Dedicated Professional Staff
“School leaders and staff intentionally create a strong culture of safety, hope, and empowerment through their decisions, actions, and services.”
Under a leadership team that collectively represents nearly 100 years of experience at the School, the O-School blends key aspects of psychology, education, and social work into a seamless milieu that is rooted in learning, relationships and safety.
Because the staff is so vital to the School’s milieu, standards have always been high, and a host of credentialed professionals support the students, including experts in:
- Social Work
- Special Education
- Art Education
- Occupational Therapy
- Wellness and Nutrition
- Physical Education
- Nursing and Pediatrics
- Family Support
- Speech & Language Therapy
Together, the O-School’s highly trained educational and therapeutic team gives students the opportunity to develop a new emotional support structure, healthy relationships and life skills that put them on the path to success.
Diana is Executive Director of the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School and the Brooke Whitted Center. She leads the administration responsibilities for both programs. Diana joined the O-School in 1995 as a teacher and served as principal before being named to her current post. Before the O-School, she opened the Therapeutic Day School at Children’s Memorial. Diana also collaborated on a variety of learning disability diagnostic clinics, A.D.D. centers, and programs designed to meet the needs of gifted learners. Early in her career, she gained invaluable experience working as the teacher for the Children’s Unit at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital where she first learned about the concept of milieu. She has since devoted much of her career to ensuring that these core values remain at the center of the work at the O-School. Diana has facilitated meetings and presentations with numerous schools and school districts across the country.
Diana is a strong advocate on behalf of students and young adults with exceptional need. Diana is active on a variety of local, state and national legislative forums and often is called upon to join research and recommendation commissions that serve to advise on special education across the state.
Diana holds a doctorate in education, a post-graduate degree in educational leadership, a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction, and an undergraduate degree in elementary education from National Louis University. She maintains Professional Educator Licenses in general administration, special education, secondary education and elementary education.
Karen is the associate director of Residential Services for the O-School. In her role, Karen is responsible for oversight and oversees all aspects of the O-School residential program.
Karen joined the Orthogenic School in June of 2020. Before joining the O-School, she most recently worked as the director of Developmental Pediatric Services for Advocate Aurora Health. Karen began her career as a school psychologist with the South Bergen Jointure Commission in Maywood, New Jersey, and then served as a staff psychologist and director of Autism Services for the Franziska Racker Centers in Ithaca, New York. She later became the clinical director of the Chicago Metro Area office for Little Leaves Behavioral Services and Trumpet Behavioral Health.
Karen’s areas of expertise include: evaluating and diagnosing children with complex developmental, behavioral, and mental health presentations; consulting to parents, schools, and healthcare providers on how to optimize whole-person care; supervising and developing clinicians, direct care staff, and student trainees; and building community capacity for early diagnosis and evidence-based interventions for autism spectrum disorder.
A board-certified behavior analyst, Karen earned her bachelor of science in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University and a Psy.D. in Professional Psychology from Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.
Michelle started working at the Orthogenic School in 1997 as the Fine Arts teacher. In 2011, she took on the role of Academic Coordinator, and in 2017, she transitioned to her current role as Principal. Michelle holds a Master of Science in Education in Supervision and Administration from Bank Street College in New York City, as well as a Bachelors of Science in both Studio Art and Art History from Ithaca College. She received her teaching certification in Art Education in 1996 from Bank Street College and Parsons School of Design. Michelle works at the O-School because she believes passionately in the School’s mission and its ability to provide children with the education and care needed to help them through the challenges that they are facing. Each year spent at the O-School only reinforces her belief in the potential of its students and the impact the school can have on their lives.
Dana Hirchak is the O-School’s Assistant Principal. Dana began her Orthogenic School career in 2009. Her background and her various experiences and positions at the O-School enable her to have a deep understanding of the school and its mission. While working alongside Michelle Zarrilli, the Principal, Dana manages IEP meetings, oversees and supports teachers as they enrich curriculum, and supervises the educational staff. Dana received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Spanish, and Education from Marquette University and her Master of Arts in Special Education from Northeastern Illinois University. While holding the role of Xenophiles Special Education Teacher, Dana earned her Administration license from Chicago State University. Her knowledge of how to focus on the students’ individual clinical needs while teaching a cohesive and rigorous curriculum allows her to be an important resource to teachers as they support their students in the classroom. Dana fundamentally believes that the O-School’s unique environment and student-centered curriculum, established by its hard working and dedicated staff, provide a formula that allows students to realize their true potential.
