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Andrea Shoap
DIR-Advanced

School Founder/Director 

Andrea Shoap is White Clay School's, Founder and Executive Director. She graduated from Penn State in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a minor in Biology. Andrea went directly into teaching and taught in various grades for a few years in the Kennett Square and Avon Grove school districts, as well as in the Tower Hill School in Wilmington, DE. Andrea and her husband Michael then spent two years at the Iraklion Air Force Base on the island of Crete, where Andrea taught for the Department of Defense.

Andrea and Michael returned home to the U.S. in 1992. She opened up her preschool in 1993, just after her first child was born, in order to provide the best of schools for her children, as well as other families who were interested in an individualized alternative approach to education. After several years of evolving and perfecting her program, White Clay School became an accredited K-12 nonpublic school in 2000 and an accredited DIR school in 2022. Andrea over the years has followed the latest science in child educational development and has taken a wide variety of trainings in: Play Therapy,  Trauma Crisis Intervention, Developmental Individual Differences Relationship-based/Floortime and specific learning disabilities.  

Andrea continues guide her school and certified staff as one that provides excellence in development and growth for neurodiverse learners, through understanding, differentiating and enhancing learning strengths and deficits in all of her students.  She has received her Advanced Level 3 certification as  DIR/Floortime coach and has completed Stuart Shanker's and Susan Hopkin's Self Reg 101 course for Safe Haven Schools . Andrea continues her love of teaching young people and recruiting/training the most brilliant certified specialists and experts who share her school's approach as they continually introduce the latest in programming at White Clay.

Andrea and her husband Michael have three adult kids (Wesley, Seth and Phoebe),  all of whom spent their elementary and middle school years with her at White Clay, being educated by Andrea and her team. These original White Clay students are now two surgeons and a speech and language pathologist, and her most supportive WC alumni. Michael and she still  live in the family's renovated barn in the heart of the White Clay Creek Preserve in Landenberg, PA. Besides her family, Andrea is passionate about running and yoga, riding her horses, knitting, hiking, gardening and always keeping up on the latest that child development and educational research has to offer.

Our Lead Faculty

                      Jill Kern, M.ED DIR-FT /P          
     Curriculum and Intervention Supervisor             Cert. Soc/ Em Beh Wellness K-12                                                                                                                                                                         

Colette Ryan MSEd IMH-E, IFS,
                      DIR-Expert

                Child Development

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 Meghan Perricone MS-CCC-SLP                               DIR-FT
Speech and Language Pathologist

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Jill grew up in Northumberland County before graduating from Elizabethtown College with a bachelor's degree in Child Psychology.  Following Elizabethtown College, she obtained her masters of education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in reading

disorders from Wilmington University.  She has completed her  Masters in Applied Family and Child Science with a concentration on Trauma and Resilience through Wilmington University and is certified in Trauma Informed Care (TIC). Jill is currently working on her PhD in Early Childhood Development.

 

Jill has 10+ years teaching children in both the classroom setting and a one-to-one setting.   She has worked with individuals with a wide range of diagnoses including autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, trauma, and ADHD.

 

Jill is Orton-Gillingham certified through the Orton-Gillingham Academy.  She also has training in vision difficulties and the effect they have on children’s reading abilities. 
 

               Tracy Gable M-ED 
        ES-CCN2 Lead Teacher and 
     ES-CCN Curriculum Supervisor

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Colette has a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Colette is an Infant Mental Health Fellow at Montclair State University, a Ph.D. student at Fielding University, and a New York State-endorsed Infant Family Specialist. She was an educator in the field of Autism for over 25 years and is now an Infant Mental Health Therapist. Colette has worked with individuals of all ages along with their families for many years. She has spoken at many conferences in the US and around the world on topics including Social-Emotional Development, DIRFloortime, Discipline, Play, and Child Development. Colette is an Expert Level Therapist at the ICDL Institute in Livingston NJ, and a world traveler, who brings DIRFloortime to children and families everywhere.

Meghan is a certified Speech Language Pathologist with professional experience in public schools, private schools, pediatric outpatient, short term rehab and home health therapy settings.  She earned her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Penn State University in 2001. Meghan has experience working with children with apraxia, articulation and phonological disorders, executive function disorders, language disorders, fluency disorders, autism, and AAC.  She has a passion for teaching social skills and is always researching new content to implement into therapy sessions.  She is an ASHA ACE award recipient.  Meghan has completed the DIR 201 certification course and also has her Gestalt Language Learner certification. She is a certified yoga instructor and enjoys bringing her therapy dog Izzy to school while working with the students. 

