Kate McClain – Founder & Executive Program Director
Kate McClain is a certified special education teacher with 15 years of experience working with children who have a variety of social, communication, and learning needs, including those on the autism spectrum. Kate has experience with and is trained in ABA, Floortime, positive behavior management, and conflict resolution. Kate also has an undergraduate degree in theatre and art.
From 2004 – 2007, Kate taught special education classes for kids on the spectrum in Language Arts, Math, History, and Science, as well as a course called “Communication Skills,” which taught social and communication skills in a small-group environment. There, she worked with a fantastic staff of Speech-Language therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and Behavior Specialists.
While she was a teacher, Kate saw the need for children to learn and practice social skills in a small-group, non-academic environment, and started Kate McClain Social Skills in 2007 as a result.
Kate has been involved in other organizations including: Cool Cats of NOVA, The Autism Learning Center, and the Wisconsin Early Autism Clinic. Most importantly, Kate finds great joy and satisfaction in working with all children, including her own four boys.
Una Martin – Practice Manager
After graduating from Marshall University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Una made raising her family her main priority, including homeschooling her children during their early elementary years. Bilingual in English and Spanish, Una has held previous positions as an administrative assistant and office manager and looks forward to using her expertise at KMSS. Una has a passion for working with children and is in the process of becoming a substitute teacher for BCPS. In her free time, Una enjoys spending time with her husband, attending her sons’ athletic events, keeping up with her daughter in college, and spending time with her dog.
Amanda Reisz – Case Manager & Saturday Social Groups Facilitator
Amanda is a Licensed Certified Social Worker – Clinical (LCSW-C) who received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland, School of Social Work in 2004. Currently, Amanda works in the Child Community Psychiatry Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center as a Mobile Therapist (community based, mental health therapist), providing individual, family and group therapy to children, aged 3-18, in their home and school setting. Prior to working as a Mobile Therapist, Amanda worked in the Intensive Outpatient program, running therapeutic groups and providing individual and family therapy to children aged 4-12. Amanda has experience working with children with a wide array of diagnosis, including but not limited to ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Bipolar Disorder. Amanda has been trained in play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and trauma focused therapy (TFCBT) and has a great deal of experience working with children to improve their social skills, coping skills, communication skills, self esteem and overall functioning across settings. When not at work, Amanda spends most of her free time doing activities with and chasing after her 2 boys, aged 2 and 5.
Sharon Zajc Mergler – Parent Coach & Program Director, Falls Church
Sharon is originally from Ohio where she received her Bachelors of Science in Early Childhood Special Education from The Ohio State University. After graduating in 2007, Sharon moved to northern Virginia and was a preschool autism teacher for Fairfax County Pubic Schools for 6 years. Sharon taught in the elementary autism program for one year. The last 2.5 years she was the lead preschool teacher in a non-categorical special needs preschool program. While working, she earned her Masters in Special Education K-12 through George Mason University. Sharon has enjoyed working with students and their families to create a cohesive team. Currently, Sharon is taking courses through Florida Institute of Technology toward a certification in applied behavioral analysis, with the goal of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Sharon is married with a young daughter and is expecting their second child this fall.
Raeanne Garrow – Social Group Facilitator
After graduating from The University of Maryland with a Bachelor’s in Family Science, Raeanne worked as an ABA Therapist in Southern Maryland. After having the opportunity to perform therapy in a school setting, she decided to pursue a career in teaching. She is currently an early childhood educator in the District of Columbia. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her dogs and staying active through exercise and outdoor activities.
Audrey Awa – Social Group Facilitator & Assistant, Falls Church
Audrey graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). She has been working in the special education field for 10 years and has experience working with children with various developmental delays, neurological disorders, and physical disabilities in the school and home setting. Audrey has been trained in Applied Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior, Relationship Development Intervention, empathetic listening, and positive behavior management. Additionally, she has six years of experience in leading group instruction that integrated social interactions amongst peers as well as three years of modified curriculum planning utilizing concepts from Social Thinking, Unstuck and On Target, The ALERT Program, and Zones of Regulation. Currently, Audrey is completing coursework to become an occupational therapy assistant through St. Catherine University and will be graduating in August 2016. Upon graduation and certification, she intends on returning to the special education population and plans to continue studies to obtain a Masters in Occupational Therapy. Audrey’s extra-curricular endeavors have included volunteer work for Special Olympics, Autism Speaks, Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women, Homeless Animal Rescue Team and Carpenter’s Shelter. Her other interests are loving on her dog (read: spoiling him), playing soccer, exploring new places, and cooking.
