since 2003

The Black Bear Academy Mission

Black Bear Academy is a center for learning that provides education and support to children of all ages and their families in the Chicago area. We offer a wide range of academic and therapeutic programming that reflects our commitment to meet the needs of children at all skill levels as they learn, grow, and develop.

Committed to Student Growth

We believe in supporting learners at all levels. Our teachers and staff are passionate about student-centered approaches to learning and development that serve the needs of the whole child.

Committed to Student Growth

We believe in supporting learners at all levels. Our teachers and staff are passionate about student-centered approaches to learning and development that serve the needs of the whole child.

History of Black Bear Academy

Black Bear Academy began in June 2003 as a pilot program to support children and families in the Chicago area. With an eighteen-month-old son at home, founder Maureen Black decided it was time to put a long-time vision in motion and established BBA in a 1400 square-feet space at Irving Park and Hermitage with three employees. Maureen served as executive program director and consulted with families, schools, and therapists to provide exceptional services to students both at BBA and in external programs to support the success of Black Bear students as they transitioned to other city programs. In the fall of 2009, Maureen and her husband Kevin closed their therapeutic company Clinical Assist to continue their research and focus their full attention on continually improving the programming at BBA. Sadly, Maureen struggled with declining health following a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and passed away in November 2019.

Dr. Lori Tall became the new owner of Black Bear Academy in 2020. Her experience in pediatric neuropsychology, passion for mentorship, and dedication to interdisciplinary collaboration make her well-suited to continue to build an exceptional offering of academic and therapeutic programming to support children and families at BBA.

Meet the Owner

Dr. Lori Tall is the founder and clinical director of the Center for Comprehensive Neurobehavioral Care, a pediatric psychology practice in downtown Chicago. As a clinical neuropsychologist, she specializes in educational, neuropsychological, and legal assessments and has worked across clinical and academic settings throughout her career. Before entering private practice, Dr. Tall served as the director of the Assessment Program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston and clinical director at Rush Neurobehavioral Center at Rush University Medical Center.

Unique Programming

Our research-driven programming is uniquely tailored to meet each child’s individual needs. We offer a wide range of classes and services that engage children in fun, multisensory approaches to learning and development.

Unique Programming

Our research-driven programming is uniquely tailored to meet each child’s individual needs. We offer a wide range of classes and services that engage children in fun, multisensory approaches to learning and development.

Our Core Values

We believe in helping children grow and develop according to their individual needs.

We believe in partnering with parents to maximize each child’s unique skills and strengths.

We believe in protecting the joys of childhood while facilitating optimal opportunities for each child to learn at a self-determined pace based on interest and aptitude.

We believe in building a child’s neural network through a multisensory approach to learning that emphasizes play and motor cortex development and helps students reach their highest levels of potential, regardless of traditional or adult-determined age expectations.

Our Team

Academic Team

Emily is entering her third year at Black Bear. She majored in elementary education with concentrations in math and English language arts at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois. She also has a background in Applied Behavior Analysis, having spent two years as a Registered Behavior Technician working with children on the autism spectrum ranging from ages three to 11. Emily enjoys music and art and brings both into the classroom as much as possible to enhance the learning environment for students. When she is not teaching, Emily enjoys cooking, trying new recipes for family and friends, going to concerts, the occasional Netflix binge, riding her bike, and spending time at her family’s lake house.

Lauren is excited to continue this year at Black Bear Academy. Born and raised in the Chicagoland area, she is excited to be able to build a career in the city. Lauren has always had a passion for teaching and working with children, and she is honored to be able to share that passion with the wonderful students of BBA. She holds a degree in early childhood education from Miami University with a minor in special education. Over the past several years, she has worked with children from infancy to elementary school in a variety of different roles. Most recently, she spent the last year teaching preschool at an early childhood center where she learned to refine her techniques to help children progress academically, socially, and emotionally. Her goal in teaching has always been to guide children as they explore the world around them, and she hopes to help her students progress in every area of development while teaching kindness and caring for others through her own actions. Lauren also believes in parent involvement both inside and outside of the classroom and will continue to work toward a goal of open communication with each family. She is committed to making the classroom a fun environment where each child feels safe, loved, and encouraged to learn and grow.

