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Our Leadership

Nancy Lavelle
Nancy J. Lavelle, Ph.D. – Founder and President
Dr. Lavelle founded the non-profit Institute for the Redesign of Learning, in 1974, to serve as a catalyst for the design, implementation, and dissemination of innovative teaching and learning strategies for infants, children and adults with learning, developmental, behavior and/or emotional disabilities as well as individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Institute offers early intervention, special education, mental health, vocational and job placement services to over 3700 children, students and adults from 35 communities in Southern California each year. The Institute operates four facilities in South Pasadena: Almansor Early Childhood Education Services; Almansor Academy (a special education, non-public day school); Almansor Transition and Adult Services/Almansor Supported Employment Services, Almansor Community Outreach Services, and Almansor Mental Health Services. Almansor Mental Health Services also operates a clinic in the City of Commerce. The Westmoreland Academy, our sixth program and second special education, non-public day school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, opened in 2012 in Pasadena. The Almansor Center serves a diverse population. Approximately 44% of our clients are of Hispanic/Latino origin; 33% are Caucasian; 12% African-American and 11% Asian. Over 60% of families receiving services live below the poverty level. Forty percent of our clients are in foster or group home placements. The Institute has also provided courses and workshops nationally for more than 3000 parents and professionals in the last several years.

Dr. Lavelle is also President and CEO of Total Education Solutions, Inc. (TES).TES, founded in 1997, is a privately held, full-service, multi-state special education company that provides professional services to clients and direct special education and pediatric therapy services to individuals with special needs in schools and homes; online; and in the community. TES also operates multi-disciplinary therapeutic clinics in San Diego, Los Angeles, Alhambra, Lynwood, and Sacramento, California; in Troy, Michigan; and in Akron, Ohio where TES also established the TES Academy, a speciality school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Dr. Lavelle received her doctorate in Psychological Studies in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Lavelle is principal author of Taking Charge® for Educators and Related Professionals: Linguistic Coaching for Special Needs and At-Risk Youth, and Taking Charge®: A Life Planning Partnership with At-Risk Youth and has conducted over 300 workshops nationwide for parents, educators and other professionals working with at-risk youth. She has served as a Review Panelist for the U.S. Department of Education National Exemplary School Recognition Program; the Council on American Private Education; as well as the Institute for At-Risk Infants, Children, Youth and Their Families; all located in Washington, D.C. Dr. Lavelle has been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children, Washington, D.C.; the California Association of Private Special Education Schools, in Sacramento; Education 1st!, a Los Angeles based entertainment industry group dedicated to improving the quality of education; and the Inside Edge Educational Foundation, Beverly Hills. Dr. Lavelle has also served on the Board of Directors, and is past president of the Education Industry Association, based in Washington, D.C. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the UCLA Mountain Bruins, Lake Arrowhead, CA. Her areas of professional expertise include: Linguistic Coaching®, personal responsibility training; crisis intervention; self-determination and advocacy; and staff development and training. Her areas of professional expertise include: school organization, strategic planning, staff development and training, teacher education, parent training, crisis intervention, self-determination and advocacy.


Shawn Prokopec, M.A. – Managing Director

Shawn joined Total Education Solutions in March of 2019 as the Managing Director for the Institute for the Redesign of Learning.   Shawn was born and raised in Minnesota, but earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks in 1990 and her Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from California State University, Los Angeles in 1994.  Shawn’s career has been focused on serving children and families with 23 years in the social services arena, one-year teaching in a Non-Public School, and four years conducting research at UCLA.

Shawn brings a wealth of experience from the child welfare field as she spent 20 years of her career at Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, the largest child welfare agency in the United States.  Shawn began as a bilingual Children’s Social Worker ensuring children received the appropriate educational, mental health, and supportive services while living free from abuse and neglect.  As an Administrator, Shawn’s commitment to improving child welfare and the services provided to children and families led to numerous collaborative partnerships with governmental social service agencies, numerous community and faith-based agencies, school districts, and law enforcement.  Shawn also held the Regional Programs Director position at Olive Crest with oversight of ten programs providing prevention and intervention services to children, young adults, and families.

