The Open Door’s Philosophy

We are passionate about helping families! We provide appropriate reading and spelling remediation in a caring and supportive environment, tailoring our lessons to meet each student’s own pace. We continually assess for mastery of the material to ensure the continued success of the student.

The Open Door’s Philosophy

We are passionate about helping families! We provide appropriate reading and spelling remediation in a caring and supportive environment, tailoring our lessons to meet the student’s own pace. We continually assess for mastery of the material to ensure the continued success of the student.

Our Administration Team

The Open Door Owner and Founder

Heather Desjardins

 Heather Desjardins is an experienced resource teacher who is certified through the Ontario College of Teachers. She began specialized work with students with learning differences early in her teaching career, and she has extensive experience and training in the field of learning disabilities.

She loves helping parents, students, and teachers with her knowledge and expertise, and enjoys helping students by finding the best way for them to learn according to their unique strengths, needs, and learning styles.  She helps many families in the community through The Open Door, as well as through her work serving multiples terms as the Chair of the Board of Directors of The Learning Disability Association of Ottawa-Carleton.

Winner of The Bootstrap Awards: Founder of the Year, a 2019 Forty under 40 recipient, and a 2020 Business Woman of the Year finalist,  Heather is very hands-on in managing The Open Door. She conducts all testing and dyslexia assessments, mentors the tutors, and oversees the progress of the students of The Open Door’s tutoring and reading remediation programs. She is always happy to take the time to answer questions for families, regardless of whether or not they are clients.  

“My favourite thing is to see a student, who has struggled so much with reading, with their nose in a book – reading for pleasure!”

Director of Education and Training

Leigha Brigham
Leigha is a certified Barton Reading and Spelling System Instructor at The Open Door. She earned her Bachelor Degree in Intercultural Studies at Ambrose University in Calgary, studied Elementary Education at Taylor University College in Edmonton, and has her TESL Diploma (teaching English as a Second Language).  She has also completed the course by Dyslexia International, offered through the University of London, which specializes in best practices in teaching literacy to children with dyslexia.  She started working with The Open Door because she appreciates the value of working with students one on one to allow them to get the support they need to overcome obstacles and meet their goals.

Leigha screens new reading and spelling remediation students at the initial meeting prior to the first tutoring session.  She performs a short series of assessments with the student in order to determine the best path forward, and, along with the instructor, answers any questions of the student and parents.  She also works with our tutors providing training, support, coaching, and periodically observes instructors during student tutoring sessions to evaluate progress.

“I love seeing how quickly students gain confidence and improve their reading and spelling in a short period of time.  It is always great to hear that students are reading more, have moved up a reading level, and have improved their writing.”

Admin Coordinator and Online Liaison

Marla Ruta
Marla started working at The Open Door as a Barton Reading and Spelling System Instructor. She studied English at the University of Ottawa, and is very passionate about literature, language, and learning.  She is a positive and supportive guide on her students’ journey to independence in literacy.

As our online liaison, Marla connects with remote schools, educators, students and their families to provide information and to prepare them for our online tutoring services.  She then screens the students with online assessment tools to ensure readiness for our online programming.  She uses her organizational and creative skills in her role in administration for everything from invoicing to discovering and implementing innovative ideas and solutions.

“I love all of the little “aha” moments. When you see the child’s face light up because they just made a connection and that is going to make everything just a little bit easier for them moving forward. Once you have enough little moments they can look back and see how much they have accomplished.”

Administrative Assistant

Emily Dale

Emily is a Certified Barton Instructor who originally comes from a nursing background and has a passion for helping others. She has worked as a tutor at the college level and has completed the University of London course “Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing’. Emily started working at The Open Door because she enjoys working one-on-one with students to help them overcome their struggles. She believes that everyone deserves a chance to succeed at reading, regardless of learning style.

As our administrative assistant, Emily performs various administrative and clerical duties including invoicing, communication, and bookkeeping. She works behind the scenes using her organization skills to assist with a variety of areas that keeps things running smoothly.

Social Media Manager

Laura Dragone

Laura is an Educational Assistant who has been employed with the O.C.D.S.B for the past 16 years.  She has a deep passion for all aspects of special education and working with children who have learning disabilities – with a particular emphasis on emotional well-being.  She has a B.A. degree with a Major in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Working, and has taken many courses in Autism and Behavioural Science.  While employed with the school board she has had the opportunity to work in a variety of specialty classrooms, with a wide age-range of students.  Within that time, she has also spent a full ten years working privately with families who have special needs children, providing in home programming and respite services. 

In her spare time, she enjoys cross country skiing and hiking in Gatineau Park, spending time with family in the country, and will find any excuse to go explore an “off the beaten path” antique shop.  

While working on the school board, she has seen students with dyslexia struggle to keep up with their studies in the classroom.  She took the opportunity to work for The Open Door so that she would be able give students the chance to learn new strategies towards literary success through one-on-one guidance, which they are often not able to receive during their school day.  Her goal is that through her tutoring sessions, students will gain the confidence and skills that will allow them to discover the fun in learning. 


