About Us

Our educators have sought out advanced training is specialized programs to address specific learning differences in order to help students reach their academic goals.  Many students struggle with academics despite extra help from teachers, parents and tutors.  Your child’s classroom may not be designed to teach the way your child learns best.  We have worked with children and their families in the field of education for over 20 years.

Our diverse team is able to assist children, teens, and adults with a variety of learning differences.

Kimberly Van Roekel

Kimberly Van Roekel graduated Summa Cum Laude from Arizona State University with her degree in Education and obtained a dual certification in Elementary Education K-8 and Special Education K-12.  She also earned certificates in Learning Disabilities, Emotional Disabilities, and Mental Retardation.  Kimberly is passionate about working with children struggling with a learning difference and helping them reach their potential.  

Developing and implementing individualized reading intervention programs for students according to their strengths and needs is Kimberly’s passion.  She utilizes the most current, research-based reading programs and a multi-sensory approach to build reading fluency and comprehension skills.  She also strives to rebuild a student’s self-esteem that may have been adversely affected by a learning difference.  Kimberly works with families and schools to provide dyslexic students the educational accommodations they require, and she equips older students with the skills to be their own advocate.

Kimberly is a wife and mother of three children.  In her free time, she and her family enjoy spending time together, volunteering with charitable organizations locally and abroad, traveling, and spending time outdoors.


Elizabeth Thelen

Elizabeth Thelen is a reading and math specialist at the Van Roekel Learning Center.  She has several years of experience facilitating programs targeting dyslexia remediation and has been trained in Lindamood-Bell methods.  In addition to implementing academic and dyslexia remediation programs, Elizabeth is an executive functioning coach and the director of our online programs.  Elizabeth has also been trained in the multisensory handwriting instruction, Handwriting Without Tears.

Helping individuals develop and strengthen their skills for success is Elizabeth’s passion. She graduated with honors from Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and has over 10 years of teaching experience in private schools, public schools, and independent tutoring.  

Outside of work, Elizabeth loves traveling and going to the movies. She can often be found perusing good books or enjoying a local coffee shop. She lives in the Phoenix area with her husband and two daughters. 


Sandy Otjen

Reading Specialist Sandy Otjen has over 20 years of teaching experience.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Eastern Washington University and her Master of Arts in Education, with an emphasis in Reading, from Grand Canyon University.  Sandy has taught grades 1 – 5 and has been a Reading Specialist for in first through eight grades. She has worked at a charter school, a public school, and for the Department of Defense while overseas in Japan. 

Sandy is the mom of two grown sons, and a proud Army mom.  She enjoys vacationing in Oregon and reading books in her free time. Sandy is passionate about her teaching and making connections with students of all ages.  She always makes sure her students know that once you’re in her class you are in her heart forever. 


Joy McCool

Joy McCool is a certified, highly qualified educator and is passionate about helping children with a learning difference.  She implements personalized academic remediation programs for each of her students at the Center.  Joy earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education K-8 and Special Education K-12 from Grand Canyon University and holds endorsements in learning disabilities and behavioral differences. She earned her Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix in English Language Learners. Joy has received extensive training in Spalding as well as having been trained in Lindamood-Bell’s LiPS and Seeing Stars programs.  Joy has many years of teaching experience in the private and public school setting and has shared her knowledge and expertise by instructing future educators in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program for Grand Canyon University.

Joy is always looking for ways to expand her knowledge and make a positive impact in her community.  In her free time, Joy enjoys visiting with friends and playing games with her husband and four children.  


Karin Kary

Karin Kary has taught for over 20 years in various capacities in Phoenix, San Diego, New York City, and Los Angeles. She completed her teaching degree at Grand Canyon University before getting her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at San Diego State University. When she is not teaching with the Van Roekel Learning Center, Karin is caring for her four children, leading a Good News Club at their school, teaching Sunday School or reading.

This year, she and her husband celebrated 21 super happy years of marriage. 


Christie Parker

Christie earned her Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education from Arizona State University and her Masters of Education in Educational Counseling from the University of Phoenix.  She is a certified, highly qualified teacher in both elementary and secondary education, with an endorsement in middle school mathematics.  Most recently she was a math teacher in the public school setting.  Sharing her love of math and witnessing the look of understanding were the best parts of teaching.

After two (of her four sons!) were diagnosed with dyslexia, she was determined that they would do more than endure school but rather they would excel and reach their full potential.   She dove into the world of how reading is taught and dyslexia remediation.  She completed the Lindamood-Bell trainings in Seeing Stars and LiPS; her sons were her first two clients!  She is committed to improving the lives of struggling readers and educating the public about the signs of dyslexia, the unique advantages of dyslexia and the importance of early detection.  

In her free time, she enjoys reading, camping, and watching her four sons play baseball.


Adria Urick

Adria Urick is honored to be a part of the Van Roekel Learning Center team. She was born outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Adria continued her education in Pittsburgh, PA, achieving her Masters Degree in Education at Chatham University. After graduation, Adria moved to the Dominican Republic to teach elementary students at an international school. After moving to Arizona in 2008, Adria taught third grade for ten years at a charter school in Peoria. She brings a level of teaching expertise and excitement to all learners.