Director of Transitional Services and Programs
Carmen Roberts assumed the position of Director of Transitional Services and Programs in February 2017. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Guidance & Counseling from Tennessee State University. In 2010, she earned her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
Carmen brings more than 20 years of experience working with youth in both the public and charter school sectors. She began her career providing case management services to school-age students and their families. Later, she developed a strong interest in college counseling and went on to work in the field of school counseling where she built a comprehensive counseling program that received accolades throughout the Chicagoland area for college placement rates. Most recently, Carmen was an administrator in a school turnaround effort where she provided leadership and oversight to the Student Support Department. She is excited to build a Transition Department that supports students in planning and achieving their life goals as they prepare to transition from the O-School.
Director of Therapy and Assessment
Lauren, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, joined the staff of the Orthogenic School in June 2006. As the Director of Therapy and Assessment, she coordinates and oversees individual and group therapy, supervises the Residential Therapists, Day School Case Managers, and psychology externs, and manages psychological testing. Lauren initially was a Therapist at the O-School before taking on the role of Psychological Evaluation Coordinator in 2010. She was then promoted to the position of Clinical Coordinator in 2016 and Director of Therapy and Assessment in 2020. Lauren received her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan. She has worked with children and adolescents in inpatient and partial hospitalization settings and with young adults in college counseling centers. She has also completed psychological testing with individuals on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Lauren values the O-School because of the opportunity to provide long-term, intensive psychotherapy, see positive change and growth in the students over time, and work among such a compassionate, dedicated staff.
Director of Research and Outcome Measurement
Julia has spent the last 14 years helping social work and early childhood education professionals in non-profit and higher education settings improve service provision through research, strategic planning, and compliance. She began her career as a university Research Associate before becoming Project Director for a statewide child welfare initiative. On a consultative basis, she facilitated strategic planning workshops and research support in non-profit and higher education settings. Most recently, she monitored and evaluated process outcomes for a large Chicago-based child welfare agency and taught graduate-level research courses at UIC. Julia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She earned a Master of Social Work and a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (2010) from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Julia looks forward to working with the world-class team of professionals at the O-School to develop a research and outcome measurement infrastructure that will help fine-tune the school’s data tracking, monitoring and measurement practices, empowering the organization to make data-informed decisions and improve program effectiveness.
Director of Admissions
Kristin Friesen joined the Orthogenic School staff in 2005 and is currently the Director of Admissions. She earned an undergraduate degree in social work from Goshen College followed by a master’s degree (MSW) in social work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She also holds a Clinical Social Work License (LCSW) in the state of Illinois. Kristin comes to the O-School with a strong background in community practice. Her experience includes living and working in an orphanage for abandoned children in Costa Rica, working with a community crisis intervention program in Chapel Hill, N.C., directing a micro-enterprise business for homeless and low-income women in Raleigh, N.C., and directing an urban service and education program for youth in Chicago. Kristin enjoys working at the O-School because of the family atmosphere and the unique partnership between the students, parents and staff.
Director of Institutional Advancement
Tim started at the O-School in February of 2016 as the Director of Development, overseeing the school’s communication and fundraising departments. In 2018, he became the Director of Institutional Advancement. In this role, he provides guidance and oversight to the O-School’s fundraising, communications, marketing, and public relations strategies. Previously, Tim served as the Director of Individual and Foundation Giving at The Global Foodbanking Network, the North American Major Gifts Officer for Bethlehem University in the Holy Land, the Director of the Give Hope Campaign for the Chicago Kroc Center, and the Director of Strategic Gifts and Initiatives at The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division. Tim brings over fifteen years of experience within the non-profit sector as a direct program provider, administrator, communicator, and fundraiser. Tim is originally from Peoria, Illinois. He graduated from Bradley University with degrees in Philosophy, Business Management, and Economics. Tim loves being part of such a caring and committed community, and he enjoys working with the O-School’s supporters to grow and develop the school’s education and therapeutic programs.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Brian Graves joined the O-School team in October of 2018 as the Director of Marketing and Communications. He has nearly two decades of experience in public relations, marketing, and communications. Brian received his undergraduate degree in Public Relations and Business from the University of Northern Iowa, and later earned a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Iowa. Before joining the O-School, Brian worked as the Communications Director for CEL Marketing, PR and Design. He has worked at all levels of education, including as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for Community Unit School District 308 in Illinois and as the Director of Communications and Sports Information for Lincoln University in Missouri. Brian also served as Director of Marketing and Multicultural affairs at Anoka Technical College in Minnesota and as Director of Communications and Public Relations for the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. His diverse background also includes working as a reporter for a variety of newspapers including the Detroit News, Waterloo Courier, and Cleveland Plain Dealer. Brian is a proud member of the leadership team, and he looks forward to communicating the incredible things happening at the O-School to the world.