The Open Door Education Services

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Our Tutors

Chris Ruta

Chris is an elementary classroom teacher. He loves inspiring students to think critically about the world and their place in it, and to take on challenges with confidence. He has a degree in literature and specialist qualifications in Special Education and in French as a Second Language.

Chris achieves balance through physical activity, coaching teams in soccer, volleyball and basketball and running the county track meet during the school year, and playing on recreational sports teams in the evenings. Not too may evenings though, as he is a busy father of two young boys.

Chris feels that in order for students to feel comfortable and confident taking risks and feeding their curiosity in the classroom, they first have to feel at ease getting the information they need and expressing themselves in writing. Having seen many students struggle with this in his classes, Chris signed on immediately to start tutoring with The Open Door after attending a Susan Barton workshop.

“I have always liked sharing the experience of discovery with my students. The Barton System allows me to get out of the way a bit and let the students meet with success independently, which is a more authentic way of learning. I love it.”

Laura Dragone

Laura is an educational assistant who has been employed with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for the past ten years.  She has a deep passion for all aspects of special education and working with children who have learning disabilities.  She has a diploma in Social Service Working, as well as a B.A. degree with a Major in Psychology.  While employed with the school board she has had the opportunity to work in a variety of specialty classrooms, with a wide age-range of students.  She has also spent the past ten years working privately with families who have special needs children, providing in home programming and respite services.  

In her spare time, she enjoys cross country skiing in Gatineau Park, playing volleyball, spending time with family, and will jump at any opportunity to travel somewhere new.  While working on the school board, she has seen students with dyslexia struggle to keep up with their studies in the classroom.  

She took the opportunity to work for The Open Door, so that she would be able give students the chance to learn new strategies towards literary success through one-on-one guidance, which they are often not able to receive during their school day.  Her goal is that through her tutoring sessions, students will gain the confidence and skills, that will allow them to discover the fun in learning.

Meghan Demers

Meghan is an elementary school occasional teacher with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She holds a Bachelor of Social Studies degree, majoring in criminology and minoring in psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Education degree. She enjoys working with students to develop or rekindle their love of learning and to build confidence in their academic abilities.

In her spare time, Meghan enjoys spending quality time with her dog and travelling to Northern Ontario to visit her family. She also enjoys playing softball, swimming, fishing in the summer, and snowboarding and snowmobiling in the winter.

She began working with The Open Door because she enjoys working one-on-one with students to help strengthen their areas of weakness. She likes to help students improve their reading and writing to allow them to unlock their potential and build their confidence.

Leigh Anne Carson

Leigh Anne has been teaching children with dyslexia and other learning differences using the Barton method for over six years.  After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from Queen’s University, Leigh Anne enjoyed working as a pediatric physiotherapist with children of all abilities.  However, when her son was identified as having severe dyslexia, she became a Barton tutor and successfully homeschooled him to the point where he is now a confident honour roll student in high school. 

In addition to helping those with dyslexia, autism, and other learning differences, Leigh Anne is keen to promote the importance of physical well-being, with an emphasis on helping everyone, both old and young, achieve an optimal level of health through nutrition and physical activity.  A former competitive road, track, and mountain bike racer, Leigh Anne can often be found riding the local trails with her husband and their two children.

Leigh Anne joined The Open Door because she finds that there is nothing more rewarding, nor more important, than helping a child go from loathing reading to loving it.  From personal experience, she knows that every single student, with the right instruction and progression, has the ability to learn to read and write with ease.  Moreover, every single student deserves the chance to do so. 

Vicki Naish

Vicki is an English and Visual Arts teacher who has worked at elementary, high school, and college levels.  She loves being a teacher because of how much she enjoys the relationships she builds through her interactions with her students. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in a Fine Arts and English, and a Bachelor of Education Degree in the Primary, Junior, and Intermediate divisions. Vicki also has her Special Education Qualification with a focus on Learning Disabilities.

Vicki is a talented and experienced artist. She also has a passion for travel and has been to many exciting international locations.  She also has an enthusiasm for fitness and exercise.

She started working with Open Door because she appreciated the Orton-Gillingham approach that they use. She wanted to learn the best way to help a struggling child learn to read.

"I love watching my students progress, and being a part of their world."

Marla Ruta

Marla studied English at the University of Ottawa and also works for the Canada Council for the Arts.  She is very passionate about literature, language, and learning, and has developed tremendous respect for the teaching profession.


Marla is a very family-oriented person with two young boys at home.  She enjoys reading stories, playing at the park with her children and taking family walks with the dog.  During her downtime, she enjoys reading, quilting, scrapbooking, and a variety of other crafty pursuits.

