U.S. Special Education Advisory Committee

The U.S. Special Education Advisory Committee, established in New York in 2010, brings together dedicated professionals working in the field of special education to advise and assist the Government of Bhutan on the development of special education. Working directly with all relevant stakeholders from the government, CSOs, and SEN schools, the Advisory Committee successfully continues to elevate the level of public awareness, technical assistance and capacity building.

The Advisory Committee has recruited, oriented and trained teams of specialists to provide embedded training in SEN schools, lead conferences and workshops with SEN schools as well as Stakeholders, and provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Education. The Advisory Committee and its specialist teams trained over 800 teachers and administrators from 2009 – 2015.

Mr. Rudolph Laager

In 2007, Ruedi and his wife, Alix, launched this project, introducing special education for children with disabilities to the Kingdom of Bhutan and form the US Special Education Advisory Committee to Bhutan. Ruedi started his career working for several international luxury hospitality companies. As an entrepreneur he then formed LuKaDa International before acquiring InterNutra LLC, a Medical Nutrition Company which he later sold. Today Ruedi is working in nonprofit management and is on several nonprofit boards addressing pressing issues for the population at risk in today’s world. Ruedi received a bachelor of science degree in hotel management from the Hotel School in Lausanne, Switzerland.

learn more

Mrs. Alix Laager

Alix is the third generation of her family to be involved with development projects in Bhutan. Her experience as the parent of a child with special needs is at the core of her interest in helping Bhutan develop educational programs for children with special needs. Her previous work includes being assistant director of The Asia Society Southern California Center, serving for several years in hotel operations and sales, working as a travel agent, and as a paralegal. She is a graduate of Smith College and The New York School of Interior Design. Alix is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Campaign for the Westchester Children’s Museum and also serves on the Board of the Special Education Parent Teacher Association in their local school district.

learn more

Ms. Kim McCormack

Kim is the senior administrator for the Special Education Program under the U.S. Special Education Advisory Committee to Bhutan as well as an Education Advisor to the Bhutan Foundation. Invited by Bhutan’s Ministry of Education, Kim lived in Bhutan and established the Special Education Program throughout its first two years and since travels there yearly. She co-authored an article, “Lessons from Bhutan: Embrace Cultural Differences to Effect Change” in the Journal of Staff Development. Through her company Creative Curiosity Inc and as a Kennedy Center workshop leader, she shares her expertise in arts integration, curriculum development and special education. Kim holds a BA of art and design with honors from Leeds Polytechnic, England and is also an internationally acclaimed multi-media artist and designer.

learn more

Ms. Tshering Yangzom

Ms. Tshering Yangzom is a program manager for the Bhutan Foundation in Washington, DC and also serves on the Bhutan Foundation’s Special Education Advisory Committee. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, and previously worked in the Histology Department at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan, and as a journalist at the Bhutan Times, a national newspaper. At Westminster College, she was actively involved with the Missouri School for the Deaf and the NGO, Reading is Fundamental (RIF). Earlier, while at the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, Tshering also volunteered at local hospitals in the Washington, DC, area and interned on Capitol Hill and with the Center for Teaching Peace. Tshering plans to pursue a career in public health.

learn more

Ms. Laurie Levine

From the Bhutan Foundation’s first Special Education Conference in 2009, Laurie has provided professional development in special education in Bhutan. She co-authored an article, “Lessons from Bhutan; Embrace Cultural Differences to Effect Change,” in the Journal of Staff Development. As a regional special education training specialist working for the New York State Education Department, Laurie has provided technical assistance and training for parents of students with disabilities. She has a master’s degree in learning disabilities from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a master’s degree in supervision and administration from College of New Rochelle.

learn more

Dr. Alison Telsey

Dr. Telsey has spent several summers in Bhutan, working with educators and government officials to expand the educational programs for children with special needs. She co-authored an article, “Lessons from Bhutan; Embrace Cultural Differences to Effect Change,” in the Journal of Staff Development. Alison has worked for Southern Westchester BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Education Services) as a professional development specialist for over 27 years. She is a licensed psychologist, with certifications in special education, deaf education and more. She has a PhD in psychology from New York University and a master’s degree in special education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

learn more

Mr. Kerry McKenna

Kerry is a consultant with specialized experience in transition planning and career development for students with disabilities. Kerry also serves on the Bhutan Foundation’s US Special Education Advisory Committee. He worked most of his career at Southern Westchester BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Education Services) where he was the Hudson Valley Region Transition Coordinator. Kerry earned a BS in psychology from SUNY Buffalo, MS in Special Education from the College of New Rochelle, and an MS in Educational Administration from Pace University. He has served as an adjunct professor in special education at the College of New Rochelle and Dominican College. 

learn more

Dr. Abby Bergman

Abby serves on the Bhutan Foundation’s US Special Education Advisory Committee and has been involved with the Special Education Program as an advisor to the schools in Bhutan that provide services to children with disabilities. Involved in the field of education for over 44 years, Abby is now an independent consultant who specializes in educational evaluation and strategic planning. Initially an elementary school teacher, he also taught at the university level. His degrees include a bachelor of arts degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. Abby has authored several books in the areas of science education and school administration.

learn more

Mr. Richard Swierat

Executive Director of Westchester ARC for the past 26 years, Ric frequently speaks at state and national meetings on such topics as guardianship, quality metrics, corporate compliance, person-centered planning in residential and vocational services, board training, family advocacy and the development and management of direct service worker career systems. His degrees include a BS in sociology from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, an MA in special education from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an MS in special education from the State University College at Buffalo, and work towards a PhD in administration and decision management sciences at Walden University.

learn more