since 2003

The Black Bear Academy Mission

Black Bear Academy is a center for learning that provides education and support to children of all ages and their families in the Chicago area. We offer a wide range of academic and therapeutic programming that reflects our commitment to meet the needs of children at all skill levels as they learn, grow, and develop.

Committed to Student Growth

We believe in supporting learners at all levels. Our teachers and staff are passionate about student-centered approaches to learning and development that serve the needs of the whole child.

Committed to Student Growth

We believe in supporting learners at all levels. Our teachers and staff are passionate about student-centered approaches to learning and development that serve the needs of the whole child.

History of Black Bear Academy

Black Bear Academy began in June 2003 as a pilot program to support children and families in the Chicago area. With an eighteen-month-old son at home, founder Maureen Black decided it was time to put a long-time vision in motion and established BBA in a 1400 square-feet space at Irving Park and Hermitage with three employees. Maureen served as executive program director and consulted with families, schools, and therapists to provide exceptional services to students both at BBA and in external programs to support the success of Black Bear students as they transitioned to other city programs. In the fall of 2009, Maureen and her husband Kevin closed their therapeutic company Clinical Assist to continue their research and focus their full attention on continually improving the programming at BBA. Sadly, Maureen struggled with declining health following a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and passed away in November 2019.

Dr. Lori Tall and Melissa Menn became the new owners of Black Bear Academy in 2020. Their combined experience in clinical neuropsychology, teaching, and school social work make them the ideal pair to continue to build an exceptional offering of academic and therapeutic programming to support children and families at BBA.

Meet the Owners

Dr. Lori Tall is the founder and clinical director of the Center for Comprehensive Neurobehavioral Care, a pediatric psychology practice in downtown Chicago. As a clinical neuropsychologist, she specializes in educational, neuropsychological, and legal assessments and has worked across clinical and academic settings throughout her career. Before entering private practice, Dr. Tall served as the director of the Assessment Program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston and clinical director at Rush Neurobehavioral Center at Rush University Medical Center.

Melissa Menn is the founder and director of Learning Lab Chicago, a tutoring company that serves families across the city. Ten years of teaching in various academic settings and a master’s degree in school social work have set Melissa up to be uniquely qualified to choose and perfect programs that support students on a more individualized basis. In her work, Melissa strives to fully understand the whole child; this approach enables her to tailor a curriculum to successfully meet each child’s specific needs. She is highly trained in a number of reading, writing, and executive functioning programs.

Unique Programming

Our research-driven programming is uniquely tailored to meet each child’s individual needs. We offer a wide range of classes and services that engage children in fun, multisensory approaches to learning and development.

Unique Programming

Our research-driven programming is uniquely tailored to meet each child’s individual needs. We offer a wide range of classes and services that engage children in fun, multisensory approaches to learning and development.

Our Core Values

We believe in helping children grow and develop according to their individual needs.

We believe in partnering with parents to maximize each child’s unique skills and strengths.

We believe in protecting the joys of childhood while facilitating optimal opportunities for each child to learn at a self-determined pace based on interest and aptitude.

We believe in building a child’s neural network through a multisensory approach to learning that emphasizes play and motor cortex development and helps students reach their highest levels of potential, regardless of traditional or adult-determined age expectations.

Our Team

Academic Team

Jennifer serves as the director of the academic program as well as the Junior Kindergarten teacher. She has been a part of Black Bear Academy for the past ten years and has taught each of the classes offered within the academic program. Jennifer earned a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Miami University of Ohio and recently graduated with a master's degree in Educational Leadership: Administration and Supervision from National Louis University in Chicago. She believes in creating a supportive environment for her students by focusing on a whole-child approach to learning. As the Director of the Academic Program, she will continue to provide professional development and mentorship for the teachers and staff at BBA. As part of her continuing education, Jennifer has attended the NAEYC conference for Early Childhood Educators for several years and has also attended a conference on integrating meaningful and interactive lessons within the classroom. Jennifer enjoys participating in monthly webinars to stay up to date on new strategies and ideas to use within the classroom. When she is not in the classroom, Jennifer enjoys exploring the city, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her family.