Gina Ferrara – Social group facilitator, Falls Church
Gina Ferrara is a New Jersey native who moved to the Northern Virginia area to pursue her passion of early childhood special education. She earned her Master’s in Education in Special Education from Arcadia University and has recently completed her Master’s in Education specializing in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. She is approaching her fourth year as a preschool special education teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools, but has additional experience in New Jersey working with preschool students, elementary students and high school students. Her work with these students ranged from working on academic needs in the classroom setting to social and functional life skills in the home and community setting. In her free time she enjoys cooking, baking, camping, reading and spending time with her dog. She is very excited to join the Kate McClain team and work with other individuals who share the same passion for working with children by watching them develop the skills needed to learn, grow and be successful in life.
Jenna Clifton – Social group facilitator & assistant; Camp Friendship Director, Falls Church
Jenna graduated with a BS in Family Science from the University of Maryland. She has been working in the special education field for over 8 years and has experience working with children with a variety of social, communication, and learning needs, including those on the autism spectrum. She has experience and training in Applied Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior, Positive Behavior Management, Safe Crisis Management, Relationship Development Intervention, and Social Thinking concepts. Jenna is currently a Preschool Autism teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools, as well as a home therapy based curriculum specialist/teacher for an adult with Autism. She previously developed social skill programs for both her school and home-based programs, and was a contributor to a study at her previous private school based on social relationships in the school setting with Social Thinking co-founder, Pamela Crooke as well as Unstuck and on Target author Lynn Cannon. She is currently working towards a Masters in Early Childhood Special Education at George Mason University. In her free time, Jenna enjoys spending time with family (she has 2 awesome nephews and an awesome niece) and friends, baking, cooking, being outside, especially at the beach, and taking adventures to new places.
Nicole Mastin – Social group facilitator & assistant, Baltimore
Nicole received her BA in clinical/counseling psychology from Alfred University, NY in 2013. She currently is pursuing her MS in clinical psychology at Loyola University Maryland, and has found interest in several populations within the field. Nicole has worked with children in a group setting who have been involved in or witnessed domestic abuse. In that capacity she developed lesson plans that focused on different topics including effective communication, bullying and cyber bullying, safety planning, identifying and coping with emotions, and nutrition. Nicole has also worked with both children and adults suffering from mental illness in an outreach capacity. In her free time, Nicole enjoys painting, baking, reading, and exercising.
Krysta Koubek, Social Group Facilitator, Baltimore
Krysta is a certified special education teacher and school administrator. She received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Penn State University and M.A. in Leadership in Special Education from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She has seven years of experience working with children with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and emotional and behavioral disorders. She is currently working as a special education teacher at a DC Public Charter School. Krysta has experience and training in Applied Behavior Analysis, positive behavior intervention support, restorative justice, and crisis management. Krysta co-leads daily social-emotional learning classes at her school and has experience using a variety of social-emotional curriculums such as Zones of Regulation and Second Step. In her free time, Krysta enjoys cooking new recipes, watching college football and most of all, spending time with her dogs.
Jess Clark, Parent Coach
Jess holds a Masters degree in Education and is pursing a Education Specialist degree in school psychology through the University of Kentucky. She is completing her third year internship with Baltimore City Public Schools, as a school psychology intern. She has experience working with children with disabilities through assessment and therapy. In Kentucky, Jess worked as a graduate student clinician at a clinic for children with Autism, providing social skills therapy and completing psychoeducational assessments. In Pennsylvania, Jess worked as a community based behavior therapist and helped families and teachers implement interventions. Outside of work, Jess does yoga, runs, plays with her dog, and travels.
Marissa Daly – Substitute Facilitator, Baltimore & Falls Church
Marissa graduated from Loyola University Maryland with her Bachelor’s in psychology in 2013 and Master’s in Clinical Psychology in 2015. Currently, she works as a clinical specialist at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Neurobehavioral Inpatient Unit, where she designs behavioral treatments for children and adolescents with severe developmental disabilities. Marissa has experience working with individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities in a variety of settings, including inpatient care, special education, supported employment, individual and group psychotherapy, and social skills training groups – she first joined the staff at Kate McClain Social Skills in the summer of 2012 and remained with the team until beginning her graduate program the following year. Marissa is currently working toward her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a focus on developmental disabilities and applied behavior analysis. In her spare time, Marissa enjoys being outside and exploring new places.