Blog Writer and Curator

Marion May

Marion is a freelance writer, watercolour artist and literacy tutor who delights in teaching and sharing her love of reading and writing with children and youth.

Since graduating from Humber College in Radio Broadcasting, Marion has enjoyed a fulfilling career in journalism, copywriting, marketing, fundraising and food writing. She began her career in Newfoundland as a news writer for the St. John’s Daily News. Since returning to Ottawa in 1987, she has worked as a writer and project manager for various agencies and government clients including the National Research Council as a freelance writer and Metroland Publishing as weekly food columnist. Seeing the effects of low-literacy among marginalized audiences, Marion became a passionate advocate for literacy and worked as a literacy tutor for students at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School for over seven years. From 2007 to 2013, Marion was elected Vice-President for Sage Youth, an Ottawa based literacy organization serving disadvantaged youth. In 2010, she was hired as a fundraiser and researcher for The Excellence in Literacy Foundation, where she wrote several winning grant proposals and raised awareness among key foundations and corporate donors about the societal effects of low-literacy. 

Marion also holds a Narration and Voice-Acting Certificate, Baking and Pastry Arts Certificate (from Algonquin College) and a Business Development Diploma from Cambrian College. She is also trained in the Barton Reading and Spelling System. In her spare time, Marion enjoys running half-marathons, bread baking, reading, and writing short fiction stories. She volunteers weekly at her local library as a facilitator for a Teens and Adult Writing Circle and is the creator, host blogger and photographer for the food history and recipe blog, BarrhavenBites.

Marion joined The Open Door as a tutor, to help struggling students become confident in their reading and spelling abilities and to convince them that they can become successful people—ready and capable of taking on new challenges in their education and careers.

Our Tutors

Bianca Amaral-Stewart
Bianca is a tutor and Algonquin College professor who loves helping students to build their skills and confidence. She began tutoring as a volunteer in 2001 and has been helping students ever since. She has worked in after-school homework clubs, summer youth programs, board-level enrichment course programs, and as a private tutor. Bianca graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and is working towards becoming a certified teacher. She enjoys teaching many subjects, including English, French, Mathematics, and Sciences.

When she is not teaching, Bianca appreciates spending time with her family and friends. Her favourite activities are playing board games and spending time in nature.

Having taught in classrooms and one-on-one, Bianca believes that students learn best when teaching methods are tailored to the learning style and individual strengths of each student. She joined The Open Door so she can work one-on-one with students to help them overcome individual challenges and achieve their goals.

Vicki Naish
Vicki is an experienced English and Visual Arts teacher who has taught at the elementary, secondary and college levels. She loves being a teacher, enjoying the relationships she builds with her students.
She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art and English, and a Bachelor of Education degree in Primary, Junior and Intermediate divisions. Vicki also has her Special Education Qualification, with a focus on Learning Disabilities.
Vicki is a talented and experienced artist. She also has a passion for travel and other outdoor activities, including cross-country skiing.
She started tutoring with the Open Door because she believes in the Orton-Gillingham approach that they use. She wanted to use the best method to help a struggling child learn to read and spell.

“I love watching my students progress, and being a part of their world.”

Alyssa Moore

After teaching ESL abroad, Alyssa became passionate about education, she believes it has a huge potential for positive change on both a personal and social level.

After completing her Honours degree in International Development she decided to complete a TESL diploma and spend time teaching abroad. Her journey took her to South Korea teaching kindergarten, France working as a Nanny and personal tutor, and to Laos teaching adults. All of these experiences showed her how important and diverse education can be.

Since returning to Canada she has completed her Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree at the University of Ottawa, focusing on culture, societies, and languages. Alyssa loves learning about new cultures and languages, and she currently volunteers with OCISO, an organization helping newcomers transition to life in Canada.

When Alyssa is not working or studying she enjoys practicing yoga, cooking, and being outside. She loves to travel when she has the chance, as travel has been one of the best learning opportunities she has ever experienced.

Alyssa is excited to be working with The Open Door to help students break down barriers and reach their full potential.

“My favourite part of tutoring with the Open Door is watching my students gain confidence and get excited about reading. I love celebrating all the improvements my students make with them throughout the program, no matter how big or small!” 

Dennis Hall
Dennis is a graduate from the University of Ottawa and holds both a Bachelor of Arts with a Specialization in English Literature and a Bachelor of Education. He is an Ontario College of Teachers certified educator and has experience working with students in both the Ottawa-Carleton and Upper Canada District School boards. Along with this, he also holds partial alternative qualifications in Special Education.

Dennis has a natural enthusiasm for learning and was drawn to the teaching profession through his desire to help others.

He is an avid reader (of both fiction and non-fiction), film buff and music fan who enjoys collecting vinyl records, live music and outdoor recreation.

Dennis is enthusiastic to be working with The Open Door as he has found the one-on-one style of instruction offered by The Open Door to be highly engaging and rewarding for both teacher and student.  He is excited to help students develop their literacy skills and meet their educational goals in a meaningful and impactful way.

