MEET THE TEAM
JENNIFER RAPP was born in Rhode Island. Her family found their way to Miami when she was only one year old. Since then Miami has been home. With a background in Early Childhood Education, her career began at a local private day school teaching Early Childhood. Her absolute favorite- two year olds! As life would have it, a very special student introduced her into the world of Autism. From that day on, she knew what she needed to do. Under the guidance and training of The Lovaas Institute, Jennifer spent 10 plus years working privately providing Applied Behavior Analysis therapy to private clients, all while continuing her career in Education. As a director of an Early Childhood school in Miami Beach, Jennifer was able to share her skills as a leader and administrator. The Missing Peace has always been a dream of Jennifer’s. Today, The Missing Peace, is who we are because of the incredible team we have built. Each and everyone of us, give everything we can to helping each client reach their full potential. Our mission is quality- we strive to be the best. When Jennifer isn’t working (which is never!) you can find her spending time with her family and friends, and traveling.
NATALIE ABKARIAN MOT/L, INPP is a bilingual pediatric occupational therapist, a proud mother of 2, and a native South Floridian. She completed undergraduate studies at Florida International University and received her master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University. She was chosen as the sole recipient in her graduating class of the distinguished Chancellors Award for “the student who best exemplifies the characteristics of scholarship, leadership, integrity, humanity, and loyalty to the profession”. After graduating, she continued to pursue a specialized certification in neurodevelopment and reflex integration. Natalie has practiced in a variety of clinical settings and has a wealth of pediatric experience. Most recently she has practiced as a concierge therapist providing one on one intervention to children across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Passionate about child development and the importance of play, Natalie uses a gentle child-led therapy style to build authentic relationships with her clients and their families. She also strongly believes in building a multi- disciplinary team in order to guarantee a whole child approach to intervention. She has formed professional relationships with some of the best clinicians in the community and is known to engage the expertise of doctors and therapists of different specialties to meet the unique goals of her clients. Natalie’s vision in joining The Missing Peace team is to provide multi-faceted, in depth developmental evaluating and treatment of underlying developmental areas such as reflex maturation, gross/fine motor development, sensory integration, vestibular processing, and visual motor skills in order to provide children with the foundational skills necessary for them to reach their best potential.
Making a difference one 'peace' at a time.
JAMIE ASKEN was born and raised in Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelors degree in Education from Westchester University and taught in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. She came to the Miami area with her husband and was thrilled to become part of The Missing Peace team. After three years in sunny Florida, she moved to Illinois where she still has the opportunity to enjoy working with wonderful students in Miami via Skype. She loves to see their progress and help them to use their strengths to guide their learning. On the weekends she likes going to Bears games and cherishes time spent with family and friends.
KATHERINE BORY was born and raised in South Florida. She received her Bachelors degrees in Elementary Education and her Masters degree in Reading Education, both from Nova Southeastern University. Katherine spent 10 years as a certified teacher in Broward County Public Schools. During this time in the classroom she discovered the Montessori philosophy and pursued her Specialist degree in the field at Barry University. She has dedicated herself to becoming a life-long educator and learner, and she strived to install a similar desire in all the students with whom she works. Katherine strongly believes that instruction must be designed to meet the needs of all students in order to ensure students success. When not working with her students, she loved traveling, yoga and spending time with her three daughters and husband. Katherine is very grateful to be a part of Missing Peace and looks forward to helping all clients reach their full potential.
MELISSA COOPER was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Georgia State University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education. Melissa has classroom experience both as a general education teacher and a special education teacher. She is trained in Orton Gillingham having taken both the beginner and intermediate level courses. She moved to Miami with her husband in 2010 and joined The Missing Peace in 2013. After deciding to expand their family, they moved back to Atlanta to be close to family. After taking some time to be home full time with her son, Melissa is thrilled to be back with The Missing Peace. During her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her three-and a half year old son and husband.