Shawn’s commitment to children and families, collaborative spirit, along with her program administration and leadership skills, will be a guiding force as IRL continues to empower individuals to be competent, caring, and contributing members of society.   Shawn is eager to support the amazing work of the IRL team and lead the agency towards continued growth.


Al HernandezErik Quillen, M.S., LMFT (inactive), PPS, CWA – Education Director, Special Education Day School – Almansor Academy
Upon completion of his undergraduate degree from the USC Rossier School of Education, Erik worked as a janitor and leadership conference production manager before completing the three-year Master of Science degree in School-Based Family Counseling and Marriage and Family therapy through the CSULA Charter College of Education. He currently holds an inactive MFT license and a clear Pupil Personnel Services credential in School Counseling with an advanced certification in Child Welfare and Attendance. Erik has over four years of experience as a therapist working with at-risk youth and families throughout the Los Angeles area. He has served as an educational administrator and a Program Coordinator for the Almansor Academy, and has been the Education and Program Director for Almansor Academy since 2015.


Lori Andrews
Lori Andrews, M.Ed. – Education Director, Special Education Day School – Almansor Academy
Lori joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in July 2008 as an Education Director with Almansor Academy. Lori holds a B.A. in Social Science, a Master of Education in Special Education, and credentials in Single Subject, Special Education, and Administration. Lori worked as a general education teacher, Resource Specialist, Special Day Class Teacher, Transition Specialist, Program Specialist, and Principal of a Charter School before joining IRL. She is currently on staff at Pacific Oaks College as an adjunct professor in the School of Education. With 25 years of experience in the fields of education, administration and leadership management, and extensive experience in the field of Special Education, Lori brings a wide range of experience to help expand the programs at Almansor. Through Lori’s leadership, the Almansor Academy has grown by adding classrooms, expanding the Transition/Vocational program for students up to age 22, and adding an online curriculum for grades K-12. Lori’s passion continues to help the Almansor Academy be a leader in providing the highest quality education available for students who have Special Needs, and by creating an atmosphere that encourages students who have been unsuccessful in other school environments to achieve their goals both inside the classroom and out in the community.


Nick Pinto Nicholas Pinto M.A., PPS; Director of Education – Westmoreland Academy

Nicholas Pinto joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in 2007.  He earned his B.A. in Philosophy from Loyola Marymount University, where he studied the cognition process and the methods through which insights arise. Nick holds his Master’s in Education and Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential from Point Loma University, and has been educating and empowering children for over 15 years.

Nick began his IRL career as a Teacher Associate at the Almansor Academy, and has held several positions throughout the years. He rapidly progressed into the role of Educational Support Services Manager at Almansor until being promoted to Westmoreland Academy Assistant Director.  Nick was also part of the IRL Autism planning committee in the years leading to the opening of Westmoreland Academy.  Prior to his time at IRL, Nick was a long-time educator at Rolling Hills Country Day School where he taught middle school students a self-constructed Ethics/Self-Awareness course, which foreshadowed Nick’s current involvement with the philosophical underpinnings of the wholistic Taking Charge® approach and the overarching IRL philosophy, which drive our programs. Nick is also an adjunct instructor and linguistic coach for Taking Charge®, which is offered through UCLA Extension.


Paul Bailey

Paul Bailey, M.A.Ed./SPE; Director of Education – Westmoreland Academy

Paul Bailey joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in October 2017 as one of the Education Directors for Westmoreland Academy, a specialty school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Paul brings a unique combination of personal and professional experiences to empower the lives and the learning of the students at IRL. Paul has served as an administrator in both education and non-education settings, and has worked in special education classrooms as a substitute, adult assistant, and teacher of record. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership, a master’s in Special Education, and Clear Credentials in the State of California for mild/moderate, moderate/severe, and early childhood special education.

