Faculty & Instructors

Virginia SpielmannVirginia Spielmann, PhD, OTR/L
Executive Director (she/her)

Courses: Mentorship 1 & 2

Virginia is a well-travelled speaker, coach and educator on topics including sensory integration, DIR/Floortime, child development and infant mental health. She has conducted trainings in Kenya, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the USA and leads workshops at international conferences.  

Virginia is a founder and former Clinical Director of SPOT (Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapy) Interdisciplinary Children's Therapy Center in Hong Kong, where she led a large and widely respected inter-disciplinary team.

Virginia obtained her BSc in Occupational Therapy in Oxford England (2002) and her Masters in Occupational Therapy from Mount Mary University, Milwaukee (2018). Virginia obtained her PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development (with an emphasis on mental health) from Fielding Graduate University in 2021.

Virginia is a DIR/Floortime Training Leader and Expert and clinical consultant for the Interdisciplinary Council for Development and Learning (ICDL). Her extensive pediatric experience includes supporting autistic children and their families, as well as children with Sensory Processing Disorder, infant mental health issues, from adopted families and those who have experienced developmental trauma.  


Mim OchsenbeinMim Ochsenbein, MSW, OTR/L
Director of Education (she/her)

Courses: Foundations, School-based Intensive, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1 & 2, STAR ProCert 1 & 2

Mim Ochsenbein, MSW, OTR/L has been a practicing pediatric occupational therapist for over 25 years. She received her BSc in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1996 and her MSW from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2012. She has received advanced training in sensory integration (SIPT certification, STAR ProCert1, STAR ProCert2), listening therapy (Therapeutic Listening, iLs), feeding therapy (SOS), DIR, mental health (DC:0-5 Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood), and infant massage (CIMI). Her work in occupational therapy with children and youth has occurred in a variety of settings including early intervention, school based, clinic based, mental health and private practice.  As a social worker, she provided case management, program development, and program management. Mim has taught both university level (California State-Dominguez Hills) and professional continuing education courses since 2013, spoken internationally, and has co-authored works for professional publications. She has been in her current role at STAR Institute since 2017 at the invitation of Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, FAOTA, OTR.  


Sarah SchoenSarah A. Schoen, PhD, OTR/L
Director of Research (she/her)

Courses: Foundations, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1, Research Mentorship

Dr. Schoen is the Director of Research at STAR Institute. She is an occupational therapist with over 30 years of clinical experience and a doctorate in occupational therapy from New York University (2001). She completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship awarded by the Developmental Psychobiology Research Group at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Department of Psychiatry, under the mentorship of  Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. She is a co-author of the Sensory Processing 3 Dimensions Scale currently being standardized by Western Psychological Services.  Dr. Schoen is an Associate Professor at the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions and has served on multiple doctoral committees.  She is nationally recognized for her research, educational programs, and clinical expertise and has co-developed and teaches the monthly Advanced Mentorship trainings at STAR Institute. Her resume includes over 50 published peer-reviewed articles as well as authoring multiple chapters on sensory integration and the STAR Frame of Reference.  Dr. Schoen received the Recognition of Achievement Award from the American Occupational Therapy Association in 1997, the Virginia Scardina Award of Excellence in 2011, and the A. Jean Ayres Award in 2022, both from the American Occupational Therapy Foundation.

Renee AllenRenee Allen, MS, OTR/L
Level I Faculty Lead (she/her)

Courses: Foundations, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1 & 2, STAR ProCert 1

Renee is a pediatric occupational therapist who has more than 20 years of experience treating children and their families with sensory processing challenges in homes, schools, and private clinics.  She worked under Dr. Miller and Dr. Schoen at the STAR Institute from 2008-2011.  She then opened her own small practice in Northeast Denver, where she continues to utilize the STAR model.   Renee is Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) trained, Integrated Listening Systems (ILs) trained and holds an expert training leader certification in DIR /Floortime through the International Council on Development and Learning (ICDL).  She has been teaching as Faculty for STAR Institute since 2015. She also supervises other OTs around the country.  Renee is passionate about understanding development through the interdependent connections of sensory processing, regulation, and relationship and teaching parents and other professionals to be curious about these connections as well. To further her ability to support families, Renee is currently working toward a Masters in Social Work from Metropolitan State University.