Kaycee is very excited to continue with the Black Bear Academy team this year! Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Kaycee pursued her BA in Theatre at Concordia University Chicago. During her time there, she worked in their Early Childhood Education Center with various age groups and discovered her love of Early Childhood Education! Since then, Kaycee has worked as both an assistant and lead preschool teacher and is continuing her education in ECE at Triton College. She is passionate about open communication and collaboration between parents, teachers, therapists, and center directors and believes those are some key factors to a child’s development. Outside the classroom, Kaycee enjoys cooking, going to the gym, spending time with family and friends, and doing hair and makeup for special events! She is so excited to learn and grow at BBA.

Izzy is entering her second year at Black Bear Academy. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Izzy studied elementary education at DePaul University. After her freshman year, she took a gap year to travel and teach English to students in Peru and Costa Rica. She loved learning about the different teaching styles and the different cultures, and she feels extremely grateful for this experience. After her year abroad, Izzy returned to school and finished a bachelor's degree in Communications at Grand Valley State University. Izzy moved to Chicago in the fall of 2020 and loves everything the city has to offer. When she is not working, Izzy likes to spend her free time playing tennis, hanging out with friends, trying new restaurants, traveling, and making hand painted cards.

Morgan is beyond excited to join the Black Bear team! Originally from Rockford, Illinois, Morgan studied Special Education (Learning & Behavior) at Illinois State University. Morgan studied abroad in Florence, Italy for a semester, where she learned about community, diversity, and culture and how to foster this inside the classroom. After graduating in 2018, Morgan worked as a Primary Cluster teacher in Chicago Public Schools for four years, where she designed and implemented various academic and behavior interventions for students (ages 4-8) with diverse needs. She is passionate about open communication and collaboration with parents and coworkers, meeting the child where they are with their social-emotional and academic development, and maintaining a student-focused approach to teaching. Outside the classroom, Morgan enjoys exploring Chicago, traveling, exercising, and spending quality time with family & friends. She is so excited to support our students and help them learn and grow while also learning and growing alongside the Black Bear team.

Therapeutic Team

Dr. Lori Tall is the new co-owner of Black Bear Academy and the founder and clinical director of the Center for Comprehensive Neurobehavioral Care, a neuropsychology practice in downtown Chicago. As a clinical neuropsychologist, she specializes in educational, neuropsychological, and legal assessments and has worked across clinical and academic settings throughout her career. Dr. Tall received her doctoral degree from the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles, interned in neuropsychology at the University of Minnesota, and was a fellow at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was a hospital and community-based psychologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center and served as the director of the Assessment Program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston and clinical director at Rush Neurobehavioral Center at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Tall serves as the executive director at Black Bear Academy.

Caroline is excited to rejoin the Black Bear Academy staff for her third year as an occupational therapist. She graduated from Saint Louis University with a bachelor’s degree in occupational science in 2016 and a master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2017. Caroline has experience working with adult populations in an inpatient hospital setting, as well as with children in an outpatient pediatric setting. During her time at Saint Louis University, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain where she completed courses at the local university and volunteered at a local preschool teaching English. Caroline has worked in a variety of therapeutic classrooms at BBA, including Learning and Engagement (now Preschool Plus), Therapeutic Preschool (now Preschool Prep), and Kindergarten Prep and Transition (now Junior Kindergarten Prep). She is passionate about treating the whole child and meeting all children where they are emotionally, physically, and mentally every day. She loves the way BBA allows disciplines to work collaboratively to help each child reach their fullest potential, and she is excited by the additions of clinical neuropsychology and psychology to the team to further support a whole-child approach to learning. In her free time, Caroline loves attending Cubs games at Wrigley Field, working out at OrangeTheory Fitness, and exploring new restaurants in the city. She looks forward to helping continue to grow the occupational therapy program at BBA.

