Board of Directors

Board of Directors


Brian Pittenger is a Finance MBA with 25 years’ leadership experience in industries such as Retail, Wholesale, Banking and Healthcare.   He is currently an independent Management Consultant working throughout the Twin Cities area.   His first book, The Money Button, was published in 2018 and focuses on teaching leaders how to drive new ideas and new innovation in complex organizations.   His wife, Pam, was an educator at Groves Academy in the early 2000’s and the family’s passion to support education and literacy still burns strong.   He has been a Board Member for IDA-UMB since 2015.



Andrew Kempski is an experienced finance professional currently working at UNFI/Supervalu. He has an MBA in Finance from the University of St. Thomas and has worked within the Retail, Wholesale, Energy Management, and Security industries. Andrew recently married his beautiful wife Jennifer and lives in Chaska Minnesota. He joined the Board for IDA-UMB in 2018..



Jennifer Bennett, M.S., is a Licensed Psychologist who focuses her work on neuropsychological and educational assessment, including diagnostic testing for dyslexia.  At BrainWorks, P.A., her private practice, she conducts comprehensive evaluations with people ages 5-100 who are experiencing difficulties related to learning, information processing, and cognitive development. In addition to dyslexia, Jennifer’s areas of expertise include dysgraphia, dyscalculia, attention disorders, nonverbal LD, auditory processing difficulties, Autism Spectrum Disorders including Asperger’s Syndrome, and other neuropsychological concerns that affect thinking, learning, and communication. Jennifer attended Gustavus Adolphus College for her undergraduate studies and then moved on to North Dakota State University, where she earned her graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. Since obtaining her professional license in 1995, she has provided psychological assessment services at the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (both inpatient and outpatient settings), Learning and Language Specialists, and now at BrainWorks, P.A. She has been on the Board of Directors for the IDA Upper Midwest Branch since January 2014.



Member at Large

Jennifer Tepley has been a career educator, mother, volunteer, and vocal advocate of social, human, and women’s rights. Born in Gibbon, Minnesota, and the youngest of four sisters, Jennifer’s proud roots were as an adventurous small town farm girl. As she grew older, she realized a passion for educating and for equal rights for women and all human beings. In 1970, as a teacher in health and physical education, she instituted the first women’s athletic program in Hastings, Minnesota. She later ended her teaching career working with adults to obtain their GED’s and diplomas in addition to teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). As a mother, Jennifer dealt with raising a young daughter diagnosed at an early age with auditory dyslexia, and was instrumental in researching and executing effective solutions to dealing with the ailment. She now resides in Chaska, Minnesota with her husband, David, and is actively involved in local volunteer and social programming that align with her passion for human right.   She has been a Board Member of IDA since 2018.


Member at Large

Alissa Henriksen is the Co-owner and Founder of Grey Search + Strategy, an executive recruiting company headquartered in the Minneapolis area.  She was diagnosed with auditory dyslexia as a 7 year old and with support, tutoring, and hard work she was able to conquer every obstacle that was supposed to hold her back from ever getting a job, living on her own, speaking a second language, and just having the confidence to independent and have success!   Alissa has been a Board Member for IDA-UMB since 2017.


Member at Large

Dr. Donna M. Johnson is an assistant professor of education at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota. She loves reading and learning and is zealous about introducing both children and university students to the world of books and the pursuit of knowledge. Her undergraduate degree in elementary education is from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. While earning her master’s degree in special education at Minnesota State University Mankato, she was trained in Orton-Gillingham and has used (and continues to use) this method to instruct many emergent and struggling readers. Her educational doctorate is from the University of South Dakota. During her 40-year career, Dr. Johnson has taught in public and private K-12 schools in Minnesota and South Dakota in both special and general education classrooms. She also homeschooled her three daughters. Dr. Johnson has presented at state and national conferences for the Council of Learning Disabilities (CLD), the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA), and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Before joining the board of IDA Upper Midwest Branch, she served on the board of the South Dakota Learning Disabilities Association and, with her husband, on the board of the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators and the Hillsdale College Parents Board. Besides reading, her interests include travel, baking, and antiques.


