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2024 Committee Members

Headshot of Sheldon Berman

Sheldon H. Berman

On January 1, 2021, Dr. Sheldon H. Berman was appointed AASA’s Lead Superintendent for Social-Emotional Learning after serving 28 years as superintendent in four districts—Hudson, MA; Jefferson County (Louisville), KY; Eugene, OR; and Andover, MA. In this role, Dr. Berman is leading AASA’s SEL Cohort of school districts and providing direct consultation and support to districts intent on deepening their SEL implementation. Having a strong commitment to implementation of UDL, Dr. Berman has served on the CAST Board of Directors from 2006 to 2009 and 2013 to present. He became Chair of CAST’s Board in October 2015.

Headshot of Anne Meyer

Anne Meyer

Drawing on a long-term focus on the psychological aspects of learning and learning disabilities, Anne Meyer played a leading role in CAST’s design of multimedia technology for diverse learners. Dr. Meyer has also led efforts to refine and disseminate CAST’s ideas about Universal Design for Learning through writing and website development.

Headshot of Denise DeCoste

Denise C. DeCoste

Denise C. DeCoste, Ed.D. Dr. Denise DeCoste is an educator with over 25 years of experience in the field of assistive technology. For 22 years, she led assistive technology teams for Montgomery County Maryland Public Schools (InterACT and HIAT Teams.) She was the governor appointed chair of the Maryland UDL Task Force, which led to the incorporation of UDL into state education regulations. Denise is the author of books and articles on assistive technology and the creator of the Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (uPAR), the first group-administered, online tool for evaluating the effectiveness of text-to-speech when reading, leading to significant increases in school district access to digital instructional materials. Denise serves on the CAST Board of Directors and resides on Cape Cod.

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LaRon Scott

LaRon A. Scott is a professor of special education in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, & Special Education and Associate Dean at the University of Virginia. He studies the recruitment, preparation, and retention of special education teachers of color. He also focuses on postsecondary transition programming, universal design for transition, and postschool outcomes for Black youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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George Van Horn

Dr. George Van Horn recently retired as the director of special education for the Bartholomew Special Services Cooperative and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation in Columbus, Indiana. George has also worked in two residential centers as a principal and associate executive director and has also been an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC), Manhattan College in New York, and Northern Illinois University.   He has consulted with school districts throughout the country in the areas of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusion.

Headshot of Lisa Thomas

Lisa Thomas

Lisa Thomas is a Senior Associate Director in Educational Issues, with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Dr. Thomas is an education policy analyst, providing research and programmatic support to the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union. Dr. Thomas manages a portfolio of topic-specific special education,   behavior, and classroom management courses within AFT’s Professional Development Program, Educator Academy.  She has directed several national campaigns on bullying prevention, school discipline, disability awareness and education, among others. Dr. Thomas represents AFT in a number of federal committees, national leadership and coalition groups, including the National Universal Design for Learning Task Force, co-communications chair; State Accountability for All Students Advisory Board; Atlantic Philanthropies Research-to-Practice Collaborative on Equity and Access; National Academy of Science and Technology; and the former federally- funded National Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Partnership.


Headshot of Anya Evmenova

Anya Evmenova

Dr. Anya Evmenova is a professor in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. Dr. Evmenova teaches undergraduate, master, and doctoral courses in technology integration, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and research methods. She is the recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award (2016), Online Teaching Excellence Award (2018), and the John Toups Presidential Medal for Excellence in Teaching (2023) from GMU for her UDL-based teaching. Her research interests focus on the design and implementation of assistive/instructional technology in inclusive educational settings and academic instruction for all learners aligned with UDL. Dr. Evmenova has raised more than $18.5 million in federal and state grants to support her research and development efforts. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief for the Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits journal.

Headshot of Rachel Vitti

Rachel Vitti

Rachel Vitti's work as an educational rights advocate began as a classroom teacher in New York City. She has spent two decades working within the education field as a teacher, policy advisor, and non-profit leader regarding quality education and literacy efforts to include all children, especially those with learning and attention issues, and/or those who may have limited access to evidence based reading methodologies. She is committed to building equitable educational pathways for all families. Rachel is noted as the architectural founder of GRASP Academy, a public school of choice, in Jacksonville, Florida, created to fully serve students that fit a dyslexic profile.

Headshot of Laurie Vander Ploeg

Laurie VanderPloeg

Laurie VanderPloeg is the Associate Executive Director for Professional Affairs, Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).  Prior to joining CEC, she was the director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), at the U.S. Department of Education. Laurie also served as director of special education at Kent Intermediate School District (Kent ISD) in Michigan. Also at Kent ISD, she served as assistant director for monitoring, compliance and parent support. She also served as a local supervisor of special education, a special education teacher, and an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University in the special education administration program. A BA in Special Education and MA in Special Education Administration, Grand Valley State University.  She is a parent of an adult son with disabilities.

Questions or Comments?

For any questions about the UDL Awards and the process for 2024, contact McKenzie Nichols at

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