Midwest Academy Professional Advisory Council:

The Midwest Academy for Gifted Education Professional Advisory Council is organized to guide and inform the organizational policy, curriculum and programming. Advisory Council members choose to sit on the committees that best align with their personal and professional interests. The members are talented educators, health professionals, academics, and leaders in STEAM fields. Please drop us a note if you would like to be involved on the Council.

Brenda Burnett   Brenda Burnett holds a BA from the University of Mississippi and a JD from The John Marshall Law School. Her experience includes Thompson & Thompson in Chicago, IL. Currently she is a partner at Mansberger and Burnett in Watseka IL.  Brenda’s philosophy of practice, inspired by her mentor Cherie Thompson, is that she is thankful for all transactions, no matter if difficult or smooth, because in each her ability to advise her client is the reward. Brenda has enjoyed advocating for her clients in the areas of Family Law and Landlord/Tenant disputes in the Greater Chicagoland Area.

Brenda Burnett

Brenda Burnett holds a BA from the University of Mississippi and a JD from The John Marshall Law School. Her experience includes Thompson & Thompson in Chicago, IL. Currently she is a partner at Mansberger and Burnett in Watseka IL.

Brenda’s philosophy of practice, inspired by her mentor Cherie Thompson, is that she is thankful for all transactions, no matter if difficult or smooth, because in each her ability to advise her client is the reward. Brenda has enjoyed advocating for her clients in the areas of Family Law and Landlord/Tenant disputes in the Greater Chicagoland Area.

Elina Hayosh   Elina Hayosh is a former electrical engineer, currently a math instructor with a master's degree in gifted education. Architecture, art, science, as well as beauty and wonder of mathematics have been primary areas of interest throughout her entire life. For the past three years, Elina has been teaching algebra and geometry at the Russian School of Mathematics in Buffalo Grove. She has also tutored students privately in high school math and standardized tests prep. Elina came to the field of gifted education and homeschooling through being a mother to a gifted son, now a young adult. While completing her degree, Elina taught several courses at the Northwestern University Center for Talent Development, and interned with psychologist Andy Mahoney at the Center for Identity Potential.

Elina Hayosh

Elina Hayosh is a former electrical engineer, currently a math instructor with a master's degree in gifted education. Architecture, art, science, as well as beauty and wonder of mathematics have been primary areas of interest throughout her entire life. For the past three years, Elina has been teaching algebra and geometry at the Russian School of Mathematics in Buffalo Grove. She has also tutored students privately in high school math and standardized tests prep. Elina came to the field of gifted education and homeschooling through being a mother to a gifted son, now a young adult. While completing her degree, Elina taught several courses at the Northwestern University Center for Talent Development, and interned with psychologist Andy Mahoney at the Center for Identity Potential.

Heather McKinnon   Heather McKinnon is an artist and designer with 24 years of experience including branding and strategic design solutions. Art has always been a way for her to translate her thoughts and feelings into a visual language that others could understand. Encouraged and inspired by teachers from primary school through higher education, she has a true appreciation for the impact and influence teachers have on young minds. She has experience with brands such as Mary Kay, Tableau Software, Father's Day Council, Bumrungrad Hospital of Thailand, Fredrikson & Byron law firm, and Glacier National Park, as well as retail giants Sears and General Mills, as and corporations such as P&G PetCare, IDEXX, and Bell Helicopter.

Heather McKinnon

Heather McKinnon is an artist and designer with 24 years of experience including branding and strategic design solutions. Art has always been a way for her to translate her thoughts and feelings into a visual language that others could understand. Encouraged and inspired by teachers from primary school through higher education, she has a true appreciation for the impact and influence teachers have on young minds. She has experience with brands such as Mary Kay, Tableau Software, Father's Day Council, Bumrungrad Hospital of Thailand, Fredrikson & Byron law firm, and Glacier National Park, as well as retail giants Sears and General Mills, as and corporations such as P&G PetCare, IDEXX, and Bell Helicopter.

 
Dax Callner   Dax Callner is a strategic marketer who has over 20 years of experience developing programs for some of the world’s leading brands, including P&G, American Express, GE, eBay, Facebook, MasterCard, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Pitney Bowes, Motorola, Dell, Kraft, Bloomberg, General Mills and many others, including non-profit organizations like The Headstrong Project and the Midwest Academy for Gifted Education.

