DIRECTORS & STAFF
We have a fantastic team of caring and supportive instructors. All MDE School staff are passionate about making a difference in student’s lives, through their tireless dedication and drive to shape the human mind. Get to know our committed team and their role in continuing our tradition of academic excellence.
Melissa Agnes was born and raised in Cobb county. After graduating..
Melissa Agnes was born and raised in Cobb county. After graduating high school, Melissa attended Kennesaw State University where she earned her Bachelors in Legal Studies and a minor in education. Melissa later attended the University of West Georgia and obtained a Masters degree in Special Education grades P -12. Melissa started working at the MDE school in the Fall of 2017 as a reading specialist.
Danielle Brown is a native Coloradan who moved to Georgia in June..
Danielle Brown is a native Coloradan who moved to Georgia in June of 2016 with her husband and two teenage boys. She has over 10 years in the public and private school systems as a paraprofessional, clinic aide and administrative assistant. When not at work she enjoys watching her two boys swim competitively, reading, sewing and being outdoors.
I grew up in Mobile, AL where, I received my Bachelor of Science degree..
I grew up in Mobile, AL where, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Spring Hill Jesuit College. I taught in Dekalb County School System from 2001-2017 serving as an inclusion teacher. During my years as an educator I especially enjoyed working with students who were on the Autism Spectrum helping them reach their goals. I served as a tutor, mentor, sponsor for various school clubs, and the Afterschool Extended Day Program Director. I was selected as The Teacher of the Year for 2011- 2012 school year. I believe that all students can achieve their goals in a loving, nurturing setting. I am very excited to join the MDE school!
Mindy is the director of Greater Atlanta Speech & Language Clinics since 1991..
Mindy Elkan, Director
MA, CCC, SLP
Mindy is the director of Greater Atlanta Speech & Language Clinics since 1991 & the founding director of MDE School which began in 2009. Mindy earned a Bachelors degree in early childhood/elementary education at Oswego State University in New York, and a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at New York’s Hofstra University. Active in the field since 1978, Mindy served on the Board of Cooperative Educational Services in New York with the Autistic and Communication Disorders Program. In addition, she directed her own private practice in New York, including services for a nine-office neurology team. Mindy served on the Cobb/Douglas Early Childhood Interagency Council for many years, and is a past chairperson. She is a member of the Autism Society of America (ASA) and received ASA’s 1998 Award for Supporting Professional.
I was born in Washington, DC, I moved back to Nigeria at a very young..
I was born in Washington, DC, I moved back to Nigeria at a very young age. I relocated to Georgia from Nigeria in 1998. I attended Georgia State University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. I recently obtained my certification in Special Education P-12. I have worked with Gwinnett and Cobb County Schools. I also directed my own In- Home Daycare for 10 years. I tutor students K- 8th in Reading and Math on a part-time basis. I joined the MDE family at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
Lori Hamilton earned a BA in Political Science from the University of..
Lori Hamilton earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters in Education from the University of Southern California. She has worked with under served populations in Compton, CA, the Western Addition of San Francisco, and Dorchester/South End of Boston, where she worked with Year Up and Cambridge College. She joined the staff at MDE in 2017. In addition to teaching, Lori continues to do consulting work for college admission companies, serving as an Essay Specialist.
Rachel Hanthorn-Kolis has over 15 years of experience working..
Rachel Hanthorn-Kolis has over 15 years of experience working the non-profit sector and has helped raise over 14 million dollars. Most recently she served as the Executive Director of Erin’s Hope for Friends; a non-profit that serves teens on the high functioning autism spectrum. Rachel has also worked for Corrigan Care, Inc., the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, and the University of Minnesota and serves as an advocate for craniofacial awareness with national non-profits like Apert International and the Children’s Craniofacial Association.
Walter Marshall served as an Intensive Interventionist at H.A.V.E.N Academy..
Walter Marshall served as an Intensive Interventionist at H.A.V.E.N Academy for eight years, working with children with emotional/behavior disorders. He received several certification’s during that time, including Prevention and Management of Aggressive Behavior, Human Empowerment and Leadership Principles and The Person Brain™ Model. Walter attended Chattahoochee Technical College and volunteers with The Melting Pot, a non profit urban outreach program.
Teresa Marshall is a Georgia native and loves everything about her..
