Meet the dedicated, innovative, and student-driven administrative team that ensures every child is treated with dignity at the Autism Academy. Our executive team serves a vital role in advancing our vision, mission, and philosophy. This hardworking, dependable, and passionate group of leaders work together to meet the ongoing needs of schools for Autism in Arizona.

Our executive team has worked hands-on with children with autism. They have acknowledged the limited resources provided to such students, and labored sacrificially to bridge educational gaps. By incorporating unique teaching techniques with a passion for quality education, the team has advanced a new narrative for educating children with Autism. Together, our executive team has launched three Arizona campuses located in Gilbert, Tempe, and Peoria.

The executive team understands that every principal, teacher, and staff member are important pieces of the puzzle. Other critical components include pieces like supportive parents and guardians, academic curriculum, transition models, and so much more. The executive team navigates the puzzle in effort to provide the highest quality of education. If you want your child with autism in a safe and productive learning environment, contact the Autism Academy – enrollment limited to available seating, call today to learn more.

Laura Newcomb


Laura Newcomb has been the Owner of Exceptional Academic Services for the past four years and has provided quality special education services to multiple schools in the East Valley. Laura saw the need for an Autism school in the area to provide “Quality” services to students on the spectrum. Laura has been a Special Education Director for the past eight years and in that time, she realized there was a need for an excellent Autistic program to address the needs of students on the spectrum with specifically designed programs. Laura wanted to be sure to offer Autistic programming at an affordable rate to ensure school districts and parents could afford it by keeping the cost lower for everyone.

Laura was motivated by families willing to move from other states just to locate a “good” program designed to meet their individual student’s needs, thus realizing the need many families are seeking to attain excellent programming for their students. Laura has always had one passion and that is to provide excellent programming for students with special needs. By starting the Autism Academy, Laura is able to combine her passion for special education with the educational needs of the community to ensure a successful school.


Shannon Mitchell

Developmental Director

Shannon Mitchell, M.ED, has worked with students with Autism and multiple disabilities for the last 15 years within the school and home settings in Arizona. She received her undergraduate degree from Arizona State University in Communication with minors in Business and Child Development. After working as a Child Development Specialist for Easter Seals of Arizona, and as an in-home habilitation therapist and trainer, Shannon desired to learn more and returned to school. She received her teaching certificate in a Post-Baccalaureate program from Scottsdale Community College. While teaching full time as a Self-Contained Autism teacher and conducting training’s for habilitation families, she began to further her education again at Northern Arizona University. Within a year and a half, Shannon received her Masters in Special Education along with certification as an Autism Support Specialist from NAU.

Shannon has had extensive training and experience in different modalities of teaching including ABA, TEACCH, PBIS, SCERTS, and behavioral/social skills support. During the last last six years, she has been teaching students with Autism in the Scottsdale Unified School District, mentoring teachers, and supporting families to help students reach their full potential. Shannon comes to the Autism Academy with a passion for students and their capability of being successful, respectful, and contributing members of society. Shannon believes that high expectations from teachers and families are key to student achievement and success in life.


Jenny Durant

Operations Director

Jenny has worked in private schools, and educational contracting /consulting for 14 years. She has been a part of the Autism Academy for Education and Development Team since the planning stages and currently serves as Operations Director. Jenny is married with four children and one grandson.


Graham Newcomb

Marketing Director

Laura and Don Newcomb partnered together to develop a program that would meet as many student’s needs as possible.Laura and Don were motivated by families willing to move from other states just to locate a “excellent” program designed to meet their individual student’s needs, thus realizing the need many families are seeking to attain accelerated programming for their students.

By starting the Autism Academy, Laura and Don were able to combine their passion to support students with Autism with the dream of building an amazing school for the community.


We think each student needs an individual technique to help him/her excel. Our teachers are just as unique and well rounded. Despite the difficulties of teaching, our team tackles the challenges of caring for children with autism. They utilize multiple teaching techniques to encourage all students to learn the best way possible.

We hire our teachers based on education, experience, professionalism, and compassion for children. Every teacher is an important piece to our puzzle. Our teachers are patient, reliable, and passionate about teaching. Without these qualities, our academy would not be the best among autism schools in the state.

Our individualized teaching techniques navigate our students on the road to success.
Children are our first priority. We are determined to ensure each child has the tools needed to excel academically and socially. Our staff offers unending support, while encouraging, challenging, and valuing hard work. We provide children with a well-rounded curriculum mixed with learning and laughter.

We value the spirit of excellence and compassion in our teachers, because without them as pieces to our puzzle, learning would be less fulfilling to the children we teach. Learn more about our A+ Academy, and our teachers today, click here to contact us now!



HR Generalist

My professional career has consisted of 30 plus years of business experience working in every facet. I have had the opportunity to work in management, payroll, HR, finance, underwriting, training, customer service and more.

