs and designed to rapidly accelerate learning through evidence-based best practices. She has worked in public and private school settings with very diverse learners in grades K through 9. Amy was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant to assess the degree to which advanced instructional technologies included in the Morningside Model can be successfully transferred and adopted by teachers in the developing world. This led to the design and implementation of a fluency-based math computation curriculum based on the principles of Precision Teaching and Personalized System of Instruction that Amy developed while working with teachers at Colegio Skinner in Lima, Peru. After returning to the U.S., Amy accepted a full-time teaching position at Morningside’s laboratory school in Seattle during the 2001-2002 school year. Based on pre-post test assessments on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), her students gained +2.2 grades in reading; +2.8 grades in math; and +4.1 grades in writing skills over the course of the school year. Her students carried labels that included Aspergers Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Learning Disabled, and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Amy is the author of Excel Reading- a fluency-based reading program that targets decoding skills. Recently, she has worked with Dr. Joanne Robbins and master PEER teachers in South Africa to translate and implement Excel Reading and several reading assessments into the languages of Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Amy earned her B.S. in Behavioral Analysis from the University of Florida under Dr. Henry Pennypacker. She received her M.A. in Special Education at the University of Washington under Dr. Joe Jenkins and Dr. Owen White. She completed her Ph.D. in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders with an emphasis in Psychometrics at the University of Texas in Austin under the mentorship of Dr. Sharon Vaughn and Dr. Barbara Dodd.

Bruce Damons - Director

Bruce Damons is a cofounder and Director of PEER International, and also Principal of Sapphire Road Primary School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, one of the first schools involved in the PEER partnership. In 2008, Bruce won the Excellence in Primary School Leadership Award, recognizing Bruce as the best primary school principal in South Africa. Sapphire Road Primary's enrollment has more than doubled to over a thousand students since 2000, when Bruce joined as Principal. Under his leadership, academic achievement has improved, community outreach and involvement in school programs has increased, and innovative teaching and partnership programs have been initiated, including the nation's first AIDS Clinic and Therapy Room to be built on school grounds in South Africa. (Click here to see Herald news story about Sapphire AIDS clinic.) Bruce is also a co-founder of Active Schools in Port Elizabeth. Prior to Sapphire Road Primary School, Bruce taught English as an additional language to secondary school students. Bruce received his Teacher's Diploma from University of the Western Cape.

Marie Van Rooyen - P.E.E.R. Manager and Lead Trainer

Marie Van Rooyen is managing the training and implementation at all the P.E.E.R. schools in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Ms. Van Rooyen has dedicated her professional life to improving the education of primary through high school aged students. She is a former principal in Cape Town. Under apartheid, once Ms. Van Rooyen married, she was forced to resign from her position as principal and assume an entry level position as a primary school teacher. At Sapphire Road Primary School, she became Head of the Department and additionally a classroom teacher. With Camila Ismail and a team of educators from each school, she leads weekly workshops. The lead teachers at these workshops then share their knowledge with their colleagues. Ms. Van Rooyen routinely travels to each of the P.E.E.R. schools to coach in the classrooms and collaborate with school principals. She recently received the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis International Development Grant.

Camila Ismail - P.E.E.R. Lead Trainer, Instructional Designer and Teacher

Camila Ismail, in partnership with Ms. VanRooyen, has been designing workshop training material and leading workshops for all of the P.E.E.R. teacher trainers in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Her Grade 2 classroom serves as the model site for P.E.E.R. educators. Ms. Ismail has designed both instructional and assessment material in Afrikaans and Xhosa in partnership with Ms. Van Rooyen. As a Sapphire Road Primary School teacher, she teaches all subjects using the P.E.E.R. methodology. Ms. Ismail recently received the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis International Development Grant.

G.M. Naidoo - P.E.E.R. Champion

Mr. Naidoo is a retired District Director of Education, having been responsible for more than 100 schools in the district. Under his leadership, the district was continuously nominated for Best Performing District in the Eastern Cape Province. He was one of the first black Deputy Principal’s appointed at a previous Model C school. Additionally, Mr. Naidoo brings this wealth of experience and success to the P.E.E.R. program by leading regular sessions with our P.E.E.R. principals. His expertise includes leadership in the Trade Union.

Cecelia Beckwith - Cofounder

Cecelia (Cece) Beckwith is a cofounder of PEER International and a pre-doctoral fellow in the School of Nursing, University of Washington. She holds a Masters degree in nursing and has worked as a health care practitioner for more than 20 years, working with at-risk youth in school-based settings and with incarcerated adults. As a faculty member of North Seattle Community College, Cece developed an AIDS curriculum for pharmacy technician students. She has a strong commitment to quality education as a means to promote equity and to achieve democracy.  Cece is an advocate for social justice and the political empowerment of persons living in under served and impoverished communities, nationally and internationally. Her current focus is on researching health disparities and she is fervently committed to international cooperation which aids in the development of human capacity to address the glaring disparities that exist between wealthy nations and the world's poor.

