Executive Board & Board Advisors


 President: Jennifer Allison, OTD, OTR/L

Jennifer graduated from Brenau University OT in 2003 and has worked in the school system, private pediatrics, developmental disabilities, and community based mental health.  Jennifer has a passion for Mental Health, Sensory Processing, and most recently has been studying about aroma therapy.  Jennifer has served the GOTA Board on the Legislative Committee.


Past-President & 2020 Conference Co-Chair:  Maria Irma Alvarado, Ph.D, OTR/L

Dr. Alvarado is a Professor, Brenau University, School of Occupational Therapy. She co-owns Essential Therapy Services, Inc. in Cumming and Lula, Georgia. Her past and present teaching experience includes: Institute on Human Development and Disability, University of Georgia, Athens Cultural Competence and is a resource on sensory integration and international study. Her research interests include the health and well-being of children and families, Latino families, childhood disability, early intervention, and sensory processing abilities in children. Her community experience is dedicated to increasing awareness of issues affecting families and their children with disability and networking between parents, professionals, and friends of children with disability. As a professional in this regard; she views her role as one who facilitates the capacity of families to nurture the abilities of their children with special needs to become participating members of society. Irma loves travel, nature, hunting and fishing, and gardening; she is also a member of the Cumming Garden Club. Dr. Alvarado has served GOTA as a research liaison; as Vice President; and on various other committees. She is also bilingual in Spanish. 



Past President:  Barbara J. Banning, M.Ed.,  OTR/L

Barbara Banning, M.Ed, OTR/L has 20+ years of experience in Occupational Therapy working in Adult/Older Adult and Mental Health practice environments. She is the Program Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Augusta Technical College. Ms. Banning also is an active PRN therapist for United Rehab and Evergreen Healthcare as well as volunteering for local and national organizations. She has previously served the GOTA Board as the East Region Chairperson. She currently resides in Appling, GA

 Treasurer & Vice President: Stephanie Johnson MHS, OTR/L 

Stephanie Johnson has been an occupational therapist for 10 years, working primarily in adults with neurological conditions. She currently works for Augusta University, where she is an Assistant Professor and is the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator.  Stephaniecontinues to provide treatment in two specialty clinics at Augusta University Medical Center, including the ALS clinic and the multidisciplinary clinic for movement disorders; she is also LSVT-Big certified. Stephanie is currently working on her Ph.D. Applied Health Sciences, where her research interest includes ALS and Quality of life. Stephanie loves spending time with her husband Wade, and son Dalton, who is 16 months old!


Secretary:  Tonya Curles, M.Ed, COTA/L

Tonya Curles is the COTA Program Director and Assistant Professor at Albany State University, Darton College of Health Professions. In her role as Program Director, she fosters 'active volunteerism' from OTA students opening many opportunities for contextual learning, service, and professionalism. Tonya is an AOTA member, GOTA member since 2006, and has served GOTA on the GOTA Executive Board as South Region Chairperson prior to becoming the GOTA Secretary.


Conference Co-Chair: Amy Todd



Education Liaison:  Jade Gross, OTD, OTR/L, CSLT


Regional Chair, Atlanta:  Kyle Oatis, OTR/L

Early in his career, a mentor once told Kyle that "our hands are essentially our connection to the world around us." This motivated Kyle to pursue a career focused on those who lost hand and arm function. 

Kyle currently works as hand and upper extremity specialist at an outpatient hand therapy clinic. In his masters program, Kyle was president of the program's inaugural class and acted as a founding member of their Student Occupational Therapy Association. Kyle completed the AOTA's Emerging Leaders Program. Kyle is pursuing an OTD at the University of St. Augustine. 


Regional Chair, East:  Pam Hartle


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Regional Chair, Middle:  Betsy McDaniel, BS, COTA

Betsy is currently serving as the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator at the Middle Georgia State College OTA program in Dublin, GA. When not at work, she enjoys camping and spending time with her 3 children.  Betsy has a passion for providing continuing education workshops to practitioners in rural areas of Middle GA, so if you have an interest in discussing possibilities, don’t hesitate to contact Betsy. 


Regional Chair, South:  Katie Dixon, OTA

Katie received her Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant from Albany State University. Katie’s clinical experience as an Occupational Therapy Assistant includes the geriatric and adult populations in skilled nursing facilities.  She is currently the Director of Rehab in a SNF. She is passionate about patient advocacy and volunteers her time with organizations that support inclusiveness of individuals with a wide range of disabilities and living needs.



Regional Chair, North:  Ben Keeling, OTR/L

Ben received his Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Georgia and his Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from Brenau University. He is currently working as a Pediatric Home Health therapist. Ben has a passion for interventions with an emphasis on social and community integration for children and young adults with mental health diagnoses and/or developmental disabilities.



Newsletter Chair:  Marissa Mirecki, MS, OTR/L

Marissa earned a Baclelor's degree in psychology from Bryn Mawr College in 2016 and her Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University. Marissa joined the Shepherd Center as a spinal cord injury research fellow in 2018. Her time is split between collaboration with the Hulse Research Lab on various projects and occupational therapy as part of the spinal cord injury program. 

To address the common challenge occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants face in translating research from article to practice, Marissa introduced the Research Update to the Georgia Occupational Therapy Association Newsletter. Quarterly, Marissa covers newly published research relevant to occupational therapy. Marissa also features an outcome measure from a recent Research Update article on the Georgia Occupational Therapy Association YouTube Channel.