Teresa Marshall is a Georgia native and loves everything about her hometown of Atlanta. Teresa holds a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, a Bachelor’s in Substance Abuse Counseling as well as an Associate’s in Early Childhood Education. She has nearly 15 years’ experience working with special needs children. Her passion in special education began as an after-school assistant where she provided a variety of services to assist students with disabilities reach their educational goals. Her background in counseling as well as mindset training has helped her to better understand the needs of her students. She enjoys working the life skills program that has helped many students become more independent and reach their full potential. Teresa enjoys counseling and ministering to people in need and is a proud member of the National Association of Christian Ministers. She loves participating in 5k races and is a huge fan of the Falcons and the Georgia Bulldogs!
Joscelyn graduated from Berry College in Rome, GA with a Bachelor of Arts in..
Joscelyn graduated from Berry College in Rome, GA with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and French. She’s a native Spanish speaker, born in Peru but moved to the US at the age of 8. Joscelyn worked with kids throughout her college years by tutoring and creating workshops that promote life skills and appropriate interaction with the opposite sex.
Tacara Moss is a proud Texan, who has lived in Georgia since 2000. She..
Tacara Moss is a proud Texan, who has lived in Georgia since 2000. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Media Communications and a minor in Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Needs.
Although she has been teaching special needs children for the past 10 years, she has also had the opportunity to work for the CNN network, overseeing and teaching summer art and group play classes, and work part time as a behavior analysis consultant. Teaching allows her to keep her creative energy owing to help her students grow. She believes that it is her responsibility as an educator to help each child discover his or her potential through hands on and differentiated learning experiences.
Born and raised in Mobile, AL, I attended Spring Hill Jesuit College where..
Born and raised in Mobile, AL, I attended Spring Hill Jesuit College where I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. I recently obtained my Master of Business Administration degree in Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. I have been a professional educator for 19 years. However, I have been an educator for as long as I can remember. Education and working with children is my true passion. I enjoy working with students of all academic abilities, backgrounds and creative abilities. I believe in meeting students where they are in order to help them grow and be their best selves. In my career, I have worked with students of varied abilities and recently have worked tutoring one on one with students with special needs. This has been one of the many highlights of my journey as an educator. I am truly excited about becoming a part of the MDE School family.
Donna Racher earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood/ Elementary ..
Donna Racher earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood / Elementary Education and Child Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. Donna also receive a certification in the Children Infant/Toddler Development Program at Temple University. She has also earned a certification in Integrated Listening System(ILS). Donna began her career at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital and took part in the development of play therapy/art therapy programs. She has taught special needs children in the Philadelphia and Atlanta areas. Donna has been a teacher at MDE School since it’s inception in 2009.
Bobby Robinson has worked with general and special needs children and..
Bobby Robinson has worked with general and special needs children and adults in the West Indies, New York and Georgia. A certified Phlebotomist, EKG Technician Nursing Assistant, Licensed EMT, Bobby brings 12 years plus experience with a specialty in brain health. Bobby has also served as a music coordinator at several local churches.
Jessie Singer was born and raised in Milton, GA. After graduating..
Jessie Singer was born and raised in Milton, GA. After graduating from Milton High School, she attended Kennesaw State University where she studied Exercise Science. For the last 7 years, she has worked with children and adults of all ages and backgrounds as both a personal trainer and Crossfit Coach to help them with their fitness and lifestyle journey. Seeing others push themselves to achieve things they never thought possible is a true passion of hers. Jessie started working at MDE in the Fall of 2018 as a PE teacher. She is very excited to join the MDE family full time for the upcoming year!
Jamie Smith has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State..
Jamie Smith has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State University and a Masters in the Art of Teaching Elementary/Science from Wayne State University in Detroit. She taught for 7 years in the Detroit, Michigan area. Her husband’s job relocated to them to Moscow, Russia for 3 years where she traveled and experienced 14 different countries. Life brought the family back to Virginia and Washington D.C. where they lived for over 3 years. She recently relocated with her husband and daughter to Marietta, GA and is excited to join the MDE team.
Born and raised in Mobile, AL, I attended Spring Hill Jesuit College where..
James A. Steadman III is a native of Savannah, Georgia. He graduated from Alfred E. Beach High School in 2004. Upon graduating, he then continued his education at the honorable Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and obtained a Bachelors of Arts degree in Kinesiology and Sports Science. During his college years, James played both football and baseball where he gained much knowledge, endurance, and life skills. Post college, James gained a career in teaching, specifically in Special Education, for up to 5-6 years. He is currently a Special Education teacher at the MDE School which specializes in children grades K-12 with special needs. James’s faith in God, overall positive attitude, and patience continues to contribute to his success.