Dax Callner

Dax Callner is a strategic marketer who has over 20 years of experience developing programs for some of the world’s leading brands, including P&G, American Express, GE, eBay, Facebook, MasterCard, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Pitney Bowes, Motorola, Dell, Kraft, Bloomberg, General Mills and many others, including non-profit organizations like The Headstrong Project and the Midwest Academy for Gifted Education.

Grant Swain   Grant Swain is a creative director and writer with over 25 years of experience. Grant has written for a wide range of clients including American Airlines, Bank of America, Direct TV, The U.S. Airforce, JC Penney, Visa, Travelocity, The Washington Post, Subaru, Toyota and FedEx. He’s authored creative campaigns for a number of educational institutions and nonprofits, as well, from SMU’s Cox Business School and St. Mark’s School of Dallas to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Southwestern Medical Foundation and the United Way of America.  Grant was named an Adweek Creative All Star for television, and his work has won a sizable number of national and international awards. His considerable creative chops notwithstanding, Grant is a true marketing guy, having earned a reputation for his strategic thinking as much as his creative work.  Married and a father of four, Grant devotes much of his free time to his family and local community, including a two-year test of patience (and sanity) coaching a Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team.

Grant Swain

Grant Swain is a creative director and writer with over 25 years of experience. Grant has written for a wide range of clients including American Airlines, Bank of America, Direct TV, The U.S. Airforce, JC Penney, Visa, Travelocity, The Washington Post, Subaru, Toyota and FedEx. He’s authored creative campaigns for a number of educational institutions and nonprofits, as well, from SMU’s Cox Business School and St. Mark’s School of Dallas to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Southwestern Medical Foundation and the United Way of America.

Grant was named an Adweek Creative All Star for television, and his work has won a sizable number of national and international awards. His considerable creative chops notwithstanding, Grant is a true marketing guy, having earned a reputation for his strategic thinking as much as his creative work.

Married and a father of four, Grant devotes much of his free time to his family and local community, including a two-year test of patience (and sanity) coaching a Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team.

Andrew Sherman   Andrew Sherman is a Fulbright fellow with a graduate degree in International Education at Harvard University with education including Organizational Leadership and Educational Administration. He taught at every academic level from elementary through college. has extensive domestic and international boards. He has served as a school principal/head in established schools and start-ups. He was a recent Head of School at GEMS Chicago.  Mr. Sherman is actively involved in school improvement efforts and accreditation in Latin America as a Consultant and Quality Assurance Review Team member for AdvancED. With AdvancED, Andrew served two consecutive three-year terms as Vice-Chair of the Committee on International Schools, permitting his involvement in schools in more than a dozen countries. He was a board member of the Texas Alliance for Accredited Private Schools and currently sits on the Board of Trustees of the Tomas de Berlanga Experimental School on the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). Mr. Sherman participates in community activities and is personally committed to a number of local civic associations. Andrew was President of the Board of the American Society of Mexico and also worked with different committees of the American Chamber of Commerce during his tenure in Mexico City.

Andrew Sherman

Andrew Sherman is a Fulbright fellow with a graduate degree in International Education at Harvard University with education including Organizational Leadership and Educational Administration. He taught at every academic level from elementary through college. has extensive domestic and international boards. He has served as a school principal/head in established schools and start-ups. He was a recent Head of School at GEMS Chicago.

Mr. Sherman is actively involved in school improvement efforts and accreditation in Latin America as a Consultant and Quality Assurance Review Team member for AdvancED. With AdvancED, Andrew served two consecutive three-year terms as Vice-Chair of the Committee on International Schools, permitting his involvement in schools in more than a dozen countries. He was a board member of the Texas Alliance for Accredited Private Schools and currently sits on the Board of Trustees of the Tomas de Berlanga Experimental School on the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). Mr. Sherman participates in community activities and is personally committed to a number of local civic associations. Andrew was President of the Board of the American Society of Mexico and also worked with different committees of the American Chamber of Commerce during his tenure in Mexico City.