Member at Large

Dr. Jeanne E. Danneker, Professor Emerita, from Winona State University earned her BS degree in Elementary Education and Learning Disabilities from Winona State University, her MS degree in Emotional Behavioral Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and her Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She taught children with learning and behavior challenges in public schools for 18 years and taught in special education teacher preparation at U-W La Crosse and WSU for 17 years. Jeanne completed Basic and Advanced Orton-Gillingham training programs from the Rochester Reading Center and taught the reading courses for the Special Education Department at WSU. She joined the IDA-UMB Board of Directors in April 2018.

Member at Large

Dr. Shelly Bayer is the Assistant Director for the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning at South Dakota State University where she works with faculty and graduate teaching assistants to create a culture of teaching excellence by promoting evidence-based strategies and encouraging professional and personal growth mindsets. Shelly earned her B.A. in English Education from South Dakota State University, her Masters of Education in Literacy (Certified Reading Specialist) from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, and her doctorate in Education Administration – Adult & Higher Education through the University of South Dakota. Prior to her current employment, Shelly taught in public schools in Brookings, SD and Las Vegas, NV.  Her educational background combined with her son’s identification as a dyslexic learner has inspired her to work to create environments and systems that embrace the strengths of every learner and value each learner’s contributions to the process. Shelly joined the IDA-UMB Board of Directors in April 2018.

Member at Large

Emei Thompson is a recent graduate from Lawrence University with a biology (field ecology) major and anthropology minor. In college, she supported her peers through Lawrence’s Center for Academic Success and launched a website for her undergrad Senior Capstone ( that caters towards students with learning differences, and the teachers/professors and parents who serve them. Emei is currently conducting bison behavior research with a post-doctoral student she connected with through her work at the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. She thrives despite severe dyslexia and an auditory processing disorder, and has first-hand experience successfully navigating the lifelong academic, social and emotional challenges related to her learning disabilities. Emei has never let dyslexia define her, and has learned to advocate strongly for herself and all students. In return, she has been recognized for her advocacy efforts—including a Minnesota Youth Literacy Leader award and a Council for Exceptional Children’s International “Yes I Can” award. Emei has been a board member since 2018.

Member at Large

Sarah Carlson-Wallrath is the Development Director at The Reading Center/Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota in Rochester, MN. She earned a JD from Hamline University and a BA from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sarah has prior experience working in the state legislature in Minnesota and as an attorney in private practice. She has two children, one of whom has learning differences.   Sarah joined the IDA-UMB Board in 2018.

Member at Large

Sam Thorson currently works as a Content Manager for a digital marketing agency in Sioux Falls, SD. Growing up with dyslexia, he experienced first-hand the challenges that go along with a having a learning disability in grade school. After going off to college at the University of Augustan, Sam joined a local volunteer group called W.I.L.D as a mentor for children with dyslexia, ADD, and ADHD. He then became a Board Member for the IDA-UMB in 2017. Today Sam enjoys spending time with his lovely wife Sarah and little boy Otto.

Member at Large

After successfully finding a solution to her son Haley’s learning challenges, Kari Bucholz was determined to help others with what is the most common yet most misunderstood learning difference; dyslexia. In 2010, Kari opened the doors to Haley’s Hope, a non-profit center dedicated to changing how people recognize and understand the way those with dyslexia learn. Through years of personal experience, intensive training and advanced educational, her knowledge of dyslexia is extensive and her desire to share and educate never ceases. She has been a Board member since 2018.

Member at Large

Rachel Daley has earned her MA.Ed from Concordia University in Curriculum and Instruction along with a Minnesota K-12 Reading Specialist licensure, in addition, she hold a teaching license in Early Childhood Education through bachelor studies/coursework within the Minnesota State College system. Rachel has taught in the Early Childhood Education program at Minnesota State College Southeast since 2010, additional career experiences include family childcare, nanny, director of religious education, childcare trainer, preschool teacher, foster parent, and substitute teacher. Rachel is the parent of child with dyslexia and dyscalculia and she has studied through Susan Barton dyslexia screening program, ASDEC multisensory math, and Dyslexia Training Institute. She been a Board Member for IDA-UMB since 2017.

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