I am so pleased to be utilizing my skills as a part of the administration team within the Autism Academy. My responsibilities include Human Resources and Dog Service at each campus.



Administrative Assistant

Sabrina was born and raised in India. She attended Az St University and has lived in Arizona for over 35 yrs. She considers herself a native! Prior to being employed at AAED, she taught Pre-School 4’s and worked in the Gilbert Public School District. As an Administration Assistant for AAED for the last 3 years, Sabrina is responsible for making sure all the students IEP’s stay current. She schedules IEP, MET and 3 yr Re-Eval meetings for all students before their due dates. She is married to Brian and has 2 daughters in college and a beautiful black lab at home named Taro. Cooking and travelling are her favorite things to do!


Kym Wilbur

Administration Assistant

Kym organizes and oversee family events and outings, before and after school coordinator (all paperwork, schedules, flyers, money collection). Kym assists with accreditation and school information gathering, ESA and STO funding support (expense reports), and is in charge of ESA credit card authorization forms (filled out and gathered). Kym helps with front office support, and participates in all aspects of the school community.



Peoria Office Manager

I am very excited to be a part of the new Peoria campus. I have worked in the private school education environment for 23 years. I have worked in many different capacities including Assistant to a Superintendent and as an Office Manager. I have watched many children over the years grow and develop their unique gifts and talents and I am so excited to get to know the children here and to watch them grow and development their gifts and talents as well.



Gilbert Office Manager

Barbara is responsible for the smooth and efficient operation of the school office. Barbara provides administrative assistance to the Director and school staff by managing the master calendar, the school’s financial transactions (tuition payments, petty cash, school fees, etc.), answering and screening phone calls, preparing correspondence and other written communication, receiving and responding to inquiries and requests, coordinating meetings and events, performing various personnel management functions, monitoring staff time and attendance , managing crisis situations, handling confidential information, and other related duties.



Speech Language Pathologist

Abby Timm received her Bachelor’s of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Arizona State University. She received her Master’s of Science in Clinical Speech Language Pathology from Northern Arizona University. She has worked with the ages of children through adults with various disabilities for the past 5 years in the private schools, as well as a private clinical setting. Abby is passionate about helping her students communicate as successfully as possible throughout their day. Abby is married and lives in Gilbert with her husband and son.




Gilbert Principal

Derrick Jamerson, M. ED, earned his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Ball State University, in Muncie, IN. Upon completion he taught 5th grade for six years. During that time he worked to complete his Master’s degree in Curriculum and obtained his Administrative certification. He has served as an administrator for the past 13 years of his career. He prides himself on being a servant leader that works to empower his staff and positively impact all students and families.



Gilbert Teacher

My name is Yvonne Hernandez and I am an Arizona native. This is my third school year with Autism Academy and I love walking into my classroom every day. Prior to starting at Autism Academy, I taught at a Montessori school for 12 years. I have been teaching for many, many years and love the excitement and energy I feel from the kids every day. I live in Tempe with my husband, three kids and 3-year-old granddaughter. I have a 23-year-old daughter, a 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. Outside of school, I am busy volunteering with various youth sports associations. On an average week my husband and I volunteer about 15 – 20 hours a week. We volunteer with Southeast Valley Youth Football, City of Tempe Ladyhawks softball, and Tempe Sister Cities. I feel honored and privileged to teach my students every day. I am passionate about the children in my classroom and I have so much joy in teaching them to love school, feel safe, and happy all while learning. Email Me!



Gilbert Teacher

Taylor Bates received her Bachelors of Science in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has worked with children and teens with various disabilities, including Autism, for nine years in school and recreational settings. Taylor has been a Self-Contained Functional Life Skills Teacher for two years in Illinois and is in her second year of teaching at the Autism Academy in Gilbert. Taylor is well practiced in various techniques including Applied Behavior Analysis, Discrete Trial Training, Pivotal Response Training, TEACCH, PECS, and Functional Routines. She is also practiced in several social and behavioral skills and programs, including the Zones of Regulation and PBIS. Taylor is passionate about her students, their parents, and their families, and will work diligently to meet their needs and make their experience at Autism Academy a positive one. Email Me!



Gilbert Teacher

Rebecca is originally from Massachusetts, but moved to Arizona in 2008. After graduating from high school at 16 years old, she attended Arizona State University and was captain of the competition cheer team. She graduated from ASU in 3 years with a bachelor’s degree in Speech & Hearing Sciences. She then worked for 2 years as a speech-language therapist for children with developmental disabilities and special needs. It was during this time where she developed a significant interest in Autism. Rebecca noted how closely communication and behavior were related. She decided to peruse her interest further and receive a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and also a graduate level certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders. She currently teaches the 1st-3rd grade academic class at the Gilbert campus and also facilitates the behavior collaboration at all three AAED campuses. Email Me!