Leigh Anne Carson

Leigh Anne is a Certified Barton Instructor who has been teaching children with dyslexia and other learning differences using the Barton method for over eight years.  After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from Queen’s University, Leigh Anne enjoyed working as a pediatric physiotherapist with children of all abilities.  However, when her son was identified as having severe dyslexia, she became a Barton tutor and successfully homeschooled him to the point where he is now a confident honour roll student in high school.  

In addition to helping those with dyslexia, autism, and other learning differences, Leigh Anne is keen to promote the importance of physical well-being, with an emphasis on helping everyone, both old and young, achieve an optimal level of health through nutrition and physical activity.  A former competitive road, track, and mountain bike racer, Leigh Anne can often be found riding the local trails with her husband and their two children.

Leigh Anne joined The Open Door because she finds that there is nothing more rewarding, nor more important, than helping a child go from loathing reading to loving it.  From personal experience, she knows that every single student, with the right instruction and progression, has the ability to learn to read and write with ease.  Moreover, every single student deserves the chance to do so.

Richard Forsyth

Richard is a very experienced elementary teacher.  He enjoys working with students to build confidence by employing various teaching strategies.  By developing a positive and fun learning environment, he believes students can achieve successful results. He has taught for many years in elementary schools in Halifax and at two independent schools in Ottawa.  Richard is a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University, The University of New Brunswick (B.Ed.) and the University of Ottawa (MPE).

With a background in Physical Education, Richard believes in daily physical activity.  He stays active by cycling, skating, treadmilling, and Nordic Walking.  He places emphasis on sharing time with family and friends, reading, and collecting books.

He joined the Open Door to be a player on a team which aims to make a difference in the lives of students by building a strong foundation of learning habits.

Anne Parker
Anne is a very experienced teacher and a specialist in Special Education. She studied Mathematics, English, Geography, and History at the University of Victoria and Carleton University, followed by pedagogical studies at the University of Ottawa, Drake University, and Lakehead University. Over the years she has taught all ages — from very young children to adults — and many subjects, but remains most passionate about English, Mathematics, and Special Education.

Anne was originally drawn to education as a teenager out of a desire to help her hearing-impaired younger brother. Later she specialized in Special Education in order to better understand how to help her young son, who was unable to read. After assisting these two loved ones to become successful scholars, she turned her talents to helping other students overcome their personal learning obstacles in order to achieve success.

She is a keen naturalist who enjoys spending time outdoors, camping and canoeing with her family. She also is an avid amateur horticulturalist and a pet lover, so she really enjoys both home gardening and relaxing in the backyard with the family dog. When the weather drives everyone inside, she enjoys reading and watching movies.

Anne is excited to be working with The Open Door because she loves working one-to-one with students and developing a supportive relationship with those who are struggling to succeed.

“What I enjoy the most about tutoring with The Open Door is the super warm welcome I receive at the students’ homes. The excitement displayed over my arrival tells me that my students really love their Barton lessons!”

Jordyn Tremblay

Jordyn is a Learning Strategist at Carleton University. She loves working with students to help them find the strategies and technologies that will support them in achieving their personal academic goals. Jordyn began volunteering as an assistive technology tutor back in 2009 and has been helping students ever since.

She has a bachelor degree in Cognitive Science from Carleton University, and is currently working on her Learning Disability Specialist in Assistive Technologies and Learning Strategies from Cambrian College.

In her free time, Jordyn loves spending time with friends and family. She also enjoys reading and working on her latest quilting project.

Jordyn started working at The Open Door because a program very similar to the Barton Reading & Spelling System was used to teach her how to read. She looks forward to helping students achieve their personal goals and build their confidence.

Monica Tran
Monica Tran completed her Bachelor of Education in elementary education, at the University of Ottawa. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in social sciences, specializing in political science and psychology, from the same university. Monica’s primary objective is to become a French and Special Education teacher, and will be completing additional qualifications in these areas.

Monica has many years of experience working with children, including those who have special needs. She has worked at many summer camps and as a student teacher at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Since 2012, she has worked as a private tutor, tutoring children of diplomats English and French.

She enjoys attending and volunteering at different festivals, such as The Toronto International Film Festival and fundraisers in support of the SickKids Foundation. Furthermore, she currently continues to tutor and works for the City of Ottawa as a specialist instructor, teaching children gymnastics and various sports. Some of her interests include: watching films, travelling, reading, and learning new languages.

Monica is excited and extremely grateful about having the opportunity to work at The Open Door, and is looking forward to helping her students progress in the areas of reading and writing so they can reach their full potential as individuals and learners.

Ashley Reaume

Ashley is a recent graduate and ESL Teacher who has a passion for language and the power of learning.

She has her B.A. in Second Language Teaching and most recently, a Master of Education in Societies, Cultures and Languages, both from the University of Ottawa. She is also certified and accredited in the program “Structure and Style Method” from the Institute of Excellence in Writing.  This is the program we use in our Small-Group Writing Classes. She has also taught English in Canada, Spain, and Korea to children as well as adults.

