Bernard Smith

As choir accompanist I have the privilege of working with Professors Earl, Katie and Pam as well as all the talented members of the choir. And as a student at CAA, I enjoy my classes; reading partners, speaking with confidence, language arts and many others as well. I also enjoy singing with Lyric Theater, playing trombone in jazz and classical ensembles, but most of all I enjoy playing the piano and singing at many venues around the San Jose area. I am happy to be here today at our Annual Staff Showcase not only as an accompanist for the choir, but also as a student, to see the many talents of my CAA professors.

Michael Dubinsky

Michael studied Photography at Ohio University. He is a published photographer and has worked in all aspects of the photography field. He enjoys sharing his skill sets with CAA students. CAA shows the true spirit of creativity.

Katie Zeisl

KATIE ZEISL is honored to be CAA’s Director of the School of Theatre & Special Events and to have the opportunity to wear many hats as a professor, student registrar, campus event planner, site manager, and administrator.

Katie received her B.A. in Theatre Arts (Magna Cum Laude), with concentrations in acting and theater education, from San Jose State University, as well as a Certificate in Meeting and Event Planning from San Francisco State University’s College of Extended Learning.

Katie is a reader and actor for City Lights New Play Readers Series where she recently played Julia Waldren in The Last Iceberg. She performed in the 2015 and 2016 productions of Epic Immersive Theater’s Matthew Briar and the Age of Resurrection, playing multiple roles across three decades. She was the Preacher in From the Notebook of July 12, 1782, (SJReal of the former San Jose Rep); Jenny Tepperman, Panther, and Avatar in March (Dragon Theater); and Miranda in Guerilla Wanderers Films’ corporate commercial, Mission Impossible Virtual Instruments and is a bridesmaid in their upcoming short film, Shogun Wedding.

Katie was SJSU’s 2010 Kaucher Mitchell Fellow in Storytelling and Oral Interpretation. She now serves as a prelims judge at the biannual Kaucher Mitchell Mathis-Swanson storytelling and oral interpretation events.

Danielle Weaver

School of Communication, HR Director, Volunteer Coordinator

Danie wears many hats at CAA. She is the Director of HR, Director of Communications, and Volunteer Coordinator. However Danie’s love for this community comes from her younger sister who has differing abilities. Danie has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Comparative Literature She has a love for words, poetry, characters and animals. Danie teaches the following classes: Reading and Writing, Pop Culture, Sign Language, Poetry, Reading Partners, Speaking with Confidence and many other classes throughout different departments. In her free time, Danie enjoys traveling with her husband, writing, photography, baking and learning. Her favorite quote is from the musical Newsies, “Courage cannot erase our fear, Courage is when we face our fears.

Nicole Ferguson

School of Art, Director

NICOLE FERGUSON was born with creativity in her soul. Growing up, she was always creating or making art messes. “Sorry, Mom!” She studied illustration, painting, and sculpture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and graduated with a B.A. in Fine Art. She began showing paintings in the Bay Area, and had the amazing opportunity to create and paint murals in Maissade, Haiti, for a women’s mission trip. She joined CAA in 2011, teaching and creating the Visual Arts department. Months later, she also began teaching art for the Morgan Autism Center. In addition she teaches children and adults through her art business, Art HUGs. What could be a better gift than creating art with amazingly talented artists. Their honest and heartfelt artwork is inspiring.

Suzanne Williams

Head Librarian

Suzanne Williams joined the College of Adaptive Arts in 2013 as CAA’s Librarian. In addition to developing the Library’s collection with material for students, faculty, and family/caregivers, she created the Library Lecture Series, a program where practicing artists of all disciplines are invited to meet with CAA students and share their work. In 2019, she launched the LaRue Foster Makerspace, a place where students can discover and experience the world through creative projects.

Suzanne expanded her librarian role by creating and leading a book club class, where she shares her passion for reading with students who want to develop their critical reading skills. She is also the director of the School of Library Arts, where students can take a deeper dive into their school of study by learning and applying research skills. Other courses in the School of Library Arts include visualizing information, critical thinking, and research for journalism.

Dr. Pamela Lindsay

Co-Founder and Dean:

Dr. Lindsay enjoys supporting students and families through development of curriculum, instruction, administration, and community-based collaborative programs. A long history of work with families of learners with differing abilities inspires her passion for developing historic and individualized curricula and programs providing students with lifelong collegiate engagement, optimal learning opportunities, and motivation toward success.

Her professional background and interests include work in the arts, technology, academia, and family educational counseling. Examples of awards and commendations include multiple recognitions from the State of California Senate and Assembly, the Service Above Self Award from the San Andreas Regional Center, the University of Phoenix Bay Area Leadership Impact/Sperling Alumni Achievement award, a CACSE Special Education Recognition Award, a Lifelong Learning award from the Silicon Valley Down Syndrome Network, a Contributions to the Profession award from Delta Kappa Gamma International Society of Key Women Educators, and featured articles in publications such as Bay Area Women magazine.

Dr. Lindsay’s EdD/CI from the University of Phoenix and personal research work, including national and international dissemination of study, includes a focus on development of lifelong higher education programs for adults with differing learning needs with focus on adults with intellectual disability. Other degrees include a B.A., and M.A. from the Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre at San Jose State University where she served as a Graduate Instructor, Lecturer, and Director.

Dr. Lindsay serves on an annual panel in the Department of Human Biology class on autism at Stanford University, is an invited alumnus of the Royal National Theatre Summer Programme (London, UK) and a veteran of professional theatre, dance, film, television, and music work within the United States, Europe, and Japan.

DeAnna Pursai, MA

Co-Founder and Executive Director:

DeAnna Pursai holds a Master’s in Education Policy Analysis in the School of Education from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an undergraduate degree in Elementary and Special Education from Purdue University. DeAnna has been named an Architect of Change on the Maria Shriver blog and co-awarded the Delta Kappa Gamma State Distinguished Career/Professional Service Award with CAA’s Co-Founder and Dean of Instruction, Dr. Pamela Lindsay. DeAnna is active in the downtown Rotary Club of San Jose, as a board member, as the Chair of the Rotary Climate Action Committee, and as the Rotary mentor to the newly-formed Rotaract Club at San Jose State University. She proudly served 6 years as a board member of Christmas in the Park, and she is an active member in a vibrant Bay Area leads/referrals group called MyProGroup. She is big sister to Angel Ellenberger, who happens to have Down syndrome and is an exquisite actress, entertainer and comedian. One of DeAnna’s bucket list items is to give a TED Talk on the subject of how to innovatively cast a wider higher education net to include adults with differing abilities who historically have not had access to higher education.