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Our Team
 

Willowcrest’s holistic immersive program is delivered by people who are the best at what they do, both by training and because they hold high expectations and bring consistent, deliberate, and exceptional support.

 

We know how difficult it is to find good help, effective therapy, and kind and empathetic therapists. At Willowcrest we meet children and parents where they are and offer support that help both children and their parents succeed.


Teachers
 

Helen Chicas

Teacher

Helen earned her B.A in Psychology from California State Channel Islands University in 2015. After graduating, she pursued an opportunity as a Behavioral Instructor, providing in-home and school-based support for children with autism, ADHD, and other learning differences. Her responsibilities included providing direct behavioral services and treatments for children and adolescents, which she soon realized was her passion. Helen then pursued her paraprofessional certification in behavior analysis as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). Additionally she worked for a year as a teacher’s aide and was quickly promoted to Teacher for an early intervention day treatment clinic for children with special needs. 

 

Helen believes that any child can succeed with the correct support and early intervention. She is passionate about helping others and facilitating positive change in children’s lives. She is currently earning her M.S. in School Psychology at National University to expand her knowledge and skills.

Melika Vafa

Teacher

Melika Vafa has her Master’s and teaching credentials in Early Childhood Special Education. Working with children is her passion. She’s been working as a teacher for 5 years, and before that worked as a Behavioral Therapist and Positive Behavior Support Coach for 5 years.

 

In her personal life, Melika loves doing yoga and meditating every morning. She’s a morning person and loves sunshine. She also loves eating at restaurants and used to do food photography as her hobby. She has a 7-year-old son named Dara and a Maltipoo dog named Bruno.

Stephanie Gutierrez

Assistant Teacher

Stephanie received an A.A in Psychology and an A.A. in Social and Behavioral Sciences at Los Angeles Valley College in 2020. She recently received her B.A. in Psychology from California State University Northridge in the winter of 2022. She plans on continuing her education and pursuing a Masters in School Psychology with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In the summer of 2022, Stephanie interned at Willowcrest School. Working at Willowcrest increased her desire to work with children and help them succeed in life. She has gained leadership experience as an assistant teacher at her local church. As a mother of two boys, she’s learned patience and discipline in a kind and loving way. She believes that every child can be successful with the appropriate tools presented to them.


Occupational Therapy
 

Cheryl Ecker

Occupational Therapist

Cheryl Ecker, MA, OTR/L, BCP, SWC is a national board certified pediatric occupational therapist. She has also acquired specialty certification for feeding and swallowing through the California Board of Occupational Therapy. She is a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Southern California. She has been practicing in occupational therapy for over 30 years in clinic, home, and school settings. She is an author of the Sensory Processing Measure (first and second editions), a standardized rating scale for sensory processing. She has been adjunct faculty and an invited guest lecturer for several university programs and community outreach programs, and has presented for several national and international conference events including the American Occupational Therapy Association and the World Federation of Occupational Therapy.

Danielle Ramin

Occupational Therapist

Danielle Ramin, MS, OTR/L, received her BS/MS from Dominican College and has worked in pediatrics since graduating in 2017. She has worked in school-based, pediatric long-term care, and home care environments. Danielle has experience working with children from birth to age 21 with multiple disabilities, including ASD, Down syndrome, visual impairments and blindness.

 

Danielle is dedicated to expanding her skill set through continuing education courses on sensory processing and social/behavioral techniques. Most recently, she has completed Course 1: Theoretical Foundations of Sensory Integration of the University of Southern California (USC) Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education (CE) Certificate Program.  Danielle has also completed courses in Handwriting Without Tears, the MOVE program, the Listening Program, and in NDT (NeuroDevelopmental Treatment).  

 

Her professional interests include utilizing sensory and play-based interventions to build a child’s fine motor and sensory-motor skills. She is a firm believer in family-centered practice, encouraging parent/caregiver collaboration to identify meaningful goals and to support the successful carryover of newly learned skills to the home. 

 

In her free time, Danielle enjoys reading, outdoor activities, and spending time with her husband and two young children. 


Speech Therapy
 

Roberta Fields Poster

Speech-Language Pathologist

Roberta Fields Poster is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist in private practice since 1980. Her practice has specialized in the evaluation and treatment of children from 16 months to young adults with challenges in articulation, language, social communication and literacy challenges. The scope of her practice has included children with medical, physical, psychological, cognitive and developmental challenges as well as those from bilingual and trilingual homes. Her work has involved direct work with parents, caretakers and extended family and in consultation with teachers, other related professionals and school administration. Her work has included participation in multiple individualized education plans through the school districts, independent assessments requested by families and school districts well as team meetings with other professionals working with individual children. 