Maggie is thrilled to return to the Black Bear Academy team this year. She was born and raised in Chicago and loves attending Chicago sporting events and concerts, as well as spending time by the lake. Maggie graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology with her bachelor’s degree in movement science. Most recently, she attended Washington University in St. Louis where she received her master’s degree in occupational therapy. During her time at Wash U, she had the opportunity to work with infants in the neonatal intensive care unit providing age-appropriate sensory interventions, parental education, and support. Maggie has previously worked with both adults and children in various settings, including elementary and therapeutic schools, private clinics, and acute-care hospitals. She has worked at BBA for the past year and a half and is passionate about supporting children and their families in order to help them grow and develop into the next chapters of their lives. She is thrilled to be a part of a growing multidisciplinary team and is excited for a great year at BBA.

Emilee graduated from the University of Missouri with her master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2019. While she was at the University of Missouri, she worked as a teacher’s aide at a preschool for 5 years. She has worked in an inpatient hospital setting, schools, and outpatient settings. She has experience working with children diagnosed with various developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Fragile X Syndrome, and intellectual disability. She is passionate about the importance of collaborating with other disciplines as well as parents to ensure carryover in the home. Emilee grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her puppy (Ollie), reading, and walking/running on the lake. She is very excited to continue her career as an occupational therapist at Black Bear Academy.

Meaghan is excited to start her second school year at Black Bear Academy as an Occupational Therapist. She attended University of Illinois for her undergraduate degree in kinesiology and Davenport University for her master’s degree in occupational therapy. Meaghan has previously worked in a therapeutic school and in a pediatric outpatient setting. She has experience working with children diagnosed with various developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disability. Meaghan is appreciative of Black Bear’s collaborative and interdisciplinary approach that supports each student’s unique needs, and she cannot wait to be part of the therapeutic team! Outside of work, Meaghan enjoys live music, DIY projects, and spending time with family and friends!

Emily is excited for another great year at Black Bear Academy. She graduated from Louisiana State University with degrees in psychology and Communication Sciences and Disorders. In 2017, she graduated cum laude with a master’s degree in Speech, Language, and Learning from Northwestern University. While at Northwestern, Emily had the opportunity to do research with the Early Intervention Research Group and has since gained an interest in early language development. At BBA, she has had the opportunity to work in all of the therapeutic classes. She is looking forward to working closely with the team to facilitate a whole-child approach to learning with each child who comes through the doors. Emily has worked in public schools, autism clinics, and early intervention settings where she gained experience assessing and diagnosing a wide range of speech and language disorders. She is passionate about helping children and their families. In her free time, Emily enjoys living in Roscoe village, going to concerts, and riding her bike around the city.

Claire is so excited to join us as a new Speech-Language Pathologist at Black Bear Academy! She received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015 and a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from Boston University in 2018. During her time at Boston University, she participated in a preschool language study that evaluated the effect of increased frequency of treatment in children 3-5 years old, and she has loved working with this population since. Claire previously worked in a pediatric private clinic assessing and treating children 15 months to 15 years old with a wide range of speech and language disorders. She is excited to transition into a new position at Black Bear and work in the therapeutic classrooms. Her favorite part of working with children is the ability to get to know and collaborate with the whole family. In her free time, Claire enjoys exploring the different neighborhoods in Chicago, attending concerts, and spending time with family and friends.

Milena is so excited to join Black Bear Academy as a speech-language pathologist! She attended University of Illinois for her undergraduate degree in Speech and Hearing Science and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale for her Master’s degree in Communications Sciences and Disorders. Milena has worked with school aged children in an outpatient clinic, at the SIU Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder, and at an inpatient hospital in Chicago treating clients across the lifespan. Additionally, she has experience working in a preschool in the Chicago suburbs. Milena worked closely with Early Intervention students and families as they transitioned to the preschool setting. She has worked with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Downs Syndrome, and students with varying levels of abilities in expressive and receptive communication. She is passionate about working with early childhood populations to support communicative development. Outside of work, Milena enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with family and friends!

