Meet the Aspire Academy tutors, see their passion, and learn about their dedication to every student’s success.

Heidi Kroner,
Executive Director

Heidi Kroner is Executive Director at Aspire Academy. She is a Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner and is Level 1 Certified in the Wilson Reading System. Heidi has completed the Susan Barton Master’s level class in Screening for Dyslexia. She has tutored students using the Wilson program for 14 years. Her passion is to show students they can succeed at reading and achieve their dreams.

Heidi’s son has dyslexia and she was driven to create change in her community because there were very few Orton-Gillingham tutors in Iowa. Heidi is a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia Iowa, former partner at True Potential Education, and she opened Aspire Academy in 2017. Heidi helped pass three dyslexia laws with Decoding Dyslexia Iowa, and she has tutored over 100 students in the Wilson Program. Before her career in dyslexia, Heidi worked in advertising, sales and taught at Drake and Grand View Universities. Heidi has a Masters in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology.

When Heidi is not at work, you can find her walking her dogs, playing the piano, gardening or vacationing with her kids. Her favorite books are The Aviator’s Wife, The Little House Books and The Secret Life of Bees. A fun fact about Heidi is she keeps her Christmas tree up till spring break.

Lisa Turner,
Tutor

Lisa Turner has been working at Aspire Academy for five years. Prior to joining Aspire, Lisa graduated from Iowa State University with a business degree. She also volunteered in the Des Moines Public Schools for 18 years, and in 2006 she was awarded PTA Volunteer of the Year.

Her favorite thing about working at Aspire, is being able to teach our wonderful students. Lisa believes, “tutoring at Aspire is so much more than just reading, spelling, and writing. It’s about helping our students reach their potential and giving them the gift of confidence and independence!”

Lisa loves to read, so it’s hard for her to pick her favorite book, but she loves Black Beauty, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Little House on the Prairie series. Lisa also reads The Bible during the year. She enjoys horse riding in her spare time, and even travels to Wyoming yearly with her husband to ride horses for an entire week!

Becky Weiss,
Tutor

Becky Weiss has been working at Aspire for three years. Prior to working at Aspire, Becky received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and has her Master’s coursework in Counseling. She also homeschooled her younger son his last two years of high school.

Becky’s favorite thing about working at Aspire is forming priceless bonds and friendships with her students and her students’ parents. She loves to help students gain self-esteem with reading and spelling.

Teaching her students is Becky’s favorite part of her day! Some of Becky’s favorite books are; The Velveteen Rabbit, Charlotte’s Web, and the Giving Tree. Becky recently became a grandma, and likes to spend time with family and friends in her free time!

Karen Schneider,
Tutor

Karen Schneider was one of the very first tutors at Aspire Academy. She started in 2017, and her passion for excellence led her to become Level 1 Wilson Certified and complete the courses and practicum for Level 2 Wilson Certification for individual tutoring. Karen has taught the complete Wilson program from Books 1-12, several times. She now mentors Aspire tutors to ensure they are teaching the Orton-Gillingham method with fidelity.

Karen’s cheery personality makes her a favorite with both students and Aspire employees.

Fun facts about Karen: she is a Marine, she’s lived in Hawaii and Germany, she is an avid gardener, and grows her own tea. Karen loves being a grandma, has a passion for training German Shepherds using German commands, and she is a talented beautician.

Jo Lynn Yeutsy,
Tutor

Jo Lynn graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Elementary Education and with a Reading Endorsement.

She has taught elementary grades, preschool, and is currently a Preschool Director outside of tutoring at Aspire. Her favorite thing about working at Aspire is sharing her love of reading with the students!

Her favorite book is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When she’s not tutoring our awesome students, Jo Lynn likes to travel- she’s been to 38 states already!

Carly Vannoy,
Tutor

Carly Vannoy has been tutoring at Aspire for 2 years. She enjoys working with students of all ages to achieve their reading, writing, and spelling goals. She is trained in the Wilson Reading System, Fundations, Foundations in Sound, and IEW. Besides foundational instruction over the building blocks of English, Carly also enjoys instructing her students in cursive and manuscript handwriting as well as report and essay writing for her older students.

