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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.

Leadership Team

Michael Maloney

Founder and CEO

“Our story is about discovering an unmet need.’”

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.

Don Scheeler

President

“In an IEP meeting, one mother told me: ‘finally, someone was saying something that gave me hope for my child.’”

“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 helps 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 into 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 bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Maryland and a master’s from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. Outside of the classroom, Don serves as chair of the University System of Maryland Foundation.

Rick Weathers, M.A.

Senior Executive Director

“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.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.      

Dan Campbell

Executive Director
Beach Cities

“LEARN Academy teams with both the school and parents so that a student can achieve success at school, home, and in the community.”

 

“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 students to advance through an academic- and behaviorally-oriented level system to achieve their personal and IEP-based goals.

In doing so, the organization offers a unique complement of education, mental health, and behavioral services that help students 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 a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University. Outside of the classroom, he enjoys exercising and any outside activities.

Lara Lazear

Executive Director
Light Street

“Every partnership we have with a school or district begins with trust.”  

 

“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 Special Education Solutions, 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 on 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.

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, and 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 bachelor of science degree in speech-language pathology from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in communication disorders from Arizona State University. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys being a mom to her three boys.

Kari Nahgahgwon

Executive Director
Desert Choice Schools

“Every child is unique, so every program should be unique.”

“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 (BCBA), 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 to recognize them for their unique qualities and needs, Dr. Nahgahgwon explains. “An early mentor of mine, Ronnie Detrich, a pioneer in the field of applied behavioral analysis (ABA) in educational and clinical 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 bachelor’s, master’s, 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.

Marybeth Jones

Vice President
Learn It Academic Services

“Each person’s struggles are different just as their gifts are different.”

“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, Vice President, Learn It 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 After School Association’s National Conference.

Learn It Academic Services 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 of 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.”

Marybeth earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Illinois State University and a master’s 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.

Karen Zieder, M.Ed

Executive Director
Desert Choice Schools

“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 is executive director of Desert Choice Schools, a private special education therapeutic day school.

Karen has a degree in special education from Arizona State University and a master’s in educational leadership from Grand Canyon University.

Before joining Desert Choice, Karen dedicated six years as a special educator working with public school students with emotional and behavioral challenges. That experience led her to meet the co-founders of Desert Choice Schools and join them. Over a 17-year span, she progressed from a special educator to site administrator, then regional director, and now executive director.

Growing up, a family in Karen’s neighborhood modeled inclusion before its time. That molded Karen’s belief that we have a duty to one another as people first. She says exceptionalities present us 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 career.

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