Our Academic Coaching Associates Team

At ACA, we pride ourselves on our exceptional team of highly trained, experienced academic coaches who all hold Master’s degrees in education or related fields

Susan V. Schaefer, M.Ed., M.A.T, Founder & Owner, Academic Coaching Associates and Launch Career Coaching

Susan Schaefer Academic Coaching Associates FounderSusan Schaefer holds a Master of Arts degree (M.A.T.) in Teaching and a Master of Education degree (M.Ed) and has completed the Career Coaching Mastery Certification Program through C.T.A. (Coach Training Alliance). With a proven record of improving academic success for students both nationally and internationally, Sue is committed to helping students realize their potential and reach their goals through her successful companies, Academic Coaching Associates (ACA), and Launch Career Coaching for young adults. Sue’s expertise is focused on teaching students better study skills based on individual learning styles and strengthening executive function skills including organization, time management, pre-planning, and self-advocacy. One of the reasons for Sue’s success is her gift for forming positive connections with her students.

Sue is also a sought after speaker on many educational subjects and speaks each year at the SpEd CT (Special Ed Connecticut) Annual Conference, was Keynote Speaker at the commencement at Lincoln College, and speaks regularly at schools and various venues across Connecticut including the Connecticut Guidance Counselor Symposium, King Philip Middle School, Bristow Middle School, Farmington CT library, and many more. She has published many articles on education with a twist of humor, wrote a weekly education column for Patch.com that was nationally distributed, appeared on Huffington Post Live and the WXLM radio show. Sue was recently featured in Innovation Destination Hartford as an entrepreneurial success story. Prior to opening ACA, Sue was a classroom teacher and holds teaching certificates in both Connecticut and Illinois.

She is a volunteer mentor for Untapped Potential, a non-profit organization that helps women who have opted out of the workforce for a period of time to raise their children to opt back in and make a smooth re-entry.

Andrea Miller, M.Ed., C.T.A. (Certified Life Coach), Director of College and Career Coaching

“Andrea is doing a super job keeping Ryan on track, and most importantly, acting as the liaison between Ryan and us in terms of his academic experience.  I feel much better knowing that Andrea is coaching Ryan and reminding him of deadlines, encouraging him to use his time more wisely and basically keeping him on track. I am very pleased with Andrea’s work with Ryan and having her as Team Leader for Team Ryan.”

Andrea holds a Master’s in Education (M.Ed.) in General and Athletic Counseling and is a certified life coach. Andrea has been helping students at the University of Hartford for 21 years in the areas of Academic and Personal Counseling. For the past 5 years, Andrea has been Associate Director of the Student Success Center and Orientation where she meets individually with students who are struggling academically or personally. She also teaches a course each semester for students that are undecided about their majors and career path.

Andrea is the director of our College Program including the Career Exploration Program and is certified in Typefocus, a cutting-edge assessment tool that helps students chose a viable college major and career path. As an Academic Coach with ACA, Andrea uses her wealth of experience to help college students focus on the process of learning including examining their learning style, organization abilities, self-advocacy, problem-solving strategies, and life skills that will lead them to academic success.

Andrea lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and has a college-age daughter. She is the “outdoorsy” type and enjoys cross-country skiing, hiking, and iPhone photography.

Christine Riley, M.A., College Academic Coach

Chrissy holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is currently an adjunct psychology professor and Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Hartford. where she was also an Academic Coach in the Student Success Center where she provided academic, emotional and social assistance to struggling students.

At the University of Hartford, Chrissy was also an Academic Coach in the Student Success Center where she provided academic, emotional and social assistance to struggling students.  In addition, she has been a senior counselor for a therapeutic social skills summer program where she implemented clinical interventions to assist individuals with Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and PDD-NOS. Her belief is that by providing a positive and supportive environment, she can create a culture that brings out the best in her students; cultivating their strengths and empowering them to improve holistically. She is passionate about people and her goal is to be a catalyst for her students to succeed in school and in life.

Brian Keiser, M.A., College Academic Coach

“I just wanted to let you know that Lee just got a 97 on his law midterm. He’s never gotten such a high grade on a midterm exam before! Brian has been flexible in his scheduling, and Lee always seems very upbeat and positive after they’ve had a session together. I really think his self-confidence is beginning to develop as he sees how he has success when he keeps on top of his homework. We are very happy so far with their teamwork.” -Bev

Brian Holds a Master of Arts degree in Education Psychology from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) degree in Child Development.  Brian is the Director of Academic Advising for the University of Bridgeport (CT) where he predominantly works with first-year students but serves all students in various capacities including academic coaching.

Brian’s employs a holistic and inclusive approach when working with students and understands that students need to experience a personal connection with a supportive adult when transitioning to college.   He is a natural mentor and students are drawn to his humor and creativity.  He has even been known to hold a coaching session on the basketball court in order to build trust and increase motivation, proving he will do whatever it takes to promote student success.

