Who's Who at PEATC
PEATC is staffed by a talented and diverse group of parents and professionals committed to building better futures for children with disabilities by working collaboratively with families, schools and professionals who serve them, to improve opportunities for excellence in education and success in school and community life.
Suzanne Bowers has been with PEATC for 14 years and brings a wealth of expertise to the role of Executive Director. She is a Fauquier County resident, and has extensive experience in special education and advocacy. She taught elementary school for five years before becoming an Educational Advocate for military and civilian families, as well as her own children. She changed her career path in order to dedicate her talents to helping families of children with special needs. She brings a rich background in education, administration, management, training, and advocacy. Suzanne is the proud mother of four children, two of whom have special needs. She serves on the Virginia State Special Education Advisory Committee, previously as the Vice Chair of the committee, Chair of the Policy and Regulations committee, and currently Chair of the Family Engagement Committee.
Tammy was born in North Carolina and moved to Virginia at the end of middle school. She received her BA from Virginia Tech in Elementary Education - let’s go HOKIES! Tammy began her career as an elementary school teacher in Chesterfield County. She attended many IEP meetings as a teacher, but then in 2000 when her middle son Jared was diagnosed with autism, Tammy experienced IEPs from the “other side of the table.” Because of this, Tammy then decided to go back to school and pursue her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree with a concentration on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) from Arizona State. Since that time, she has been involved in many leadership positions with disability related nonprofits, and served on several local and state stakeholder and advocacy groups. Tammy also graduated from Virginia’s Partners in Policy-making program where she developed a very successful IEP Boot Camp for parents as her culminating project. Tammy is a certified Sibshop leader and has served as the Chair of the Chesterfield County Special Education Advisory Committee.
Tammy is passionate about empowering individuals with disabilities and their parents/guardians with the knowledge and tools that they need to be successful advocates. Tammy and her husband Troy live in Midlothian, VA (outside of Richmond), and have three children – Brett, Jared, and Amber. In her free time, Tammy enjoys spending time at the beach, going on motorcycle rides with her husband, and reading suspense novels.
As a parent, professional, and advocate for early childhood inclusion, Kathleen Gibson has advocated for awareness and understanding of disabilities in her community for several years. She collaborates and partners with numerous individuals and organizations; provides resources as well as mentors families of children with disabilities; and, advocates for education and accessibility rights and policy on behalf of stakeholders. She previously managed professional development trainings and systems at the university level and has worked with families and professionals as an Outreach Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Health. Currently, she is the Early Childhood Specialist for PEATC, a position that aligns with both her professional and personal goals.
Vivian Heltemes is a mom to two boys (aged 7 and 14) and stepmom to an 18-year-old boy. Matthew, age 7, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth. After his birth, Vivian found herself navigating in completely new and unfamiliar waters and felt the need and desire to connect with other parents in the community where she could share her experiences and concerns. As a mother of a child with a disability, and being a Latino immigrant, Vivian understands the society and the stigma of having a child with a disability, and believes it is important to reach out to other families, especially to the Hispanic community to support, educate and make them feel welcome and part of a larger community. Vivian loves spending time with her family and making memories traveling, cruising, learning from different cultures as well as enjoying date nights with her husband Kevin whenever possible!
Marisol Johnson was born in New York City to a Navy family. She has lived all over the US. Marisol has a BA in Politics from Mount Holyoke College and has worked in the insurance and medical equipment industries. In 2005 she joined Keri Peko in starting MASC in the Hampton Roads area.
Marisol joined another Navy family when she married Rob Johnson in 1992. They have two children - Moira Kelly who is 22 years old and Morgan Reilly who is 18 years old. The family lives in Gainesville, VA. In her free time Marisol likes to read, bake, and walk her dog Dwight. She is a 12 year volunteer at Glenkirk Elementary School.
Heidi Lawyer served as the Executive Director of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, Virginia’s Developmental Disabilities Council, from 2003-2019. During her tenure, she significantly increased the Board’s involvement in and influence on public policy on the state level with a focus on ensuring full community inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities. She began her efforts in disability advocacy and policy in 1992, after her oldest son Danny, now 33 was diagnosed with Autism. Her advocacy on behalf of her son led to extended year services being more readily available in Virginia for students with disabilities. Heidi has served on the Board of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities as well as on Virginia's State Special Education Advisory Council. During her 31 years of state service to the Commonwealth, Heidi has served on numerous state level task forces work groups and committees related to services and policy issues affecting adults and children with disabilities. Heidi lives in Richmond with her husband Clyde, her son Danny, Darby, their golden retriever and 3 cats.
Tina Norris brings years of experience working with children, adolescents and families to her position at PEATC. Tina is responsible for developing and managing the family engagement initiative and is passionate about empowering families through education and advocacy. Tina is a skilled trainer in bullying prevention, puberty and family engagement. As a parent who has guided her own children through the elaborate education system she believes that family engagement is essential for the success of all children. Her expertise and practical approach allows her to establish collaborative relationships with schools, communities and advocacy organizations as an avenue to strengthen family engagement within our communities and schools. She is a Certified Bullying Prevention Specialist and a member of the Family Engagement Network, National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement, International Bullying Prevention Association and the American School Counselors Association.
Keri founded MASC, the first Tricare approved, not-for-profit applied behavior analysis and family support provider, in 2005 to serve the Hampton Roads area of southeast Virginia. She assisted the center’s clients by providing in-home parent training and advocacy during IEP meetings while managing the business. Her 18 year- old daughter with severe autism inspired Keri to address the needs of children with autism in her community. Keri has had the opportunity to meet with senior military leadership, members of Congress, and health care industry leaders to address autism and the impact it has on military readiness. The Peko family has lived all over the United States but has been in Chesapeake for 15 years. Keri’s husband currently serves our country in the U.S. Navy and has for 27 years.
Amanda Raymond has a wealth of knowledge and experience navigating the world of special education. After years of advocating for her own children who have autism, she has a passion for helping other parents understand their child’s right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education and to empowering them to advocate for their needs. A steadfast supporter of inclusive education, she firmly believes that every student has a right to a quality education, to build meaningful friendships and to feel welcomed in their classroom, school and community. She has been a military brat, service member or spouse her entire life and understands the unique challenges military families face and the sacrifices they make serving our country. She currently resides in Chesapeake with her family.
Lizzett Uria supports PEATC by providing bilingual information to Virginia's Latino community. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University along with a minor in International Social Justice. She is also a Certified Medical Assistant and Limited Radiologist. She worked as a Counselor for the Center for Children and Family through Florida International University during which time, she had the opportunity to work and do research with children diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. As a counselor, her job was to reinforce positive behaviors such as academic, recreational, behavioral, and social skills that would prepare them for the next grade. Uria always knew she wanted to work with children with disabilities and so when she came back, she continued volunteering as an educator for the Special Ed class at St. Michael’s. She has always been involved with the Latino Community and believes in the importance of providing information and educational resources to the parents of children with disabilities. Uria loves volunteering for her community, but she also enjoys traveling, dancing, trying different foods, and spending time with family and friends.
8003 Forbes Place #310
Springfield, VA 22151
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Content on this site was produced, in part, with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education, under CFDA # 84.328M, #84.310A, and #84.235F. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, any other agency of the U.S. government, or any other source.
PEATC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to building positive futures for Virginia's children by working collaboratively with families, schools and communities in order to improve opportunities for excellence in education and success in school and community life. Our special focus is children with disabilities. You can reach PEATC by calling 703-923-0010 (Voice/TTY), or sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
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