fbpx

Our Values

As educators, we make it a priority to advance knowledge. We use data to identify trends and develop best practices for educators, in addition to partnering with leading universities to provide internship opportunities for graduate-level students.

We also make ongoing investments in our staff through their annual participation in proprietary curriculum, while providing tuition reimbursement for those pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degrees.

Dan Campbell, M.Ed
Executive Director
Beach Cities

Kari Nahgahgwon Headshot

Kari Nahgahgwon,
Ph.D, BCBA-D
Executive Director
Desert Choice Schools

Karen Zieder, M.Ed Headshot

Karen Zieder, M.Ed
Executive Director
Desert Choice Schools

Lara LaZear Headshot

Lara LaZear, M.S, CCC-SLP
Executive Director
Light Street

Marybeth Jones Headshot

Marybeth Jones, M.Ed
Vice President
Learn It Academic Services

Tamila Sayar Headshot

Tamila Sayar
Executive Director
Creative Learning Center

Rick Weathers, M.A.
Senior Executive Director

Don Scheeler
President

Michael Maloney
CEO and Founder

“LEARN Academy teams with both the school and parents so that a studentcan achieve success at school, home, and in the community.”
-Dan Campbell, M.Ed

“I’ve played on a lot of teams and coached a lot of teams, so I know what it’s like to overcome challenges to be my best, but also how to help others be their best,” said Dan Campbell, Executive Director for Beach Cities Learning Center and a former Division I student-athlete who played in the College World Series. “I draw on both experiences to help a student who hasn’t been successful in traditional academic settings be successful.”

With more than 30 years of service in education, including overseeing high school special education for the Torrance Unified School District, Dan works closely with school districts to help students meet their educational needs in the least restrictive environment. LEARN Academy enables student to advance through an academic- and behaviorally-oriented level system to achieve their personal and IEP-based goals.

In so doing, the organization offers a unique complement of education, mental health and behavioral services that help a student to develop the functional and interpersonal skills required to succeed.

“LEARN Academy teams with both the school and parents so that a student can achieve success at school, home, and in the community,” Dan explains. “We provide a stimulating, supportive, academically challenging and therapeutic program for students struggling in the public school arena.”

Dan holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of California Santa Barbara and Master’s Degrees in Education from Azusa Pacific University. Outside of the classroom, he enjoys exercising and any outside activities.

Kari Nahgahgwon Headshot

“Every child is unique, so every program should be unique.”
– Kari Nahgahgwon, Ph.D., BCBA-D

“I recognized early on in my undergraduate studies that I wanted to pursue a career in special education,” said Kari Nahgahgwon, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Executive Director for Desert Choice Schools, a private therapeutic day school and alternative learning program,part of the LEARN Academy network. “Marrying psychology and education to positively impact the life of a child with special needs appealed to me right away.”

A nationally certified school psychologist and board certified behavior analyst, Dr. Nahgahgwon has devoted the last 25 years to enhancing the lives of students, not only at school, but also in their home and community environments. She collaborates with school districts nationwide to develop proprietary programming for students with a range of exceptional needs, such as autism, as well as developmental, emotional and specific learning disabilities.

The key to helping a student acquire new skills is recognize them for their unique qualities and needs, Dr. Nahgahgwon explains. “An early mentor of mine, Ronnie Detrich, a pioneer in the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis in educational and clinic settings, emphasized the importance of thinking out of the box,” she said. “Every child is unique, so every program should be unique. I’ve found that to be true throughout my career.”

Dr. Nahgahgwon earned a Bachelors, Masters, and Education Specialist degree from Western Michigan University, as well as a Ph.D in School Psychology from the University of Arizona. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys the outdoors and quality time spent with friends and family.

Karen Zieder, M.Ed Headshot

“Our team’s consistent dedication and deep commitment to finding success for every student in our care results in the changed lives of our students and their families. This is my why.”
-Karen Zieder M.Ed, Executive Director, Desert Choice Schools

Karen Zieder is currently serving as an Executive Director for Desert Choice Schools, a private special education therapeutic day school. Karen is an alum of both Arizona State University where she received her degree in Special Education and Grand Canyon University earning her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership.

Prior to joining the Desert Choice family, Karen spent 6 years working in the public-school system as a special educator in specialized classrooms serving students with emotional, behavioral challenges. It was during this service when Karen was introduced to the co- founders of Desert Choice Schools. Throughout her seventeen-year journey with Desert Choice Schools, Karen served as a special educator, site administrator, regional director, and currently, Executive Director.

Karen’s passion to serve students with significant needs was ignited at a very young age thanks to a family in her neighborhood who modeled inclusion before its time. These early experiences shaped her belief that we have a duty to one another as persons-first, and exceptionalities present us all with the opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves and one another.