Journal Club Chair:  Kelsey Reeves, MS, OTR/L

Kelsey earned a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Augusta University. After graduating, she worked as a travel occupational therapist in a variety of settings all over the country before moving back to the Atlanta area. Kelsey now works PRN in both acute care and inpatient rehab. She has a special interest in cultural sensitivity and fostering inclusive environments for the LGBTQ+ community. Kelsey’s passion for applying current research to everyday practice inspired her participation in GOTA’s Journal Club. In addition to coordinating the monthly Journal Club, Kelsey also serves on the membership committee and assist with running the GOTA Youtube Channel.


Regulatory and Reimbursement Committee: Aileen Deogracias, OTR/L, Chairperson

Committee Members:  Jennifer Allison, Bethany Bearden Tri Alliance Members:  Kay Nelson and Nicole Walker

Aileen Deogracias is a wife, a mother to 2 teenagers as well as a pediatric occupational therapist and the Clinic Director at Therapy Works, PC in Lawrenceville, GA. Aileen has been working with children since she received her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy in 1997 at the University of the Philippines. In 2000, Aileen was part of a group of therapists who established one of the first and few pediatric therapy centers south of Manila. This clinic continues to thrive and serves about 700 families in the area.  She moved to the US with her family in 2006 and has worked in various settings in pediatrics, geriatrics and school-based practice, She provided services in the preschool special education classes and the transition program.  She specializes in preschool assessments and worked with a team of speech therapists, psychologists and preschool teachers. She moved to Georgia in 2014 and has been working as a pediatric occupational therapist at Therapy Works which she currently manages. 


Research Committee Chair & Continuing Education Approval Chairperson: Tamara Mills, PhD, OTR/L, ATP

Tamara earned her BS in OT from Florida A & M in 1999.  She attained her Master’s in OT (2001) and her Doctorate in Rehab Science from University of Pittsburgh in 2004. Tamara holds a graduate certificate and a credential in Assistive Technology. She has practiced with adults and children, with a particular emphasis in seating and wheelchair skills. Tamara has worked in acute care, long-term care, home health, as well as working in the Georgia Cyber Academy.

Research Committee Members: Jenene Craig, Brenau University.

Assisting on this committee is: Helene Smith-Gabai.

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 Ethics Chairperson:  Sarah Shirley, OTD, OTR/L

 Sarah received her BS in Family and Child Development from Oklahoma State in 1994 and her BS in OT from Louisiana State University in 1996. She holds a Master of Divinity from Emory University and a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from Temple University in 2010.  Sarah has practiced in school system and pediatric settings throughout her career.  She also has a passion for continuing education and provides workshops on professional reasoning. 
Please send your confidential concerns regarding ethics to Sarah: [email protected]


AOTA RA Rep (Non-Voting Advisor to the Board): Audrey Peifer Gargiullo, MS, OTR/L

Audrey is a graduate of Brenau University Occupational Therapy Program. She has been active in GOTA since 2010 where she previously held the position of Co-Chair GOTA Annual Conference 2010 and 2011 and Education Liaison 2011 until 2013.  Currently, she is a non-voting advisor to GOTA Board as the Georgia Representative Assembly member since Fall 2013. Audrey is an experienced Pediatric Occupational Therapist who is currently employed by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).   Her OT areas of interest include Aquatic Therapy, Assistive Technology, Sensory Processing, Feeding, Therapeutic Listening, and the Astronaut Program.


GA Licensure Board Liaison: Amy Shaffer, MA, COTA/L

Amy became a COTA in 2004 after completing her AAS degree at Wallace State College in Hanceville, Alabama. After becoming a COTA, she pursued a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University, and is currently completing her Doctorate in Adult and Career Education through Valdosta State University. A native to Cobb County, Amy found joy in working with clients in various adult rehabilitation settings before joining the faculty of the OTA Program at Chattahoochee Technical College in 2012 as Academic Fieldwork Coordinator. She is the Program Director for the OTA Program as well as the faculty advisor for the SOTA Club. She also serves on the advisory boards for a local adult day program and a local veterans assistance program. Amy spends her free time traveling with her husband and loving on her furbabies.


Nominations & Recognitions Chair:  Suzanne Masino, MOT

Masino formed the recruiting and consulting firm Staffing Innovations, Inc. in 2009. Staffing Innovations, Inc. is a professional recruiting and consulting firm specializing in the healthcare recruitment industry. Masino graduated from The Ohio State University as an Occupational Therapist in 1994. Her extensive background as an Occupational Therapist provided the insights and understanding of the healthcare industry and its recruiting and retention challenges.


OTA Liaison:  LaDonna Yvonne Nash , COTA/L

LaDonna graduated with an OTA degree from Middle Georgia College and she currently works for RehabCare.  LaDonna lives in Allenhurst, GA.

Please send your confidential concerns regarding OTA issues to: [email protected]


Membership Chair & Communications Chair: Kristen Webber, MOT, OTR/L, BCPR, ATP

Kristen works at the Shepherd Center as a dual spinal cord and brain injury specialist in Atlanta Georgia. She is currently an inpatient therapy manager within Shepherd’s spinal cord injury program. Kristen also works PRN in direct clinical practice at Emory Rehabilitation Hospital. Kristen received her BS and MS in Occupational Science and Technology; along with a graduate certificate in Assistive Technology and Accessible Design from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2017, she was awarded Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation from the American Occupational Therapy Association. In 2018 she became licensed as an Assistive Technology Professional.

Kristen has a passion for universal design in products as well as digital and physical environments. During her tenure as Membership Chair she assisted her committee in founding the GOTA YouTube Channel. As Communication Chair she helped to bring universal design principles to the GOTA web page, YouTube Channel, Newsletter, and email blasts improving accessibility for those with visual, auditory, and physical impairments.