Fairfax Team

Fairfax Campus Team

 G. Ryan Gast, Head of School, Fairfax Campus

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G. Ryan Gast, Head of School, Fairfax Campus

Mr. Gast has been an educator for the last 18 years. He has, most recently, experience teaching at the elementary level as well as serving as the Department Chair for Special Education. As an Administrator, he served as an Assistant at the High School Level for three years. He has also served as a Dean of Students at the High School level. Prior to that, he served as the Coordinator/Instructor for the first Project SEARCH program in the Northern Virginia Area. Additionally, Mr. Gast has experience teaching students with Multiple Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders at the Elementary and Middle School levels.

Mr. Gast has his Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, his Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts Education from Mercyhurst University, and his Postgraduate Certificate in Special Education. He has been part of the Special Education Leadership Cohort V with the Virginia Department of Education and the Region Five Transition Council. He brings a strong background in curriculum development and academic principals, as well as understanding of the importance of cultivating social growth.

Mr. Gast resides in Bristow with his wife, two daughters, and his newfoundland. He enjoys hiking and painting with his daughter. Additionally,  Mr. Gast enjoys sports of all kinds and still plays Lacrosse in the Nothern Virginia and Maryland area.

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 Julie Carper, Occupational Therapist

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B.A. Education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute M.A. Occupational Therapy, Shenandoah University

Julie Carper, Occupational Therapist

Julie came to Auburn with over 18 years of practice in Occupational Therapy. She has worked in the Fairfax County Public School System and at a clinic-based private practice. Her experience in the public schools included working with children presenting with autism, learning disabilities, and moderate to severe physical disabilities.  In addition, Julie gained valuable experience working with children with autism spectrum and sensory integration disorders in a clinical setting. She has completed a wide variety of continuing education courses, relating to the  areas of autism, sensory modulation, learning disabilities, ADHD and vestibular processing deficits. She is also trained in the Handwriting Without Tears and First Strokes Handwriting Programs. Julie received her B.A. in Education from Virginia Tech and her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Shenandoah University. 

 Eman Elkholy, Instructional Assistant

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M.Ed., Strayer University

Eman Elkholy, Instructional Assistant

Eman has spent her entire professional journey enriching and cultivating the minds of young children through education. Prior to joining The Auburn School, she dedicated 15 years at a private school as a bilingual teacher for preschoolers. Teaching the essentials for a child’s first year of school was always a passionate experience for her. During that time, she obtained a Master’s in Education from Strayer University. She has also taught Arabic to lower grade students as a teacher in various summer school programs. More recently, Eman has gained experience working with special education students as a paraprofessional throughout Fairfax County Public Schools. She is looking forward to continuing developing her educational career at The Auburn School.

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 Dan Miller, Adapted Physical Education Teacher

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B.F.A. Theater for Youth, Shenandoah University

Dan Miller, Adapted Physical Education Teacher

Dan came to Auburn after teaching at a K-8 private school. His work experience includes that of numerous companies that embrace the arts, education, self discovery and connecting with the world around us. Since receiving his BFA in Theater for Youth from Shenandoah University, Dan has brought to life his vision of using creativity and exploration in his teaching.

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 Ilana Rozin, Instructional Assistant

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B.S. Psychology, Shenandoah University

Ilana Rozin, Instructional Assistant

Ilana joins the Auburn school with a background in working with children with disabilities. She started out working as a home-based ABA therapist for children on the autism spectrum, before moving into the field of private education. After 3 years working with children, she then moved into to working in mental health, serving as a Residential Counselor for a group home that housed adults with schizophrenia. Prior to joining Auburn, she worked as a SACC teacher at the Kilmer Center in Vienn, serving children and adults with disabilities. Ilana holds a B.S. in Psychology from Shenandoah University, and hopes to pursue an M.S.W. Her passion lies in helping people within her community, and she is happy to continue to do so at the Auburn School.

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Advisory Board

  • Bill Brownley, Brownley Law Group, is a successful attorney with extensive experience in all forms of negotiation and trial work. He has served as general counsel to a number of public and private corporations, including Telos, The Financial News Network (now CNBC), United Press International, and The Learning Channel. Mr. Brownley has been working in Special Education law for over 10 years. Over those years he has successfully handled numerous special education matters, from eligibility issues to due process cases and discipline matters. He has lectured and written extensively on Special Education law and advocacy. Mr. Brownley believes in a cooperative and results oriented relationship with school districts and encourages school districts to work with the child's needs as the primary focus; this approach has served to bring many matters to successful and economic conclusions for children and parents with special needs. 

    Cathi Cohen, IN Step Director, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Group Psychotherapist, has worked with children, adolescents, and adults in a clinical setting since 1984. Early in her career as a social worker, Ms. Cohen recognized the power of treating relationship problems through group therapy. It was this interest and expertise that led her to create the Stepping Stones Social Skills Group Therapy Program in 1990. The success of this program led to the formation in 1995 of In Step, a comprehensive mental health practice. Ms. Cohen is the author of three books, including Raise Your Child's Social IQ: Stepping Stones to People Skills for Kids, and has become a leading expert in the field of social skills training with children. In addition to her books, articles and egular workshops for parents, educators, and mental health professionals, Ms. Cohen has appeared on radio and television programs about the mental health needs of children and their families. Ms. Cohen graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University before receiving her M.S. degree from Columbia University School of Social Work.