Paul was previously the Director of Special Education for Carousel NPS, a non-public school in the Los Angeles area that provides special educational services to students with moderate to severe education needs. Prior to his work as the Director he was the teacher of record for Carousel’s High School – Transition classroom. Before working at Carousel, Paul served as the Transition teacher for East Bay Post High in Provo, Utah.


image005 Nancy Miller, M.A., LMFT – Clinical Coordinator, South Pasadena Office, Almansor Clinical Services (Mental Health)
Nancy joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in 1999. She received her B.A. at Cal State University Northridge in Radio/TV Broadcasting and received her master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy from Phillips Graduate Institute. She also received her certificate in Substance Abuse from Phillips and received a certificate in Co-occurring Disorders from UCLA Extension. Nancy provided Mental Health therapy services and Clinical Supervision at the Institute’s Almansor Clinical Services for her first 4 years with the Institute. She then worked as a Program Manager for Almansor Clinical Services for 13 years. She has been the Clinical Coordinator for the Institute for the Redesign of Learning’s Mental Health Department Almansor Clinical Services since July of 2016.


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Ailsa “Monique” Long, M.S., LMFT – Clinical Coordinator, Commerce Office, Almansor Clinical Services (Mental Health)

Monique joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in 2006. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Whittier College and her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. Monique provided Program Management for the last 10 years in the Mental Health Department and has been the Clinical Coordinator for the Institute for the Redesign of Learning’s Mental Health Department in Commerce since July of 2016.


Nita Davis
Nita Davis, M.P.A. – Director, Transition and Adult Services (TAS)
Nita joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in 2008 as Director of the Transition and Adult Services Department. Prior to joining IRL, Nita held a variety of roles in Vocational Rehabilitation, Human Resources, and non-profit management. Most recently, she was in charge of Operations for the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House. Nita has over 17 years’ experience in the areas of management, program development and marketing. In her current position, she has effectively managed the Transition and Adult Services department within IRL with overall responsibility for 140 clients with disabilities. TAS works with adolescents and adults in the areas of vocational rehabilitation, independent living skills training, adaptive skills training, a day program, and community integration services. Nita is a member of the Vendor Leadership committee to the Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Loyola Marymount University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from California State University, Los Angeles.


Emily Baltazar
Emily Baltazar – Program Manager – Almansor Community Outreach Services
Emily began her work as a volunteer with students with special needs at The Almansor Center in 1994, and was later hired as a full time assistant to the Community Outreach Department. After four years with the agency, Emily was promoted to Community Outreach Project Manager. She is actively involved with program implementation and service provision for our current contracts. Her current responsibilities for the Agency include oversight of a staff of more than 30 professionals providing support to over 250 Head Start Classrooms. Services range from assessments, intervention services, and parent/teacher in-services.


Tamara Pinelo
Tamera Pinelo M.Ed. – Program Manager – Early Childhood Education Services
Tammie joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in 2010 as the infant classroom Lead Teacher before moving into her current role as the Program Manager in 2012. With a specialization in Infant Toddler Development, Tammie has worked with Early Head Start and participated in many staff training videos for Head Start, including supporting inclusion in child development. She holds a master’s degree in Education and is currently pursuing a post graduate certificate in Child Development with her sight on a second master’s degree in Child Development. Tammie also holds a B.S. in International Business from Schiller International University in Florida, and began working in the field of child development in 1998.


Raul Martinez
Raul Martinez, B.A. — Director of Facilities and Transportation
Raul joined Total Education Solutions (TES) in 2008, bringing with him over 12 years of Facility Management Experience. Prior to joining TES, he worked as the Operations Manager at a prestigious building maintenance firm specializing in all facets of facility management projects. While there, Raul was responsible for managing labor and equipment budgets in excess of $2MM and 250 direct/contracted personnel for fortune 1,000 companies. Some of his more notable clients were Federal Express, Dole World Headquarters, Warner Brothers and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Raul is Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certified and plays a key role in developing and managing the Corporate Sustainability Plan for the Institute for the Redesign of Learning where he now oversees three departments.


Janet Lester, Psy.D.-
Clinical Director, Almansor Clinical Services (Mental Health)
Dr. Janet Lester joined the Institute for the Redesign of Learning in May 2018. She is a Licensed Psychologist. She received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Modern Dance Pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma. She received her Masters of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy from the University of California, Los Angeles and received a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Ryokan College. She has experience in a variety of mental health settings working with children and adolescents. Almansor Clinical Services provides field-based mental health services to children, youth and families ages 2-21 years old. Services aim to support children and youth with mental health needs in the child’s home, at the child’s school and in the clinic depending on the needs of the child and families.