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Meet Our Experts

Our licensed clinical psychologists and knowledgeable staff are committed to students who learn differently. We know when dealing with school challenges, families need compassionate care that supports healthy development and empowers them to address concerns. Every staff member at the Ethan D. Schafer Center for Learning Differences is an experienced professional who is well informed, positive, and optimistic.


Vanessa Diffenbacher, M.Ed.
Administrative Director

Vanessa has dedicated her life to supporting and educating students who learn differently. Attracted to the mission, she joined Lawrence School more than 25 years ago with a personal commitment to help students close gaps in their academic achievement. Over the years, she has held multiple positions, ranging from faculty member to Director of Summer Programming to Administrative Director of the Schafer Center. She was named Associate Head of Lawrence School in 2011.

Vanessa’s passion for assessment was ignited upon witnessing the immense growth Lawrence’s youngest students make through multisensory learning. In 2008, she conceptualized and implemented free reading screenings for the public. This successful program is still going strong and she has since assisted schools all over the country in launching their own reading screening programs. Her greatest hope is for children everywhere to be identified early and given the individualized instruction they need to become successful readers.

Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Slippery Rock University and a master’s in Organizational Leadership from Cleveland State University. Other than all things Lawrence, she loves to bake and decorate cookies, head outdoors in every season, and spend quality time with her husband and two grown children. 


Kelly M. Christian, Ph.D.
Clinical Director

A graduate of Cornell University and Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Kelly M. Christian is a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive training and experience in the evaluation of children and adolescents. Her interest in assessment was sparked by her own student experience as a graduate assistant at the Schafer Center. She later joined the staff professionally as a postdoctoral fellow and was named clinical director in 2015. 

Through her work with schools and families, Dr. Christian strives to change the narrative that can sometimes surround classroom accommodations. She reminds those who worry accommodations don’t prepare students with learning differences for ‘the real world’ that accommodations are all around us and successful adults can self-identify their weaknesses and understand what they need to overcome them.

Dr. Christian also serves as an adjunct assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. After work, she revels in play with her toddler son and cooking interesting meals for her whole family to enjoy.


Sarah Kearney
Director of the Academic Center for Enrichment (Tutoring Services)

Sarah shares her personal love of reading with students from all over Northeast Ohio through her tutoring services in the Schafer Center’s Academic Center for Enrichment. Prior to joining us, Sarah spent seven years as a Title I and middle school teacher. She is constantly in awe of the gains her students make when introduced to multisensory teaching techniques.

Sarah graduated from Baldwin-Wallace University with a Bachelor of Science in middle childhood education. Her two areas of concentration are reading/language arts and social studies. Outside of work, she enjoys great books, playing sand volleyball, and going to the park with her young family.


Renee Voth
Administrative Coordinator

Renee graduated summa cum laude from Ohio University with a bachelor’s in sociology. Her undergraduate thesis explored the health of children in rural Appalachia. She is dedicated to ensuring every child has access to the resources and services they need to be successful in life. 

Prior to joining the Schafer Center staff in 2014, Renee worked in other school settings. In her current role, she manages the center’s office and coordinates all scheduling and services. Renee feels honored to be the first point of contact for families who reach out to the Schafer Center. She enjoys answering questions and helping people feel comfortable and at ease. 

Born and raised in Broadview Heights, Renee is a hometown girl who appreciates all the area has to offer.

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