CASSIE CAYON born and raised in South Florida. Cassie is a reading specialist, trained in Orton Gillingham. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Nova University. Cassie has been working with children since her junior year of college. For the past three years, Cassie worked in a bridge program for elementary students, where she found her passion in helping children acquire strategies to enhance their learning skills. Though most of her experience is in the classroom, she came to realize the benefits students have when working one on one. Cassie has had many experiences with children with varying learning differences. This has allowed her to further her knowledge and passion to help these children expand their awareness of strategies that help them become successful learners. When she heard about The Missing Peace, she knew this was the perfect fit for her! The Missing Peace allows her to teach to every child’s need and watch the growth in each individual. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, but her favorite past time is being with her puppy Lola. Cassie is looking forward to helping children learn and grow into their fullest potential.
JOSE CHANG was born in Havana, Cuba and has lived in Miami, FL since the age of 4. He speaks fluent English/Spanish and some French. His favorite past-time has always been watching nature documentaries, but more recently spending time with his gorgeous pup Mason. As a child, he enjoyed exploring and catching tadpoles by the lake near his childhood home - always asking questions like why caterpillars turned to butterflies and tadpoles to frogs. Fueled by his natural curiosity and passion for science, he earned a B.S. in Biology at FIU and is completing his Ph.D. in Biochemistry. His journey in research science has taken him from working on a cure for Smallpox, to studying how to overcome antibiotic-resistant Tuberculosis, to understanding how Florida Red Tide affects marine wildlife and human health. As an undergraduate, Jose was deeply involved in FIU's ever-growing STEM community and mentored biology students within the Peer-Led Team Learning program. PLTL trained him in pedagogy, active learning, and modern teaching approaches which sparked another passion: helping students succeed. While attending school, he tutored chemistry and biology at FIU's Center for Academic Success, as well as K-12 math as part of collaborative projects with public/private institutions. His undying love for hearing his students say "Oh, now I get it!" naturally led him to The Missing Peace, where he gets to live the dream of making a difference every day in the lives of students!
LINDSAY FISHMAN is a South Florida native who received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Florida. After college, she moved back to Ft. Lauderdale and worked as a chiropractic assistant for 2 years and later became a caretaker for a family with two children with special needs. Through her time spent with these children and experiences with direct patient care, she found her niche in occupational therapy. She completed a fieldwork rotation with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) at a charter elementary school in Studio City, California and received her Master's degree at New York University in 2017. She moved back home to Miami and began working throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties as a pediatric occupational therapist in the hospital, outpatient clinic, and school settings. Throughout her experience in the hospitals, she noticed a need amongst several families for feeding strategies for their children. She recently completed the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) feeding course and is working towards becoming a certified SOS feeding therapist. She is excited to be part of The Missing Peace team and hopes to utilize her expertise to work with children to reach their fullest potential and have fun while they're doing it!
SAMANTHA GESTIDO received her Bachelors degree and Masters degree from Nova Southeastern University, where her area of focus was psychology. Samantha enjoys working with children and watching them progress in all aspects of life. Samantha has a passion for math and loves to bring out that passion in every child. On the weekends, you can find her at any sporting event or anywhere outdoors. Samantha enjoys spending time with her family and finding new fun ways to teach. Samantha plans on pursing a PhD in Neuropsychology in the near future.
TIFFANY GONZALEZ MOT, OTR is a bilingual occupational therapist born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy from Florida International University and her Masters in occupational therapy from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. She is adept at employing therapeutic use of self to foster collaborative rapport with clients, families, caregivers, and coworkers. Tiffany has over eight years of experience treating a diverse population with varying diagnoses: autism, developmental delay, attention deficit disorder, developmental dyspraxia, and sensory processing disorder. Tiffany is experienced in providing treatment for toddlers and children to improve upon fine motor, visual motor, sensory processing (tactile, visual, auditory, vestibular, proprioceptive), sensory modulation, bilateral coordination, balance, and gross motor skills. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys kayaking, cooking, attending the Miami Dolphins games, and relaxing with her dog Romeo. She is overjoyed to be apart of The Missing Peace.
SARAH HASLETT is a Florida state licensed and ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Pennsylvania State University, then went on to receive her Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from Miami University of Ohio. She moved to Miami, Florida to begin her professional career as an SLP. Sarah has experience working in the public schools within Broward and Miami-Dade County with students who have a variety of speech and language needs. She has worked with and supported students in Pre-Kindergarten programs all the way through high school aged students. Sarah has a passion for helping children grow in their communicative abilities. Sarah is excited to bring her positivity and passion for speech and language to the clients, families, and the team at The Missing Peace!
