About Us

Our educators have sought out advanced training in 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. 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.

Bernadette Redmond

Bernadette Redmond is trai​ned in Lindamood-Bell Seeing Stars® and LiPS® programs and has a passion for helping children with learning differences. Seeing her students thrive and build confidence in their ability to read is her goal as an advocate for early intervention programs. She has assisted in dyslexia remediation for several years in various settings and is now pursuing a degree in Education, specializing in reading.
Bernadette’s journey with learning differences began when her oldest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Dysgraphia. While building a team of professionals to help educate and support him, she noticed her second son was also struggling to read and write. He was soon diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Visual Processing Disorder. Her personal journey helps families going through similar challenges feel comfortable knowing that their child’s instructor knows exactly what they are going through as a parent.

Bernadette has been married to her sweetheart for 20 years and loves to spend time with him and their three sons, watching movies and playing games.

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.

Jennifer Bucher

Jennifer Bucher has spent more than 16 years teaching and serving children in various capacities, and at all grade levels (K-12). She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, and went on to receive her Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Instructional Leadership from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. After spending 6 years teaching at a school in the Dominican Republic, Jennifer and her husband returned to Arizona to raise their family.

Jennifer has the heart of a teacher and has found ways to serve children, both in and out of the school setting, through Good News Club, teaching Sunday School at her church and substitute teaching. She has had the great privilege to be the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, and has been blessed by that experience.

Jennifer and her husband, who is also a teacher, have 3 wonderful children. It is their great joy to watch their children grow up, cheer them on, and spend time with them camping, reading, watching movies and visiting historical places.

Jennifer’s desire is to serve others and walk beside them as they discover their full potential.

Tara Daukas

Tara Daukas has taught in a variety of settings.  She was a homeschool mom to her four children before eventually transitioned into teaching first grade for several years. Tara has always had a heart and passion for helping struggling readers as it was a road she walked personally with one of her own children. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Ottawa University and has continued her pursuit to help children by taking advanced courses specific to teaching the neuro-diverse learner. Tara is energetic, enthusiastic, and thrilled to be on the Van Roekel Learning Center team. 

Lydia Steele

Lydia Steele earned her Bachelor’s degree in English and Family and Child Studies from Baylor University. She is trained in Lindamood-Bell’s LiPs and Seeing Stars and has completed the Literacy Intervention Specialist course with the goal to become a Certified Academic Language Therapist. Lydia is also trained in Handwriting without Tears.

Lydia has a wide range of teaching experience including public and private classrooms, homeschooling her own children, and teaching co-ops.

She has a strong desire to see the students she works with grow in confidence and is thankful every day for the opportunity to serve the students and families at Van Roekel Learning Center. 

Erin Harr

Erin Harr earned her Bachelor of Science in Health Education from Northern Arizona University and her teaching degree in secondary education from The University of Phoenix.  She spent several years in the classroom as a 7th grade teacher.  When her own children were young, she continued to stay active in the schools by substitute teaching.  Erin has been very involved in her daughters’ schools and loves being in the classroom setting.  Erin has even combined her passion for teaching and fitness by instructing adult aerobics, water aerobics and spin classes.  She has a passion for working one-on-one with students to help them overcome their learning difference and meet their individual needs.  Erin’s specialties at Van Roekel Learning Center include Lindamood-Bell’s LiPS and Seeing Stars programs, and Math-U-See. Erin has also been trained in the multi-sensory handwriting program, Handwriting Without Tears. 

In her free time, Erin loves spending time with her husband, three girls, and Goldendoodle.  She loves being active, and her favorite activities include swimming, hiking, and most recently, pickleball.


Timber is a 6-year-old English Labrador that is a certified, yet retired, Service Dog. Timber is currently working on getting his Therapy License so he can work with children with all kinds of disabilities.
During Timber’s time as a Service Dog, he had two jobs. One was deep pressure therapy where he would provide snuggles when needed; and the other was ’scenting’ so he could help locate humans who weren’t where they were supposed to be.
Since retirement as a Service Dog, Timber has spent time with his mom, Bernadette Redmond, at the Van Roekel Learning Center providing calming comfort to children learning to read.

Timber loves napping and swimming, and his favorite foods include strawberries, apples with peanut butter, and cheese.