Carly’s previous education experience includes nannying, leading a geography camp, and working as a preschool teacher. Her background in early childhood education helps her work well with her younger students.

Her favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. When Carly isn’t at work, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and spending time with her fiancé and cat in their new home.

Carole Vannoy,
Tutor

Carole Vannoy is delighted to work at Aspire and help students improve their reading, writing, and spelling skills. She is trained in the Wilson Reading System and the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Carole has an extensive background in education, originally teaching in both public & private schools, then homeschooling her children for 15 years and teaching classes on topics such as environmental science, personal fitness through physical education, history, sign language, and art in her community. Carole’s favorite part of working at Aspire is watching the students gain confidence and find joy in reading!

Her favorite books are To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye. When she isn’t at work, Carole enjoys reading from her extensive collection of Iowa history resources, working on projects, writing her memoir, gardening, couples dance and spending time with her grandchildren.

Deni Baird,
Tutor

Deni’s favorite thing about working at Aspire is hearing all of the fantastic stories students tell. Deni is passionate about helping students with learning disabilities because Deni was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD as a teen. Deni really identifies with students and can help them understand why they learn differently.

Deni has been with Aspire Academy for two years now, and we are so inspired by the passion to teach our wonderful students. Deni was a stewardess for Delta Airlines before becoming a Wilson Reading Tutor at Aspire Academy.

Deni’s favorite books are Invisible Man and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Deni is a big Chicago Bears fan and enjoys roller skating, reading, and traveling.

Helen Belcher,
Tutor

Helen works for Aspire all the way from Kentucky! She joined Aspire Academy during the Covid Crisis when online tutoring was essential.

Helen has achieved the Master’s level in the Barton Reading System, and she is an Accredited Instructor in the Institute for Excellence Writing Program. Helen also has a Master’s Degree in English, is an English instructor at Eastern Kentucky University teaching ENG 101: Reading, Writing, & Rhetoric and she also works at a clinic in Louisville, Kentucky that diagnoses dyslexia called Dreamcloud Psychology. Helen is our leading writing tutor for older students in need of writing expertise. She understands students with dyslexia, and why they find writing difficult.

Helen’s favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov. A fun fact about Helen is that when she was 11, instead of Hogwarts, she moved to Zambia, Africa. Her parents were missionaries and they lived at an orphanage about an hour away from Livingstone. While she didn’t learn any spells, she did learn the magic of intercultural human connection.

Julie Smith,
Tutor

Julie Smith has been teaching throughout her entire career. From corporate training to adjunct professor, and from seminars to workshops, helping others learn and grow is a part of who Julie is. Julie is a certified life and leadership coach, working with individuals, teams and groups so they can lead themselves, organizations, and the families they serve.

She is a facilitator and mentor coach at the Center for Mentor Coaching and Leadership Development at Grand View University where she helps others learn the skills of compassionate listening in the workplace, community, and ministry. She has a Master’s degree from Drake University and her undergrad degree from University of Northern Iowa.

Julie’s favorite thing about working at Aspire is helping kids and teens succeed and gain confidence! Julie’s has too many favorite books to choose just one, but she does read a lot of positive psychology and neuroscience books in her free time. Julie and her husband have two daughters and two sons, as well as an Australian Cattle Dog mix named Randall!

Tatum Vermeer,
Tutor

Tatum Vermeer has been a passionate teacher since high school, from teaching dance, leading photography seminars, and being a swimming instructor, she is very passionate about helping others learn. She graduated from Iowa State University in 2021 with a Bachelors in Liberal Studies. She plans to further her education while studying for her Masters in Counseling.

Tatum’s favorite part about working at Aspire is helping students gain confidence in their ability to read and write, and watching her students improve each lesson.

Her favorite book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupèry. Tatum has been a dancer all of her life, dancing in The Nutcracker at The Civic Center every year from ages 6-18, training in Chicago, and choreographing and dancing in Orchesis One at Iowa State University. Tatum owns her own photography business and loves photographing families and happy couples at their weddings. In her free time, she likes to read, garden, cook new foods, write poetry, and create art.

Read more about Aspire Academy’s Teaching Philosophy & Approach…