Lisa PorterLisa Porter, PhD, OTD, OTR/L
Level II Faculty Lead (she/her)

Courses: Foundations, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1 & 2, STAR ProCert 1 & 2

Lisa Porter is an occupational therapist with over 25 years of clinical experience. She received her master's in Occupational Therapy from Rockhurst University and her OTD and PhD from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Dr. Porter has advanced training in sensory integration (SIPT), Interpersonal Neurobiology, SOS Approach to Feeding, and Integrated Listening Systems. In 2010, Dr. Porter completed a fellowship at the STAR Institute, where she was mentored closely by Drs. Lucy Jane Miller and Sarah Schoen.

Dr. Porter is an assistant professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN, and the founder of Sensory KIDS, in Portland, OR. She is also the lead faculty for the STAR Level II Intensive Mentorship Program. Dr. Porter also travels nationally and internationally, speaking and mentoring experienced therapists. She is a researcher and author, and recently co- authored a book with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. Her research interests include parent learning, family-centered practice, and occupational justice.


Colleen WhitingColleen Cameron Whiting, OTD, OTR/L
School Practice Faculty Lead (she/her)

Courses: School-based Intensive, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1, STAR ProCert 1

Colleen has worked as a pediatric occupational therapist for over 20 years, primarily in the public schools. She received her Master's Degree and Post-Professional Doctorate from Boston University. Her expertise lies in holistically supporting children, particularly children with sensory processing differences, autism, and those that have experienced trauma. Colleen is passionate about the integration of sensory and relational-based support for children. As a clinician, she prides herself on being grounded in engagement with a focus on fun and the goal of improving the quality of life for her clients. Colleen has published numerous articles and chapters. She is SIPT and DIR/Floortime certified as well as trained in the use of Integrated Listening Systems. Colleen is a cofacilitator of the AOTA School Mental Health workgroup and has led multiple professional development trainings for occupational therapists, parents, and educators. Colleen is also the owner of a private practice called The SPARK Sensory Clinic, on the faculty for STAR Institute, and a lecturer for the post-professional OTD program at Boston University.


Fair skinned woman with blonde hairRobyn C. Chu, MOT, OTR/L
Faculty (she/her)

Courses: Foundations, School-based Intensive, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1, STAR ProCert 1

Robyn is founder and director of Growing Healthy Children Therapy Services, located in El Dorado County, California. She brings over 11 years of diverse clinical experience and a passion for helping others. Robyn began her career at Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento, and later became the Lead Occupational Therapist for the El Dorado County Office of Education. She has advanced training in Sensory Integration Therapy, completing mentorships and fellowships with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller at STAR Institute in Colorado.

​Robyn has been working in the California school system for 14 years, both working directly for the office of education and as a subcontractor. Growing Healthy Children Therapy Services contracts into over 20 school districts and charter schools. Robyn oversees the school-based services provided by 40 therapists, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, assistive technology specialists, and speech and language pathologists.

Robyn has spent the last 8 years of her career dedicated to growing her private practice, which is now includes a state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary therapy practice nestled on 3.5 acres in the Sierra Nevada Foothills and a satellite location in Davis. She has also serves as a Private Practice Consultant, supporting other growing therapy practices. As the director of Growing Healthy Children, Robyn has supported many families from around the world and mentored therapists across California. Over the years, Robyn has taught workshops to parents, teachers, and therapists and has guest-lectured at universities. She helped standardize the Miller Functional and Participation Scales, the GOAL assessment, and is now working on the SP3D. She also serves as a consultant for research teams at UCSF and Stanford. Robyn recently published a set of 10 Sensory Motor Activity Books to support families and therapists around the world. She also developed “The Gardening Game: A Learn and Grow Kit for OT” in order to encourage motor development and social skills.


Michele PerkinsMichele Parkins, MS, OTR

Courses: Foundations, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1 & 2, STAR ProCert 1 & 2

Michele Parkins is an Occupational Therapist specializing in working with children and families with Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder and challenges in social emotional development as the Founder and Director of Great Kids Place in New Jersey. Michele is faculty of STAR Institute, teaching Levels 1 and 2 Intensive Mentorships and STAR Proficiency Certification Levels 1 and 2. She is SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Test) certified. Michele has co-authored two chapters and is contributing to research articles related to sensory processing and social emotional development.