Karen’s desire to be an agent of change in children’s lives has been and continues to be the driving force in her current role with Desert Choice Schools.

Outside of the workday, Karen plays her violin in a volunteer community orchestra, bowls, puzzles and enjoys spending as much time as possible with her four grandchildren.

Lara LaZear Headshot

“Every partnership we have with a school or district begins with trust.”
– Lara LaZear, M.S, CCC-SLP

“I’ll never forget Corey. He had this huge smile, but the symptoms of his cerebral palsy made it difficult for him to verbalize what mattered to him,” said Lara LaZear, Executive Director for Light Street, a provider of special education solutions that is part of the LEARN Academy network. “Not long after we began working together, he achieved some remarkable breakthroughs. You could see the joy in his face.”

A speech-language pathologist who is a member of ASHA, ArSHA, and CSHA, Lara has devoted the last 25 years to helping children with special needs achieve positive outcomes. She partners with schools and districts to develop and implement comprehensive programs grounded in evidence based practices.

In so doing, Lara helps them improve student success and meet their goals by providing special and general education resources ranging from highly trained professionals to research-based intervention plans to program design, consultation and professional development. In addition to speech-language therapy, LEARN Academy provides resources in occupational and physical therapy, counseling, school psychology as well as specially designed instruction provided by special education professionals.

Trust is a key performance metric for Lara and her colleagues. “It’s important that our clients know who they’re calling when they pick up the phone, that we’ll be honest about our ability to solve a problem and that we’ll never fail to invest the resources required to achieve success,” she said. “Every partnership we have with a school or district begins with trust.”

Lara earned a B.S. degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Northern Arizona University and a M.S. degree in Communication Disorders from Arizona State University. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys being a mom to her three boys.

Marybeth Jones Headshot

“Each person’s struggles are different just as their gifts are different.”
– Marybeth Jones, M.Ed

“I always knew I wanted to work with children. In particular, my heart is with children who struggle because they have a special need or have simply fallen behind,” said Marybeth Jones, LEARN Academy Vice President for Academic Services. “I don’t want that struggle to prevent a child from being all they can be, so seeing that lightbulb go off is hugely fulfilling for me.”

Marybeth has more than 25 years of experience teaching both children and adults, in addition to operating large-scale supplemental education programs. She has conducted quality audits for academic improvement programs throughout the U.S., while leading workshops at the Illinois School Age Conference and the National AfterSchool Association’s National Conference.

LEARN Academy provides provides programs through a variety of funding sources to public, private, and charter schools for pre-K to grade 12 students both onsite and virtually. It creates a research-based academic program for each student based on their academic proficiency and challenges, while continually monitoring and reporting on all key performance metrics.

The organization also provides a variety or academic and enrichment programs, as well as comprehensive professional development offerings for teachers and administrators.

A common denominator to a child’s success is recognizing their unique qualities. “Each person’s struggles are different just as their gifts are different,” Marybeth said. “An effective academic program needs to take those differences into account for a child to help them find their confidence and to achieve more lightbulb moments.”

“Lightbulb moments are hugely fulfilling for me because they’re hugely fulfilling for a child,” she added.

Marybeth earned a B.S. in Education from Illinois State University and an MS in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Grand Canyon University. Outside of the classroom, she maximizes time with family and friends, travels as much as possible, stays active because it’s hard not to be and tries to keep her garden and houseplants alive.

Tamila Sayar Headshot

“Our approach as educators and behaviorists can strongly influence a student’s experience and ability to learn. It is our responsibility to adapt to all students’ learning styles to ensure success.”
– Tamila Sayar

Tamila Sayar, founder of the Creative Learning Center, has deep roots in education. As a child, her family moved to Iran, where her mom taught in multi-grade classrooms. Tamila learned the language. During the revolution, when American international schools were closed, Tamila participated in private lessons and one-on-one teaching sessions that her mother ran.

In the late 1970s, the family moved to the Bay Area, where Tamila often volunteered in schools and supported students who needed extra help. She studied at California Polytechnic State University and San Francisco State University, and she worked as a classroom aide for students with disabilities. This experience sparked her interest in teaching and individualized learning.

After finishing her degree, Tamila moved to Boston, where she worked as a middle school assistant guidance counselor and art teacher. She discovered the importance of personalized positive behavior programs for student success.

When she returned to California, Tamila taught while completing her special education credential. In 1999, she started the Creative Learning Center as an applied behavior analysis (ABA) and independent learning program. She assisted districts in setting up classrooms and training teachers for individualized programs.

