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! Watch this video to hear our staff talk about what makes KTS a special place for them. The staff includes certified special education teachers, teacher assistants, licensed speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and social workers, as well as special subject teachers for art, music, drama, physical education, restaurant management, technology, child development and transition classes.


Patricia A. Ritter, PhD, 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 development of the philosophy and model for The Katherine Thomas School (KTS). She then started the special education school with a colleague in 1995 with 30 children in grades kindergarten through grade 5. KTS now goes through grade 12 and is currently educating 134 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.

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 currently serves as past president on the MANSEF board. 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.

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.

Nicole Abera, PhD,  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.

Christina Bernabe, Education Director, Lower and Middle School Programs

Ms. Bernabe came to KTS in 2006 and has over 15 years of experience working with children and adolescents with developmental disabilities in a variety of positions including as a volunteer and special education teacher as well as in school leadership.  Prior to her arrival at KTS, Ms. Bernabe worked in Fairfax County Public Schools and New York City Public Schools.

Ms. Bernabe earned a Master’s degree in Special Education from The George Washington University in Washington DC. She also holds Maryland State Department of Education  Advanced Professional Certificate as a Special Education Teacher.

Rhona Schwartz, Director, High School Program
As an administrator and a classroom teacher, Ms. Schwartz has more than 30 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.

Gwenn  Blau, Education Director, High School Program

Ms. Blau has worked at TLC’s Katherine Thomas School since 2005. She initially began as the reading teacher in the Lower Middle School Program and became Education Director in the High School Program in 2006.  Ms. Blau has been an educator for over 30 years with an emphasis in providing services to students with special needs. She has provided direct services as a self-contained classroom teacher, as a resource teacher and as an inclusion specialist, and uses expertise in curriculum and instruction to oversee the high school’s academic program.

Ms. Blau earned her Master’s degree in Special Education from Central Connecticut State University.

Shawna Page, Early Childhood Coordinator

Ms. Page joined TLC’s Katherine Thomas School’s speech-language department/preschool team in 2006, becoming Preschool Coordinator in 2009. Ms. Page has also been part of TLC’s outpatient speech-language since 2003 and is currently a speech-language pathologist for the speech camps in TLC’s Summer Programs. 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.