In her spare time, Ashley enjoys reading, playing trivia, and traveling.

She started working with The Open Door because she wants to share her love of learning, and believes every child just needs the right tools to reach their full potential. 

Jessica Li

Jessica is a certified Barton Instructor who graduated from the University of Ottawa with a B.A. degree major in Second Language Teaching. She went on to obtain her Bachelor of Education at Tyndale University College and Seminary.  After graduating, she took some time to travel and work as a classroom teacher in the United Kingdom.  Jessica has worked in a variety of schools with different types of classroom settings, environments, and demographics.


Jessica loves to see the world and travel. When she has free time, she loves to bake and tends to be making something sweet in the kitchen.


She started working with The Open Door because she loves being able to help students reach their full potential. She loves helping students to gain the skills they need to succeed.

Emily Hollander

Emily is a teacher who enjoys supporting her students and seeing them thrive in all that they do. She has her Bachelor of Education in the junior and primary divisions, a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Psychology and an additional qualification for teaching English as a second language.

She has taught English immersion based education to children in South Korea and primary and junior grades in the public school board as a student teacher. She has also worked with various age groups in a daycare centre.

Emily loves to bake delicious goods and travel to different places in her free time.

She started to work with The Open Door because she seeks to be a part of the path which ensures every student reaches their full potential.

Nathalie Khouzam
Nathalie is a special needs support worker who is passionate about making a positive difference to children with special needs. She also provides one-on-one support for autistic children in their homes to help improve their daily functioning. Alongside working as a special needs support, she volunteers with a program dedicated to encouraging children on the spectrum to engage in a variety of sports and activities.

She obtained her Bachelors of Science from the University of Ottawa and looks to further her studies in pediatric occupational therapy. Currently she is taking courses in child behaviour and functioning to support the work she does with children.

In her spare time, Nathalie enjoys cooking, travelling, salsa dancing and spending time exploring the city with friends and family.

She started working with The Open Door because she wanted to continue to expand her experience working children with different learning needs, as well as continue to help children grow into successful and independent individuals.

Matthew Gallina

Matthew Gallina is an elementary school teacher who loves connecting with students while helping them to overcome challenges.  He obtained his B.A. at the University of Windsor, and his Bachelor of Education at Nipissing University.  He has 7 years experience teaching students in Northern Saskatchewan, and has worked with children who speak English as a Second Language.



Matthew became a father in July 2017, and relocated with his wife from La Loche, Saskatchewan to Ottawa, in order to be closer to family.  He is passionate about education, and wants to influence and inspire every student that he teaches.



He decided to work for The Open Door because he knows that the most important and rewarding part of his role as educator is to help and mentor students who are struggling, and then to celebrate with them as they make progress.


Penny Simpson

Penny is an enthusiastic educator who loves helping children succeed with creative and engaging activities. She is an experienced educator who works in the Ottawa Catholic School Board as well as in daycare centres.  She is also a respite worker, providing one-on-one support for families with children on the autism spectrum.

She is a life-long learner and enjoys challenging herself. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, spending time outdoors, and reading books.

She joined the Open Door team because she enjoys working one-on-one with students to help them overcome their struggles and gain the confidence to help them succeed.

Krista Heath

Krista is passionate about helping students to reach their full potential, to develop a love of learning and to continue to pursue it. Krista earned a Bachelor of Education from Nipissing University, a Bachelor degree in Administrative Studies from Western University and a certificate in French Language Studies from Carleton University. She started teaching French and then began homeschooling her 3 very different learners through their educational journey. From adapting and developing curriculum to help her children learn, understand, and love each subject, Krista became dedicated to identifying each student’s learning style and adapting the teaching to their individual strengths.

Krista and her family spent a decade living overseas in the Middle East. There Krista founded and chaired a homeschooling association in partnership with many families from different cultures, nations, faiths and experiences. Through many shared learning opportunities, Krista realized how many different ways there are to teach and learn yet how much we all have in common with one another despite our outward differences. Krista loves to create, whether it’s art, photography or handicrafts. Being creative is very important to her well-being and her need to express herself and engage with the world around her. Along with her family, Krista loves to travel, camp and visit family and friends. Spending time together learning or trying new things is always a highlight of any vacation or holiday.

She is excited to be working at The Open Door so she can help more students reach their full potential, love learning and see success.

Stephanie Carty

Stephanie is a patient and caring educator who has a passion for shaping lives. She is a Registered Early Childhood Educator and has been working for the Ottawa Catholic School Board for several years. She also has experience working with children with learning disabilities and autism. All of the children she has worked with have taught her to be a compassionate, creative, and hardworking mentor.

When Stephanie is not teaching she loves to travel and explore new places. She enjoys being outdoors as much as possible and being physically active. Her favorite activities are figure skating, hiking, yoga, and baking.

Stephanie started tutoring with The Open Door because she is passionate about helping others overcome any challenges they may face and giving them the confidence they need to succeed. She wants to pass down her love of learning to every student she has.

