Judith Bliss, CEO
In 1986, Judith Bliss founded MindPlay® with the goal of helping students who had been identified as having learning disabilities. Bliss understands the impact that challenges in learning have on school outcomes, since she has personally experienced such challenges. Searching for an effective reading solution, Bliss collaborated with experienced and innovative teachers who used scientifically sound methods to produce dramatic results in the classroom. Bliss used the latest advances in computer based programming to effectively emulate these best practices. The results were a suite of products with state-of-the-art Embedded Teacher Intelligence™ technology that diagnoses reading gaps and directly instructs students to enable them to read fluently. Since the first pilot was introduced in 1988, Bliss has been compiling research results on the MindPlay products which show that students aged 6 to adult, many who have been labeled ADHD, learning disabled, dyslexic or simply “unable to learn”, have broken through their perceived limitations and learned essential reading skills. Bliss holds firm to her convictions that everyone has the ability – and the right – to read; she continues to achieve dramatics results for lifelong learners with MindPlay products.
Dan Figurski, President
Dan Figurski brings 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business management in the K-12 educational software segment to his role at MindPlay. Prior to joining MindPlay, Figurski served as President of Sunburst/Educational Resources, where he worked his way up through the company, from product manager to president, focusing on the sales and marketing tactics that work in the K-12 space. Figurski led the creation of a customized lead machine that helped inside sales to grow five-fold. This and other innovations resulted in overall company growth of 50%. Figurski helped lead the acceptance and growth of digital-subscriptions in K-12, with products like QuickMind and Type to Learn 4, helping create a subscription model for software that works for both schools and publishers alike. His achievements in identifying and managing solutions have directly impacted bottom and top line revenues. A father of four, Figurski is passionate about helping children learn and chose to join MindPlay when the program was able to help one of his own children, a struggling reader, improve his reading fluency. Figurski received a BA in corporate communications from Northern Illinois University.
Lisa M. Garcia, Director of Educational Services
Lisa Garcia joined MindPlay in 2009 as Director of Educational Services after 28 years of teaching in the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. She earned her BA in Elementary Education with an ESL, Bilingual Education, and Middle School Endorsement from the University of Arizona. Garcia also received her MA in Secondary Education (ESL/Math) from the University of Arizona. She acquired her ADE reading endorsement in 2006. During her teaching years, she was featured in the Middle School Journal™ in an article entitled, “Portrait of an Outstanding Middle Level Teacher,” was a Crystal Apple Award recipient, Middle Level Educator of the Year recipient and a Sunnyside Star Teacher of the Year. From 1995 to 1997, she participated in an intergovernmental exchange program between the University of Arizona Department of Mathematics and Sunnyside School District as a “visiting scholar” and adjunct instructor in the College of Education to promote mathematics reform in teacher education. Garcia met Judith Bliss while serving as the Curriculum Specialist for Reading and Math for grades K-5 at Ocotillo Elementary School during the school’s initial installation of My Reading Coach™ (MRC). In 2004, Garcia began consulting for MindPlay on the initial RAPS® 360 (Reading Analysis and Prescription System) assessment program. Garcia was instrumental in bringing the additional MindPlay Spanish add-on to My Reading Coach.
Chris Coleman, Director of Software Development
Chris Coleman joined the MindPlay team in 2008 where he has been able to realize his passion for assembling top-tier development teams in order to create and support world class software products. Coleman is a Tucson native and University of Arizona alumnus. During his studies at the University of Arizona, Coleman served as Co-Lecturer and Head Section Leader for software development courses in Microsoft.Net and Java. Prior to joining MindPlay, Coleman worked for 3M Motor Vehicle Systems as a Development Lead and Engineer. While at 3M, Coleman contributed to the development of a financial management and billing system for state contracted Motor Vehicle Departments. Coleman later managed a team of developers to facilitate the integration of this financial solution into existing statewide billing systems. Since joining MindPlay, Coleman has doubled the capacity of the Development Team through three major product releases. He prides himself on his contributions to all areas of the product lifecycle having served as Manager, Analyst, and Engineer. Coleman is currently working on the design and development of the MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach system; an online, mastery-based literacy program.
Grant Hawkes, Director of Technology and Software Architecture
Grant Hawkes joined the MindPlay team in 2008 where he is able to combine his past technical experience with his passion for reading and education. An Arizona native, Hawkes graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Arizona with a Computer Science major and a Japanese language minor. While at the University of Arizona, Hawkes gained valuable experience in the education field as he served in the Section Leader Program and as an on-campus student representative for Microsoft. Prior to joining MindPlay, Hawkes worked for 3M Motor Vehicle Systems. His achievements at 3M include producing enterprise software and designing scaleable state-level systems for Iowa, Alabama, Montana and several other state Departments of Transportation. The systems designed by Hawkes had online consumer and business portals that increased state revenue and improved business participation. At MindPlay, Hawkes is designing the technical architecture to ensure that the MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach technology suite and future MindPlay products remain effective, accessible and fun.
Michael Milone, Ph. D.
Dr. Michael Milone is an award-winning educational writer and research psychologist. He has taught both regular and special education classes at all levels and is fluent in American Sign Language. He served on the board of directors of Edpress, the Association of Educational Publishers, and regularly contributes to both readingonline.org and Technology & Learning magazine. Dr. Milone met Judith Bliss in 1994 while collaborating on a project. Dr. Milone subsequently worked with MindPlay to build the unique comprehension and vocabulary assessment components of My Reading Coach. Dr. Milone is a past chairperson of the Technology and Reading Committee of the International Reading Association and has served on the Instructional Technology Committee of the National Council of Teachers of English and the Task Force on Technologies in Education of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Milone currently serves on the Research Advisory Board of Renaissance Learning, the Literacy Assessment Committee of the International Reading Association and the Education Advisory Team of rocknwrite.com.
Anne Whitney, Ed.D., CCC-SLP
Anne Whitney is a speech-language pathologist and special educator who is a clinical professor at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus and is the Coordinator of Speech Language Services. She is president and owner of Spectrum Educational Consulting Services, Inc. in Broomfield, Colorado. Dr. Whitney is a certified national trainer for Louisa Moats’ Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS), and a former national trainer for the LANGUAGE ! curriculum. She is co-author of A Coach’s Guide to Teaching Reading Essentials (2009), SPELL-Links to Reading and Writing: A word study curriculum (2004), Games & Activities for Readers and Spellers (2000); and the Instructional Resources Guide for Teachers (2000). She is a member of the Rocky Mountain Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, American Speech-Language Hearing Association, Colorado Speech-Language Hearing Association and committee chair for Courage to Risk Collaborative Special Education Conference.
Meredith Puls, M.Ed.
Meredith Puls has a B.A. in French and secondary education from Mundelein College in Chicago. She earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education at Boston College, with an emphasis on literacy and learning disabilities. Puls then taught undergraduate special education classes, and served as a Master Teacher at the Boston College Laboratory School, supervising student teachers and interns. Puls worked at The Children’s Hospital in Denver for twenty-one years as a learning specialist and manager of the Learning Services Clinic. She received The Children’s Choice Award for her role as educational diagnostician on a multidisciplinary assessment team. Puls has served on the Boards of the Rocky Mountain and Arizona branches of the International Dyslexia Association. She is now an educational consultant in private practice in Tucson, and joined the MindPlay team in February, 2009.