Advisory Council

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Advisory Council

Sam Adams   (2020) to be updated


Melissa Behrens-Blake, Albuquerque, did her undergraduate work in psychology prior to completing a Master’s degree in speech/language pathology under the mentorship of Dr. Bruce Porch.  She established a diagnostic unit at the University of New Mexico for university students in the area of learning disabilities and focused on this age group for ten years.  In 1997 she transferred to the UNM Psychology Clinic where she has continued diagnostic work with all age groups.  She has worked with interns from UNM’s Educational Diagnostic Program and works closely with doctoral candidates in neuropsychology who are interested in the evaluation process.  Advisement area: testing and diagnosis.



Sandra Dillon, Oceanside, CA, is the key founding member of SWIDA (formerly the NM Branch of the Orton Dyslexia Society). Sandra is the founder and director emeritus of the Multisensory Language Training Institute of NM, and author/owner of SIS Publishing, Inc.  A past Board Member of the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC), Sandra was awarded the Etoile Dubard Award by IMSLEC in 2016. In 2020, she will be the first recipient of the SWIDA Lifetime Achievement Award.  Advisement area: SWIDA history, Professional Ethics, national guidelines, expertise in the area of dyslexia and dyslexia therapy.




 Sue Fitzmaurice, M.S., CCC-SLP,CALT,QI, Las Cruces, is a licensed speech/language pathologist and a dyslexia specialist, currently working with children and adults with dyslexia through her private practice in Las Cruces.  She holds certifications through the Academic Language Therapy Association as an academic language therapist (CALT) and as a teacher trainer and trainer of dyslexia therapists (QI). Sue has over 25 years of experience working with children with speech, language, and reading disorders, including dyslexia, and she is experienced as a teacher trainer and clinical supervisor in post secondary settings. Sue re-joined the SWIDA Board in 2017, having served previously as an Albuquerque resident. She is strongly committed to disseminating information about dyslexia and reading deficits and to bridging the gap between research and practice in the public schools and in college and university teacher training program.



Mary Poirier Gilroy, Taos,  met her first student with dyslexia at Wingate High School (Gallup) in 1974. This single encounter led to her obtaining a Master’s degree in Special Education/Learning Disabilities from the University of Arizona, where she first learned about O-G approaches. Eventually this led to attending an Orton Dyslexia Society (IDA) conference in San Francisco, which in turn led her to Sandra Dillon’s Multisensory Language Training Institute of NM (MLTI-NM) . After becoming a Certified Academic Language Therapist, Mary provided services to students with dyslexia in the Taos Municipal Schools before retiring in 2011. Mary has served in various leadership roles with SWIDA since 1993. As an MLTI-NM Qualified Instructor since 1998, she took over the directorship of this training institute in 2019, and was elected to the board of the Academic Language Therapy Association in April 2022.



Gina Hawryluk, Arroyo Seco, has been affiliated with SWIDA and its members since 2005, when her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. She has spent the past twelve years as a board member for a non-profit organization that supports outdoor education for children in Northern New Mexico.  With a background in financial planning, Gina chaired the Budget and
Finance Committee for six years, working closely with SWIDA’s Treasurer and Office Manager to upgrade financial record keeping and long-term budget planning.




Brant Hayenga is currently an Educational Diagnostician for Rio Rancho Public Schools.  He has served in that role since 2007. He has also worked as an instructor at UNM in the Special Education Department from 2014-2018.  During the 2018-2019 school year, Brant worked with Region IX Educational Cooperative to rewrite the dyslexia diagnosis guidelines for the Technical Evaluation and Assessment Manual (TEAM).  Prior to his role as an Educational Diagnostician, Brant served as a fourth grade teacher on the Navajo Reservation, a third through fifth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Tx., and an Assessment Specialist for Fort Worth Independent School District. Advisement area: Testing and diagnosis, expertise in the field of dyslexia



Dr. Steven Sánchez, Belen, NM, was a classroom teacher for 23 years, before becoming an administrator.  He recently retired as the Deputy Superintendent for the Las Cruces Public Schools.  Dr. Sánchez serves on the NMSU Board of Advocates for the College of Education and the NM North Central Associations Council on Accreditation and School Improvement.  As a Board Member, he helped facilitate the passage of SB 398 and HB 230 is support of students with dyslexia.  Advisement area: District policy and strategic planning, expertise in educational leadership. 





Martha Steger, Taos, is a Certified Academic Language Therapist with a Speech/Language background.  She taught for both Taos Municipal Schools and Peñasco Schools until retiring in 2015.  Martha continues to maintain a private therapy practice as well as being a contract CALT for Vista Grande High School in Taos.  Martha served as President of SWIDA from 2007-2009, and then later chaired several annual conferences.  Until retiring from the Board this year, she served as Recording Secretary.  Advisement topics: SWIDA history, expertise as a dyslexia therapist. 




NM Senator Mimi Stewart, Albuquerque, retired from 30 years of teaching in the public schools in elementary special education, Mimi has been a State Representative in the NM House of Representatives and is now a State Senator. In her teaching and legislative careers, she has promoted teaching reading according to research and science. Mimi sponsored the Dyslexia Memorial in 2000, HB 230 Dyslexia bill in 2010, and SB 398 in 2019. She continues to work on behalf of at-risk readers because there is still “much work to do.”  Advisement area: related legislation and political issues related to dyslexia. 

Former SWIDA President, Claudia Gutierrez, with Dr. Maryanne Wolf and Senator Mimi Stewart (right).





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