Learn more about our talented and experienced members of WCC staff. Click on each team member's name for additional information.
Director of Student Services
JOY KEARNS, M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVED
Office & Account Manager
Database & Technology
A consummate educator, Kathy Sussman began her career in teaching deaf children how to listen and speak at St. Francis School for the Deaf in New York City in 1966. Wanting to learn more about childhood deafness, she earned a Master’s Degree in Communication Disorders at Washington University in St Louis, where she also held a faculty position at the Central Institute for the Deaf. In 1974, Kathy went “international” and directed the first preschool for the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf. While in Canada, she worked closely with Dr. Daniel Ling as he developed his seminal work in auditory-based therapy. Kathy was then selected to serve as the Executive Director of the Louisville Deaf Oral School in Kentucky where she worked from 1978 to 1991. Her friend and colleague, Leahea Grammatico, persuaded Kathy to move to California and assume the Directorship of the Peninsula Oral School for the Deaf. During her 25-year tenure at the school, Kathy was recognized as a leader in the field of oral deaf education. She was a founding member of the OPTION Schools Board, a longtime member of the Advisory Board to the Oberkotter Foundation, and served as President of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, receiving its Honors of the Association. Her lifetime of national and international achievements in the field have left an indelible mark on the trajectory of outcomes for so many children with hearing loss across the globe. In honor and recognition of her passion and life’s work, Kathy was presented with Leahea Grammatico Achievement Award on September 16th, 2017 at the WCC’s benefit gala 50th anniversary celebration!
Bill brings private sector career experience focused on building strong organizations by combining operating management, strategy, and capital. He has managed organizations, served on boards of directors of for-profit and non-profit entities, raised equity and debt capital as fund manager and investment banker, and provided strategic and operating advice as consultant. He holds a B.S.E. from Princeton University and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Bill works with WCC and its strategic partners to strengthen, finance, and deliver highly effective early intervention and truly significant impact for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, wherever they may live and whatever their circumstances.
Jennifer Aguilar, M.S., CCC-SLP
I am a California licensed and ASHA certified Speech Language Pathologist who has been in the field for 19 years providing direct therapy, inclusion consultation, parent education and clinical direction and school management. I received my Master’s Degree in Communication Disorders from San Francisco State University and my Bachelor’s Degree in Business from the University of Wisconsin Madison. I am also PROMPT trained and assess for Dyslexia. Over the years, I have passionately worked with children needing to improve their listening, language, speech and social interaction skills. In return, I have learned so much from my students and their families. Recognizing parents as our partners, I join the staff at Weingarten Children’s Center in offering bimonthly parent education classes, including the Love and Logic parenting series. I’ve also had the privilege of being able to share my experience and knowledge with other professionals and Bay Area university students, specifically around serving children with hearing loss. I believe that each of us can reach our truest potential when we have the knowledge, support and inner motivation to succeed!
Joy Murdock Kearns, M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVEd
When I was 8 years old my youngest cousin Katy was diagnosed with profound hearing loss. That is when I first developed an interest in working with families of children with hearing loss. Over the years my interest turned to passion! I entered college knowing not only that I wanted to be a speech-language pathologist, but that I wanted to specialize in hearing loss. I received my undergraduate degree at the University of California Santa Barbara and my graduate degree at San Francisco State University, where I completed a specialization in Aural Rehabilitation. I especially love early intervention. I’ve learned far more about little ones in my own experiences as a mom to 2 young boys that I ever learned in graduate school! That’s why I believe so strongly in a parent coaching model. I know firsthand that parents are the experts on their own children. Over the years I have served on 3 multi-disciplinary hearing healthcare teams around the State. I’ve served as a faculty member for a national professional development program (PPCI). And I’ve taught at both San Jose and San Francisco State Universities. For the past 5 years I’ve served as a lead faculty member for the Project Aural Impact (PAI) Program at San Jose State. PAI has provided pre-professional training for aspiring speech-language pathologists who wish to specialize in listening and spoken language.