Nancy Thomas obtained a Bachelors of Art degree in Special Education in..
Nancy Thomas obtained a Bachelors of Art degree in Special Education in Macon Georgia. In 2008, she obtained a Masters degree in Technology in Education. Nancy is a 17 year veteran in special education teaching within the public school sector. Nancy discovered the MDE school and was so impressed by it’s philosophy that she knew her skills would benefit the students within all areas of exceptionality. Her goal is to teach in a nurturing environment where all students will gain the ability to become independent, useful citizens within society.
Shawn Titus has a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Central..
Shawn Titus has a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Central Michigan University. She has 20 years of teaching experience, mixed with general and special education, working with children birth to second grade. Originally from the beautiful island of Jamaica, she relocated to Canada, Texas and Michigan (with a loss of an accent along the way). She’s been in Georgia for 8 years now and is blessed to have found MDE School. This is the perfect opportunity for her to embark on a new journey which allows her to transition into a degree of Speech Language Pathology.
Melissa Whyte has graduated from Kennesaw State University with..
Melissa Whyte has graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Medical Sociology. While in college she was a member of Omega Phi Alpha National Service Sorority. As a sister of the sorority she volunteered with a number of organizations but organizations that focused on the Special Needs community are her favorite to work with. She gained her love for the Special Needs community as a nanny for a child with Down-Syndrome. He has opened her up to a world she never thought would bring her so much joy. She was an intern at Corrigan Care and also volunteers with their Respite Nights. She also volunteers with the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta, the Special Olympics, and Horizon League. Her main goal is to get her Masters Degree in Special Education and Speech Pathology.
Board of Directors
The Barcliff Group, Inc
Six Sigma Green Belt Certified healthcare quality professional with advanced capabilities in accreditation, project management, performance management, and quality assurance/control. LEAN trained in Process Improvements with exceptional skills in staff and corporate training, performance evaluation, and team leadership.
Art has worked in the Hospitality industry for his entire career. Starting with nine years at Hyatt Hotels and followed by twenty-four years with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. His career has encompassed everything from Director of Catering, Food and Beverage Director, General Manager to Corporate Director, North America. Starwood Hotels was purchased in late 2016 by Marriott Hotels and Art went into independent consulting for the subsequent three years and had clients such as Hyatt Hotels, SLS Hotels, Rosewood Hotels, The Baha Mar Resort and Birchstreet Systems. Just recently Art has started with Foodbuy (Compass Group) managing large hotel companies on their behalf.
Art attended the University of Kentucky and American Intercontinental University and holds a Bachelors Degree (BBA) in Organizational Psychology and Development.
Director of School
Mindy joined Joan Aronson as a partner in GASLC in 1991. Mindy earned a Bachelor’s degree in early childhood/elementary education at Oswego State University in New York, and a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at New York’s Hofstra University. Active in the field since 1978, Mindy served on the Board of Cooperative Educational Services in New York with the Autistic and Communication Disorders Program. In addition, she directed her own private practice in New York, including services for a nine-office neurology team. Mindy has served on the Cobb/Douglas Early Childhood Interagency Council since 1991, and is a past chairperson. She is a member of the Autism Society of America (ASA) and received ASA’s 1998 Award for Supporting Professional. Mindy is the founder and director of the MDE school which started in August 2009.
Senior Vice President
Bruce H. Goldstein
Bruce H. Goldstein is a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones Investments. He and his wife, Debbie, are the parents of two girls. Bruce has not-for-profit board experience with social service organizations, including serving as past president for the Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Greater Kansas City and as a past officer for the Jewish Vocational Services of Greater Kansas City. He has a 30-year financial services career in public accounting, banking and investments. He earned a BSBA degree from The American University and a MBA degree from the University of Kansas.
Spectrum Behavioral Associates
Heather Hackett-Hayes is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with over 25 years of experience. She has been the Owner and Clinical Director of Spectrum Behavioral Associates in Kennesaw, GA since 2008 and currently manages a staff of 41 behavior therapists. Mrs. Hackett-Hayes has experience providing services in the home, clinic and school settings, as well as in group homes and hospitals in both the US and Canada.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Psychopathology from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, a Master’s degree in Special Education and Behavioral Intervention from Seattle University, and she completed her BCBA at the University of Northern Texas under the supervision of Dr. Robin Catagnus.
Mrs. Hackett-Hayes has served on the Autism Speaks Gala Committee for 4 years and is an active part of the International ABA.