Ruth Carpenter

Along with working for The Open Door, Ruth also works for The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board as an office administrator and has also worked as an early childhood educator and supply teacher. She has worked one-on-one with students in the Ontario Focused Intervention partnership program with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. This program was a very rewarding experience and sparked an interest to continue working one on-one with students. 

She has been a home educator for the past twenty-three years, working with her own children as well as other students and youth individually and in a group setting.  Ruth has been a director for the Rideau Valley Home Educators association and has worked very closely with the home school liaison at the university of Ottawa.  Currently Ruth also sits on the board for SEAC (Special Education Advisory Committee) with the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

In her spare time, Ruth enjoys volunteering for a dog rescue organization, and it is not uncommon for her to have two or three extra dogs in her home at a time.

Ruth joined our team at The Open Door because she has a vision that every child can learn and that one-on-one instruction is a key component to this vision. She connects well with her students through humour and stories and is willing to work with individuals to reach their full potential with the best possible outcome.

“I think the thing that is so exciting to me is to watch a student stop guessing at words, and to actually start using the tools, rules and knowledge they have learned through the Barton system to read! They look at you with their eyes dancing, because you have just handed them a key to open the entire literary world to them, one that was locked shut before. It never gets old. I have often jumped and danced with excitement at watching these students read! I love it!”

Rosanne Wall

Rosanne is a patient and caring person who has a desire to see all people succeed and develop a love of learning. She earned a B.Sc from Carleton University and after working in the field for several years decided to stay at home with her children homeschooling for a number of years. While doing so, she continued her education and earned a B.A. in Psychology from Carleton University. After graduating, she worked in a group-home setting with individuals with learning difficulties and behavioural issues. Rosanne also has experience working with individuals in the community who developed learning difficulties after a series of concussions. She has volunteered in classrooms and The Ottawa Mission to work with individuals struggling with reading. Rosanne has also tutored individuals in ESL, volunteered with refugees, worked with a family from Syria, and at an elementary school in Guatemala.

In her spare time Rosanne likes to read and do crafts. She loves to travel with her family visiting new places each time.

Rosanne is thrilled to be working at The Open Door as she loves working with the students to help them gain confidence and reach their full potential.

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer is a certified elementary school teacher who has found her dream career as a teacher. She loves working with children of all ages, and finds it easy to connect and motivate. She has a special passion to help children with special needs close the gap between where they’re at and where their goals are leading them.

Jennifer earned her Bachelor’s degree with honours, specializing in Psychology, from the University of Ottawa. She went on to earn her Masters of Science in Teaching from the State University of New York at Potsdam. Throughout her 10 years of teaching experience, Jennifer has taken many courses including Additional Qualifications of Special Education Specialist through Nippissing University.

Jennifer has been teaching with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board for ten years, and also began tutoring two years ago. She has found she enjoys working with students both, as a class as well as one-on-one.  She gains great satisfaction helping children build self-confidence and self-esteem and believe in themselves, as they overcome various obstacles.

In her spare time, Jennifer loves to take on new adventures with her family. She also enjoys quiet time reading and having long thoughtful conversations with most anyone. She has a love for music, and taught piano for many years. She also enjoys taking part and volunteering for community events that help others in the community.

After learning about The Barton Reading System and The Open Door Educational Services there was no turning back. Here she found a system that could reach children with various learning disabilities including dyslexia. A system that would help children strengthen many facets of their language skills. After hearing about the results of the Barton Reading System, she was thrilled to join The Open Door Educational Services to be part of this incredibly successful system which is actually giving children the necessary skills and tools needed for them to actually read and begin enjoying books! 

Kate Farmer

Kate Farmer is recent graduate of Brock University where she completed her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education. Currently, Kate is a student at The University of Ottawa, pursuing her Master of Education, with a concentration in cultures, societies and languages. She also is an occasional teacher for the Renfrew County.

When Kate is not teaching or attending classes herself, she enjoys to travel, bake, and play with her dog and cat. Kate also enjoys volunteering with local groups and spent the last 5 years volunteering with Best Buddies in St. Catharines, where she supported adults with intellectual disabilities.

Through her work in various schools, daycares and camps, both in the Ottawa area and in Jasper, Alberta, Kate has seen the importance that individualized learning has and the success that students have when they are able to work one on one with a teacher to identify and work through their challenges. Kate has a passion for special education and has started working with the Open Door to help students develop their own passion for education and become life-long learners.

Janet Doyle

Janet Doyle is a teacher with many years of experience with students of all ages from kindergarten to adult. She enjoyed a very successful career in England as an elementary classroom teacher, then in Alberta as an English teacher, instructor and mentor in a community college.

Her hobbies include singing with the Ottawa Choral Society, reading, playing piano and saxophone, keeping young with yoga, and walking her little dog, Benji.

The decision to work with Open Door Education was an easy one. It is a wonderful opportunity to empower students with the gift of language.

Amanda Lacouvee

Amanda is an educator who is currently working towards her B.Ed. in primary/junior education at The University of Ottawa after receiving her B.A. in English Language and Literature from Western University. She has worked at in Early Childhood and various after-school programs, where she has learned a lot about different learning styles and teaching methods. She has also worked as a softball pitching instructor where she was able to merge two of her favourite things, softball and teaching.