           Franco Piperis
Emotional Health Counselor
       

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   Melissa LaPearl,
ES 1 Lead Teacher

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Tracey has a Master’s degree in School Counseling and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and over 25 years of experience in education. Alternative models of education have been her specialty and she has taught at-risk youth, served as an early intervention therapist, geriatric cognitive interventionist, and her passion, working with, and teaching special needs children, particularly on the Autism spectrum. She has worked with children with a wide range of diagnoses such as dysgraphia, dyslexia, ADHD, social-emotional disorders, ASD, and trauma. She has used Montessori Methodology in her teaching and completed her dissertation on Montessori integration and how to train others to utilize these methods to increase cognitive function and achieve optimal social-emotional health in a learning environment. She specializes in executive function and sensory integration and believes that learning happens when a child is well-regulated in body, mind, and spirit.  She believes that the education of a child is an organic experience where the child feels safe and calm and part of a learning community.  

In her free time, Tracey can be found on a running trail and spending time with her children and husband.

Franco Graduated from West Chester University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.  He worked at the Glen Mills Schools for 16 years as a counselor/teacher, and GED teacher/ Coordinator. Franco also worked a year at Valley Youth House as a life Skills Counselor, and 2 years at the Kennett High School as a Special Education I.A. in the Life Skills classroom. Franco has  completed  the Trauma Informed Training through Classroom 180 and is presently completing his Trauma Informed certification through Bryn Mawr College. 

Susan Spotts COTA/L DIR-FT                              Lead  COTA

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 Melissa  moved from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania in 2014 and we’ve never looked back, especially with the much milder winters! I have been part of the White Clay School team for the last five years. I attended Bay Path University and APU and obtained my degree in Psychology.  I began my career as a Developmental Therapist assisting children who were experiencing developmental delays. I then moved to the public school system and began working as a Behavior Therapist.  During this time, I worked with a variety of grade levels ranging from K through 5th in both general and special education settings. I believe every child is unique and deserves a caring, inspiring and engaging atmosphere to grow emotionally, intellectually and socially.  Throughout my career, I have always strived to help the children I’ve worked with to meet their fullest potential.  Outside of school, I enjoy reading, going to the movies, traveling to warm beaches, shopping and spending time with my family and friends.                        

Phoebe Shoap MS CCC-SLP
                       DIR-FT
Speech anf Language Pathologist
     

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Phoebe is an ASHA Certified Speech Language Pathologist who received her masters degree in 2022 from New York University. Phoebe has a wide range of experience from working with the geriatric population in a Skilled Nursing Facility to working with the pediatric population in a school that specializes in the DIR/Floortime approach.. Phoebe is also certified in Gestalt Language Processing as well as the Integrated Listening System.  
As Andrea's daughter, she has been apart of The White Clay School’s journey  throughout her life - to include both as a student in her mom's school and then later as an assistant teacher. She is thrilled to be back now at White Clay as an SLP.  

Susan is a practitioner of occupational therapy who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Science from West Chester University and an associate’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Harcum College. She works with children as a school-based therapist and comes to the White Clay School with experience working with pediatrics, autism, environmental modifications, adaptive technology, hippo-therapy, emotional support, and learning disorders. Susan is known to use a holistic approach in her therapy sessions allowing her to connect and celebrate each individual.

    Nicolette Fatorri COTA/L DIR-FT
                                COTA

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Nicolette News grew up and resides in Delaware County. Nicolette has a bachelor’s degree in

Kinesiology from West Chester University and an associates degree from St. Catherine’s University in science and became a certified occupational therapy assistant, licensed in Pennsylvania. Since the passing of her boards, she has worked in early education and school-based therapy. Nicolette comes to White Clay with experience and passion for the life skills in addition to working with children diagnosed

with ASD, learning disorders and sensory processing disorder. Nicolette approaches each therapy session with compassion and empathy knowing that each child relates and learns at their own unique levels. Outside of school Nicolette enjoys spending time with her new husband and fur-babies.

   Molly Lynch OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

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              Dusan Segan DIR-FT
          ES-CCN Assistant Teacher 

Molly is a received her master's in occupational therapy from Ithaca College in 2019 and has been working in pediatrics ever since. Following graduation, she made the move to California to work in a neonatal intensive care unit and hone her skills in feeding therapy. From there she moved to Washington state to work within the school system and loved it. While out west was beautiful and the activities endless, family and home were calling. She took a brief break to travel for four months over the summer of 2023 and then made the move back to Pennsylvania following. Children have always held a special place in her heart and learning to see the world through their eyes makes her a better person and therapist. For fun she loves to travel, hike, run, act, do Yoga and of course, spend time with the people she loves.