In 2001, Tamila opened a preschool, Children’s Learning Cottage, which focused on inclusion, positive behavior management, and individualized learning. In 2004, she opened another preschool, Foothill Preschool, in Los Altos Hills. In 2016, she started a similar preschool in Colorado. Creative Learning Center grew, employing more than 100 people. Because of its success, the center expanded to include a program for grades K-6. The Creative Learning Center was acquired by LEARN in 2022.

Tamila is the executive director and is passionate about education. She lives in California with her son and two university-aged daughters.

“Our goal at Desert Choice Schools is for the students in our care to generalize the academic, social, communication, and adaptive skills they acquire and apply them in all settings — no matter where life takes them.” 
– Rick Weathers, M.S.

Rick Weathers, M.A., is the senior executive director of behavioral programs at LEARN Academy.

Before joining Learn It Systems and LEARN Academy, Rick worked in the public-school setting for 10 years as both a school psychologist and administrator. He co-founded Desert Choice Schools in 2006 after determining that many students with learning differences and behavioral challenges had minimal access to quality education and therapeutic programs that truly addressed their needs.   

Today, the institution continues to expand and thrive under his guidance. Rick also oversees the operations and development of LEARN Academy’s Private Day School Programs in Arizona and California.

He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in educational psychology from Northern Arizona University. He is a nationally certified school psychologist specializing in evaluating and treating children with diverse disabilities. His passion for education and working with children stems from the deep admiration he had for his own teachers, counselors, and coaches while growing up in rural Arizona.   

Rick has extensive experience in both the private and public sectors. He has a wide range of experience in the public-school setting, ranging from program development to service delivery, and from school finance to facilities and student transportation.

His broad spectrum of experience has been instrumental in shaping his holistic approach to education, leadership, and the empowerment of today’s youth. 

Rick lives in Arizona with his two daughters, who share his passion for working with individuals with disabilities and intend to pursue careers in a helping profession.      

“In an IEP meeting, one mother told me: ‘finally, someone was saying something that gave me hope for my child.”
-Don Scheeler, President of LEARN Academy

“Our success is the result of our child-first mission,” said Don Scheeler, President of LEARN Academy, the nation’s leading provider of special education services to schools and school districts. “It’s because we focus on the growth of the student, not the growth of the company, that we continue to grow. We hold ourselves accountable for each child in our care.”

LEARN Academy collaborates with school personnel, teachers and parents nationwide to develop, implement and measure individualized, data-informed educational and intervention plans based on a student’s objectives. The organization also help schools clarify and fulfill their funding and organizational needs.

Don, whose mother was a teacher and board of education member, appreciates the challenges confronting many schools and districts. “Special education hasn’t gotten the funds and the focus that it requires. Our job is to provide schools with the evidence-based educational and intervention resources they need for any and all developmental domains,” he said.

For example, LEARN Academy partnered with Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest school district, to pilot a tele-practice program involving 109 special education students. After the program’s first year, 18 of the students were reintegrated to general education. More than a decade later, over a thousand of the district’s students have benefitted from the program.

“We came to the table with commitment and expertise, as well as a data-driven approach, to address their particular needs,” Don said of the Los Angeles Unified partnership. “In an IEP meeting, one mother told me: ‘finally, someone was saying something that gave me hope for my child.’”

Don earned a B.S. in finance from the University of Maryland and a MAS from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. Outside of the classroom, Don serves as Chairman of the University System of Maryland Foundation.

“Our story is about discovering an unmet need.’”
-Michael Maloney, Founder and CEO of LEARN Behavioral

Michael Maloney is the founder and CEO of LEARN Behavioral. He grew up in Massachusetts helping his mom, a public school teacher, decorate her classroom bulletin boards.

Later, when he worked in education himself, he discovered something important. Kids with learning differences weren’t getting the individualized attention and support they needed. These kids had a broad spectrum of needs. The main need was a tailored approach. They were over-challenged, under-challenged, or left out completely.

From there, the seeds of LEARN Behavioral began to germinate and sprout.

Michael founded LEARN It Systems, the predecessor of LEARN Behavioral, in 2007. Since it started, the organization has helped more than 100,000 children find success.

“Every action, every decision, every effort we make daily across our organization is focused on one very deliberate and incredibly important goal: to find success for every child in our care,” Michael said.  

Before LEARN, Michael led the establishment of the Catapult Learning’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) supplemental services programs in more than 50 school districts nationwide. Prior to his education work, he worked at the Smithsonian Institution. There, he produced more than 150 education-focused recordings. They earned six Grammy nominations and won three Grammy awards.

Michael is passionate about education, and that’s what has shaped his career. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and three children. He holds a bachelor’s degree from The Catholic University of America.