She enjoys playing and watching sports, hiking, reading books, and exploring new places.

Amanda is thrilled to be working at The Open Door and believes that every child deserves the opportunity to learn in a way that makes sense to them, and allows them to succeed. She looking forward to helping her students learn and grow in a comfortable and inclusive environment.

Stephanie McDuff

Stephanie loves making learning fun! She has over seven years of experience, including classroom teaching, planning and facilitating recreational programs, and respite work with children with exceptionalities. She has a B.A. from Western University and is currently at the University of Ottawa completing her final year of her Bachelor of Education. She has also completed the Concurrent Disorders Certificate Program from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Additionally, she has experience in mental health and wellness from her work at a youth centre supporting unhoused youth. All of this experience has shaped Stephanie’s teaching practice into one with compassion and a large focus on confidence building. She acknowledges that learning goes beyond academia and is deeply rooted in our confidence within ourselves, and she believes in developing transferable skills that go beyond classroom learning.

During her free time, Stephanie can be found hiking, walking her dog, spending time with her family and friends, painting, knitting, or reading. She loves learning new skills as she believes learning is a life-long journey. A quote she loves is “Grow through what you go through.”

Stephanie loves helping people through The Open Door because she feels that everyone should feel empowered in their learning experience. Although the learning journey may not always be easy, everyone should feel supported and engaged during the process.

Andrew Brigham

Andrew recently completed his PhD in the Philosophy of Cognitive Science at the University of Ottawa and previously completed a Masters in Inter-Disciplinary Humanities at Trinity Western University, Langley, BC.

He has taught lower-level undergraduate students since 2013, mostly teaching courses in Ethics and Critical Thinking. While at Trinity Western University, he also taught undergraduate students in the Extension Program, a program designed in part to serve students with special needs. That experience required developing new types of curriculum and evaluation, often tailored to specific individual needs.

Andrew enjoys reading, writing, and playing games with his wife and kids.

He is passionate about the Open Door because of its effective method of teaching students, particularly the Barton System for Reading and Spelling and the one-on-one interaction between student and tutor.

Amanda Myerson

Amanda is an educator who loves working with youth outside of the typical walls of a classroom setting. She works to ensure that her teaching is inclusive for all students.

She earned her Bachelor of Social Work from Mcgill University and a Bachelor of Education from University of Ottawa. She has worked one-on-one with students with learning challenges in New Zealand, she also led programming for gifted students and learners who have dyslexia and autism.

She enjoys travelling, cooking new recipes and spending time with her dog Henri.

Amanda started working with The Open Door because she wanted to help students overcome barriers they may be facing and help them grow their self-confidence to reach their full potential.

Jennifer Sweeney

Jennifer is an educator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board who loves teaching history, English, art and sports to children of all ages.  She graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor in Arts, majoring in History and minoring in English. Afterwards, she realized working with children and helping them to achieve success in learning was her calling and went on to obtain her Bachelor of Education Degree from the University of Ottawa.  She then went on to teach in England for a year to gain some insight and experience with the British curriculum.

She has worked and volunteered at Manor Park Summer Camps before and after-school programs with the Manor Park Community Council, where she became the lead for this group. She had the responsibility to plan, implement and supervise children at the primary level. As sports are on of her passions, she also coached various sports, mainly soccer, to children from ages 4-13.

It was during her final placement at the McHugh treatment unit at St. Luke’s that she truly discovered that her passion in teaching lay with children come from vulnerable backgrounds and need the social and emotional tools to be able to cope in a classroom with their peers. To her, this is what teaching is all about; helping children to acquire lifelong skills that will deepen their ability to learn and to form connections with others.

She started working with The Open Door because she saw a team of like-minded educators.  She knew their shared purpose is to help children and adults reach their potential, to not let them slip through the cracks of the education system, to help them become lifelong learners, and to debunk the myths surrounding dyslexia.

“Everyone is capable of reaching for the stars. I like to think of the “Power of Yet” to guide me and others I teach when they are faced with what they perceive to be a road block. Teaching children and adults about the difference in a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is crucial to breaking those barriers.”

Meaghan Easter

Meaghan graduated from Carleton University in June 2017 with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Psychology. In January 2019 she began studying part-time to obtain a second BA in Psychology with a Concentration in Cognitive Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience & Mental Health. She hopes to obtain a Masters degree in Counselling Psychology to conduct psychoeducational assessments and treat students with co-morbid learning disabilities and mood disorders She has been working in the field of higher education since 2017, and is currently a Registrarial Assistant at Carleton University where she assists undergraduate students with registration and other student support services.

As a part of a 4th year community engagement project, she worked with Discovery University, a non-credit education program operated by The Ottawa Mission that offers university level courses to previously homeless and at-risk youth, where she promoted the program to various shelters and community services throughout Ottawa. She has also held volunteer positions as an assistant figure skating coach and a day camp counselor.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, watching live music, playing sports, reading and cooking.