She became interested in tutoring after researching dyslexia when her husband started working for The Open Door. Having seen the impact the Barton program has had on the lives of children, Marla knew she wanted to provide that opportunity to others as well. She is a positive and supportive guide on her students' journey to independence in literacy.

"I love all of the little "aha" moments. When you see the child's face light up because they just made a connection and that is going to make everything just a little bit easier for them moving forward. Once you have enough little moments they can look back and see how much they have accomplished."

Dennis Hall

Dennis is a graduate from the University of Ottawa and holds both a Bachelor of Arts with a Specialization in English Literature and a Bachelor of Education. He is an Ontario College of Teachers certified educator and has experience working with students in both the Ottawa-Carleton and Upper Canada District School boards. Along with this, he also holds partial alternative qualifications in Special Education.

Dennis has a natural enthusiasm for learning and was drawn to the teaching profession through his desire to help others.

He is an avid reader (of both fiction and non-fiction), film buff and music fan who enjoys collecting vinyl records, live music and outdoor recreation. 

Dennis is enthusiastic to be working with The Open Door as he has found the one-on-one style of instruction offered by The Open Door to be highly engaging and rewarding for both teacher and student.  He is excited to help students develop their literacy skills and meet their educational goals in a meaningful and impactful way. 

Marion May

Marion is a freelance writer, watercolour artist, and literacy tutor who delights in teaching and sharing her love of reading and writing with children and youth.

Since graduating from Humber College, Marion has enjoyed a fulfilling writing career.  She also holds a Narration and Voice-Acting Certificate, Baking and Pastry Arts Certificate from Algonquin College and a Business Development Diploma from Cambrian College.  Seeing the effects of low-literacy among marginalized audiences, Marion became a passionate advocate for literacy and worked as a literacy tutor for students at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School for over seven years.  She was elected Vice-President for Sage Youth, an Ottawa based literacy organization serving disadvantaged youth, and has worked as a fundraiser and researcher for The Excellence in Literacy Foundation.


In her spare time, Marion enjoys running half-marathons, bread baking, reading, and writing short fiction stories. She volunteers weekly at her local library as a facilitator for a Teens and Adult Writing Circle and is the creator, host blogger and photographer for the food history and recipe blog, BarrhavenBites.

Marion joined The Open Door as a tutor, to help struggling students become confident in their reading and spelling abilities and to convince them that they can become successful people—ready and capable of taking on new challenges in their education and careers.

Leigha Brigham

Leigha is an ESL teacher who loves the English language and coming up with creative and engaging activities that help students learn. She earned her Bachelor Degree in Intercultural Studies at Ambrose University in Calgary, studied Elementary Education at Taylor University College in Edmonton, and has her TESL Diploma (teaching English as a Second Language).  She is currently working on a course offered through the University of London which specializes in best practice in teaching literacy to children with dyslexia.  She taught English as a Second Language to newcomers to Canada. Leigha loves working with people of various cultures and spent a year living in the Republic of Congo where she volunteered at an orphanage and hospital where she taught English. She also enjoyed telling stories, doing crafts, and singing with the children.

She is also a busy mother of twin boys and a daughter (all toddlers). She loves being a mother to her three children, getting outside for walks, baking, puzzles, and playing Scrabble.

She started working with The Open Door because she appreciates the value of working with students one on one to allow them to get the support they need to overcome obstacles and meet their academic goals.

“I love seeing how quickly students gain confidence and improve their reading and spelling in a short period of time.  It is always great to hear that students are reading more, have moved up a reading level, and are making fewer spelling errors.”

Richard Forsyth

Richard is a very experienced elementary teacher.  He enjoys working with students to build confidence by employing various teaching strategies.  By developing a positive and fun learning environment, he believes students can achieve successful results. He has taught for many years in elementary schools in Halifax and at two independent schools in Ottawa.  Richard is a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University, The University of New Brunswick (B.Ed.) and the University of Ottawa (MPE).  

With a background in Physical Education, Richard believes in daily physical activity.  He stays active by cycling, skating, treadmilling, and Nordic Walking.  He places emphasis on sharing time with family and friends, reading, and collecting books.  

He joined the Open Door to be a player on a team which aims to make a difference in the lives of students by building a strong foundation of learning habits.

Bianca Amaral-Stewart

Bianca is a tutor and course instructor who loves helping students to build their skills and confidence. She began tutoring as a volunteer in 2001 and has been helping students ever since. She has worked in after-school homework clubs, summer youth programs, board-level enrichment course programs, and as a private tutor. Bianca graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and is working towards becoming a certified teacher. She enjoys teaching many subjects, including English, French, Mathematics, and Sciences.