Katherine is in her second year of teaching at Black Bear Academy. Previously, she assisted in both the 2s and Junior Kindergarten classrooms. Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Katherine graduated from Antioch University of Santa Barbara with degrees in liberal studies, child development, and education. During her undergraduate studies, she had many opportunities to lead instruction in various classrooms and gain valuable experience with children of all ages and ability levels. She also has experience working as a tutor and nanny. When Katherine isn’t in the classroom, she enjoys exploring the city, cheering on her favorite team (the Arizona Wildcats), and spending time with her dog, Sullivan.

Emily is a first-year teacher at Black Bear Academy in the K/1 classroom. She majored in elementary education with concentrations in math and English language arts at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois. She also has a background in Applied Behavior Analysis, having spent two years as a Registered Behavior Technician working with children on the autism spectrum ranging from ages three to 11. Emily enjoys music and art and brings both into the classroom as much as possible to enhance the learning environment for students. When she is not teaching, Emily enjoys cooking, trying new recipes for family and friends, going to concerts, the occasional Netflix binge, riding her bike, and spending time at her family’s lake house.

Lauren is excited to serve as the new 2s teacher this year at Black Bear Academy. Born and raised in the Chicagoland area, she is excited to be able to continue to build a career in the city. Lauren has always had a passion for teaching and working with children, and she is honored to be able to share that passion with the wonderful students of BBA. She holds a degree in early childhood education from Miami University with a minor in special education. Over the past several years, she has worked with children from infancy to elementary school in a variety of different roles. Most recently, she spent the last year teaching preschool at an early childhood center where she learned to refine her techniques to help children progress academically, socially, and emotionally. Her goal in teaching has always been to guide children as they explore the world around them, and she hopes to help her students progress in every area of development while teaching kindness and caring for others through her own actions. Lauren also believes in parent involvement both inside and outside of the classroom and will continue to work toward a goal of open communication with each family. She is committed to making the classroom a fun environment where each child feels safe, loved, and encouraged to learn and grow.

Therapeutic Team

Dr. Lori Tall is the new co-owner of Black Bear Academy and the founder and clinical director of the Center for Comprehensive Neurobehavioral Care, a neuropsychology practice in downtown Chicago. As a clinical neuropsychologist, she specializes in educational, neuropsychological, and legal assessments and has worked across clinical and academic settings throughout her career. Dr. Tall received her doctoral degree from the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles, interned in neuropsychology at the University of Minnesota, and was a fellow at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was a hospital and community-based psychologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center and served as the director of the Assessment Program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston and clinical director at Rush Neurobehavioral Center at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Tall serves as the executive director at Black Bear Academy.

Caroline is excited to rejoin the Black Bear Academy staff for her third year as an occupational therapist. She graduated from Saint Louis University with a bachelor’s degree in occupational science in 2016 and a master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2017. Caroline has experience working with adult populations in an inpatient hospital setting, as well as with children in an outpatient pediatric setting. During her time at Saint Louis University, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain where she completed courses at the local university and volunteered at a local preschool teaching English. Caroline has worked in a variety of therapeutic classrooms at BBA, including Learning and Engagement (now Preschool Plus), Therapeutic Preschool (now Preschool Prep), and Kindergarten Prep and Transition (now Junior Kindergarten Prep). She is passionate about treating the whole child and meeting all children where they are emotionally, physically, and mentally every day. She loves the way BBA allows disciplines to work collaboratively to help each child reach their fullest potential, and she is excited by the additions of clinical neuropsychology and psychology to the team to further support a whole-child approach to learning. In her free time, Caroline loves attending Cubs games at Wrigley Field, working out at OrangeTheory Fitness, and exploring new restaurants in the city. She looks forward to helping continue to grow the occupational therapy program at BBA.

Maggie is thrilled to return to the Black Bear Academy team this year. She was born and raised in Chicago and loves attending Chicago sporting events and concerts, as well as spending time by the lake. Maggie graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology with her bachelor’s degree in movement science. Most recently, she attended Washington University in St. Louis where she received her master’s degree in occupational therapy. During her time at Wash U, she had the opportunity to work with infants in the neonatal intensive care unit providing age-appropriate sensory interventions, parental education, and support. Maggie has previously worked with both adults and children in various settings, including elementary and therapeutic schools, private clinics, and acute-care hospitals. She has worked at BBA for the past year and a half and is passionate about supporting children and their families in order to help them grow and develop into the next chapters of their lives. She is thrilled to be a part of a growing multidisciplinary team and is excited for a great year at BBA.