As a Connecticut transplant from Nebraska, Brian can’t get enough of the beach, stays active, and is a fan of sports and comedy.

Hilary Ben-Ami, M.S., Certified Life Coach and Academic Coach

Hilary holds a Master’s degree in Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and Speech from Hunter College in New York City.  She has a myriad of teaching and academic coaching experience with students aged middle school through college.  She was a holistic learning specialist in the private sector where she worked with students and adults on goal setting, accountability, and motivational tools, as well as academic coaching. Hillary has also developed many workshops and seminars including Student Coaching and Simple Pleasures intended for positive empowerment and goal attainment.

Currently, Hilary is the lead literacy teacher at a middle school, in addition to an inspiring, motivating academic coach.  She has two grown children and lives with her artist husband and sweet spaniel, Maya and is a certified yoga instructor.


Josh Pelletier, M.S., Academic Coach

“Josh, thank you again for your hard work with John.  Last night after your session, John just matter-of-factly said to me, without prompting, “I think working with Josh is really helping me”.  I was thrilled to hear that and I can tell that John is more confident, less anxious and is taking his work more seriously.” -Beverly

Josh holds a Master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Bridgeport, as well a Bachelor’s degree in English from Central Connecticut State University. In addition, he has worked hard to receive his state coaching and teaching certification and has been working in Connecticut school systems since 2009.

Josh finds his pleasure teaching with a great deal of enthusiasm and energy to reach a wide variety of learners, which makes him an excellent academic coach. Having a passion for writing and reading, Josh takes great pride in coaching students in developing literacy skills vital to learning as well as developing executive function skills and strategies. Through building confidence, self-esteem, and pride in one’s work, it is obvious that Josh cares deeply about his students and their success. Currently working as a sixth-grade language arts teacher in CT, Josh is continually honing his skills as an educator and academic coach.

Having been a high school rowing coach, Josh is out on the rivers of Connecticut every chance he gets. Josh is a big fan of outdoor activities and has a passion for hiking and exploring new paths and trails around Connecticut.

Beverly Yirigian, M.S.W., M.B.A, Academic Coach

Beverly is a Connecticut Certified Professional Educator and Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years of experience working with youth in school and clinical settings. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology from Trinity College; a Master’s of Business Administration from The University of Connecticut and a Master’s of Social Work degree from The University of Connecticut. Beverly works with high school students in the West Hartford Public Schools as a Teacher, School Social Worker, and Home-to-School-Liaison; specifically working with struggling students to improve their school performance and develop lifelong strategies for success.

Bev’s happy place is Cape Cod where she spends her summers with her husband, son, and daughter, along with extended family.

Michelle Marais, M.S., Academic Coach

Michelle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Salve Regina University and a Master’s of Science degree from Central Connecticut State University in School-Based Marriage and Family Therapy. Michelle has been working with students of all ages for the last 6 years to reach their potential academically and emotionally. Michelle is currently a therapist at The Connection Counseling Center providing support to adults and families.

As an Academic Coach for ACA, Michelle promotes strength in organization skills and assistance with decreasing anxiety towards academic concerns. Michelle believes that each student has the ability to succeed and achieve their goals through identifying strategies attuned to their personal learning styles. Michelle is dedicated to building foundations for students to gain problem-solving and learning skills in order to accomplish academic success.

Michelle is also a believer in self-care and mindfulness for the individuals she works with and for herself as well. She enjoys reading, watching movies with her husband, cooking new recipes, and completing DIY projects during her free time.

Ariel Ursitti, M.S., Academic Coach

“Dear Ariel – I just wanted to drop you a note and thank you for the positive results Morgan has achieved thus far with academic coaching. This is the first academic growth spurt Morgan has had in years!” -Mark

Ariel holds a Master’s degree in School Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University.  She is currently pursuing a Specialist degree in School Psychology and was both nominated and selected by the NASP (a national organization in this discipline). Ariel graduated as a Presidential Scholar and a College Park Public Leadership Scholar from the University of Maryland with a dual Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Justice Communication.

Ariel’s experience as a school psychologist allows her to continuously stay abreast of the newest supports, strategies, and interventions available to students to support their academic, social-emotional, and executive functioning skill development. Due to her extensive training in both counseling and comprehensive assessment, Ariel is able to utilize these techniques to identify students’ underlying areas of need and develop a plan to assist students in acquiring the skills needed to be increasingly successful in their academic endeavors.

As an avid traveler, Ariel has spent time exploring destinations both near and far. Ariel resides in Colorado and embraces the outdoors through hiking, camping, rock climbing, and yoga. However, when the weather encourages indoor activities, she enjoys curling up with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa. Ariel’s explores her creative side by sewing, crafting, and upcycling.