Meaghan began working with The Open Door because she loves helping students overcome obstacles and watching them achieve their personal academic goals. She is also eager to gain more experience working with students with learning disabilities.

Madison Carty

Madison is completing her degree Cognitive Science with a specialization in Language and Linguistics at Carleton University. She loves supporting students and helping them build their confidence as they reach their full potential. She also has experience working with individuals in the DeafBlind community by helping them to engage and participate in everyday activities. She has worked one-on-one with students as a tutor as well as a part of the Kaleidoscope volunteer program.

She enjoys travelling, being active, and baking in her spare time.

Madison started working with the Open Door because she enjoys working with others and understands that every child has a unique way of learning. She also is looking forward to gaining additional experience working with children and assisting them to overcome any challenges they may be facing.

Emma Kearns

Emma is an educator who is in the process of completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Ottawa. In her previous Social Sciences studies, she focused primarily on research involving individuals with learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has worked with the Learning Disabilities Association of Ottawa-Carleton in the delivery of social skill programs for children with special needs. She has also worked as an after-school tutor with students seeking ESL programming. Outside of school, Emma finds it intensely rewarding to give back to her community through volunteer work. Previously, she has worked closely with local homeless shelters and after-school programs.

She is an avid hiker and volunteer, and enjoys being outside whenever she can! Emma enjoys spending her time in the Gatineau Park as well as seeking new hiking trails in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. She also enjoys gardening, yoga and baking as calming activities, but she still hasn’t mastered the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Having worked closely with students with learning disabilities in the past, Emma believes that it is essential for a student with reading and spelling difficulties to have an individualized approach to education. Her hope is to be a positive influence on a child’s development by providing a calm and judgement-free environment conducive to learning.

Hannah Haggart

Hannah is an elementary school teacher who loves working one-on-one with students and seeing a difficult concept click in their heads. She has worked as a teacher with the Ottawa Catholic School Board since 2014, teaching a wide range of students from Grade 1 to 10. Hannah has currently taken a step back from her full-time position with the school board to raise her two children, and is working as an Occasional Teacher.

She enjoys spending time at her cottage with her family, and volunteering in different capacities at her home church, St. Maurice Parish.

Hannah started working with The Open Door out of love for teaching, and especially the joy that comes from working one-on-one and getting to know students personally. She is grateful for this opportunity and looks forward to working with many students for years to come.

Heather Weddell

Heather Weddell is an elementary teacher who loves sharing the excitement of her students when they learn new things and discover new abilities or they achieve something they never thought they could before. Heather earned her B.A. Honours in Modern Languages at Trent University in 1994. In 1995, she graduated from the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Education with her Bachelor of Education and Teaching French as a Second Language qualifications. Since then she has gone on to earn her Reading Specialist designation. Heather has taught all grades from Kindergarten through grade 8 in both the English and French Immersion programs at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. She currently enjoys teaching Grade 3 Early French Immersion. She has also enjoyed the experience of two secondments to teach at the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa.

Heather is also passionate about wellness and nutrition. She has a diploma in Natural Nutrition from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and enjoys cooking and sharing her expertise with women and their families.

Heather started working with The Open Door because she saw a wonderful opportunity to put her former tutoring experience and current teaching experience to good use in working with students who need extra support. She recognizes the power of one-to-one support in helping students learn new skills and strategies that build confidence and success.

Lyndsay Ball

Lyndsay is a registered early childhood educator and is currently attending the University of Ottawa for her B.Ed. in primary/junior education. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Guelph-Humber. She has worked in many before and after-school settings, and most recently has worked in a kindergarten classroom with a diverse group of students. Lyndsay volunteers with Girl Guides of Canada and enjoys planning diverse activities.

In her spare time, she enjoys baking, playing sports and spending time outside with her dog.

Lyndsay started working with The Open Door because she enjoys working with students to help them grow and learn.

Jessica Jones

Jessica is an educator who is currently working towards her B.Ed. in the primary/junior division at the University of Ottawa. She has her B.A. in Psychology from Carleton University, as well as a diploma for Developmental Service Worker from Algonquin College. She has worked as an Educational Assistant for the OCDSB at a school for students with special needs for the past 10 years. She has also worked privately with individuals with special needs to attend social recreation programs and to engage in various activities within the community.

In her spare time, Jessica can be found spending time with her family, being active outside, playing softball or going for hikes with her dog.

Jessica started working with The Open Door because she wants to help students learn, grow and gain confidence in themselves.

Nada Al Amri

Nada completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies in 2018 at Carleton University. She then went on to pursue a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies, where she undertook research that focused on hidden curriculum in teacher education, and its intersection with inclusivity, assessment and education policy.

During her undergraduate studies, Nada tutored high school and international students and was focused on providing support with critical reading and essay writing at various levels. While working on her master’s degree, Nada worked as a teacher assistant where she helped lower level undergraduate students retain course material by conducting engaging tutorials and writing workshops.

Nada enjoys reading, trying new food, and spending time with friends and family.