Michele has Advanced Certification in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. She is DIR certified and is faculty of Profectum Foundation where she educates therapists all over the world on social-emotional development and the DIR model. She works closely with the New Jersey Association of Infant Mental Health providing training for early childhood workers on the impact of sensory processing differences on emotional regulation and relational health with caregivers and peers.

Michele’s passion lies in the use of play and affective interactions to facilitate social emotional development alongside sensory motor capacities.  She has developed a play model reflecting this passion that is used in her practice – Great Kids Place. She advocates for all children and families impacted by Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder to help them and others to understand the impact of differences in sensory processing on social emotional development and well-being, including challenges in emotional regulation, developing and maintaining relationships and social skills. Michele is also a mother of two children with sensory processing differences. She uses her real life experiences to help her clients better understand the impact of SPD on family dynamics and relationships and the day to day demands of life with sensory processing differences.


CarrieCarolyn “Carrie” Schmitt, OTD, OTR/L
Faculty (she/her)

Courses: Foundations, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1, STAR ProCert 1

Carrie is a 1996 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia Occupational Therapy program.  She has worked in a variety of pediatric settings in Georgia, New York, and South Carolina, and Colorado. Over the past 20+ years, Carrie has continually sought to further her knowledge and understanding by completing continuing education on topics including sensory integration theory, infant massage instruction (IAIM), Integrated Listening Systems (iLs ), and Handwriting without Tears (HWT).  She is NDT trained in pediatrics by the Neurodevelopmental Treatment Association and has completed the STAR Institute Intensive Mentorship Program (Level 1 and Level 2) as well as the STAR Instructor training program. STAR Institute currently employ Carrie on a contract basis.

As a wife and mother to four children, one of Carrie’s favorite things about working in the STAR model is coming alongside families to learn more about their child’s unique, individual strengths and challenges through family education and research-based intervention.

Cintia C. CortezCintia C. Cortez, MS,OT
Instructor (she/her)

Courses: Foundations, Mentorship Hybrid, Mentorship 1, STAR ProCert 1

Cintia C. Cortez Penso is the founder and current director of 7Sentidos Grupo de Integración Sensorial (7Senses Sensory Integration Group), a private practice based in Mexico City. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Universidad Iberoamericana and a Master's in Occupational Therapy from Instituto de Terapia Ocupacional.

She has advanced training in sensory integration and processing (SIPT training, STAR ProCert Level 2, “MAGO” Model, and Willbarger Protocol among others). Cintia is also trained in Integrated Listening Systems (iLs), feeding therapy (SOS), DIR /Floortime (ICDL), and has obtained several certifications on a variety of other models and techniques related to child development.

Throughout her career she has gained experience working in hospitals, schools, and private clinics. She is involved in research and enjoys teaching a variety of courses.

Amanda NewchokAmanda Newchok, MS, OTR/L

Courses: School-based Intensive

Amanda Newchok graduated from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT in 2000.  She went on to receive a Masters of Science in Health Care Management at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. She quickly developed her deep love for the pediatric area of practice early in her career. She has worked in varied settings including private school, public school, private practice, and Early Intervention. Throughout these therapeutic environments, Amanda has placed an emphasis on treating the whole child and highlighting the importance of collaboration as part of a team. She is especially devoted to articulating the importance of occupational therapy practice and concepts to families and colleagues. Amanda has treated children of all ages with varied forms of cognitive, physical, and emotional disabilities and conditions using various frames of reference, and specializes in developing sensory-based supports for individuals with varied sensory, behavioral, and social emotional needs. She is proud of her occupation and the positive impact she has made on so many families.

Amanda has advanced training in a variety of sensory-based treatment interventions including Listening with the Whole Body, the Alert Program, myofascial release, and oral motor/respiratory stimulation and is co-creator of a sensory regulation framework for individuals with self-regulation challenges. Amanda has received her Level 1 Professional Certification from the Sensory Therapies and Research (STAR) Institute.  She is also an instructor for the STAR Institute teaching their School-based Intensive course. Amanda is the co-creator and co-author of a self-regulation framework referenced in peer-reviewed journal research articles. This framework is being presented at the 2022 AOTA national convention

Our Onsite Level 1 Mentorship Faculty