Teacher / Owner
Cobb County School District
DJ Neezy Entertainment
A seasoned veteran of the public school system, Ben Needle has had a passion for children in the special needs community since his youth. As a high school student, he volunteered on a weekly basis with the Special Olympics Atlanta Region (SOAR) helping teenagers to develop both their athletic and social skills through a strong mentoring program. After receiving both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Social Science Education, he started teaching in Marietta, GA. With a passion for working with all levels of students, he eventually became a national staff developer for the academic system Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) which targets students who have barriers to advancing their education and helping them to become college ready. For his efforts, Ben was selected as his school’s teacher of the year in 2005. With a passion for excellence, he also continued to mentor students by supporting and developing their leadership skills via his school’s student government association as well as their leader academy. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and four children whether driving dance carpool or coaching his son in soccer.
Matthew C. Palmgren
Matthew C. Palmgren, PharmD
Matthew C. Palmgren, PharmD, is President of Int’Ovation, a healthcare solutions company. Dr. Palmgren has over 20 years of experience in the pharmacy area. He has practiced in Medicaid, Commercial and Medicare healthcare plans, retail and hospital pharmacies including pharmacy association management. Dr. Palmgren is an internationally recognized speaker and advisor to employers, brokers, physician groups, managed care organization and pharmaceutical companies.
Recent projects include Affordable Care Act implementation for multiple health plans, participating in multi-disciplinary key opinion leader think tank meetings, integrating physician practices into accountable care organizations, innovative process mapping different health care systems to understand the multiple components to health care reform.
Prior to launching Int’Ovation, Dr. Palmgren was Director of Pharmacy Programs for the government business and emerging markets business unit of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. In this role, he was responsible for the pharmacy programs in the BlueCross Senior Care Division, which serves Medicare Advantage and Part D members, and the Volunteer State Health Plan, which oversees TennCare and Cover Tennessee programs. He chaired the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and the Joint Oversight committees for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Tennessee’s Part D programs.
Before joining BlueCross, Dr. Palmgren was the director of clinical pharmacy programs at Humana, Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky. He helped develop Humana’s Medicare Part D formularies and implement the company’s utilization management programs. Earlier, Matthew was the manager of pharmacy and emerging technologies at Humana. In the short time he served in that capacity, he integrated and expanded Humana’s pharmacy and therapeutics team, implementing clinical and fiscal programs to decrease cost trends, including clinical programs, pharmaceutical contracting, mail-order initiatives and Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans.
Prior to his work at Humana, Dr. Palmgren was the clinical services manager at BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama, where he developed and oversaw clinical and contracting teams to enhance their pharmacy interventions and supported all aspects of pharmacy operations.
At the start of his pharmacy career, Dr. Palmgren owned his own software company and consulted to the Alabama Medicaid Pharmacy Program.
A graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Matthew received his doctorate in pharmacy from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
VP of Pricing
NAPA Auto Parts
Aaron graduated from UGA in 1998 with an accounting degree and earned his MBA from GA State in 2002. Aaron spent 19 years with The Home Depot in various finance and strategic roles. Currently he is the VP of Pricing for NAPA Auto Parts.
He is married with 3 children and 2 dogs. Aaron has served in the Board of Trustees for Etz Chaim Synagogue and is a former board member of a children’s preschool.
Aaron is very excited to be a part of the Board of Directors at MDE School
Vice President of Customer Success
John, his wife, and two children live in Roswell, GA. He enjoys attending and being deeply involved with his children’s activities and sporting events, traveling, exercising, and listening to live music. John is an avid soccer fan and founding member of Atlanta United. John holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Bucknell University and his professional experience includes over 15 years in the “Big 4” consulting domain working closely with clients undertaking large growth and expansion initiatives with large capital programs and projects. Currently, John is the Vice President of Customer Success for SmartPM, a project schedule analytics software. John brings his business acumen, capital planning and project management, leadership, and process improvement knowledge as well as his passion for helping others, to the board and hopes to make a positive impact on MDE school for years to come.
Learning Differently Specialists, LLC
Abby Vines is a certified teacher in the state of GA, with a specialty in adaptive curriculum. She has served as a consultant for several private schools as well as lead teacher positions. She is Orton-Gillingham certified as well as S.P.I.R.E. In addition, she served as a volunteer on several boards in various capacities. Abbey received the women of achievement award in 2003 and Heart and Hand award for outstanding Individual Volunteer of the year in 1996.