Beth Bartter - Director of Operations 

Beth Bartter holds a Master’s degree in Community Planning. She has worked internationally in many capacities: an international community planner for CARE in Somalia, a supervisor of local educators in Singapore, and teacher in Thailand. Beth also serves as Director of Operations of Morningside Academy, where she is responsible for the daily management of the school from overseeing its finances to engaging the families to promote a sense of community.

Kris Melroe - Teacher Trainer

Kris Melroe has been an activist and community organizer around the issues of Native American civil rights, women's health care, South African antiapartheid, and  other international human rights movements.  Ms. Melroe has twelve years of experience teaching in the private and public sectors and she served as an Adjunct Faculty for Pacific Oaks College. As the current Project Administrator at Morningside Academy, she has designed training material, developed project plans, trained, and coordinated the various consultants who are coaching and training at various projects in both the United States and Canada.

Janet Twyman, Ph.D. - Teacher Trainer 

Janet S. Twyman, Ph.D., BCBA, is a noted educator and proponent of effective instructional practices. She is committed to evidence-based instruction and has a strong record in the transfer of instructional technology and developing web-based programs for wide-scale distribution. A career educator, she has been a preschool and elementary school teacher, a principal and administrator, and university professor. She has worked directly with typically developing students, preschoolers with intellectual disabilities, young adolescents with emotional and behavioral problems, and learners with autism spectrum disorders. As Vice President of Instructional Development, Implementation and Research at Headsprout, she led the design, development, and dissemination of the company’s highly regarded educational programs, and oversaw program implementation in over 1,000 public and private schools. Dr. Twyman serves on the boards of numerous organizations including the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies (where she chairs the Education Group).  In 2007-08 she served as President of the Association for Behavior Analysis International.  Currently an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School / E. K. Shriver Center, Dr. Twyman’s research interests involve the continuum from understanding basic processes related to learning and communication to ultimately building meaningful instructional programs with broad-based application and sustainability.

Lucero Neri-Hernandez - Teacher Trainer, Instructional Designer 

Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of North Texas (UNT), she was actively involved in the Office of Outreach with G-Force, a student organization that aids minority and low socio-economic high school students apply and attend college. As part of Outreach she served as a student leader and Graduate Assistant (GA) for the Early Years Program. Lucero’s role as a GA involved coordinating with schools throughout the state of Texas, supervising undergraduate employees and UNT volunteers, and organizing university wide programs and events. During her years as a GA, Lucero and her team brought over 60,000 2nd to 9th grade students to UNT’s campus to experience college life and higher education.
While working on her master’s degree Lucero learned about several behavior analytic approaches to education, including Direct Instruction, Instructional Design, and Precision Teaching, and was an active member of several research labs including the. Teaching Science Lab, and the Constructional Mentoring lab, she learned a clinical method of analyzing day-to-day issues for the purpose of improving quality of life outcomes.
Lucero completed her masters thesis in a life skills classroom in a public middle school, where she and Sean Will taught the staff and students in the class to be better problem solvers using Talk Aloud Problem Solving.
As a behavior analyst, educator, and researcher with over 5 years of experience working with adolescents, children with autism, and university undergraduates, Lucero is deeply passionate about improving quality of life of children and adolescents through education programs.

Sean Will - Teacher Trainer, Instructional Designer 

Sean Will received his M.S. from the University of North Texas within the Applied Behavior Analysis Program and completed an internship at Harvard. Sean is a certified educator in the State of Texas and has spearheaded the development of programs used at animal shelters, zoos, and public schools. Sean has conducted research at local animals shelters and public schools, looking into questions of performance improvement, instructional design, and the development of problem solving and critical thinking repertoires. Sean founded The Give Them Love Animal Shelter in 2012, which is a non-profit that works to enhance the lives of animals in shelters. While working as a public-school teacher, Sean developed an after-school program for middle school learners aimed at teaching problem solving skills for students to apply to their school work and everyday life. Sean was elected by district teachers and administrators to the Educational Improvement Counsel in 2017, to advise the school board in decisions related to the public-school curriculum.

Zachary Layng - Teacher Trainer, Webmaster

Zachary Layng got his professional start in both technology and education as Leader of Professional Development at Headsprout. Zach has conducted and designed professional development training for Chicago Public Schools, Memphis City Schools, and districts across the U.S. Zach is Vice President of Engineering at WhoKnows in Redwood City, CA.

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