Josh Carpenter's teaching career began as a TEFL certified instructor for underprivileged children in Costa Rica, followed by paraprofessional work at a K-12 school for children with disabilities in San Diego, California. His experience grew when he taught middle school students with various disabilities at Darnall Charter school, a Title 1 school servicing students in kindergarten through eighth grade in California. While focusing on inclusion at Darnall, he completed his masters thesis on Vibroacoustic Therapy. His experience in Maryland includes Carl Sandburg Learning Center, a public elementary school for students with behavioral disabilities. He currently holds both a mild to moderate, and a moderate to severe Education Specialist credential in California, an Advanced Professional Certificate in Maryland and completed my Master of Special Education degree in 2016. Josh is the Director of our Weekend Enrichment & Respite Programs.
Current Program Staff
Haifa Aridi brings nearly 20 years of experience to UCR and is excellent with behavior management. She has grown to love and understand both children and adults with disabilities. She holds a degree in Elementary School Education from Montgomery College and is currently a para-educator with MCPS. Watch for Haifa at our Weekend Enrichment programs!
Emily Carpenter graduated from University of Rhode Island in 2005, with a Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies. In 2007, I moved to California where I found a job as a paraprofessional in a non-public school for students with special needs. After a few shorts weeks, I knew that working with these individuals was my calling in life, and I enrolled in a credentialing/graduate program at Point Loma University. I obtained two teaching credentials in special education (mild to moderate and moderate to severe) as well as my Master's Degree in Special Education at Point Loma University. I wrote my Master's thesis on the effects of Animal Assisted Therapy on students with special needs. I spent a year training my dog to work with my students, and studied the effects she had on various factors in my classroom. Once I received my first teaching credential, I was hired as a full time teacher at a K-12 school for students with special needs. The next year I was offered a position at a non-public school as a teacher for students with Autism. Here I helped develop life and social skills curriculum for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. For the past three years, I have been working in the Classic Autism program for Montgomery County Public Schools. I am experienced in using assistive technology, working with verbal and non-verbal students, as well as modifying and adapting curriculum.
Elizabeth Fagan has gained extensive experience working with people of varying disabilities through her employment with Montgomery County Public Schools as a Special Education Para-Educator. Beth is the parent of two young adults with different learning challenges. Watch for Beth at the Weekend Enrichment program and helping us behind the scenes.
Suzy Haug earned her Bachelor's Degree in Family Studies from the University of Maryland. She has worked as a Special Education Para educator for 28 years with MCPS. Her experience includes working with the Infant and Toddlers Program ,E.S. Autism Program, Carl Sandburg Learning Center, Pilot High School class for the School Community Based Program and The Transition Class for high school students. She is so thankful for the students and their families who have shaped her into the Educator she is today. Suzy enjoys the 1:1 Intensive WORKS program.
Kathy Clarke has 20 years’ experience working as a special education teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland where she helped preschool children achieve developmental milestones through creative and sensory-based education. She also served as a Parent Educator for the families of her students. She supported the families by taking them on community outings and developing behavioral supports. As a UCR WORKS Program Manager, Kathy is excited to help empower young adults with developmental differences by building self-confidence through hands-on work experiences. Prior to teaching, Kathy worked as the Managing Editor of a journal for deaf educators. She has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Humanistic Studies. In her free time, Kathy enjoys visiting her children and grandchildren in Boston, San Francisco, and downtown DC, taking walks with neighbors, and playing Pickleball.
Jacob Taylor is successfully establishing a professional career in the educational and sport fields. He is effective in developing skilled students or players with youth through collegiate levels in the classroom and on the baseball field. Jacob is a self-starter, able to work under pressure, builds strong relationships and is team oriented. He is creative with the ability to effectively communicate ideas or direction.
Jacob has worked as a classroom assistant in school and the community for 2 ½ years at the Kennedy Krieger Institute; a nonprofit institution specializing in working with populations affected by developmental, mental and emotional challenges. He prepares teaching materials, presents lessons and develops student skills. In addition, he is a one-on-one aid to 3 students and an in-home aid.
Jacob played 4 years of professional baseball, is currently on staff at BCC Baseball in Rockville, MD, Co-Camp Director for Doug Remer Camps in Silver Spring, MD.
Jacob has been an assistant and head baseball coach in Montgomery County Maryland and a collegiate baseball summer league coach. Jake facilitates our Guys Night Out program!
Chitra Vijayakumar is passionate about yoga and has more than 12 years studying techniques. Ms. Vijayakumar discovered Yoga to be helpful and wondered if someone could teach yoga to her son, who has autism. She was inspired by a Yoga instructor who was teaching to our population and signed up to become a certified yoga instructor herself.
In 2018 she became certified (200 RYT) through The Mindfulness Center in Bethesda and licensed through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching Yoga to family, coworkers, and individuals with special needs. By breaking asanas into simple steps and making yoga fun and accessible appreciates every sincere effort all special yogis make. You can experience her class as part of Weekend Enrichment Expressions! Ms. Vijayakumar has also worked for MCPS as a paraeducator.
Karen Wells has spent decades working as a special education paraeducator with Montgomery County Public Schools. She is graduate of Morgan State University where she studied speech pathology.
She is the mother of three adult triplets and four Yorkies!
Karen's favorite thing to do is go to the beach, fashion and going to the Caribbean. Her passion is teaching students with disabilities. We love her for her passion and energy with all students! Look for her at TGIF and our Weekend Enrichment programs!
UCR's Current Contractors
Emily Bruestle received her M.M. in Music Therapy from Florida State University and her B.M. in Violin Performance from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to being a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC), she completed a six-month clinical music therapy internship at HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama where she worked with patients recovering from brain injuries.
She is also certified in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Music Therapy. In addition to her violin studies, Emily has training in guitar, voice, and piano. Emily joined the music therapy department at Levine Music in August of 2015 where she leads individual and group music therapy sessions. Through Levine she also contracts to multiple community locations in the Washington metropolitan area. When she isn't providing music therapy services Emily enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, hiking, and traveling.
Emily leads our Rhythm, Blues and Beyond class.
Zachary Lasko After playing and teaching music professionally for over a decade, Zach now offers his creative talents to the team at MOCO Movement Center, a White Flint based center that integrates therapy with fun extra-curricular activities for children. Though these days he mostly works with children and teens, in the past Zach has enjoyed opportunities to contribute to adult based music and education projects as well. He is excited to partner with Upcounty Community Resources to provide the full rock band experience for all, bringing local professionals together with teen and adult music players and appreciators of all types, for an immersive and inclusive musical experience!
Zack leads Monday Night Jam13, NeuroDiversity Jam band and Glee Club.
Michael Favin is one of our most reliable volunteers. He is active with our Weekend Enrichment programs, WORKS Programs and Totally Great Inclusive Fun! He has been with UCR for several years and was the Volunteer of the Year in 2020.
Marianne Green comes to us as a volunteer! We're thrilled to have her in our therapeutic classes. She has extensive experience working with people with special needs and is very attentive and intuitive to the needs of our UCR adult members! We're excited Marianne will join our Weekend Enrichment / Respite Program. She was Volunteer of the Year in 2019.
Upcounty Community Resources, Inc
P.O. Box 2982
Germantown, MD 20875-2982