Currently I have two roles at Weingarten Children’s Center. I am the Director of the BabyTalk Teletherapy Program, which is a cooperative offering between Weingarten Children's Center and Stanford University School of Medicine. I love our BabyTalk program because it affords us the opportunity to serve a vulnerable population. Many of these families live in remote parts of California and are considered “high risk” due to factors including poverty, language and cultural barriers, and other medical issues. I’m also on the “Admin Team” at Weingarten, which is a real privilege, given the Distributed Leadership Team (DLT) model that we use. Everyone on staff has a leadership role and we work together to keep our Center operating. In addition to my love of early intervention using a parent coaching model, I also enjoy professional learning and coaching. Currently I am preparing to work as a coach through Hearing First for professionals who are in pursuit of their Listening and Spoken Language Certification. I maintain my State of California licensure, my Certificate of Clinical Competence with the American Speech Language Hearing Association, and my LSLS Cert AVEd through the AG Bell Academy.
My affiliation with WCC started in 1999 as a parent when my daughter started receiving services at Weingarten. I was in awe of the talented staff and was amazed to see how the children’s lives were being transformed. I started volunteering my time in classrooms, administration office and for the fundraising events while my daughter was attending school and eventually started working part time. My love for technology has transpired into my main responsibilities of managing the database and technology needs for school along with assisting in the business operations and development department. In my pre-WCC life, I worked as a teacher in K-12 school teaching computer skills to kindergarteners and basic programming skills to high schoolers. My educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and a Masters in Physics from Institute of Science, India and a Diploma in Business Management.
Stephanie Benyi, M.S., CCC-SLP
I received my Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Columbia University in New York, and I hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). I have worked as a speech-language pathologist at two OPTION schools: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in New York City and Desert Voices in Phoenix, Arizona. I am trained in using a Listening & Spoken Language (LSL) approach to treat children with hearing loss. I am also trained in PROMPT, a specialized technique for treating apraxia of speech. I have a special interest in hearing loss, language delays, articulation disorders, apraxia, autism spectrum disorders, and auditory processing disorders. I strive to create a supportive and positive learning environment for my clients and their families in order to maximize their potential. In my free time, I enjoy playing golf and tennis, cycling, dining out at new restaurants, and spending time with my husband and our two dogs.
Sara Cline, M.S., CCC-SLP
I am a speech-language pathologist passionate about helping all children grow their speech, language, auditory, and social communication skills. I studied Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as Latin at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and earned my M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Throughout my studies I was a member of research teams studying speech, language, and hearing development in children with and without hearing loss. Before joining the Weingarten team, I served K-12+ students with both specific speech-language and pervasive developmental disabilities. I truly enjoy being part of a team where I can support students to learn, grow, and attain their goals!
Heather Bricker, M.A., CCC-SLP
My name is Heather Back Bricker and I am a speech-language pathologist at Weingarten Children’s Center. I am from southern California and moved to the Bay Area for graduate school. My interest in education and non-profit work began at a young age as I volunteered with my mother in various classroom settings and non-profit tutoring centers. I developed a passion for helping children and students develop their full potential in all areas of life, and that starts with the ability to effectively communicate with others! I majored in Psychology and Spanish at Claremont McKenna College and completed my masters in Communication Disorders and Sciences at San Jose State University. I specialize in speech, language, and auditory therapy for children with hearing loss and other speech and language delays. I have experience mentoring graduate students and enjoy working with Spanish-speaking students and families. I love working with children and celebrating their successes every day!
Julie Cooper, M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT
I am a listening and spoken language specialist, certified auditory verbal therapist, and I am passionate about empowering parents to teach their child to listen and speak. I earned a BA from Calvin College and an MS in speech-language pathology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have been a therapist at the Weingarten Children’s Center since 2007. In addition to working at WCC, I’ve been working at Stanford University since 2008, where I direct the Listen to Me! Conference and the Baker Scholars Program. Previously, I was the SLP on the Stanford Cochlear Implant Team for five years. I have enjoyed mentoring several professionals seeking to specialize in a listening and spoken language approach through the FIRST YEARS program at UNC, PPCI, and local SLP graduate programs. I have presented at ACIA, ASHA, and San Jose State University. I love my career and am constantly inspired by the children, families, and colleagues with whom I work.
Kayla Kolhede, M.A., CCC-SLP
I studied Linguistics at UCLA and moved back to the Bay Area after graduation to earn my master's degree at San Jose State University. I joined the WCC team in 2015 and feel so grateful to work with such a talented and creative group of educators. I love partnering with families and empowering parents to be teachers and advocates for their children. When I'm not busy lesson-planning or laminating, I enjoy reading, cooking, and exploring in SF and Oakland!