Alexandra is very excited to join the Black Bear Academy team as a Speech-Language Pathologist! In 2017, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as a certificate in Education and Educational Services. In 2021, she received her Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Concordia University Wisconsin, where she also was a member of the School of Health Professions Interprofessional Education program. While attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Alexandra was an undergraduate research assistant at the Binaural Hearing and Speech Lab, which examines the effects of hearing loss on individuals with bilateral cochlear impacts. She has an extensive background as a Speech-Language Pathologist working with the pediatric population in a variety of clinical settings, including a bilingual elementary school in the Chicago suburbs, linguistically and culturally diverse preschool and elementary school for Chicago Public Schools, early intervention, a multidisciplinary pediatric outpatient clinic, and a therapeutic preschool. What excites Alexandra most about joining Black Bear Academy is their collaborative nature, child-centered approach to therapy, and passion for supporting each child’s growth and development. Alexandra enjoys spending time with family and friends, exploring all that Chicago has to offer, traveling to new places, and outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and camping.

Behavioral Health Team

Dr. Haley Sims is the director of clinical services and training at Black Bear Academy. Dr. Sims specializes in neuropsychological and developmental assessment of young children addressing pediatric sleep and feeding challenges, toilet training, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Sims graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed her pre-doctoral internship in developmental pediatrics and pediatric primary care with the National Psychology Training Consortium. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Lori Tall at the Center for Comprehensive Neurobehavioral Care where she conducted neuropsychological evaluations for children and provided specialized treatment to children with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, and toileting challenges. While in graduate school, Dr. Sims received training in the administration and interpretation of a wide variety of neurodevelopmental assessments and worked in a number of pediatric settings in the Chicagoland area. She has therapeutic experience with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental disorders, behavioral disorders, traumatic stress, and medical conditions. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. Sims will continue her work in pediatrics offering assessment for young children and treatment for sleep, feeding, and behavioral challenges. She will also oversee all pediatric clinical services and training.

In her role as the director of social-emotional learning at BBA, Ellen will be supporting the school-wide implementation of a new social-emotional learning program called Conscious Discipline®. This evidence-based framework helps kids learn to regulate and manage their emotions through adult modeling of self-regulation. Using the tools and strategies of Conscious Discipline helps to build connections between adults and children in order to create The School Family, which fosters a positive school climate that lays the groundwork for optimal development and learning for all. Ellen will be working closely with BBA’s teachers and therapists to help them understand how brain functioning impacts children’s behavior and ability to learn. Her role with BBA is a continuation of her lifelong interest in working with children. After college, Ellen had the opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization where she cared for young children suffering from the effects of abuse and neglect. Her close work with these children fueled her desire to further her education in the field, and she went on to earn a Master of Science in Psychology. While in graduate school, Ellen gained valuable experience working with children, adolescents, and their families in therapy. She also received extensive training in the administration and interpretation of a wide variety of neuropsychological assessments and worked for several pediatric neuropsychologists in the Chicagoland area; this background in neuropsychology gives her a unique perspective in her work with kids. After earning her graduate degree, Ellen joined Dr. Tall in private practice. In her role with Dr. Tall's practice, Ellen offers Conscious Discipline parent coaching focused on empowering adults with skills that create a safe, connected, problem-solving environment in order to manage behavior and build a strong, nurturing parent-child relationship. She is excited to share her knowledge of Conscious Discipline with the students and staff at BBA and is looking forward to learning and growing as a School Family.

Dr. Elizabeth DiMaggio is a clinical psychologist specializing in pediatric anxiety, neurobehavioral disorders, sleep challenges, and parent training. She is dedicated to providing children, adolescents, and their families with comprehensive and evidence based treatment. Dr. DiMaggio graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed her predoctoral internship at Jewish Child and Family Services. Throughout graduate school, Dr. DiMaggio received comprehensive training in the administration and interpretation of a wide range of neuropsychological assessments. She has worked in a variety of outpatient pediatric settings providing assessments, individual therapy, and group therapy with children and families in the Chicagoland area. She has therapeutic experience with children on the autism spectrum, as well as children diagnosed behavioral disorders, mood disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, and their families. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. DiMaggio will offer assessment and treatment for behavioral challenges, mood disorders, and sleep while consulting with the multidisciplinary team to tailor interventions for each student. In addition, she will offer parent training focused on providing parents with skills that create a safe, connected, problem-solving environment in order to build a strong parent-child relationship and manage behavior.

