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Meet our Dedicated Learning Specialists

At the Joy of Learning, all of our teachers are experienced professional educators who have dedicated their careers to effective reading, writing, and math instruction for students with diverse learning styles. They have classroom teaching experience, advanced degrees in education, and are well versed in methods specific to supporting students with learning differences. Our specialists hold advanced training in Orton Gillingham Reading Instruction, which is the gold standard for teaching students with Dyslexia and struggling readers, as well as extensive training in teaching writing and math. All of our teachers are background checked and vaccinated for Covid, and Learning Specialists working in person can wear masks if requested. 

In Person: Boulder Metro area, or Virtual anywhere

I started the Joy of Learning because I am passionate about supporting students who learn differently.

As a classroom teacher, it broke my heart to see students struggle with frustration and low self esteem because they couldn't access the classroom curriculum, and I became dedicated to learning how how to support these students. I got a Certificate in Educational Therapy through the University of California Riverside, trained in Orton Gillingham through IMSE, and pursued my Masters in Literacy and Dyslexia through the International Dyslexia Association Accredited program at the University of Central Arkansas. 

The other Learning Specialists on the team and I have devoted our careers to effectively teaching students with learning differences, and approach our work with genuine enthusiasm, expertise, and warmth.

Providing your child with the tools they need to succeed academically is a gift that will last them a lifetime. Speak to us today about setting your child up with a learning specialist who can help them thrive. 

Jordan Burns

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Karen Jones

I am a former Boulder Valley School District elementary teacher with 25 years of experience. My background is in English Language Development, Literacy, and teaching kindergarten and second grade. I hold a MA in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education, as well as a Colorado Teaching License. I am trained in the Orton Gillingham approach through OGA (Orton Gillingham Academy) and IMSE (Institute for Multi-Sensory Education).  I also have training in Leveled Literacy Intervention, Wilson Fundations, and Advantage+Math.  I have a passion for teaching literacy and math, and as a tutor, I especially love designing engaging lessons that address the needs and learning styles of the individual student. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, reading, and home improvement projects.

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Kristin Mullen 

My name is Kristin Mullen and I have been a Credentialed Classroom teacher for over 20 years.  I have worked as both a K-5 classroom teacher and a literacy interventionist.  I graduated from the University of California-Davis and I have been trained in the IMSE (Institute for Multi-Sensory Education) Orton-Gillingham for the Comprehensive and Morphology training.  I am passionate about literacy and helping to create successful readers.In my free time, I enjoy biking, walking, reading, and hiking. I am available to tutor in person in the Boulder Valley area.


Natalie Anderson

My name is Natalie Anderson.

I am a full time Special Education and love my job and the opportunity to make a difference everyday. I am very outgoing and energetic. I hold my students to a high standard of excellence, and have fun during the process. I look forward to getting to work with your child and family!

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Jaime Updegraff

My name is Jaime Updegraff. I have 15 years of teaching experience, and currently work at a middle school in St. Vrain as a literacy teacher and math interventionist. I have a BA in English, an MA in literacy, and am certified to teach elementary school, secondary language arts, and special education. I taught high school English for five years early in my career; then after ten years of staying home with my three children, I returned to the classroom as an elementary special education teacher and now as a literacy teacher. 


I have completed several OG trainings and have created resources to work on these skills with secondary students in an appropriate and engaging way. My passion is designing and tailoring lessons that meet students' individual needs and cater to their unique interests and  learning styles. Ultimately, my goal when working with students is not only to improve their skills but also to build their confidence and foster a love of reading. 


When not in the classroom, I enjoy gardening, swimming, and spending time with my husband, my beagle Louie, and my three teenagers (whenever they will let me). 

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Patience Thomas

My lifelong career as a teacher of reading is built upon the philosophy that books become friends when taught with enthusiasm and a systematic approach which leads to enjoyment and endless possibilities. It is my goal to make learning both engaging and fun. I believe that important ingredients to success are seeds planted and nurtured in warm, well cultivated ground for the students, parents, and teachers. Good communication is of the essence. 

My educational background is a BA in English and American Literature from Brown University in Providence, RI.  I went on to receive my Masters in Education specializing in Learning Disabilities from the University of Maine. 

I hold certification in The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education Comprehensive Orton-Gillingham Plus as well as Wilson Language Program as a Dyslexia Practitioner.  I have done further training with Linguistic Remedies. 