Gilbert Teacher

I found my passion for teaching when I was 17 years old and it has been growing exponentially since then. I worked at the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center in their Community School as an Early Interventionalist. This allowed me to work with students as young as 18 months in foundational learning skills. With SARRC, I also worked in their F.R.I.E.N.D. Program for several years, facilitating the partial mainstreaming of students ages 5 years old – 12 years old. After graduating with honors from Arizona State University in 2014 with my BAE in Special Education and Elementary Education, along with a Structured English Immersion Endorsement, I began working at The Austin Center for Exceptional Students. At The ACES, I was a Rising Stars Teacher. I worked with extremely aggressive low-functioning junior high boys. This teaching experience allowed me to work on not only academics, but intense behavioral intervention as well. After leaving The ACES in 2015, I began working at AAED. I currently teach in a moderate classroom, grades 2 – 5. To further my expertise, I am currently pursing my masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis. Email Me!



Gilbert Teacher

Chris Brisco is a seasoned certified special education teacher. She has a Master’s Degree in Special Education from University of Phoenix and is a recently certified Life Coach from South West Institute of Healing Arts. She comes to Autism Academy with 13 years teaching experience. She also has 20 years of experience with children with special needs.

She graduated from Jessup University in 2002, the last year it was San Jose Christian College. She graduated with honors while running a large daycare from her home. Chris has taught at Crossroads Christian School in Morgan Hill, California for five years where she was a classroom teacher and helped direct musicals. She then moved to Arizona and taught one year at Avalon Charter School where she directed two “mini musicals” as well as taught in a “Reading First” classroom. For the past six years, Chris has taught at Leading Edge Academy. She is known for helping children reach their potential academically while helping them discover their own uniqueness and celebrating that with them. Chris believes when you lovingly set high expectations for students and you are consistent, students will achieve their best. Email Me!


Tempe Principal

Bob Rossi has spent over 35 years in education as a teacher, school counselor, Principal, Director of Schools and School CEO.  Dr. Rossi has also worked as a national consultant on school leadership and reform working in some of the most challenging schools in our country.  He was both a high school principal here and also in Danbury, CT where he led a major redesign effort in the largest high school in the state of over 3000 students and 200 teachers.  His work has received national attention at both conferences and leading educational publications.  He spent a good deal of his career as the varsity basketball coach and department chair in counseling at Alhambra High School in the west valley.  His passion for assisting students combined with his leadership experience are the perfect fit for our “Kids first” philosophy education students.



Tempe Teacher

I have been a high school math teacher of Algebra I, Algebra II for 4 years. I was a Missionary in Kislovodsk, Russia for 6 years with the Navigators, a non-denominational Christian group. We worked in orphanages, schools, and churches. We were some of the first to hand Bibles out to people in Russia. We were there right after communism fell, so it was the first time they had seen “foreigners.” I met my husband there and we adopted our first son from one of the orphanages that we worked with while in Russia.

I was a Houseparent in a boys’ home in Chestnut Mountain, GA for three years. We lived with 7 boys full-time, ages 12-18, and by then, we had 3 children of our own. We moved to Oklahoma where my husband pastored a church. I stayed at home for a few years, and then worked part time as a Deputy Court Clerk, and a church secretary. I led the women’s ministry, the children’s ministry, and anything else that the church needed!

We moved to AZ, where I became the receptionist for Leading Edge Academy. The following year, I transferred to their Queen Creek campus to teach high school math, and then became the high school math and science teacher at the Autism Academy. Email Me!


Leslie Dille

Tempe Teacher

Leslie Dille graduated from Arizona State University with her bachelor’s degree in Sociology. After graduation, she moved back home to Chicago and she decided to return to school to obtain her Master’s degree in Special Education from Lewis University. She decided to move back to the desert and accepted a position teaching in a self contained high school classroom with students on the Autism Spectrum. Over her four years teaching in the self contained classroom, she was able to develop and implement a life skills and vocational work experience program allowing students to work out in the community. She is excited to bring her past experiences and community rapport with her to the A+ Autism Academy. Email Me!



Tempe Teacher

Hello my name Lauren Norman and I am a native Arizonan, raised right here in Tempe. I had come to AAED after spending four years in the Casa Grande School District working as a special education resource teacher. The past three of those years I was the special education team leader at Cottonwood Elementary School. I worked primarily with 4th and 5th graders and with many different disabilities including learning disabilities, emotional disorders and autism. I also have over 18 years of experience raising a daughter who is on the autism spectrum. Email Me!