Jill Warren, M.A., Academic Coach

“Since our son began working with Jill,  we have seen a large improvement in his study habits, academic performance, and confidence.  She has done a great job at teaching him alternative ways to learn and guiding him to improve study habits and accountability. The comprehensive notes she sends us after each academic coaching session on what was covered during their coaching sessions has been extremely helpful both for us, as well as his teachers.” -Marie & Tim

Jill holds a Master’s degree in Special Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Child Study and is dually certified in both Special Education and Elementary Education and was the recipient of the prestigious Mary DeLourdes Kenny Award for Excellence in Child Study. She is also a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Practitioner as well as a  Reading Specialist. Having been in the field of education for 15 years, she most enjoys working with students who have various learning challenges. Jill has taught in both the public school setting and in private, state approved, special education schools where she has gained experience working with students who have diverse needs.

With a specialization in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Jill has been trained in many teaching methods including ABA, Visual Phonics, Handwriting Without Tears, and Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes. She draws on this wealth of expertise to foster self-esteem, independence, and help her students succeed in many domains. She is also a member several organizations including New England Assistive Technology and the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress. This involvement allows her to network with other professionals serving students with special needs, as well as stay abreast of best practices and current developments in the field.

When Jill is at home she spends her time with her family, loves to cook, quilt, and take her mini dachshund for long walks.

Paul Henning, M.A.T., Math Tutor

Paul holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Brown University and a Master’s of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Mathematics Education from Rhode Island College.   In addition, he passed a rigorous series of exams to become an Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society and has worked as an actuary for many years.

As a Math Tutor For ACA, Paul guides his students to focus on the fundamentals: arithmetic, numerical fluency, and logical thought.  By building a strong foundation, his students become more confident and are better prepared for the challenges of the high school and college years. Paul has the ability to build confidence and strengthen skills in even the most “math challenged” students

When he’s not tutoring, Paul likes to relax with a crossword puzzle or a history book.  In the warmer months, he can often be found on a bicycle, exploring the scenic back roads of the Nutmeg State.

Corinne Byrne, M.S., Math Coach

Corinne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Saint Joseph, and a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Central Connecticut State University. She has 10 years of experience in the classroom in both a traditional high school and currently in an alternative high school where she works with at-risk students.  As the Vice President of the COnnecticut Association of Alternative Schools and Programs, Corinne expands her dedication to her students from the classroom to the state level.

When she is not working, Corinne enjoys trying new DIY projects, playing volleyball and basketball and exploring all the interesting and diverse areas of Connecticut with friends.

Carter Caldwell, M.A., Writing Coach

“We are in love . . .. . . with Carter Caldwell, the best writing coach ever! Garrett felt very comfortable and loved the way he explained things (great analogies). Can’t wait to work with him again!” -Susan

Carter holds a Bachelor’s degree in English (cum laude) from Yale University, and a Master’s degree, also in English, from the University of California at Berkeley. For the past eight years, he has taught composition and literature at the college level. He has extensive professional writing and experience in print journalism, public relations, and for various sites on the Internet as well.

As ACA’s Writing Coach, Carter emphasizes the fundamentals of grammar, sentence structure, paragraph organization, research, and logical argument. By helping his students master these essential skills, his students are well prepared for the demands of high school and college. Carter’s gift of patience, as well as his ability to effectively teach students at all levels of the writing process, make him a perfect fit at Academic Coaching Associates.

When he’s not teaching and coaching writing or working on his own projects, Carter can be found in the stands at minor league baseball and college basketball games, and in the audience at movies and plays across the Greater Hartford area, and beyond.


Brenda Barrows, B.S., Office Manager

Brenda holds a Bachelor of Science degree (BS) in Finance from Lehigh University.

If there were an award for “Most Organized Person on the Planet,” Brenda would win it. She takes care of all the behind-the-scenes work to make sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

Brenda spends her free time hanging out with her husband and two children. She enjoys watching her son’s basketball and baseball games, attending her children’s concerts, and volunteering her time in their schools. When not at the ACA office or watching her kid’s games or concerts, Brenda can be found reading on the beach where nobody can ask her to drive them to the mall or do the monthly student scheduling.


Tootsie, Official Mascot

Although Tootsie did not graduate from puppy kindergarten (she failed “stay”), with the proper coaching, patience, and love from Sue’s family and students, Tootsie has become an integral part of the Academic Coaching Associates team.

Her duties include making even the most stressed out, reluctant student relax and feel at home immediately upon entering Academic Coaching Associates by crying with excitement and enthusiasm, and, if the student is especially lucky that day, giving one of her dazzling smiles. Tootsie shows her support to each student by laying at their feet and either snoozing or protecting them from squirrels outside or giving them a turn with her ball, should the student feel the desire to throw something.

Although she is not especially fond of cats, Tootsie is fine with “cat people.” Her three favorite activities include chasing balls, chasing balls, and chasing balls, followed by a long nap.