Dr. Jennifer Corley graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with a degree in clinical psychology. Throughout her training specializing in the needs of children and adolescents, Dr. Corley has worked in a variety of pediatric outpatient settings in the Chicagoland area. She has had extensive training and experience in administration and interpretation of pediatric neuropsychological assessments. Additionally, she has conducted individual, group, and family therapy with children diagnosed with various neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum, intellectual disabilities, and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. She also has experience working with individuals with health-related concerns and behavioral and mood disorders. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. Corley will continue her work with children and their families, offering pediatric assessments as well as individual and group therapy. She’ll also be offering parent training to partner with parents to help manage their children’s difficult behaviors. This training is focused on empowering parents with skills that help promote a safe, connected and problem-solving environment that will in turn promote healthy growth and development of their child. She consults with the interdisciplinary team at Black Bear to help manage challenging classroom behaviors and helps implement various interventions in the classroom setting.

Dr. Liz Zimmermann is a clinical psychologist who loves to work at Black Bear Academy! She graduated from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology with her PsyD in 2019. She has focused training in therapeutic and diagnostic services with children, adolescents, and their families who experience mood, developmental and behavioral challenges. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. Liz works with students in and outside of the classroom to support social, emotional and behavioral needs. She partners with teachers and therapists to foster a therapeutic learning environment and works with parents and families to provide collaborative care. As a part of the multidisciplinary treatment team, Dr. Liz conducts diagnostic assessments, provides individual and group therapy, parent coaching, and works closely with the therapeutic classes. Dr. Liz practices from a trauma-informed perspective that incorporates relationally focused, evidence-based interventions. When not at work, Dr. Liz can be found spending time with family, painting, baking cookies, and or by the water.

Dr. Arturo Soto-Nevarez is a clinical psychologist specializing in pediatric psychology and parent management training. He graduated from DePaul University in 2021. Dr. Soto-Nevarez has been trained extensively in the administration and interpretation of neuropsychological assessments, providing treatment to families with children on the autism spectrum, as well as assisting parents of young children with strengthening their parent-child relationship through evidence-based treatment. Dr. Soto-Nevarez has worked with children and families of diverse backgrounds within the Chicagoland area who have presented with behavioral, mood, and neurodevelopmental disorders. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. Soto-Nevarez works with students in and outside of the classroom to support social, emotional and behavioral needs. In addition, Dr. Soto-Nevarez works with parents outside of school to provide them with tools to strengthen family bonds, facilitate healthy socio-emotional functioning, and set a framework for consistent positive discipline. He works collaboratively with teachers and members of the therapeutic team to provide an effective learning environment for students. When not at Black Bear Academy, Dr. Soto-Nevarez enjoys spending time with his 10-year-old Pomeranian, exploring restaurants with family and friends, and staying physically active.

Support Team

BBA is excited to welcome Sharelid to our team this year! Sharelid has over twenty years of office management, clinical support, and customer service experience and has worked with Dr. Tall for fifteen years. Whether it's greeting visitors at the front desk or answering the phone and managing the calendar, Sharelid keeps things running smoothly.

Amanda is beginning her fifth year at Black Bear Academy as a member of the therapeutic enrichment team and is thrilled to continue on as the Learning Support Team Lead. She was born and raised in Northbrook, Illinois and attended Indiana University in Bloomington where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science. Before her time at BBA, Amanda worked at the Cove School as both a one-to-one and elementary classroom assistant. She also worked at Westmoor Elementary School as a kindergarten classroom assistant and as supportive staff for both Northern Suburban Special Education District and Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association. Amanda has received training in behavior intervention and has worked closely with the behavior team at her previous schools. She has built strong relationships with students, staff, and parents throughout her career, and she looks forward to continuing assisting in the development of the students at BBA in a variety of classes. She is currently working towards earning her Masters in Social Work at the University of Denver.

our vision for students

“At Black Bear Academy, we are committed to seeing the growth of the whole child. Our vision is to serve the individual needs of each child and family at Black Bear Academy with exceptional, research-driven programming and services.”

Dr. Lori Tall

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