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 an occupational therapist with 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, working with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. During her fellowship, she was awarded the Developmental Psychology Endowment Grant from the William T Grant foundation to study the Sensory Processing Scales, which she is co-developing and researching with Dr. Miller. Dr. Schoen is currently an Associate Professor at the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions and has served on multiple doctoral committees.  She also co-developed and teaches the monthly Advanced Mentorship trainings at STAR Institute. She is certified in Neurodevelopmental Treatment and has advanced training in Sensory Integration Therapy, Therapeutic Listening, and assistive technology. Dr. Schoen received the Recognition of Achievement Award from the American Occupational Therapy Association in 1997 and the Virginia Scardina Award of Excellence from the American Occupational Therapy Foundation in 2011.

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 advanced certification in DIR /Floortime through the International Council on Development and Learning (ICDL).  She is a life long learner and enjoys the questions as much as the answers. She has been teaching Mentorship 1 as Faculty for the SPD Foundation since 2015. She also supervises other OTs around the country.  She 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. 


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 received her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Rockhurst University in 1994, a doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in 2017, and a PhD in Pediatric Science in 2020. She has a wide range of clinical experience, beginning with adult neurorehabilitation, with a focus in pediatrics since 2000.

Lisa is a faculty member of STAR Institute in Colorado, where she travels frequently to mentor experienced therapists. She specializes in sensory and relationship-based therapy, and holds certifications in Sensory Integration, DIR/Floortime, and Yoga Calm. Lisa has advanced training in the SOS Feeding Approach and Integrated Listening Systems, as well as training in Interpersonal Neurobiology. She is passionate about learning, mentoring, listening to families’ stories, and playing!

Lisa is excited about integrating her own research into clinical practice, and creating a knowledgeable and passionate team focused on supporting families’ individual needs. When she is not working, Lisa enjoys traveling, backpacking, kayaking, reading, and cooking.


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

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

Colleen has been a practicing school-based occupational therapist since receiving her Master’s Degree from Boston University in 2000.  Her expertise lies in the combination of remedial and compensatory supports for children with sensory processing and regulation issues.  Colleen is passionate about the integration of sensory and relational supports 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 students. Colleen has a special interest in working with children who have experienced trauma. She has published two articles in research journals regarding trauma and the role of the school-based occupational therapist. She is SIPT and DIR/Floortime certified as well as trained in the use of Integrated Listening Systems. Colleen is a member of the AOTA School Mental Health workgroup and has led multiple professional development trainings on sensory processing for occupational therapists, parents and educators.


Robyn ChuRobyn 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 Levels 1 and 2 SPD Certification. 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, 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 SPD Foundation Intensive Mentorship Program (Level 1 and Level 2) as well as The STAR Instructor training program.

The Sensory Therapies and Research (STAR) Institute in Centennial, CO currently employ Carrie on a contract basis. She will complete her Post Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate (PPOTD) at Boston University in May 2021.

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 is a passionate occupational therapist with twenty years of experience working with the pediatric population. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in occupational therapy and her advanced Master of Science degree in Healthcare Management. She specializes in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Sensory Processing Disorder, and ADHD; developing sensory-based supports for individuals with varied sensory, behavioral, and social emotional needs.  She also has vast experience treating individuals with many other physical and cognitive disabilities. 

She has practiced in a wide-range of settings including public school, private school, private practice, and Early Intervention.  Within these therapeutic settings, Amanda has placed an emphasis on treating the whole child and highlighting the importance of collaboration as part of a team with the family at the fore front. 

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. She is also co-creator of a sensory regulation framework for individuals with self-regulation challenges, on which a research study is currently being conducted at a private school for children with autism.  Amanda has received her Sensory Processing Level One Proficiency and is currently an instructor for the School-Based Intensive course offered through the STAR Institute.


Our Onsite Level 1 Mentorship Faculty