Laurina is currently completing a year of clinical fellowship at Black Bear Academy. She is a recent graduate from Midwestern University where she received her master’s degree in speech and language pathology. Laurina has completed internships at a pediatric clinic, a school, and in early intervention services. Through these internships, Laurina was able to work with various populations on communication and feeding skills. While working on her master’s degree, she provided ABA therapy to continue to grow her skills and experience working with individuals with autism. Laurina was born and raised on the northwest side of Chicago. She enjoys reading, staying active, and rooting for the Cubs.

Emily is excited for another great year at Black Bear Academy. She graduated from Louisiana State University with degrees in psychology and Communication Sciences and Disorders. In 2017, she graduated cum laude with a master’s degree in Speech, Language, and Learning from Northwestern University. While at Northwestern, Emily had the opportunity to do research with the Early Intervention Research Group and has since gained an interest in early language development. At BBA, she has had the opportunity to work in all of the therapeutic classes. She is looking forward to working closely with the team to facilitate a whole-child approach to learning with each child who comes through the doors. Emily has worked in public schools, autism clinics, and early intervention settings where she gained experience assessing and diagnosing a wide range of speech and language disorders. She is passionate about helping children and their families. In her free time, Emily enjoys living in Roscoe village, going to concerts, and riding her bike around the city.

Behavioral Health Team

Dr. Haley Sims is the director of clinical services and training at Black Bear Academy. Dr. Sims specializes in neuropsychological and developmental assessment of young children addressing pediatric sleep and feeding challenges, toilet training, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Sims graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed her pre-doctoral internship in developmental pediatrics and pediatric primary care with the National Psychology Training Consortium. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Lori Tall at the Center for Comprehensive Neurobehavioral Care where she conducted neuropsychological evaluations for children and provided specialized treatment to children with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, and toileting challenges. While in graduate school, Dr. Sims received training in the administration and interpretation of a wide variety of neurodevelopmental assessments and worked in a number of pediatric settings in the Chicagoland area. She has therapeutic experience with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental disorders, behavioral disorders, traumatic stress, and medical conditions. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. Sims will continue her work in pediatrics offering assessment for young children and treatment for sleep, feeding, and behavioral challenges. She will also oversee all pediatric clinical services and training.

In her role as the director of social-emotional learning at BBA, Ellen will be supporting the school-wide implementation of a new social-emotional learning program called Conscious Discipline®. This evidence-based framework helps kids learn to regulate and manage their emotions through adult modeling of self-regulation. Using the tools and strategies of Conscious Discipline helps to build connections between adults and children in order to create The School Family, which fosters a positive school climate that lays the groundwork for optimal development and learning for all. Ellen will be working closely with BBA’s teachers and therapists to help them understand how brain functioning impacts children’s behavior and ability to learn. Her role with BBA is a continuation of her lifelong interest in working with children. After college, Ellen had the opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization where she cared for young children suffering from the effects of abuse and neglect. Her close work with these children fueled her desire to further her education in the field, and she went on to earn a Master of Science in Psychology. While in graduate school, Ellen gained valuable experience working with children, adolescents, and their families in therapy. She also received extensive training in the administration and interpretation of a wide variety of neuropsychological assessments and worked for several pediatric neuropsychologists in the Chicagoland area; this background in neuropsychology gives her a unique perspective in her work with kids. After earning her graduate degree, Ellen joined Dr. Tall in private practice. In her role with Dr. Tall's practice, Ellen offers Conscious Discipline parent coaching focused on empowering adults with skills that create a safe, connected, problem-solving environment in order to manage behavior and build a strong, nurturing parent-child relationship. She is excited to share her knowledge of Conscious Discipline with the students and staff at BBA and is looking forward to learning and growing as a School Family.

Dr. Elizabeth DiMaggio is a postdoctoral fellow specializing in pediatric anxiety, neurobehavioral disorders, sleep challenges, and parent training. She is dedicated to providing children, adolescents, and their families with comprehensive and evidence based treatment. Dr. DiMaggio graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed her predoctoral internship at Jewish Child and Family Services. Throughout graduate school, Dr. DiMaggio received comprehensive training in the administration and interpretation of a wide range of neuropsychological assessments. She has worked in a variety of outpatient pediatric settings providing assessments, individual therapy, and group therapy with children and families in the Chicagoland area. She has therapeutic experience with children on the autism spectrum, as well as children diagnosed behavioral disorders, mood disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, and their families. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. DiMaggio will offer assessment and treatment for behavioral challenges, mood disorders, and sleep while consulting with the multidisciplinary team to tailor interventions for each student. In addition, she will offer parent training focused on providing parents with skills that create a safe, connected, problem-solving environment in order to build a strong parent-child relationship and manage behavior.