JESSICCA JONES received her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Auburn University. She then completed her Master's Degree in Instructional Technology from University of West Georgia. As a certified teacher, Jessicca taught grades 3, 4, and 5 for a collective 8 years in Atlanta, Georgia and Miami, Florida. While teaching, Jessicca received extensive training in Singapore Math, Writing and Reading Workshop and Flexible Learning. Her love for children and education led her to start her own family in the summer of 2016. Jessicca's love of athletics, technology, and college/NFL football allows her to connect and teach children in a variety of ways.
TAMAR MANIS was born and raised in Miami, Florida. North Miami Beach is where she grew up, attended school, and ignited her passion for teaching. Tamar has 15 years plus experience in Early Childhood Development. In High School she began her Early Childhood career working in after school programs with ages 3-5. Tamar attended Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Communications. After a few years in the Communications field, getting married, and starting a family of her own, she followed her heart back to teaching. Tamar finds that there is nothing more fulfilling than helping children achieve their full potential and reaching milestones. With experience in teaching all subjects from Early Childhood to Elementary levels, she is extremely excited to bring her passion of teaching to The Missing Peace family.
DEBBIE MAYA was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She has a Cuban background and is fluent in both English and Spanish. Debbie completed a Bachelor's degree in Exceptional Student Education, grades K-12 from Florida International University, and received a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education, birth-2nd grade from Brooklyn College. As a motivated special educator, Debbie is always seeking the opportunity to improve the education of students with differences by assisting, and accommodating their specific needs. Currently, as an Educational Specialist for The Missing Peace, Debbie works with children inside and outside the classroom where she looks forward everyday to enhancing their academic skills and helping them face their challenges. Her goal is to help the students feel accomplished and to help them feel accepted and comfortable in their community environment. Debbie will always encourage them to work hard, to keep going, and inspire them to do well with positive reinforcement.
CHRISTINA MEINHOLZ comes from the brisk cold of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she began her journey in the field of education. Christina made Miami Beach her home in March of 2000. She began working at a local Montessori school as a lead teacher for two’s and three’s. Christina continued her career at The Carrie Brazer Center for Autism and Related Disorders. This was a life changing move for her. Christina was so touched by the impact she had with these children. She absolutely loved the 1:1 attention these children were receiving that serving children in the Autism community became her passion. During this time she decided to finish her degree and graduated from FIU with a Bachelor's in elementary education with a reading specialist endorsement as well as in exceptional student education. Christina also had an amazing opportunity to work 1:1 with Eric Lovaas from UCLA who trained her in Applied Behavior Analysis. She worked 1:1 with students diagnosed with Autism for 17 years. To further her knowledge, Christina was trained in the Orton Gillingham program. She has been awe inspired to see how this program has reached and changed the lives of so many young struggling readers. When she’s not with her students she is home with her four beautiful children. You will most likely find Christina in the kitchen concocting new recipes for her family or racing her children to tire them out. To help and touch the life of a child that is struggling is a job that holds such a high reward. Christina is so blessed to be part of The Missing Peace and have the support of such an amazing team.
GENESIS MERINO is a Behavioral Specialist from Miami, Florida. She graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology with a focus on Applied Behavior Analysis. She has experience in working with children diagnosed with Autism and ADHD, as well as Intellectual Disabilities. It brings her the utmost joy to see a child grow and develop academically and socially. She is excited to be a part of The Missing Peace and is looking forward to inspiring your child to reach success. Overall, Genesis enjoys traveling and road cycling, and absolutely loves the mountains.
GABRIELLA RODRIGUEZ-PRUNA was born and raised in South Florida, and is fluent in English and Spanish. In 2018, Gabriella received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Florida International University. For the past five years, Gabriella has worked in a clinical setting, which is where she originally found her passion for aiding children. One year ago, she began teaching for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In that job, Gabriella realized how critical specialized teaching is in order to help accommodate individuals’ needs for optimal learning. Gabriella has classroom experience both as a general education teacher and a special education teacher. The Missing Peace’s mission is quality, and it showcases that excellent service by placing individual students’ needs first. Gabriella is excited to begin her career at The Missing Peace, and intends to make it her mission to help children reach their full learning potential. In Gabriella’s spare time, she enjoys reading psychological thriller novels and fishing.