    Kristi Guadagnoli, MindWell, co-founded MindWell in 2004 and serves as the Director of Therapy Services. It was her professional goal to develop a clinic where diagnostics and therapy services were delivered in a warm and family friendly environment. Dr. Guadagnoli received her doctoral degree from Antioch New England Graduate School where she trained at Antioch’s health center. Her training has been varied and includes developmental and child psychology as well as family therapy. Her primary training and interest has been with adolescent and adult women, her dissertation was in the area of the impact of home and community violence on females. Currently, her clinical interests include developmental issues in women throughout the lifespan. She is also interested in the impact of depressive disorders in women and the impact of depression on marriage, parenting and the family system. Her work has been greatly influenced by the DBT model and the mind-body connection. She uses Mindfulness Training and believes that Yoga and Exercise have a great influence on an individual sense of well being, self-esteem and body confidence.

    Polly Panitz, FAACP, Capital Area Pediatrics, is a board certified, fellowship-trained Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician who has practiced at the Herndon office of Capital Area Pediatrics since 2008. Her training consists of two fellowships, one with the National Committee on Clinical Infancy Programs and another from Childrens Memorial Hospital of the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, a pediatric residency (also at Childrens Memorial Hospital), and medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. Her background includes ten years of general pediatric practice with special interests in the behavioral challenges of young children. Her work focuses on supporting families and promoting healthy parenting styles that allow for optimal outcomes for children both at risk and typically developing. She has specialized in feeding problems and the management of Autistic Spectrum Disorders in young children. Dr. Panitz works to create a new model of pediatric practice within Capital Area Pediatrics, working alongside the general pediatricians to promote the early identification and management of developmental and behavioral issues. Furthermore, she provides support to families as they navigate the challenges and treatment paths appropriate for their children. 

    Cari Syron, Skill Builders LLC, has extensive experience working with children on the autism spectrum as well as children with apraxia, down syndrome, oral motor dysfunction, auditory processing disorders, and general language and speech delay. Her experience working in the public schools as well as a private school for children with learning disabilities and emotional disturbance, has proved invaluable in helping the parents of her patients navigate the special education maze and obtain the most appropriate services available for their child. Mrs. Syron has participated in many specific training programs including PROMPT, Beckman Oral Motor, Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson’s oral motor system, Social Thinking, Verbal Behavior, Wilson Reading Program, Hanen, and Lindamood Bell's Visualizing and Verbalizing program. As a graduate student in speech pathology, she also acted as an ABA therapist for a 3-year-old boy with severe autism. In addition to providing the above therapy types, Mrs. Syron is also a Fast Forward provider, a member of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology (AAPPSPA) and the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), and is licensed to practice speech therapy in the state of Virginia.Mrs. Syron received her Bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from State University of New York at Geneseo, and received her Master’s degree at George Washington University.

    John Thomas, Flint Hill School, has been Headmaster of Flint Hill School in Oakton, VA since 2005. Flint Hill, founded in 1956, is a co-ed college preparatory school of 1,100 students on two campuses and is focused on providing excellence in four key areas: Academics, Arts, Athletics and Character/Leadership. Mr. Thomas is a graduate of the McDonogh School in Baltimore, Maryland, and received his undergraduate degree from Randolph Macon College, his graduate degree from Towson University and certification in School Psychology from the State of Maryland. He returned to his prep school and served as a teacher, coach, counselor, and houseparent for 16 years at McDonogh School and was eventually appointed the Dean of Students for the entire school. Mr. Thomas has worked as Middle School Principal at the Kincaid School in Houston, TX, Headmaster of Graland Country Day School in Denver, CO and Headmaster of Saint Mary’s Hall, a co-ed boarding and day school in San Antonio, TX. He has initiated a number of programs, taught at three colleges, and has served on numerous Boards throughout his career in education. He is Co-Author of the book Psychodiagnostic Evaluation of Children: A Casebook Approach and has had two articles published in the book Parenting Teens: Collected Essays by Independent School Educators published by the Secondary School Admission Test Board. 

    Rachna Varia, Mindwell, co-founded MindWell in 2004 and serves as the Director of Testing and Diagnostics.  After becoming a mother, Dr. Varia saw a need to create a professional clinic in a warm, family friendly setting that understood the needs of parents and children.  Dr. Varia graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with highest honors and distinction with a B.A. in psychology; she also holds a M.Ed. in Education and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia.  Dr. Varia’s expertise lies with comprehensive assessment that teases out subtle and complex diagnostic questions. She works hard at understanding and explaining in plain language the interaction between behavioral, educational, and emotional findings to best inform both home and school recommendations. Dr. Varia enjoys conducting learning disability (psychoeducational) testing and has a special interest in early detection of reading disorders, particularly the different subtypes of dyslexia. Dr. Varia also enjoys testing for and explaining Asperger’s Syndrome to families, so that they understand that there are many different ways this disorder can affect an individual and family emotionally, cognitively, and socially.