2023 Fall Conference Speaker Bios

Steve Bench, Generational Consulting, LLC 

Steve customizes keynote presentations and training sessions that deliver engagement  strategies for attracting and retaining Millennials, empowering Generation X, capturing Boomer  wisdom and cultivating future leadership by leveraging the strengths of each generation. Steve  has shared his message with audiences across the country. Steve is also the creator of “The Pitch!”, a non-profit business contest that puts the next  generation of workforce talent in charge to create a start-up company and make the perfect  sales pitch! Teenage students learn business concepts, practice soft skills and networking and  compete for prizes! When not in a classroom, Steve spends his time in gyms around the  midwest coaching AAU basketball.

Adam Boldt, Arrowhead Union High School

Adam Boldt is the Director of Special Education for  Arrowhead Union High School. This is his 13th year at Arrowhead and 9th as Director of Student Services.  Adam serves as the WCASS Region 1 Representative  and is a member of the Special Projects Ad Hoc Committee  that has been working on creating practical guidance for directors to use when they start thinking about how to set caseload maximums, as well as how to set the number of seats available for open enrollment.

Hannah L. Chin , vonBriesen & Roper, s.c.

Hannah Chin is a member of the Government Law Group where she focuses on county and municipal governance and school law. Hannah developed a passion for government and school work during law school. She served as Legal Intern for the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System where she assisted in mediations and IEP facilitations between schools and families of students with disabilities. She worked as Legal Intern for the Wisconsin Elections Commission where she analyzed election laws involving election issues including candidate nominations, absentee voting and poll site accessibility. She also served as Law Clerk for the City of Madison in the City Attorney’s office. Hannah earned her Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution and served as Student Mediator for Marquette’s Small Claims Mediation Clinic. She served as Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant for Professor Andrea Schneider. Hannah co-authored two reports on women in the Milwaukee legal market. Outside of the office, Hannah serves as the Assistant Varsity Dance Coach for New Berlin West High School and as a Dance Educator for The Academy of Performing Arts in Oak Creek. 

Mary S. Gerbig , Buelow, Vetter, Olson, Buikema and Vliet, LLC

Mary Gerbig serves as counsel to numerous school districts throughout Wisconsin on general school law, special education, and labor and employment matters. The primary client base she serves includes school districts, Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESA) and other municipal employers. Mary represents and supports public school districts in student services matters, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and related state law. She provides counsel in all areas of special education, throughout identification, evaluation, IEP, mediation and litigation processes. She has successfully represented school districts in hundreds of special education mediations, special education due process requests and hearings, Section 504 mediations and hearings, DPI and OCR investigations, and U.S. federal district court and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals cases. She also provides guidance for navigating complex student services matters, including student discipline, pupil nondiscrimination and open enrollment. 

Chrissy Hamiel, Atolles Law, s.c.

Chrissy Hamiel has dedicated her practice to assisting schools on all aspects of law surrounding education. As the proud daughter of public school educators, Chrissy has always had a passion for education which uniquely enhances her understanding of, and guidance provided to, schools. Chrissy counsels school districts on challenging legal matters involving students, educators, staff, administrators, and school boards, and has been a leader in providing creative and resourceful solutions to the most challenging issues facing schools today. Chrissy regularly works with clients to tackle the challenges that keep them up at night. Chrissy is a trusted and pragmatic resource for all a school district’s needs. She is a proven school lawyer who has spent her career navigating the complex issues to best position school districts to fulfill their vision and mission in educating kids while creating opportunities for client success.


Iris Jacobson, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Iris Jacobson is an Education Consultant for the Department of Public Instruction on the Special Education Team. Her work focus has centered on accessibility of academic instruction and assessment for all students. Iris participates on several national workgroups supporting best practices for instruction aligned to the alternate academic achievement standards. In addition to her experience teaching student with significant support needs, Iris provides support and professional development to districts across the state of Wisconsin on best practices related to instruction aligned to alternate academic achievement standards for ELA, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

Mark S. Kapocius, vonBriesen & Roper, s.c.

Mark Kapocius is a school attorney with more than twenty years of experience working in administrative leadership roles for school districts in Wisconsin. As a Shareholder in the Government Law Group and School Law Section, Mark focuses his practice on school law and advising other public-sector entities on labor and employment matters, governance issues, collective bargaining, public records and open meetings compliance. Mark has extensive experience assisting school districts with special education, pupil records, policy and curriculum, and educator and administrator employment-issues involving recruiting, retention, contracting, discipline and nonrenewal, and compensation and benefits issues. Mark brings a unique and innovative perspective to solutions based on his in-house work as the Director of Human Resources for the School Districts of Greenfield, Whitefish Bay, Germantown and Elmbrook. Since 2012, Mark has served as an impartial hearing officer for school districts, counties and municipalities on matters involving employee grievances. He is also an elected municipal judge for the Village of Greendale, where he presides over appearances and trials for civil ordinance violations. 


Jen Ledin, CESA 12

Jen is the Director of Special Education and Pupil Services for CESA 12. She has been an educator for 32 years, serving as a teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, transition coordinator, special education consultant, and special education director. Jen has worked at CESA #12 for the last 25 years, also holding the role of Regional Special Education Network (RSN) director.  She works to support districts in implementation of high leverage special education practices and meeting special education compliance requirements, as well as meeting the needs of students with IEPs in a broader context.


Tiffany Loken, Waunakee Community School District 

Tiffany is the Director of Special Education for the Waunakee Community School District. This is her third year in Waunakee and prior to coming to Waunakee she was the Director of Student Services in the School District of Lodi for 14 years.  Tiffany serves on the WCASS Board of Directors in the role of the Chair of Research and Special Projects.  The Research and Special Projects Ad Hoc Committee has been working on creating practical guidance for directors to use when they start thinking about how to set caseload maximums, as well as how to set the number of seats available for open enrollment. 


