Executive Board

President:  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.  


Vice 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 & Education Liaison: 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:  Bethany Bearden, MS, OTR/L

Bethany received her Bachelors and Masters degree in Occupational Therapy at Brenau University in 2009. She began her career working as the Children's Program Coordinator at Gateway Domestic Violence Center in addition to working at an outpatient clinic. Bethany has worked with ages 0-21 in a variety of settings and with a variety of diagnoses.She has completed her certification in Sensory Integration. She is able to administer the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT). Bethany has attended courses such as the Alert Program, Astronaut Training Program, and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS). Bethany has served GOTA as a member of the Legislative Committee.


Conference Chair:  Pamalyn Kearney, EdD, OTR/L, CAPS

Pamalyn received her bachelor’s (1990) as well as her Master’s degrees (1995) in OT from Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia). She earned a doctorate in Education from Widener University in 2012.  Pamalyn has worked in adult physical disabilities settings and has taught OT at several universities. Pamalyn is currently the Program Director at Augusta University.


Communications Chair & Past-President:  Mary P. Shotwell, Ph.D, OT/L, FAOTA

Mary received her BS in Occupational Therapy in 1983 from Temple University. She received her Master’s degree in Health Professions Education from Medical University of South Carolina in 1995. Mary received her doctorate in Adult Education/ Gerontology from the University of Georgia in 2003. Mary has a myriad of clinical experiences as an occupational therapist including rehabilitation, school system, private practice pediatrics and early intervention as well as mental health and community based practice. She has been a faculty member in 2 Occupational Therapy Education Programs in the Southeast and is currently on faculty at Brenau University in Gainesville, GA. Mary has an interest in aging in place and universal design from the perspective of how we design physical and cognitive environments to best facilitate functional performance and promote independence in people with and without disabilities. Mary has served GOTA in the past as the Atlanta District Chairperson, the Conference Coordinator, the treasurer and is serving as Past-President of GOTA.


Regional Chair, Atlanta:  Stanton Swanson, MS, OTR/L, CAPS

Stan(ton) is currently a home health Occupational Therapist in Atlanta. His professional interests are exploring Occupational Therapy's role in client-centered multiple chronic conditions management and reducing avoidable rehospitalizations in low-resource settings. When not bogged by Medicare documentation, Stan enjoys petting affable animals and traveling with his family.

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Regional Chair, East:  Laurie Cordaro, OTR/L

Laurie has been an OT in the Augusta area for 34 years since her final field at the uptown VA hospital during the summer of 1982. She and her husband Vince have raised four college graduates and several dogs. Laure has worked in acute care, geriatrics and 17 years with the Babies Can’t Wait program before accepting a position as OT director at Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home. She enjoys working with elderly ward veterans and finds her position very fulfilling as she also has opportunity to be a fieldwork educator to OT and OTA students at Augusta University and Augusta Technical College. Despite being a Florida Gator, Laurie roots for the Georgia Bulldawgs in every other football game. She also has used watercolor painting therapeutically with veterans. She emcees for the Hippotherapy Blue Ribbon Riders. Laurie is honored to have been elected and hopes to serve the East Region well.

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

Tonya received her AS in Occupational Therapy Assistant in 2005 from Darton State College. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration from Middle Georgia State College in 2014 and her Master of Education degree in Adult and Career Education from Valdosta State University in 2016. . Tonya’s clinical experience as an Occupational Therapy Assistant includes the geriatric and adult populations in nursing home and home health settings. She was recently promoted to Program Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Albany State University. Mrs. Curles is also an active PRN therapist and volunteers on the Board of Directors for a local organization known as the Albany Advocacy Resource Center which offers support and services to individuals with a wide range of disabilities and living needs.


Regional Chair, North:  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.


Newsletter Chair:  Traci Swartz, OTD

Traci received her BS in OT in 1993 from UAB and her OTD from Creighton University in 2007. Traci is currently serving as the OT Assistant Program Director at Chatahoochee Technical College in Austell, GA. Traci has worked in adult rehabilitation settings as well as conducting research at GA Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access. The newsletter always need your articles and photos! 


 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, OTR/L


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. 


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.

Assisting on this committee are: Helene Smith-Gabai and Jason Hughes

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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: VACANT


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]


Research Committee Chair: Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L

Research Committee Members: Kristen Lueck, Shepherd Center; Jenene Craig, Brenau University;  Tamara Mills, Brenau University

Dr. Benevides is an occupational therapist, researcher, wife, and mother. Currently, she serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Augusta University where her time is spent in research and teaching of graduate occupational therapy students. Dr. Benevides received her PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014, and has been an occupational therapist for over 13 years.

Dr. Benevides is committed to fostering access to services and supports for individuals on the autism spectrum. This access will help improve health outcomes and ensure participation in meaningful life activities. Dr. Benevides has received numerous grants from agencies including the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). In her current work, Dr. Benevides aims to improve autistic and non-autistic collaboration in research settings to ensure inclusive and respectful teams to address the most pressing priorities faced by the autism community. An extension of this work aims to address racial/ethnic disparities in care for individuals on the autism spectrum in Georgia. When she is not working, she enjoys reading, playing board games with her daughter and husband, and going to the beach. 


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

Ms. Lueck 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 addition to her involvement in GA-OTA, Kristen is active with the Georgia Hand and Upper Extremity Specialist Interest Group and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Kristen acts as a clinical representative on the Georgia Occupational Therapy Association Research Committee. In 2017, she was awarded Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation from the American Occupational Therapy Association.