NICOLE ROESSET grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Marist College where she studied Communications and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Pace University in New York City. A certified and licensed teacher, Nicole taught 2nd and 3rd grades in the New York City Public School system, before teaching 4 th grade for eight years at Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey. After living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for 11 years, Nicole and her husband moved to Miami in 2008, where their son Nicholas was born two months later. After staying at home to raise Nicholas, Nicole decided to go back to the profession she enjoys most – teaching! While most of her previous experience has been as a lead teacher in a classroom, Nicole has always enjoyed working with students in a one-on-one manner. It is in this setting that she feels she can have the most impact. Nicole is very excited to be a part of such an impressive team as The Missing Peace. She is looking forward to helping students feel successful and confident in school, and, more importantly, in life.
AMY SIAMA was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York where dance became her second language at the age of 3 years old. She continued to dance, compete, and choreograph at her second home (more like her first home) Horizons In Dance for many years. When Amy migrated to Miami 20 years ago, she took some time off to have her 3 children. Then found herself back doing what she loved most... teaching dance and theater to all that wanted to learn. Amy created her own program Rising Stars for young children not only for their love of dance, singing, and theater but to help with confidence, poise, and being heard in a positive way. Amy's instant connection with children is obvious and infectious. She is excited to bring her expertise to The Missing Peace and is looking forward to sharing her passion with her students.
KAITLYN SMALLACOMBE is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and has specialized in pediatrics for the past four years. She found her passion for helping children at a young age and has always had a keen sense for identifying the full potential in each child. Kaitlyn has extensive experience with autism, ADHD, and behavioral components. She strongly believes in working closely with clients and their families to equip the care givers with the ability to carry over strategies into their homes and natural environment. She provides child-centered therapy with a focus on sensory and reflex integration to assist the child in developing a better understanding of their body in relation to the world around them. She has worked with clients of varying ages, ranging from newborns to adolescents. The South Florida native received her Degree in Occupational Therapy from Concorde Career College, and is currently furthering her education in Health Sciences. Kaitlyn enjoys spending her weekends roller blading on the beach with her daughter Avery and her puppy Katara.
MATTHEW TABOADA is a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) who was born and raised in Miami, FL. Matthew received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from Florida International University. He went on to graduate with distinction with a Master’s degree in psychology, also with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis, from Capella University. He specializes in behavior analytic, evidence-based interventions, conducting behavioral evaluations, and providing behavioral and emotional management trainings for parents, teachers, and professionals. Matthew is also certified as a supervisor for individuals seeking national certification. Matthew has years of experience working with a diverse population, including children and teenagers diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, emotional dysregulation, as well as academic and social learning delays. Throughout his career, Matthew has provided services in clinics, schools, private homes, and social settings. Matthew is enthusiastic about embracing each student’s individuality when developing behavior plans. He understands that no two people are the same and that everyone has their own unique learning style. When he’s not working, you can often find him cooking for his friends and family. Matthew is overjoyed to be a part of The Missing Peace and looks forward to continuing to enrich the lives of our clients.
KARINA VALLARINO is a BCaBA (Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst) who was born in New Jersey and raised in Miami, FL. She began working with children at the young age of 14, when she entered her high school’s Early Childhood Education program. Upon graduation, she received her Child Development Associate certificate and became the lead VPK teacher at a local preschool, while attending school at Florida International University. During her undergraduate career, she discovered the world of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and knew from that moment, this is what she was meant to do. From then on, she interned at two ABA companies, and in 2017 graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis. Karina has always had a niche for helping those in need and has an inexplicable passion for her work. She has had the pleasure of working with children of all ages, including typically developing, on the Autism spectrum, and with other developmental disorders. In her most recent experience, she has focused on Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention and Social Skills Development. She has a deep belief in inclusion for all and dedicates herself to ensure each of her clients reach their full potential. The Missing Peace found Karina at the perfect time in her career. She is looking forward to collaborating with the team and pursuing their mission with every individual they meet. When she is not working (or brainstorming on ideas for work), you can find her anywhere outdoors, or caring for her pet tortoise, Clarice.