 Morgan Baxter DIR-FT
     ES-CCN 1 Teacher

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Morgan graduated from West Chester University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a minor in Adapted Physical Activities. Before White Clay, she has worked with individuals with special needs for 5 years as a health and physical education trainer. She also has experience being an Independent Life Skills educator for youths in the foster care and juvenile probation systems. In her free time, Morgan enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and mountain biking. 

                  Claire Werkiser
       ES 4 Classroom Lead Teacher

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A Kennett Square native and the daughter of a veterinarian and a farrier, Claire Werkiser graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 after majoring in both English and Communications, as well as completing certificate programs in Children's Literature and Theatre. She received an MFA from New York University in 2019 and has previously taught creative writing at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and New York University. Her own creative work has earned publication, awards, fellowships, and residencies in multiple genres. She has worked as an editor for numerous literary journals and as the curator for the Emerging Writers Reading Series in Manhattan. Familial caregiving responsibilities brought Claire back to Chester County during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which she worked at a vaccination clinic and as a Teaching Assistant at Benchmark School in Media, PA. Claire has also completed her Trauma Informed training through Classroom 180.When not teaching at White Clay, Claire spends her time outdoors - foraging, kayaking, and trying to hug the wildlife. 

Kyra Sylvester DIR-FT
          ES Primary                     Teacher/SLPA

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Kyra graduated from West Chester University with a bachelors degree in Communication and Speech Disorders. She also has an associates in Psychology. Kyra came to White Clay after working 13 years as a certified nursing assistant. She lives in Wilmington, DE with her 4 boy, two cats and two dogs. Kyra enjoys shopping and riding motorcycles with her husband. 

Kara was born and raised in Delaware County, now resides in West Grove. She graduated from West Chester University with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. She has worked with children of all ages with a wide range of diagnoses. Kara has spent many years providing home school care to children with Autism and related disabilities. During this time, she with a family and the rest of the child's team began RISE for Autism, a nonprofit organization in Anne Arundel County, MD in 2011. She sat on the board until moving back to PA. Kara's passion is to nurture all children in a safe, supportive environment through education and play. She believes in a holistic approach in the classroom by recognizing the connectedness of mind, body and spirit.

In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, cooking and party planning. She loves to soak up all of her free time with her 9 year old daughter, husband and 4 year old chocolate labrador. They love to travel, take field trips, garden and play board games together.

                       Kara Tis
                 ES 3  Teacher

     Bill Marinelli
Transition Teacher

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  Melody Clark 
Transition Teacher

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Dusan grew up in Serbia where he earned a degree as a speech and language pathologist. He moved to the US five years ago and has since worked with students with special needs in reading and language arts. He most recently worked in Reading Assist and as an emotional support counselor and the Chester Charter School . He resides in Elkton, MD with his wife and new baby. 

Bill is a graduate of West Chester University. Bill started in the special needs community age 22 at the Devereux  school. There, he was a direct support professional and a class aid.  Bill moved up to be a program coordinator before his departure into the adult ASD world as a community integration specialist.  Bill then transferred to West Chester University as a store manger and job trainer for their autistic support program with their undergrads.  After 4 years in that program, Bill decided to get back into the school side of things at The White Clay School and has completed his Trauma Informed training through Classroom 180

             Emily Alberici
           Music Therapist MT-BC
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Emily  is a Board Certified Music Therapist and a certified k-12 music teacher. She received her Music Education degree from West Chester University, followed by receiving her Music Therapy Masters at Immaculata University. Emily also has extensive experience as a performer in various avenues including Disney World and Carnival Cruise Lines. This has provided her with a profound appreciation for the emotional resonance and communicative potential of music through performing. 

 

Driven by a desire to support the holistic well-being of students and people in the community, Emily pursued specialized training in music therapy, recognizing its potential to address a wide range of social, emotional, and cognitive needs. She is dedicated to creating inclusive and therapeutic musical environments where every student or client feels seen, heard, and valued. With a compassionate approach and a commitment to ongoing professional development, she is eager to collaborate with educators, parents, and students alike to harness the transformative power of music in fostering growth, healing, and connection within the school community and beyond. 

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