When she is not teaching, Bianca appreciates spending time with her family and friends. Her favourite activities are playing board games and spending time in nature.

Having taught in classrooms and one-on-one, Bianca believes that students learn best when teaching methods are tailored to the learning style and individual strengths of each student. She joined The Open Door so she can work one-on-one with students to help them overcome individual challenges and achieve their goals.

Anne Parker

Anne is a very experienced teacher and a specialist in Special Education. She studied Mathematics, English, Geography, and History at the University of Victoria and Carleton University, followed by pedagogical studies at the University of Ottawa, Drake University, and Lakehead University. Over the years she has taught all ages -- from very young children to adults -- and many subjects, but remains most passionate about English, Mathematics, and Special Education.

Anne was originally drawn to education as a teenager out of a desire to help her hearing-impaired younger brother. Later she specialized in Special Education in order to better understand how to help her young son, who was unable to read. After assisting these two loved ones to become successful scholars, she turned her talents to helping other students overcome their personal learning obstacles in order to achieve success.

She is a keen naturalist who enjoys spending time outdoors, camping and canoeing with her family. She also is an avid amateur horticulturalist and a pet lover, so she really enjoys both home gardening and relaxing in the backyard with the family dog. When the weather drives everyone inside, she enjoys reading and watching movies.

Anne is excited to be working with The Open Door because she loves working one-to-one with students and developing a supportive relationship with those who are struggling to succeed.

Alexa Elder

Alexa is a student in the Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies program at Carleton University.  Her program’s emphasis is on acquisition and instruction of language, and she loves working in education. She has worked as an ESL instructor, a private tutor, and most recently as a literacy support worker at Kingston Literacy and Skills, a not-for-profit adult education center where she taught English, literacy, math, and computers.

After completing her BA, Alexa plans on earning her Master's degree.  In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, yoga, and exploring Ontario's beautiful lakes, rivers, and parks.

Alexa started tutoring at The Open Door because she loves to teach and wants to help her students see how fun and healthy learning can be.


"My favorite thing about working with a student is that moment when something clicks for them; when they use a tricky concept on their own for the first time or read a word that would have intimidated them a month ago. I think it is so important to celebrate those breakthroughs. In my sessions there is a lot of clapping and a lot of laughing and a lot of high-fives. I love that energy, I love being part of something so positive."

Elissa Stoddart

Elissa completed her Bachelor of Education Concurrent Program at Queen’s University. She loves working with, supporting, and encouraging students to help them discover their full potential. Elissa enjoys getting to know her students and building a positive relationship with them.  She has experience working with the Limestone District School Board as a literacy tutor through their Spring Literacy and Read-A-Lot programs. She has an honours degree in Global Development and is completing additional qualifications in Special Education.


Whether it’s going for hikes, runs, or a water ski, she always enjoys spending time outside. In the winter months she loves to spend time on the ice as a figure skater.


Elissa believes that, with the proper resources and support, all students have the ability to grow and succeed. She is excited to join The Open Door team as she feels this is an effective way to helps students achieve their goals and build their self-confidence.  

Carolyn Whipp

Carolyn has her B.A. in Second Language Teaching from the University of Ottawa and her Advanced TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate from La Universidad Internacional Isabel I De Castilla in Barcelona. She has experience teaching English to elementary, high school, and University level students. She has enjoyed teaching abroad in Spain and Honduras but is happy to be back home in Ottawa. She loves working with learners of all different types, ages, and from various cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. 


Carolyn enjoys reading, catching up on her favourite television shows, and doing sudoku puzzles. She also loves doing outdoor activities around Ottawa such as cycling along the canal in the summer and skating there during the winter. She has thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for two local non-profit organizations called Sage Youth and the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) which inspired her to pursue her career in education. 

Carolyn is excited to be working with The Open Door because she appreciates getting to know students more personally by interacting with them one-on-one as she helps them realize their full potential and as they start to overcome the challenges of dyslexia.  She strongly believes in the power of education to teach children to be independent thinkers and to become active members of society.

Allysa Bolzon

Allysa recently completed her Master of Arts in English Language and Literature at Carleton University, where she was able to develop her passion for teaching. She previously obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in psychology from the University of Western Ontario. She has taught English as a Second Language in South Korea, and has worked as a private tutor in Budapest, Hungary.


Allysa loves to travel, and has volunteered at hostels around the world. She is a voracious reader, and never misses the opportunity to listen to live music.

She started working with The Open Door because she loves helping students discover how fun reading can be; she also believes that one-on-one teaching is the perfect opportunity to build a student’s confidence and self-esteem.