SESA provides consultation and training to support the unique educational needs of individuals and the Alaskan communities that serve them.
Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education
Alaska Council of School Administrators
Alaska Department of Education Designee
Patrick Pillai has been the executive director of SESA since 2012. He joined the agency in 1994 as a deaf education specialist. He has also served SESA as a program director and a grants director. He earned a Ph.D. in Deaf Education from Gallaudet University (Washington, DC) and holds administrative credentials from the University of Alaska, Anchorage and the Foraker Group (Non-Profit Management). Outside of work Patrick enjoys hiking Alaska with his wife and twin daughters.
Olivia Yancey has been working at SESA since 2014 as an Education Specialist of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and now serves as the Program Administrator for the Low Incidence Program. She earned her B.S. in Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (K-12) from Barton College, North Carolina. Upon graduating, Olivia worked as an Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (K-6) and Deaf Education consultant (K-12) in Wyoming. She earned her Masters in Education of the Deaf (MDE) at Vanderbilt University. Before moving to Alaska, Olivia taught middle school mathematics to students with hearing loss who had a variety of communication modes. In Olivia’s spare time she likes to go on adventures with her dog. As an administrator her primary goal is to support SESA specialists as they offer technical assistance to school teams and community members in rural and rural remote locations of Alaska.
I have been with SESA since November 2019. I moved to Anchorage from Chicago a few years back and have enjoyed all the wonders and beauty that Alaska has to offer. I am a proud wife and mother to three wonderful teenage/adult children.
I love to spend as much time as possible outdoors with my family. We love to hike, fish, and ski (XC & downhill). My family loves to travel within the US and globally.
SESA is a wonderful place to work. I have integrated my business background into my duties as Executive Assistant and have learned so much in regards to how SESA operates and serves the children of Alaska.
Amy Topmiller is one of SESA’s Multiple Disabilities Specialist that is entering her 4th year with the agency. She grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Her education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University and a Master of Science degree in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2016, she obtained National Board Certification for Exceptional Needs. Her teaching experience includes both therapeutic day and public-school settings working with a wide range of students. In her spare time, Amy enjoys walking her dog, working on home improvements, and biking.
Angel Black, SESA's Vision Specialist since 2016 and coordinator of the Alaska Deafblind Project since 2019. Originally from Norman, Oklahoma she moved to Alaska in June 2016 sight unseen, and now call it “home”.
Education: B.S.Ed in Cross-Categorical Special Education K-12, M.S.Ed in Blindness Low Vision from Missouri State University, Nationally Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist from Portland State University
Before moving to Alaska, Angel taught varied ages and classes of students in Special Education while focusing on those students with low vision and blindness. Angel’s desire is to evaluate the learning needs of students with visual impairments/deafblindness and to personalize local educational programs to support them. With this type of support students with visual impairments/deafblindness can receive all the benefits of a comprehensive education while also teaching them strategies to live full, and independent lives.
Brian joined SESA in 2018. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. He received his Master’s of Education degree in Special Education from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Before teaching, Brian worked in the field of community mental health, where he supported children with severe emotional disabilities. He worked in the Anchorage School District for ten years before becoming an Education Specialist at SESA. Brian’s primary goal at SESA is maximizing student independence. In his free time he, Brian enjoys fishing, hunting and ice hockey.
Jennifer Schroeder moved to Anchorage in the fall of 2001 from Massachusetts. She is originally from MN and has taught students with moderate to severe disabilities in Alaska, Kansas and Massachusetts. Jennifer graduated from Winona State University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science. She has degrees in both Elementary and Mild/Moderate/Severe Cognitive Impairment special education.
My name is Jessica Williams and I am a new Education Specialist at SESA. I spent 16 years as a Special Education teacher working with students in Iowa, Nebraska, and the last 8 years in Alaska, primarily in the Anchorage School District. I look forward to traveling to other communities in Alaska and my goal is to build relationships with teams and communities throughout the state while providing services that best meet their needs. In my spare time, I enjoy getting outside, spending time with friends and family, and FaceTiming with my grandkids (they are way too far away). I look forward to being a part of the SESA team!
John Barrowman originally came from a small town in the Californian foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. He moved to Oregon to attend college at the University of Oregon where he completed his bachelors degree in psychology and a minor in special education in 2009. It was during his bachelors that he was inspired by a guest lecturer to enroll in a program called Project PASS (Preparing Autism Specialists for Schools). He completed Project PASS in 2010 and completed a licensure program for early childhood special education/early intervention and his masters in 2011. After completing school, John moved to Alaska and remained in the Northwest Arctic region working in schools as an intensive needs special education teacher and traveled to support students in the outlying villages for four years. John has been with SESA since 2015 and enjoys being able to bring services to where they are needed. He enjoys fishing, hiking, and cooking.
Kelsey Koenigs, hails from a small Maine coast town, Old Orchard Beach, and has been with the agency since 2018. Prior to moving to Alaska, she received her B.S in Deaf Studies from Boston University, Massachusetts. Her junior year of undergrad was spent at Gallaudet University studying and immersed in American Sign Language. Following graduation, she worked at The Children’s Center for Communication- Beverly School for the Deaf before deciding to return to Boston University to pursue an EdM in Education of the Deaf and become a certified Teacher of the Deaf (K-12). She then moved to Colorado Springs, to complete an intensive practicum at Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind based on the bilingual- bicultural approach to Deaf Education. Kelsey advocates that a strong language foundation, whatever the modality may be, is essential for cultivating academic growth, social-emotional development, and self-advocacy in D/HOH student.
