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.
Emily joined SESA in April 2013 as the Executive Assistant, bringing with her a diverse work history, including for- and nonprofit business administration. After graduating high school in Bethel, Alaska in 2001, Emily took a gap year to travel in Asia, Australia, and Europe. Following this, she attended university in London, England, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from King’s College London and a Master’s degree in Corporate Real Estate Finance & Strategy from Cass Business School, City University London. Emily returned to Alaska permanently in 2010 and has been committed to working in the nonprofit sector, focusing on the diverse needs of rural Alaskan communities. Emily’s interests include fitness (specifically running & barre), cooking, travel, and hanging with her pups Great and Cody.
Aimee Smith is originally from Oregon and has lived in Alaska since 2013. She joined the AARC as an Autism Resource Specialist in August, 2017. Aimee has an M.A. in Teaching with a focus in upper elementary/middle school general education and music, as well as a post-graduate endorsement in special education. She has been involved in the field of education for 11 years as a volunteer, paraprofessional, and teacher, and has worked with exceptional populations since 2009. She has taught and/or provided support in a variety of classroom settings, including self-contained, inclusion support, and as a general education teacher. Aimee has also worked as a camp teacher for the Willamette Awesome Academic Adventures and Special Arts and Literacy Camps. She has a passion for working with students and families to increase students' accessibility to education, and to the world around them. In her spare time, Aimee also works as a professional music composer.
Amy Topmiller, SESA’s Multiple Disabilities Specialist recently moved to Alaska as of August 2018. 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.
Angel Black, SESA's Vision Specialist is also a member of the SESA Multiple Disabilities team. She and her husband moved to Alaska in June 2016 sight unseen, and now call it “home”. She earned her certification to teach students of all ages with Low Vision and Blindness, her B.S.Ed. in Cross-Categorical Special Education K-12 and her M.S.Ed in Blindness and Low Vision all from Missouri State University and is currently working on her National Certification in Orientation and Mobility at 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 and to personalize local educational programs to support them. With this type of support students with visual impairments can receive all the benefits of a comprehensive education while also teaching them strategies to live full, and independent lives.
Brian Babcock moved to Alaska in 2003. Originally from Massachusetts, Brian received a his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prior to teaching, Brian held positions in the field of community mental health in Oakland, CA (Seneca Center) and Anchorage (Denali Family Services). Counseling children with severe emotional disturbances, Brian provided support to children and families in both clinical and community-based settings. In 2005 Brian traveled to Thailand to teach K-2nd grades at an English Immersion school located in the farming community of Nan. Upon returning to Alaska two years later, Brian accepted a Social Service Specialist position with the Anchorage School District’s Migrant Education Program, where he worked for seven years as an advocate for children and families. In 2015, Brian received his Masters of Education in Special Education from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Prior to joining SESA, Brian was a resource teacher at Denali Montessori Elementary School. Working with K-6 grade students, his teaching focused on students with specific learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, autism and other health impairments. Brian enjoys fishing, hunting and playing ice hockey during his free time.
I’m a mom of four who decided to change careers when my oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Accessing every resource I could while getting my degree in special education was purposeful: I was able to use the combined knowledge to improve my skillset, both as a mother to a child with ASD and as a special educator. While in school, I worked in a number of self-contained classrooms with students that had various disabilities (in the 2nd largest school district in Oregon) as well as having baby number four!
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.
John Barrowman originally came from a small town in the Californian foothills of the Rocky Mountains called Auburn. 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 masters program called Project PASS (Preparing Autism Specialists for Schools). The instructors of the program sought to train and equip educators with the various tools and strategies needed to support students experiencing autism in schools and the community. 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 in 2011, 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. He enjoys fishing, hiking, and cooking with his dog.
Kelsey Koenigs, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, is our newest addition to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing team here at SESA. She received her B.S in Deaf Studies from Boston University, Massachusetts. Her junior year of undergrad was spent at Gallaudet University studying American Sign Language. She also worked as a research assistant for the American Sign Language Linguistic Research Project (ASLLRP) that created SignStream - a software for linguistic annotation of American Sign Language videos. Following graduation, she worked at The Children’s Center for Communication- Beverly School for the Deaf (mainly supporting behavioral and deaf plus students, K-12) before deciding to return to Boston University to pursue an EdM in Education of the Deaf (K-12) and become a certified Teacher of the Deaf. Outside of her classroom role at BSD she taught a community Intro to ASL night class for staff and parents along with a children’s sign class for new enrollees and siblings. While earning her Master’s she interned at Horace Mann School for the Deaf in a kindergarten classroom and at The American School for the Deaf in Connecticut for BU Bridges, in addition to working as a Graduate Teaching Fellow for two BU courses: Intro to the Deaf World and The Social Context of Education. 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.
Mr. Johnson 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. He has been working in the field of education and school psychology since 1992. He started his career in San Antonio, Texas and later worked overseas for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal and then for the Hawaii Department of Education on the island of Oahu. Lyon has worked as an SESA since 2006 primarily as an Education Specialist who provides consultations, trainings, and technical assistance to rural and remote Alaskan school districts. Lyon's interest areas include applied behavior analysis, connecting school mental health and school-wide positive behavior supports, and the use of tele-practice technologies to enhance service delivery to students with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Outside of work, Lyon and his wife, Pat, enjoy traveling abroad, but have a special fondness for hiking, biking and kayaking in Alaska. At home in Eagle River, they enjoy the company of “Murphy” a West Highland Terrier, and “Sigmund,” a 26-year-old Double Yellow Head Amazon Parrot.
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.
Nicole joined SESA August 2018 as an Emotional Disability Educational Specialist. She has a B.S. in Business Administration, and an Alternative Teaching Certification in special education. She received her master's in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University. Nicole was a special education teacher for 11 years, and an educational consultant in the State of Texas for 2 years. Nicole has 5 years experience in mental health and a wealth of knowledge in human behavior. She is currently completing her Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership. Outside of work, Nicole enjoys participating in ministry and missions and traveling with her husband, Marcus and 2 children Reese and Marcus Jr. Her favorite destination is Disney World.
Olivia Yancey has been working as an Educational Specialist of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for three years at SESA. 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. During this time she also volunteered with Goodwill GoodGuides working with a high school student who was deaf on career building skills, and at Deaf Camp, Inc. during the summers as a counselor to middle school students who were deaf and used American Sign Language to communicate. She earned her Masters in Education of the Deaf (MDE) at Vanderbilt University, which has a concentration in teaching students to listen and speak. Before moving to Alaska, Olivia taught middle school mathematics to students with hearing loss who had a variety of communication modes. Her primary focus is to provide students with hearing loss equal access to education and communication.
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 is excited to join the SESA team and provide creative educational opportunities for students in Alaska.
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 joined SESA in 2013 and currently serves as the agency's travel coordinator and purchasing assistant. A native Californian, Christine and her husband made the move to Alaska over six years ago and continue to enjoy living here with their now 1 year old son. 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.
Phylicia Christian joined AARC as a program assistant in September, 2014. She was born and raised in a small town in Minnesota, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She has enjoyed learning more about autism through working with the AARC, and loves helping to coordinate Anchorage Walks for Autism each April. Outside of work, Phylicia enjoys exploring Alaska, spoiling her cat, and cooking.
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.