 

Roberta has consulted and provided treatment to families throughout the English speaking world. Their homes of origin have ranged from Canada to England and Australia. Throughout her career, she frequently lectured to parents, teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, educational therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and psychologists on language development and disorders and their relationships to academic learning and social development. Over the past 20 years, Roberta has spent over two thousand hours training and supervising graduate students who’ve come to her practice to observed and participate in treatment with clients.


Music
 

Laura Fonseca

Board-Certified Music Therapist

Laura Fonseca is a Board-Certified Music Therapist and Neurologic Music Therapist. She earned her B.M in Music Therapy at Berklee College of Music and is currently completing her M.M. in Music Therapy from Colorado State University. Laura has provided in-home, and academic based music therapy services to a diverse range of children since 2016. She has also provided consultative services to organizations looking to incorporate music therapy informed programming for all ages. Through this work, she developed Stepping Tones; a music therapy informed program to promote development, connection and learning for every child.

 

Laura utilizes a person-centered approach infused with music neuroscience knowledge to support neurodivergent children. She is passionate about creating equitable and accessible spaces for music and learning for every child.


Administration
 

Natally Raisin

Executive Director

Natally Raisin is the Founder and Executive Director of Willowcrest School. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, and she holds a BA in Women's Studies from Cal State University, Northridge. Natally spent 15 years in the hospitality industry managing and opening restaurants in LA and London for Nancy Silverton, Joe Bastianich and Nick Jones. She took time off in 2011 to raise her daughter, and again in 2015 when her son was born.

In response to her son's early Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, and in an effort to create more resonant work, Natally founded Willowcrest School. Willowcrest is the embodiment of her experiences working to support her son in navigating the world confidently and independently. It’s the manifestation of hundreds of hours spent in therapeutic sessions – Speech, Occupational Therapy (OT), Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and Prompt. It's a reflection of all her time spent volunteering in Pals Programs, Preschool Collaboratives and Kinder Pods. It's the fruit of having attended dozens of IEP meetings, Dispute Resolutions, psychological evaluations and mediations.

 

Through this journey, Natally picked up information, strategies, and ideas which have culminated in her commitment to supporting other kids and their families during a crucial stage of life. This commitment is rooted in a philosophy of nurturing each child and fostering agency and connection by bringing together therapies and education in one place. Natally noticed that this kind of holistic approach was missing from the experiences she had, and through Willowcrest, she aims to fill that gap.

 

When Natally isn't supporting the students and staff of Willowcrest School, she advises parents on procuring services from the Regional Center and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), and shares information about the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process as well as prioritizing services and school placement. 

Sara Beth Kaufman, BCBA

Clinical Director

Sara Beth Kaufman is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has over 19 years of experience working with children with autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders, developmental delays and their families. Following her graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in psychology she immediately began working in the field of autism and behavior analysis. She later continued her graduate training and received her Masters in Counseling with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) from California State University-Los Angeles. While studying, she worked for a behavioral agency and ultimately became the clinical director. Working with staff, parents, schools and collaborating with other professionals Sara was able to help children increase positive behaviors and decrease challenging behaviors. 

 

Sara has been in private practice for over 8 years specializing in program development, parent education, school and home consultation. She is passionate about making positive changes for children and their families.

Melissa Moloshok

Curriculum Specialist

Melissa Moloshok began her journey in education over 20 years ago.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later her Masters Degree in Education from Pepperdine University. Melissa was a classroom teacher in public and independent schools for many years and worked one-on-one with children who struggled in reading and math by creating individualized curriculum to meet each child’s needs. 

 

Melissa employs many aspects of Lindamood Bell's LiPS program in her curriculum choices which teaches students to discover and label the oral-motor movements of phonemes. Her experience extends to practicing Responsive Classroom, a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline.

Melissa has worn many hats in education, but without a doubt, creating the curriculum for Willowcrest School has been the greatest and most rewarding step in her education career. 

annais linares

Communications Director

annais linares found her way to Communications through her vocal practice. At a young age, she was given many opportunities to express herself as a singer, from school choirs and solo performances to later busking at the Palm Springs VillageFest. She continued on to investigate alternative techniques and learn from historic traditions of vocal production at the California Institute of the Arts, eventually examining different textures she could produce with her voice. This led to the use of words as a playful tool. Through her bilingual background she has been able to creatively pull from multiple vocabularies, which complements her need for clear, understandable expressions. Combining joyful imagination with supportive clarity, Communications with Willowcrest has been a perfect fit. In particular, she is happy to be working with a school that prioritizes collaboration within a strengths-based culture, which ultimately benefits staff, students and families.

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