Faculty and Staff

Our faculty and staff describe KTS as a wonderful place to work, which is why many have been a part of the KTS family through the years, and some even belong to the TLC 20-year club! The staff includes certified special education teachers, teacher assistants, licensed speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers, and psychologists, as well as teachers for art, music, drama, physical education, restaurant management, technology, child development, and transition classes.


Patricia A. Ritter, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Executive Director of The Treatment and Learning Centers

Dr. Pat Ritter was named Executive Director of TLC-The Treatment and Learning Centers in 2009, after serving as Assistant Executive Director for 18 years. She practiced as a speech-language pathologist in various settings and began her tenure at TLC as the Director of Outpatient Speech. During her time at TLC, Dr. Ritter has served as a vital member of the leadership decision-making team. Her key achievements include the development of the philosophy and model for The Katherine Thomas School. She then started the special education school in 1995 with 33 children in grades kindergarten through grade 5. KTS now goes through grade 12 and is currently educating over 150 students. Dr. Ritter also established therapeutic groups for children with sensory processing and autistic spectrum disorders and developed a highly regarded special education preschool program based on a development model for early intervention. Over her career at TLC, Dr. Ritter has been an innovator for many programs that meet the evolving needs of the community. TLC has enabled Dr. Ritter to fulfill her personal mission of making a difference in the lives of others.

Dr. Ritter received her Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology with a specialty in Child and Adult Language and Second Language Learning from Ohio University. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP) from ASHA and is licensed in Maryland.

Dr. Ritter is a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), one of the association’s highest honors. She was honored by the Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (MANSEF) with its Inspiring Dreams, Changing Lives Award in 2011 and served as president of MANSEF from 2013 to 2015. She is a graduate of Leadership Montgomery Class of 2008 and has been on numerous professional and community boards as well as a frequent presenter to many organizations in the community.

Nicole Abera, Ph.D., Director
Lower and Middle School Programs

Dr. Abera has worked with children with disabilities in various capacities since 2001. Prior to joining the KTS team, she spent several years teaching children with autism and language-based learning disabilities in public and private settings, developing curriculum, coaching teachers, overseeing special education and related services for a large public charter school district, and playing an instrumental role in opening a learning center for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities in Washington, DC. Dr. Abera has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Special Education at the University of Maryland, College Park, a Peer Reviewer for the Global Education Review, and a Fulbright Fellow in Ethiopia. Over the years, Dr. Abera has worked closely with families and school teams to create robust plans to meet students’ individual needs and has been dedicated to supporting school staff to teach students in the most effective ways.

Dr. Abera holds a doctorate in Special Education from the University of Maryland with a Master of Arts in International Training and Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Disorders.

Jennifer Connerton, Education Director
Lower and Middle School Programs

Ms. Connerton has worked with and advocated for children and adolescents with a range of disabilities in a variety of capacities within schools since 2012. She joined The Katherine Thomas School as the high school curriculum coordinator in 2019 and transitioned to her current role as the lower and middle school education director in 2020. Prior to her arrival at The Katherine Thomas School, Ms. Connerton worked for many years in a small special education school in Washington D.C., where she served as a special education teacher, instructional coach, and special education coordinator.

Ms. Connerton earned a Master’s in Teaching in Special Education from Trinity Washington University, and an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from the George Washington University. She also holds Special Education Teaching and Administrative certificates in Washington D.C. and Maryland.

Rhona Schwartz, Director
High School Program

As an administrator and a classroom teacher, Ms. Schwartz has more than 35 years of experience working with children and adolescents with learning disabilities. Ms. Schwartz has led the KTS high school program, including developing the curriculum, since its inception in 2004. Throughout her career, Ms. Schwartz has nurtured collaborative relationships with funding sources, institutions of higher education, and other community organizations and agencies to maintain a high-quality program.

Prior to joining KTS, Ms. Schwartz was for several years an Assistant Division Head and later Director of Tutoring at a private school for special needs students. Ms. Schwartz earned her Master’s degree in Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York.

Lisa DeJarnette, Ed.D., Education Director
High School Program

Dr. Lisa DeJarnette has over 20 years of experience in education. She earned a B. A. in English from Longwood College (now Longwood University), an M. Ed. in Special Education, an M. Ed. in Educational Leadership, and an Ed. D. in Leadership Studies, all from Lynchburg College (now University of Lynchburg).

In 2000, Dr. DeJarnette joined the faculty of New Vistas School as a language arts and reading teacher. Prior to coming to NVS, she taught in both public schools and in a residential facility. In 2006, Dr. DeJarnette became Assistant Head of School and served three years as Head of School. During her tenure at NVS, Dr. DeJarnette worked to strengthen the school’s writing curriculum, build partnerships with community organizations, and increase awareness of the school’s mission and program.

Dr. DeJarnette has also served as an adjunct faculty member in the education departments of University of Lynchburg, Randolph College, and Sweet Briar College. She has presented workshops for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools on working with students with anxiety disorders, the specific needs of teenage girls with learning differences, and serving as the head of school for a special education school. Additionally, Dr. DeJarnette served as the Chair of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools Southwest Region Heads of School and as Board Secretary for the New Covenant School Board of Trustees.

Shawna Page
Early Childhood Coordinator

Ms. Page joined TLC’s Katherine Thomas School’s speech-language department/preschool team in 2006, becoming the Preschool Coordinator in 2009. Ms. Page has also been part of TLC’s outpatient speech-language since 2003. Prior to joining TLC, Ms. Page worked in early intervention, special needs preschool/K-2 for children with mild to severe developmental delays, preschool inclusion classrooms, and group homes with adults. Ms. Page has an Advanced DIRFloortime Certificate from ICDL and is a DIR-FCD Profectum Fellow.

Ms. Page obtained her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Akron.

For parents of KTS students, please contact us to request access to the entire staff directory.