Tempe Teacher

Jennifer Sevier began teaching in the A+AED middle school program in 2014. She has spent her career working with students who have special needs. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and completed a graduate-level teacher preparation program at California State University, Fullerton. Before earning her teaching certification, Jennifer worked as a paraprofessional for a private high school for students with ASD and neurological disorders. Prior to joining A+AED, Jennifer taught a diverse group of students at public schools in Huntington Beach, CA and Gilbert, AZ. Jennifer’s personal philosophy is that, with the right tools and support, all students can learn and make significant progress. She is experienced in ABA techniques and a firm believer in individualized, multi-sensory instruction. Jennifer lives in Gilbert with her husband and two Chihuahuas (Jack and Milo). Email Me!



Tempe Teacher

Cindi Gordon, M. Ed. has been working with children and teens for the past 11 years in several different capacities: a juvenile detention officer, a special education classroom aide, and as a self-contained special education teacher. Cindi has worked with students with varying disabilities and has successfully created classrooms that assist in insuring calm, positive, structured, and student-focused learning environments. As a parent of an adult child with ASD, Cindi’s passion is student success and she works diligently to guide her students to meet and surpass their goals. Cindi differentiates all activities to ensure student understanding and promote growth within the classroom. She is knowledgeable in ABA, including DTT and PRT. Cindi works closely with students, parents, teachers, related service providers, and classroom aides to ensure student success in all areas. Email Me!



Tempe Teacher 

This is my 2nd year teaching with A+ Academy and my 6th year teaching special education. I have taught in a resource classroom in Coolidge, and as a co-teacher and resource teacher in Higley Unified School District. I went to Grand Valley State University in Michigan and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Special education. I moved to Arizona from Michigan in 2011 to teach. I’ve wanted to be a special education teacher since I was 13 years old and have loved every minute of my teaching career. My favorite part of teaching is helping students to see their full potential and making sure that they are prepared and confident for their futures! Email Me!



Tempe Teacher

My name is Denise Sanetra.  I recently moved to Arizona from Chicago, Illinois.  I have been visiting Arizona for the past 23 years and when my daughter decided to move here to attend school, I decided it was time to make the move as well.  I was inspired to become a teacher, when I was given the opportunities to help out and be involved in many aspects of my own children’s learning at their school.   Special Education became my focus, when one of my own children needed extra support inside and outside the classroom. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Special Education at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and a Certificate in Transition from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.  For the past 7 years, I have been working at a Therapeutic Day School for kids on the Autism Spectrum.  I worked primarily with grades 9-12, and 12+ (18-21), teaching academics/vocational training. This is my first year with A+ Academy, and I couldn’t be happier to work with such wonderful staff, parents and students. Email Me!




Peoria Principal

Shawn U. Davis, M. ED, received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Augusta State University, in Augusta, Ga. She taught elementary for 5 years then she went on to receive her Master’s degree in Education Administration at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Mass. She has 17 years of experience in the field of education and she has been on numerous boards and has received countless awards for her work in education and leadership. Ms. Davis is a champion for children and she prides herself on being an advocate for children. Her main goal in education is to see every child achieve their full potential in school and in life



Peoria Teacher

My name is Jamie Sowder and I am entering my 12th year of teaching. I have been fortunate to teach grades 4 and 5 over the span of my career, teaching general education students along with students who have special needs all in one classroom with the Gilbert Public School District. I have had the pleasure of teaching all academic areas while making accommodations within the classroom for many different learning styles and levels. I have had many wonderful experiences over my teaching career and am looking forward to making new memories with the Autism Academy. Email Me!


Peoria Teacher

I have been working with children with special needs for three years. This year will be my fourth. I am currently working towards becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Currently I am working with Autism Academy’s life skills classroom. Email Me!



Peoria Teacher

My name is Anne-Marie Anderson and I teach the Kindergarten-3rd grade academic classroom at our Peoria location. I recently moved here from Columbus, Ohio. I completed my undergraduate degree at Ohio University in Athens,Ohio. I majored in Moderate-Intensive Special Education. The following year I worked as a Fellow for the University and completed my Masters degree in Early Childhood Intervention Studies. This is my second year teaching and throughout the years I’ve worked in preschool-high school classrooms. I moved to Phoenix to explore my passion for teaching and traveling! Email Me!


Peoria Teacher

Alex Ladensack currently has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Arizona State University Tempe Campus.  Alex is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Special Education at Arizona State University West Campus and is due to graduate in the Fall of 2017.  Alex started at Autism Academy as a paraprofessional and is currently a classroom teacher at the Peoria campus.  Alex enjoys watching football, hockey, baseball and golf in his free time and is a die hard Minnesota Vikings fan (his room is Vikings themed).  Alex started working with individuals with Autism when he worked for S.E.E.K. Arizona as a direct care provider.  He decided to move from in-home care to the school in order to work with more individuals on a daily basis. Email Me!