 
Dr. Neil Margolis   Neil Margolis, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO is a Developmental and Rehabilitation Optometrist practicing in the Chicago metro area. He has specialized his practice over the the last 28 years towards the evaluation and treatment of patients with binocular, oculomotor, visual/vestibular integration and visual field defects, as well as visual processing difficulties. Dr. Margolis is a recipient of the Advancement of Sciences Award for his contribution to the science of neuro-optometric rehabilitation and is one of the contributing authors on a collaborative textbook on multidisciplinary care of the patient following brain injury, which has become the standard reference for student doctors and clinicians. Dr. Margolis is passionate about helping his patients achieve their goals, and studying functional neurology. He says, “In my clinical practice, I personally have evaluated many gifted students who have relatively poor visual spatial skills, or tracking skills, but are sophisticated at using contextual cues or other strategies to mask their weakness. This ultimately leads to inefficiency, underachievement, avoidance, and frustration. These students’ grades are typically too high to qualify for educational support or even appropriate accommodations in the public schools. Private schools often do not have teachers sufficiently specialized in recognizing this profile, or who are able to address this need. A private school with the specific mandate of providing an optimum, customizable education for their gifted students is needed. This will not only allow each student to achieve their maximum potential academically, but to also feel more confident and happy emotionally.”

Dr. Neil Margolis

Neil Margolis, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO is a Developmental and Rehabilitation Optometrist practicing in the Chicago metro area. He has specialized his practice over the the last 28 years towards the evaluation and treatment of patients with binocular, oculomotor, visual/vestibular integration and visual field defects, as well as visual processing difficulties. Dr. Margolis is a recipient of the Advancement of Sciences Award for his contribution to the science of neuro-optometric rehabilitation and is one of the contributing authors on a collaborative textbook on multidisciplinary care of the patient following brain injury, which has become the standard reference for student doctors and clinicians. Dr. Margolis is passionate about helping his patients achieve their goals, and studying functional neurology. He says, “In my clinical practice, I personally have evaluated many gifted students who have relatively poor visual spatial skills, or tracking skills, but are sophisticated at using contextual cues or other strategies to mask their weakness. This ultimately leads to inefficiency, underachievement, avoidance, and frustration. These students’ grades are typically too high to qualify for educational support or even appropriate accommodations in the public schools. Private schools often do not have teachers sufficiently specialized in recognizing this profile, or who are able to address this need. A private school with the specific mandate of providing an optimum, customizable education for their gifted students is needed. This will not only allow each student to achieve their maximum potential academically, but to also feel more confident and happy emotionally.”

Dr. Laura LaSalle   Dr. Laura LaSalle is an Assistant Professor and Program Leader, Differentiated Instruction in the College of Graduate and Innovative Programs. She joins Concordia University after thirty years of service to public education in Illinois. In the past, Dr. LaSalle was a special education teacher as well as an elementary and middle school principal and served in the capacity of RTI, Gifted and Second Language Learner Director. She’s been awarded with the Apple Distinguished School Award, Board Award for Excellence, IASCD Leadership Award, and national recognition for U.S. Healthy Schools. Her research interests include culturally responsive teaching, parent involvement, instructional coaching and mentoring, educational leadership and differentiated instruction.  Outside of the classroom Dr. LaSalle also presents workshops on the importance of parent engagement for student success. She continues to be an ISBE approved trainer for Gifted Education.

Dr. Laura LaSalle

Dr. Laura LaSalle is an Assistant Professor and Program Leader, Differentiated Instruction in the College of Graduate and Innovative Programs. She joins Concordia University after thirty years of service to public education in Illinois. In the past, Dr. LaSalle was a special education teacher as well as an elementary and middle school principal and served in the capacity of RTI, Gifted and Second Language Learner Director. She’s been awarded with the Apple Distinguished School Award, Board Award for Excellence, IASCD Leadership Award, and national recognition for U.S. Healthy Schools. Her research interests include culturally responsive teaching, parent involvement, instructional coaching and mentoring, educational leadership and differentiated instruction.

Outside of the classroom Dr. LaSalle also presents workshops on the importance of parent engagement for student success. She continues to be an ISBE approved trainer for Gifted Education.

Gabe Lerner   Gabe Lerner works in technology. Gabe has been programming since 8 years of age, was the youngest grandmaster at the time of achieving that status in Illinois, and likes chess and rock climbing. He believes that gifted education is needed in this city and it would be important to have a school in the city that exceeds high expectations of other top cities and international standards. He is a 1st generation immigrant from Moldova who values his international roots and identity, and lives in Chicago with his wife, daughter, and cat.

Gabe Lerner

Gabe Lerner works in technology. Gabe has been programming since 8 years of age, was the youngest grandmaster at the time of achieving that status in Illinois, and likes chess and rock climbing. He believes that gifted education is needed in this city and it would be important to have a school in the city that exceeds high expectations of other top cities and international standards. He is a 1st generation immigrant from Moldova who values his international roots and identity, and lives in Chicago with his wife, daughter, and cat.



 
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