Sarah Nelson, CESA 12

Sarah currently serves as the Director of Continuous Improvement and Professional Learning for CESA #12 in northern Wisconsin where she leads CESA 12’s educational consultants and coaches, supports leadership teams in continuous improvement, engages teams in EMLSS implementation, and oversees the technical assistance network for improvement. Prior to her role at CESA, Sarah dedicated 10 years supporting the state as a Technical Assistance Coordinator for the WI RtI Center where she led school/district teams across the state in EMLSS implementation, delivered the statewide Universal Reading Training, partnered with teams at the Department of Public Instruction, and created statewide professional learning trainings and opportunities for Wisconsin school districts.


Jerry Nicholson, Unified School District of DePere

Jerry is the Director of Pupil Services in the Unified School District of De Pere. Prior to this he served as a Student Services Director in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District for seven years and Wisconsin Dells School District for four years. He started his career as a middle school teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities and spent six years as a high school assistant principal. Jerry has been serving students and their families in Wisconsin for over twenty five years as an educator. He has served as an adjunct professor for Viterbo’s administrative licensure program, providing instruction in diversity, special education law, school law, and politics/public relations. Jerry served on the Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services (WCASS) Executive Board from 2015-2022. During that time he served terms as a Legislative Chair, President-Elect, President, and Past-President.

Tess O’Brien-Heinzen, Boardman and Clark, LLP

Tess O’Brien-Heinzen is a partner and co-chair of the firm’s School Law Practice Group and provides legal consultation to school districts, charter schools, private schools, and postsecondary institutions in a broad range of areas including Title IX, board governance, student discipline, special education and disability law, open enrollment, policy development, and unlawful harassment and discrimination.  She frequently assists her clients with state complaints under pupil nondiscrimination laws and special education, complaints with the Office for Civil Rights, administrative litigation related to special education and Section 504, and litigation in state and federal court.  Tess is also a member of the Litigation and Nonprofit Practice Groups.

Kylie M. Owens , Atolles Law, s.c. 

Kylie Owens’ unique background provides her with a distinct set of knowledge and experience to best serve Wisconsin School Districts and other public entities. Kylie began her career as a public- school teacher in 2011 at Wahlquist Junior High School in Utah, which provides education to over 1,100 students. This school was part of Weber School District, which employs over 1,600 teachers. Kylie’s successful teaching career ended in 2017 after she decided to attend law school to better serve schools and student from a legal perspective. Before joining Attolles Law, s.c., Kylie worked at a predominant insurance defense firm in Milwaukee where she was a litigator in both state and federal forums. She has extensive experience in the litigation process along with great experience in the negotiation process and alternative forms of dispute resolution. Regarding alternative dispute resolution, Kylie received a certificate from Marquette University Law School in that area and is always working towards the goal of resolving legal conflicts outside of the courtroom in ways that benefit her clients.

Michael Peacy, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Michael is an Education Consultant for the Department of Public Instruction in the Office of Student Assessment. His focus at DPI is centered on the administration and guidance of the Alternate Assessment, and the instruction and assessment planner resource for teachers.  Mike has been in education for over 20 years working as a teacher, mentor and principal. Mike attended Graduate Classes at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to further his understanding and involvement in the field of Special Education. 


Amanda Trautt, CESA 12

Amanda is an educational consultant at CESA 12. She has been in education for 22 years, serving as a middle school teacher, instructional coach, educational consultant, systems coach, and mental and behavioral health coordinator. Amanda currently works at CESA #12 in northern Wisconsin serving districts by providing a variety of services including instructional coaching, positive behavior systems implementation coaching, restorative practices training,  trauma-sensitive schools facilitation, and comprehensive school-based mental health consulting.  


Chad P. Wade, Renning, Lewis and Lacy, s.c.

Attorney Chad Wade is a shareholder with the law firm Renning, Lewis, & Lacy s.c. Chad has practiced law for fifteen years working primarily with public school districts and Wisconsin municipalities. Chad regularly works with school district clients on governmental issues, employment relations matters, and education law issues, including pupil special education and disability accommodation matters. Chad is also experienced with public records, open meetings, and other issues that concern school district’s responsibilities as governmental bodies.

Perry Zirkel, Lehigh University

Perry A. Zirkel is university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University, where he formerly was dean of the College of Education, subsequently held the Iacocca Chair in Education for its five-year term. He has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut, and a Master of Laws degree from Yale University. He has done presentations in every state in the U.S. He has also written more than 1,700 publications on various aspects of school law, with an emphasis on legal issues in special education. He writes a regular column for Exceptionality journal and NASP’s Communiqué newsletter, and he did so previously for Phi Delta Kappan, Teaching Exceptional Children, and NAESP’s Principal magazine. Past president of the Education Law Association and co-chair of the Pennsylvania special education appeals panel from 1990 to 2007, he is the author of the CEC monograph The Legal Meaning of Specific Learning Disability; the more recently published books, A Digest of Supreme Court Decisions Affecting Education and Student Teaching and the Law; and the two-volume reference Section 504, the ADA and the Schools. In 2012, he received the Research into Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Excellence in Research Award from AERA’s Division A (Administration, Organization & Leadership). In 2013, he received the University Council for Educational Administration’s Edwin Bridges award for significant contributions to the preparation and development of school leaders. In 2016, he received the Education Law Association’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law. In 2017 he received the Council for Exceptional Children’s Special Education Research Award. In 2021, he received the President’s Award for Excellence from the National Association of School Psychologists. He co-directed the one-week Lehigh Special Education Law Symposium from 2003 to 2022. Finally, he provides a monthly special education legal update and share his publications via his website, perryzirkel.com.