She joined The Open Door because she believes in individually tailored teaching, learning and assessment approaches which allow learners to see themselves progressing through their goals. Nada intends to continually fine tune her skills to each learner’s needs in order to ensure they receive the best support.


Amanda Grant

Amanda is an educator with a B.A. Honours in Psychology from Carleton University and a graduate diploma in Autism and Behavioural Science from Algonquin College. She is also working towards her Primary and Junior Teaching Degree at The University of Ottawa. She For the past ten years, she’s worked as an Educational Assistant with various school boards and done Applied Behavioural Analysis with students with autism. She really enjoys helping students build their self confidence and reach their next steps in their learning.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends and two dogs. She lives in the countryside and enjoys most outdoor activities such as running, hiking, skiing and gardening.

She was excited to work with The Open Door because she believes in the beneficial programming that they use to help students who need a specialized approach to help them reach their potential.

Alyssandra Desrosiers

Alyss completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts with Major in French as a Second Language and Minor in Geography in 2018 at the University of Ottawa. To complement her electives in second language teaching, she completed an additional year with courses in psychology, linguistics, and social work at the University of Ottawa, Saint Paul University and Athabasca University. She is currently completing her Masters of Education in Teaching and Learning at the University of Ottawa with courses in inclusive, differential, and antiracist education. She begins her Bachelor of Education – Primary/Junior – French as a Second Language in September 2021 at the University of Ottawa. Alyss’ most recent professional experiences include second language teaching and instruction with adults and children. She has also held roles in universities as a library monitor, translator, junior academic assistant, and storywriter.

She enjoys independently learning about everything and anything through books, documentaries, and coursework. She is highly interested in artistic expression: having handwritten her first novel at fifteen, she is currently teaching herself to crochet and to play the piano. She continues to tutor French through Discord while looking after her two dogs and two cats and visiting family in Pennsylvania.

Alyss was excited to work with The Open Door because she believes that every child has unique strengths and talents that can be expressed with thoughtful and explicit instruction and feedback. She believes in a student-centered, strengths-based approach to teaching and learning and she is passionate about fostering an intrinsic desire to learn, improve, and succeed in every individual.

Anthony Della Zazzera

Anthony recently defended his PhD in philosophy at the University of Ottawa, specialising in an area of linguistic philosophy known as philosophical hermeneutics.  He previously completed a Master’s degree at the University of Victoria, focusing on the philosophy of art and literature. 

He has worked with students as a teaching assistant for over six years and always felt that the most meaningful part of his graduate work was the opportunity to have one-on-one meetings with students who would come to his office hours for extra help.

He has a personal passion for studying film, poetry, and music and has played the guitar as a hobby since he was 13 years old.

Anthony has always found teaching itself to be invigorating and, in particular, has always found the inculcation of fundamental skills, like spelling, reading, and writing, to be the most fascinating kind of learning.  He finds any chance to reflect on and re-examine skills we normally take for granted to be a very worthwhile exercise, and tutoring those with dyslexia seemed to him a wonderful opportunity to be consistently reminded of how a wide assortment of people receive and acquire the most basic language skills.  He discovered The Open Door, learned about the Barton System, and was very interested in joining the team in order to be able to practise this kind of instruction on a regular basis.

Shannon Topham

Shannon is an elementary teacher who loves giving extra support to learners who need help in reading and math. She has additional teaching qualifications in Special Education, Reading, Mathematics and ESL.

On weekends, she often frequents local farmer’s markets and goes for nature walks, or spends time with her adult children.

A colleague told her that her son had made great gains working with an Open Door tutor. The colleague thought Shannon’s teaching style and experience would be a good match, so she opted to tutor with The Open Door so she could focus on what she loves – turning struggling readers into expert readers.

Caroline Robson

Caroline has a major in child studies and a minor in psychology from Carleton University. She is also completing her Bachelor of Education in the primary/junior division at the University of Ottawa.

Caroline loves to spend her time volunteering. She has been a family event planner and soccer coach for the children and youth in her community. She also enjoys cooking, doing macramé, and learning about nutrition.

Caroline decided to work for The Open Door because she is passionate about supporting students by helping them build confidence and achieve their learning goals. She believes that working with students at the individual level allows greater understanding the student’s needs and fosters a positive student-teacher relationship.

Asha Francis

Asha is a student at the University of Ottawa who is majoring in physics and minoring in math all while studying in French. She is a very passionate and patient individual who loves teaching and working with children. Asha has an upbeat personality and loves to inspire children to be the best that they can be.

Previously, she was a science instructor for children and teens at the University of Ottawa, as well as a counsellor at a culinary school for children. She has years of experience as a French tutor, as well as volunteering and working at summer camps and daycares.

When she is not working or studying, she enjoys cooking, doing yoga and going on hikes.

Asha started working with The Open Door because she strongly believes in their philosophy and wanted to be a part of the positive change. She is grateful to have the opportunity to help people who don’t always get the support they need in a typical classroom.

“Every child can learn. Just not on the same day or in the same way.”
– George Evans

Every student has unique needs, let’s discuss them!

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