Dr. Jennifer Corley is a postdoctoral fellow who graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with a degree in clinical psychology. Throughout her training specializing in the needs of children and adolescents, Dr. Corley has worked in a variety of pediatric outpatient settings in the Chicagoland area. She has had extensive training and experience in administration and interpretation of pediatric neuropsychological assessments. Additionally, she has conducted individual, group, and family therapy with children diagnosed with various neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum, intellectual disabilities, and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. She also has experience working with individuals with health-related concerns and behavioral and mood disorders. At Black Bear Academy, Dr. Corley will continue her work with children and their families, offering pediatric assessments, and individual and group therapy. She’ll also be offering parent training to partner with parents to help manage their children’s difficult behaviors. This training is focused on empowering parents with skills that help promote a safe, connected and problem-solving environment that will in turn promote healthy growth and development of their child. She consults with the interdisciplinary team at Black Bear to help manage challenging classroom behaviors and helps implement various interventions in the classroom setting.

Support Team

As the new co-owner and director of admissions at Black Bear Academy, Melissa ensures that all enrollment operations and programming run smoothly and efficiently. She is also  the founder and director of Learning Lab Chicago, a tutoring company that serves families across the city. Ten years of teaching in various academic settings and a master’s degree in school social work have set Melissa up to be uniquely qualified to choose and perfect programs at BBA that support students on a more individualized basis. As director of admissions, Melissa works directly with families in order to meet BBA’s mission to understand and support the whole child.

Amanda is in her third year at Black Bear Academy as a member of the therapeutic enrichment team and is excited to take on the role of director of learning support staff. She was born and raised in Northbrook, Illinois and attended Indiana University in Bloomington where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science. Before her time at BBA, Amanda worked at the Cove School as both a one-to-one and elementary classroom assistant. She also worked at Westmoor Elementary School as a kindergarten classroom assistant and as supportive staff for both Northern Suburban Special Education District and Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association. Amanda has received training in behavior intervention and has worked closely with the behavior team at her previous schools. She has built strong relationships with students, staff, and parents throughout her career, and she looks forward to continuing assisting in the development of the students at BBA in a variety of classes.

Kelsey is in her second year at Black Bear Academy. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Kelsey attended Miami University where she studied psychology and special education. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Kelsey moved to Madrid, Spain to teach English at a bilingual elementary school. Her time abroad afforded her the opportunity to travel to eighteen countries (Italy was a favorite!), but it was her work in the classroom in Spain that helped her discover a passion for teaching. After moving home to Ohio to gain experience as a substitute teacher in preschool- and elementary-school classrooms, Kelsey moved to Chicago last spring to begin a master’s program in elementary education at DePaul University. She is currently in the last year of the program and will earn her degree upon completion. When Kelsey is not in the classroom, she enjoys going out to eat with friends, exploring the city, doing yoga, and walking on the lakefront trail.

Abbey is thrilled to be the lead art teacher and creative art director for the 2020-2021 school year at Black Bear Academy. Originally from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Abbey attended the University Of Louisville where she earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts in studio design with a minor in psychology. She is passionate about early childhood development and looks forward to helping develop Black Bear Academy’s art department with new, fresh, and exciting concepts. Abbey has been living in Chicago for six years in the beautiful Lakeview area. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, traveling, painting and drawing, beach volleyball with friends, and finding new and exciting things to do around the city. Abbey also enjoys running on Lake Shore Drive and is a 7x marathon runner.

our vision for students

“As the new owners of Black Bear Academy, we are committed to seeing the growth of the whole child. Our vision is to serve the individual needs of each child and family at Black Bear Academy with exceptional, research-driven programming and services.”

Dr. Lori Tall + Melissa Menn

schedule a tour

Interested in enrolling your child and learning more about our programs? Please contact info@blackbearacademy.com to schedule a tour and begin the enrollment process.