My experience runs the gamut of K-12 and adult literacy. I have enjoyed a wide variety of teaching experiences for over thirty years.   In the public schools, I taught special education and gifted education.  In addition, I taught on two Indian Reservations, English as Second Language to Indochinese refugees, and developmental reading and writing on the university level. 

Nine years ago, I retired and moved to CO to be near my daughter and 9 year old grandson. I have been tutoring reading and writing to students in Boulder Valley since that time which has been a joy.

In Person: Denver Metro area, or Virtual anywhere

Jen Kaciuba

My name is Jen Kaciuba and I am an experienced and dedicated reading tutor with a wealth of knowledge spanning over 8 years in the field of education.I currently reside in Golden Colorado.  I am a certified K-9 elementary teacher and am currently pursuing my M.Ed in Literacy instruction to further elevate my expertise. I have been trained in Orton Gillingham, Structured Literacy and Science of Reading strategies and have been using them to teach explicit and effective reading instruction. My passion lies in cultivating a love for reading among my students, empowering them to embark on a journey of lifelong learning. When not teaching, I love being outside and taking advantage of the beautiful state of Colorado. I  like hiking, rafting, skiing, and gravel biking. I love working with students and being able to help them find confidence in their own literacy skills!

I am available to tutor in-person in the Golden/Westminster/Wheatridge/Denver areas!


Laurel Fowler

I look forward to working with your student. I have a background of teaching preschool for 10 years and elementary for 10 years, K-5th grades. I have a BS in Elementary Education and a Colorado Teacher’s License. I use the Wilson Fundations curriculum and am certified in the Science of Reading.  I look forward to helping your student make progress.  I hope to partner with you to help your children bloom and grow. We have three wonderful children Emily 29, Ben 26, Joel 22.  We also have a lovable dog Lily.   I enjoy being outside in the mountains hiking, and biking.  I also love to share God’s creation in photographs.


Fort Collins

Scott Barret

Scott is a Special Education Teacher in Fort Collins, and is trained in Orton Gillingham Reading Intervention. 

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Bay Area


Maryann Doudna

Maryann is an experienced elementary educator who has supported students in the Bay Area as a classroom teacher and private tutor for the past 9 years.  She holds a M.Ed. from USF and is currently completing a masters degree in reading instruction. She has completed extensive training in both structured literacy and Orton Gillingham instruction.  Her teaching philosophy is grounded in the science of reading and she is passionate about providing individualized instruction to meet the unique needs of each learner.  When not supporting students, she enjoys spending time with her 14 year old dog Jackie and trying new recipes.

Virtual Only


Brenna Blazis

Brenna Blazis is a passionate educator who loves to utilize her experiences and tools to develop successful lifelong learners. Brenna will work alongside your child's strengths and interests to create engaging virtual lessons to address their learning needs to build all content area skills. 

Her career in education stemmed from her own successes and struggles in elementary and middle school. To better serve the needs of all students regardless of setting, Brenna received my bachelor's degree in Special and Elementary Education from the University of Evansville.

As a continual learner, she has refined her practices through programs like Reaching All Reader, PilotEd Curriculum Fellowship, Rollins Center for Language, and more. Brenna worked in different capacities within education over the last 12 years in both the United States and abroad.She especially loved sharing her passion for quality education for all, as a curriculum writer and teacher trainer with the Peace Corps Liberia and the Dominican Republic. In the United States, Brenna holds multiple teaching certificates from the state of Georgia in both elementary and special education P-12. In the US, Brenna has taught all subjects in various inclusive and self-contained special education settings. As an educator, she works with her students to build not only social, emotional, and academic skills but also self-advocacy.


Brenna's lessons are rooted in self-advocacy, a growth mindset, and research-based practices to best meet the needs of each learner. Over her time with Joy of Learning, she has developed a skill set to work with older learners, especially on spelling, reading, writing composition, math, and organizational skills. Brenna currently has  availability to work with students during the day. Brenna is excited to  work with your child to build their skills together through virtual lessons! 


Kristel Turnquist

My name is Kristel Turnquist and I have 22 years of teaching experience in the field of Elementary Education. I have a BS in Elementary Education and a MA in Special Education.I began my teaching career as a Special Education teacher in 4th and 5th grade and then transitioned to a 1st and 2nd grade classroom teacher. I have a passion for teaching children how to read. I am certified in Orton Gillingham and received my training through the Institute of Multisensory Education. With my years of working in the classroom, I understand student's needs and strive to find the best approach to make a child successful in whatever they are learning. I am an interactive and supportive tutor using a multisensory approach to learning to ensure that a student's needs are met and that their learning experience is both fun and informative.

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