The Center for Engaging Autism is governed by a volunteer board of directors that is dedicated to a family and child centered approach to autism. We are all personally impacted by autism and that relationship fuels our passion for helping families.
Get to know us and you’ll see why we are uniquely positioned to provide these essential services. Want to be part of this amazing new nonprofit? We are currently seeking additional board members. Please contact our executive director.
Center for Engaging Autism Board of Directors
President: Mary Powell
Mary was Executive Director of the Autism Society of Minnesota for 18 years, where she developed many programs serving individuals and families. These programs included the information and referral service, the parent education “Discovery Series” program, the state autism conference, and the annual Autism Symposium for special educators. She was also involved in public policy initiatives such as the autism license for teachers. As an advocate for her child with autism, Mary founded Camp Hand in Hand and served on the Autism Society of Minnesota’s board of directors. She also served as a board member of the Ramsey County Citizen Advisory Committee, the Metropolitan Council Developmental Disabilities Committee, District 916 Special Education Advisory Committee, and Outcomes, Inc. She is especially interested in promoting the role of community non-profits to improve the lives of individuals and families. Through the Center for Engaging Autism Mary hopes to ensure better outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder through effective intervention and parent education.
Vice President: Mary Bergaas
Mary is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation, the research arm of Hennepin County Medical Center. She has spent her professional life as a research administrator and non-profit executive. She holds a BA in Music History and Psychology from St. Olaf College. Mary has had a long standing interest in community volunteerism and has been a member of the Junior League of New Haven, Conn., Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Minneapolis, Minn. She currently serves on the boards of the Hennepin Health Foundation and the Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota.
Secretary: Kathy Teegarden, MA-OT
Kathryn has been an occupational therapist working in a variety of capacities for the past 41 years. She received her Master’s Degree in occupational therapy. While a student, she had the opportunity to do an internship in an institution where children and adults with disabilities, including people with autism, lived. Over the past forty years, she has witnessed the movement of people with disabilities from isolation to integration into all aspects of society. She has served as a director of occupational therapy, a consultant for the Department of Health in Iowa and a Quality Assurance Consultant for the American Occupational Therapy Association. However the bulk of her work has focused on evaluating and serving young children in the Minneapolis Public Schools. Currently, she is providing occupational therapy services to children in charter schools in the Minneapolis metropolitan area. She is committed to seeing that all children have an opportunity to pursue happy and productive lives.
Treasurer: Joan Schoepke
Joan has a wealth of professional and personal experience advocating for persons on the autism spectrum. Her educational background is in english and education. She earned her Masters Degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and taught English, Journalism, Speech, and Special Education in the Sheboygan and Thiensville-Mequon, Wisconsin public school districts. She is a personal advocate for her adult son who is on the spectrum and has worked at Pacer Center, the Autism Society of Minnesota, and the Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation. She has also served as a member of advisory councils for the Bloomington and Minneapolis public schools and on several committees and boards for organizations such as the Autism Society of Minnesota, Gillette Children’s Hospital, REM and Outcomes, Inc.
Bonnie Bogen, MA-Spec. Ed
Bonnie is passionate about supporting parents and families. She has worked with children for over 30 years as a special education teacher, autism resource specialist, classroom consultant, parent group facilitator, and a certified parent coach. Her qualifications include: Certified Parent Coach, published author of two educational curriculum guides, over 30 years teaching, over 15 years parent support group facilitator, autism specialist in the Minnesota public schools. Her dedication to a whole-family approach to autism drives her everyday work.
Katie Plunkett, MA, SLP
Katie has worked as a speech-language pathologist for the Minneapolis Public Schools Early Childhood Special Education program for the past 22 years. She was excited to collaborate with an ECSE teacher 20 years ago to begin the first preschool class specifically for students with autism. Since then, her role has evolved to include Autism Resource Specialist, Early Childhood Autism Lead, and interventionist providing home-based service and consultation in community preschools and daycares, teaching social-communication classes. She knows the value of seeing a child as a member of both a family and a class and collaborates with the adults in the child’s life to promote understanding and success across settings. Katie appreciates the gifts and talents that all students have and feels strongly that it is possible to create positive learning experiences for students with a range of learning needs.
Sue parents two children on the autism spectrum and has been crafting curriculum and designing programs for families and professionals for decades. She serves on the board of directors for many organizations that serve individuals with disabilities. Her focus on best practices and the latest intervention methods and her deep knowledge of the latest research position her perfectly to guide professionals and parents alike to the best supports and strategies to positively impact the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Executive Director: Beth Dierker, PhD
It can’t hurt to get some information,” was the thought that began Beth’s autism journey with her two-year-old son. The immense challenge of those years prompted Beth to balance information with intuition in order to stay well for and with her family. Also at that time, Beth was a graduate student immersed in research and practice of education and training, evaluation, youth development, and community engagement. Later as a writer, consultant, learner, teacher, and advocate, Beth began to recognize connections between her professional and personal experiences.
Beth encourages families of differently wired children to honor each member’s differences, foster self-awareness, develop strengths, and support one another in creative and authentic ways. Beth navigates her community life with a vision for meaningful inclusion for people with disabilities and enjoys building relationships and partnerships to that end.
Education Services: Margaret Olivier
Margaret is the parent of an an 18-year-old with autism. She has worked in bookstores, as a para in an elementary school autism program, and for the Autism Society of Minnesota. As a volunteer she served on Lionsgate Academy’s Foundation and taught education classes for other parents living with autism. Margaret has a Bachelor’s in Interdepartmental Studies in the School of Speech from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.