Patricia Gomez, M.S. CCC-SLP
I received my M.S. in Communicative Disorders from San Francisco State University in 2008. There I participated in an Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) grant and was trained to evaluate and implement AAC devices for children who need these types of communication supports. I am fluent in Spanish and have conversational sign skills. In addition, I have worked in both public schools and private practice providing services to toddlers, school aged children, teenagers, and adults. My passion for listening and spoken language has existed since I volunteered at Jean Weingarten Peninsula Oral School for the Deaf (JWPOSD) over 10 years ago. I am currently in my second year of LSLS-AVT training program. I am also a certified Hanen, It takes Two to Talk, trained in PROMPT and Talk Tools. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, and running.
Eryn McHan, M.A., CCC-SLP
I came to the field of speech-language pathology after growing up seeing all the care and excitement in my mother’s therapy room, as she was the speech therapist at my elementary school. As I got older, I came to have a deep appreciation for the loving and creative work she did and decided to follow in her footsteps. As a speech-language pathologist, I am specialized in early intervention as well as in providing listening and spoken language therapy for children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and their families. I have also provided Deaf and Hard of Hearing services for various school districts and taught a variety of afternoon groups, such as the WCC social skills group and WCC Music Adventures. Beyond direct therapy services, I have served as a clinical supervisor for speech pathology graduate students through San Jose State University and have worked as a practicum mentor for Professional Preparation in Cochlear Implants, which was a national training program for audiology and education professionals seeking specialization in working with children with cochlear implants. I truly love what I do and feel blessed to be able to share my passion for helping others as a part of the WCC family!
Lexi Terndrup, M.A., CCC-SLP
I received a master’s degree from San Jose State University in Communicative Disorders and a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. During my time at San Jose State, I received specialized training to work with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing through the Aural Impact grant. Prior to receiving my master’s degree, I worked as a speech-language pathology assistant at Weingarten Children’s Center. I loved my experience collaborating and learning from other therapists and could not wait to return upon completion of my degree. I have experience working with toddlers, school-age children and adolescents. Although I have worked primarily with children who are deaf or hard of hearing who wish to utilize listening and spoken language, I also have experience with children on the autism spectrum, phonological processes, expressive and receptive language delays and apraxia of speech. I became interested in speech pathology after falling in love with a course on communication development. After completing two more courses and observing an SLP at work, I became hooked and have never looked back!
Janet Christensen, M.A.
I received my teaching credential and Masters Degree in Special Education with a focus on Deaf/Hard of Hearing from San Francisco State University. I have been teaching in special day classrooms for infants and toddlers with cochlear implants and/or hearing aids since 1999. Additionally I was the school program director for the Auditory Oral School of San Francisco and the San Francisco Kids Academy (preschool). As a teacher I have worked in mainstream classrooms as an itinerant teacher of the deaf, and provided individual aural rehabilitation for children and adults with cochlear implants. I have presented on topics related to hearing loss for parents and professionals, and I am certified trainer for the Program for Infant Toddler Care through West Ed and the California Department of Education. My journey into deaf education began thirty-three years ago when my oldest son was diagnosed with profound hearing loss. I am proud to have watched him become a successful high school teacher who now holds a doctorate in education. My experiences raising my son using listening and spoken language inspires my commitment to providing training to parents and professionals to ensure educational success for children with hearing loss. I currently teach a toddler class at Weingarten Children's Center and provide parent coaching through the BabyTalk teletherapy program.
Credentials and Certifications
Masters in Special Education, Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Education Specialist Credential, Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Certified Trainer for the Program for Infant Toddler Care through WestEd and the California Department of Education
Certified Childcare Program Director
Certified in DuBard Association Method
Ahladini Dugar, M.A.
Ahladhini Rao-Dugar is a teacher of the deaf at the Weingarten Children’s Center. Previously, she worked at Clarke School East in Canton, MA and as a consultant with CERTAD in Bangalore, India. She has two separate Bachelor’s degrees (in Science and in Education) from Bangalore University, India, a Master’s degree in Deaf Education from Smith College, MA, and a California Education Specialist Credential for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing.