Kendra Wolf recently relocated to Alaska from Minnesota. Kendra attended the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Psychology in 2014. During this time she also worked as a camp counselor at True Friends, a non-profit organization that provides camp and respite experiences to enhance independence and self-esteem for children and adults who have multiple disabilities, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and emotional disabilities. Upon graduating, Kendra worked as a Behavior Therapist providing comprehensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. This experience included using a variety of strategies and tools to assist children and their families in communication, social, and behavioral needs through Family-Centered Behavioral Intervention. Kendra later returned to the University of Minnesota where she earned her Masters of Education in Early Childhood Special Education. During this time she completed two student teaching experiences in both home and classroom settings focusing on early intervention education for families of children ages birth-6 with developmental delays and Autism. Before leaving Minnesota she assisted in the Minneapolis Public School District implementing mathematic and reading comprehension strategies in 7th and 8th grade Autism classrooms. Kendra is very excited to be working with SESA and students throughout the state of Alaska.
Kristina Bower recently moved to Alaska in July 2021 from Kuwait, where she worked as a special education teacher for an international school. While there, she assisted in setting up one of the first inclusion programs in the country and worked with school staff and families to promote better education for children with disabilities. Prior to moving to the Middle East, Kristina taught special education in Texas, where she worked primarily with students with moderate to severe disabilities. She graduated with a Master of Science in Educational Psychology from Baylor University in 2015 and a Bachelor of Science in Special Education (EC-12) from The University of Texas at Austin in 2013.
Lyon has worked at SESA since 2006 as an Emotional Disabilities Specialist providing consultation, training, and technical assistance to school district staff and families. He has been working in the field of education and school psychology since 1992 and holds national certifications in applied behavior analysis and school psychology, as well as a license to practice applied behavior analysis in the State of Alaska. Lyon started his career in San Antonio, Texas, and later worked overseas for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal. He has also worked for the Hawaii Department of Education’s School-Based Behavioral Health Program in Leeward District (Oahu). Lyon’s goal is always to assist those students experiencing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges in ways that help them be more successful in the educational environment. In his spare time, Lyon and his super-awesome wife enjoy travel and outdoor activities including hiking, biking, cross country skiing, and water activities.
Meriah Cory moved to Anchorage in the winter of 2011 from Kazakhstan, where she served in the Peace Corps. While there she worked under the Department of Education helping to develop after school programs for students. She worked with both government and non-governmental agencies to develop life skills programs for youth with mild to severe disabilities. Meriah graduated for Montana State University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science. She has degrees in both elementary and special education.
Samantha Weiland grew up in Clearwater, Florida, as an avid horseback rider and a volunteer for various programs working with individuals with special needs. Combining these two passions, she attended St. Andrews University in North Carolina and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Therapeutic Horsemanship in 2004. After graduation, the premier Therapeutic Horseback Riding program, Equest of Dallas, Texas, recruited Samantha as an Advanced Instructor. In addition, Samantha served as Head of Area 10 Equestrian Special Olympics. A desire to expand her knowledge, skills and effectiveness as an educator, Samantha enrolled in Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. In 2010, Samantha earned her Master of Arts in teaching Special Education. For the past 6 years Samantha has focused her teaching on students with Autism, Learning Disabilities, ADD/HD, and Anxiety Disorders both in traditional classroom setting and one on one. Part of her teaching experience included a year of teaching in Twin Hills, Alaska. Samantha has been part of the SESA team since 2016. She continues to enjoy providing creative educational opportunities for all students in Alaska. When she is not jet setting across the state, Samantha enjoys hiking, biking, and exploring Alaska!
Shane Phillips grew up in Michigan, attended university in Illinois, and moved to Alaska in 2018. Shane attended Southern Illinois University and earned a B.S. in Special Education. During his time at SIU, Shane was the President of the Student Council for Exceptional Children and participated in events that advocated for individuals with disabilities. After earning his degree, Shane taught for two years in Southeast Alaska. In his free time Shane enjoys hiking, hockey, rock climbing, and being outside. Shane enjoys being able to work with teams all around the great state of Alaska.
Tyler was born and raised in Nevada where in 2017 he received his bachelor’s degree in general education from UNLV. There he gained experience working with a large population of ELL students before moving to Montana. In 2019 he received his Master’s degree in Special Education while volunteering as a mentor for children entering into the foster care system facing abuse neglect and emotional trauma. Currently he is working his way through the Teacher for the Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility dual endorsement offered by Portland State University. Here at SESA is coordinating our Alaska Center for Accessible Materials grant for students with print disabilities. He enjoys hiking kayaking and cross country skiing.
Anne Freitag, Librarian, has lived in Alaska since 1971. She has worked at the SESA Library from 1991-2001, and again from 2003 to the present. Other library experience has included cataloging and young adult librarianship. Anne received her master's in librarianship and information management from the University of Denver, and also has degrees in computer information systems, English, history, and technology. When not working, she enjoys reading and making things.
Christine Collier has been a part of the SESA support team since 2013. Originally a Southern California native, she has lived in Alaska for almost 10 years. Upon moving to Alaska, Christine decided she wanted to be a part of an organization that served a greater purpose. Her years of administrative experience, combined with the desire to help others, allowed Christine to find the right fit for her at SESA. In her free time, Christine enjoys trying to keep up with her 4-year-old son, husband, and two dogs. There is nothing better than exploring Alaska with family and friends!
Yuya joined SESA as Educational Technologist in 2012. He was born and raised in Sapporo, Japan. He studied Physics, computer science and education. Before he joins SESA, he worked as the technology coordinator for Hokkaido International School where he taught basic computer skills and applications for 7th to 9th graders, engaged in training staff and assisted with technology for the school. He enjoys spending time with his family and doing outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, biking and picking berries. He is interested not only in technology, but also in fostering cultural exchanges and mutual understanding between Japan and Alaska.