Karen Erickson, DHHS
I am a deaf/hard of hearing teacher/specialist and therapist who has had the pleasure of being in this field for over 35 years. I did my studies at Fontbonne College in St. Louis, MO. My first year teaching was spent at Sunshine Cottage for the Deaf in Texas. Since then I have called Weingarten Children's Center my second home. I am the director of the music program at Weingarten and have provided workshops throughout the country on music with deaf children. I assisted in developing Rhythmic Phonetics,which is a system to produce speech production using full body movements, and have had the opportunity to give workshops to professionals, school districts, parents and universities. I am also involved with the Weingarten alumni and enjoy seeing and hearing from my past students.
Sally Grenfell, B.A. Social Sciences
I am currently a teacher of the deaf at the Weingarten Children's Center. I have been teaching since 1982 and specificallt at this center since 1985. My Current position is a teacher of young toddlers at he Family Center, which serves children of 0-3 years of age.I have also been a therapist, teaching children in an individual setting and a mentor teacher, teaching student teachers the art of teaching. I received my BA from the University of California, Berkeley. I attended San Francisco State University where I obtained a Multiple Subjects Credential, a Communicatio Handicapped Credentialand an MA in Education of Exceptional Childtren. I have taught in both total communication and aufitory oral programs. My passion is teaching the very young cochlear implant user to listen, think and talk!
Credentials and Certifications
Teaching Credential - Specialist, Communication Handicapped
Teaching Credential - Multiple Subject, General Subjects
Joanie McLaughlin, M.A.T., Teacher of the Deaf
I have been working at Weingarten Children’s Center since 2006 and I absolutely love my job. I received my B.A. in Film and Digital Media from University of California, Santa Cruz in 2003, my Education Specialist teaching credential with an emphasis in Deaf and Hard of Hearing from San Jose State University in 2010 and a Masters in Teaching from National University in 2013. From the amazing, hard working students to the wonderful collaboration between staff and parents, I feel very lucky to be able to spend my days as part of this team. When I am not teaching, I love urban hiking through San Francisco with my family, reading on the beach in Lake Tahoe or traveling to as many countries as possible.
Credentials and Certifications
Educational Specialist with an emphasis in Deaf and Hard of Hearing
M.A.T (Master of Arts in Teaching)
Sharon Nutini, M.A.
Sharon is a credentialed teacher of the deaf, teaching deaf children and their families since 1981. She received her Master of Arts Degree in Education of Exceptional Children, her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies, a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential and a Communication Handicapped Credential, all from San Francisco State University. During her 34 years at the Weingarten Children’s Center, Sharon has taught children of all ages but specializes in the birth to five population. She enjoys using a coaching model, enabling parents to be their child’s primary teacher. She also is a therapist with BabyTalk, a tele-therapy partnership between Stanford University and Weingarten Children’s Center. As part of WCC’s outreach program, Sharon has participated in demonstration videos for parents and professionals, taught short courses to university students, been a guest lecturer and co-authored an article for Volta Voices.
Credentials and Certifications
Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential
Communication Handicapped Credential
Master of Arts in Education of Exceptional Children
I first started my career as a Psychologist, with a B.A. from the University of Lisbon (Portugal) and a post-grad certificate in child and adolescent psychology. While working in a professional training program with Deaf young adults at the Portuguese Association of the Deaf, I was puzzled by the difficulties I was witnessing with reading and writing, and wanted to find out more about deafness, language and literacy. A Fulbright scholarship enabled me to pursue this project in the USA, and I earned a M.A and a M.Ed in Early Childhood Education and in Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing from Teachers College, Columbia University. Its comprehensive program enabled me to assist DHH students in a variety of settings - from a more traditional school for the deaf to providing itinerant mainstreaming services at school district level - as well as to work with a variety of communication options (Cued Speech, ASL, and LSLS). I taught Kindergarten at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Boston-Canton, MA. After a few years in Belgium working for the European Commission at their Early Childhood Centers, I am back to the States and continuing my journey in Deaf Ed at Weingarten Children’s Center, while also pursuing certification as an AVT Ed. In my free time, when I’m not chasing after my toddler, you can find me at home baking sweets.
Ann Brownstone, MSOTR/L; SWC
I’m an occupational therapist with 20 years of experience in pediatrics specializing in sensory processing disorders, motor development and learning challenges. I’ve worked in a wide range of settings treating many populations, including: premature infants in the NICU, children in schools with sensory motor and learning challenges, teenagers and adults with chronic pain and mental health challenges, and students at Weingarten Children’s Center for the past 6 years. This population consists of both hearing typical children and those who are aided with cochlear implants and other assistive hearing devices.
I also work as an Advanced Practitioner and Advanced trainer for Integrated Listening Systems internationally. Additional areas of extensive study and certification include Masgutova Neuromuscular Reflex Integration (MNRI), Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training (BRMT), DIR/Floortime Model, Brain Gym, SOS Feeding Approach, Yoga Therapeutics, biofeedback for HRV coherence and motor control and Handwriting Without Tears. Keeping in mind the principles of neuroplasticity, I prioritize building relationships based on safety and trust and optimize the power of creativity and play with my clients. I am so grateful to see my clients in the state of the art Multisensory Environment (MSE) at WCC, just one of two in California.
Jolanda Delange, M.S., OTR/L, SWC
My name is Jolanda and I have recently joined the team at Weingarten Children’s Center. I am thrilled to be able to treat in the state of the art Multisensory Environment (MSE) at WCC, just one of two in California.
I graduated from San Jose State University and have been an Occupational Therapist (“OT”) for twelve years, bringing a diverse set of experiences to WCC. Six of these years I worked as an OT at a multi-disciplinary pediatric occupational therapy clinic, at a public school and at a private school, specializing in sensory processing disorders, motor development and learning challenges. In 2012, I spent six months living and volunteering in Cambodia at an orphanage, training Cambodian physiotherapists how to improve the quality of life for severely disabled children and providing therapeutic massage to each children’s hardworking caregiver.
I have specialized training in sensory integration theory and treatment, Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI), Integrated Listening (iLs), Brain Gym, Handwriting Without Tears, and therapeutic massage. I would consider myself a life long learner, always researching, learning effective and fun treatment approaches. I am passionate about school readiness skills whether it’s preparing a child for paper-pencil tasks or games on the playground, which require eye-hand coordination or addressing their sensory processing challenges to enable them to play with their friends and/or focus in their classroom.
I deeply value working collaboratively, supporting families and teachers by providing education and training to ensure maximal carry over of therapeutic techniques into the child’s life.
Lisa Tonokawa-Marcacci, M.S., Aud.
CA License: 840
I received my Master’s Degree in Audiology from Colorado State University in 1983. I was very lucky to begin my career in Los Angeles at the House Ear Institute (HEI). I had the honor of working Dr. William House and his cochlear implant team on the first single channel cochlear implant commercially available. I worked there for 10 years providing diagnostic audiology, cochlear implant and hearing aid services for both children and adults. I started as an audiology intern and later became the director of the children’s program. This is where I learned the importance of appropriate education and therapy for children with hearing loss; and where I developed an interest in research. HEI took part in many clinical trials in the development of the single channel cochlear implant to the current multichannel devices. Being part of the clinical trials helped to teach me best ways to program adults and children’s cochlear implant processors for better outcomes.
In 1993 I moved to Northern California to join Dr. Rodney Perkins to develop a Children’s Cochlear Implant program at the California Ear Institute (CEI). I was able to continue participating in research and clinical trials for the assessment of several different cochlear implant devices. I worked at CEI and later at the Let Hear Foundation until 2007.
I have always been interested in research and teaching other professionals about the needs of children using cochlear implants or hearing aids. I have been a guest lecturer for Stanford University Otolaryngology residents, San Jose State, and San Francisco State University for both audiology, Teacher Training programs and Speech Language Pathologists. I also have had the opportunity to present our experiences and research at national and international meetings.
Since 2009, after taking a short break to be at home with my two children, I am thrilled to be back in the field and working part time here at Weingarten Children’s Center providing audiologic services and consultation for their parents and staff. Although this is a different than my experiences of working in medical clinics, working at WCC has allowed me to see the real importance of our children’s hearing technologies. I enjoy partnering with our children’s clinical audiologists to ensure they are hearing the best they can.