NorthStar Academy
Charting a Clear Course for Teens & Their Families

Our Staff

Passion. Experience. Diligence.


Who We Are

We are a team of exceptionally experienced therapists, counselors, educators, and mentors who work diligently with your teenager to help them overcome obstacles and realize their full potential.


Get in touch

If your teenager could benefit from a supportive, structured, peer-focused, environment, please get in touch to discuss how we can help.

Book an appointment ▸



Executive Leadership




Gale has worked in the addiction, mental health and rehabilitation field for over 35 years, serving largely in executive level positions. During this time she has developed, opened and operated some of the most effective treatment and recovery programs in the metropolitan Washington DC and Maryland regions. Her experience includes working with adolescents, young adults and adults, including those who have co-occurring substance use, mental health and other related behavioral issues.

Read More…



Clinical Leadership


Clinical/Program director

Leah Simmons, LCSW-C

Leah is a graduate of the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work and is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical (LCSW-C).

Leah brings with her a passion for working with adolescents and families. Her experience of over 15 years directing residential, transitional and outpatient youth and family treatment programs will ensure that NorthStar continues to evolve and excel. 

Leah believes that recovery (from mental health and/or substance use disorders) is possible for everyone and enjoys being a part of a person’s journey to wellness.   

Consulting Psychiatrist

Alan Zametkin, MD

Dr. Zametkin is an internationally recognized clinician, clinical investigator and former academic child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. For 30 years, he worked at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) evaluating, studying and treating children and adults with ADHD. He has also had his own private practice in Bethesda for 32 years. While at NIMH, Dr. Zametkin published 4 clinical research studies in The New England Journal of Medicine. His most widely cited work was on adult ADHD and was published on the front page of The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Read More…




Community Outreach Coordinator

Laura Silverman

Laura, NorthStar Academy’s Community Outreach Coordinator, is the founder of The Sobriety Collective↗︎, a resource and blog created to celebrate multiple pathways to recovery from substance use disorder and mental illness, especially through creativity.  She is a graduate of the University of Virginia with degrees in Sociology and Spanish, and found long-term recovery from alcohol abuse and mental illness in 2007, at age 24.  Laura spent eight years consulting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is excited to be in a field more suited toward her passion and purpose. 



Clinical Team

Lead Therapist

Heather McMullen, LCSW-C, MT-BC

Heather is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical and a Board Certified Music Therapist. She received her Master’s in Social work from the University of New England and her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Therapy from Shenandoah University. As a Board Certified Music Therapist, Heather has been providing Music Therapy services to children, adolescents, and adults since 2008. She has a passion for working with children and adolescents with mental health diagnoses, addictions and special needs. She believes strongly in supporting the individuals whole well-being with particular attention to the creative and expressive aspect of every person.

Annie Bertran

Primary Therapist

Annie Bertran, LCSW

Annie is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical.  She received her Master’s in Social Work from University of Maryland, Baltimore and her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  For the past four years, she worked as a therapist in a Baltimore City high school where she provided individual, group, and family therapy.  She gained extensive experience dealing with crisis situations especially pertaining to suicidal and homicidal idealization as well as violence.  Prior to this, she worked in New York City, NY, as a resident advisor for 18-21 year old males who were residing at the Covenant House homeless shelter.  

Read More…



Primary Therapist

Molly Zametkin, LGSW

Molly is a recent graduate of the National Catholic School of Social Services Master’s of Health Social work program. Molly spent 4 years doing research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and 4 years studying psychology at The Colorado College.  Her primary interests include adolescent mental health, substance abuse, yoga, nutrition, cognitive behavior therapy, and collaborative models of health care.

Read More…

Family Therapist

Emily Rizzo, LPC, LCPC

Emily is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in DC and MD. She has been in the counseling field since 2007, utilizing an eclectic, creative approach to engage clients. She believes in using creative arts to explore feelings and connecting the body and mind to encourage movement in therapy along with talk. Emily loves to learn about diversity, race and culture, sex and communication, gender, the LGBTQ community, and family relations.

Read More…



Family Therapist

Albert Bander, LGPC

Albert is a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor.  He received his Master’s in Counseling from Capella University and is also a licensed School Counselor in the State of Maryland.  Last year Albert completed his Practicum and Internship in the inner-city of Baltimore working in a school where he counseled students, developed psycho-educational programming for the community, and worked to better the lives of the families by helping them learn family communication skills, anger management, and positive self-image.

Read More…

Family Therapist

TJ Matton, LGSW

TJ is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker. She received her Masters from University of Maryland in 2011 and has been working in the field of social services since 2006. TJ has worked with individuals and families in a diverse range of settings from jails and legal clinics to outpatient mental health and a family mediation practice.

Read More…



Art Therapist

Michael Pretzer, MA

Michael received his master of arts in art therapy from George Washington University. In addition, he has a master of arts in teaching from the Rhode Island School of Design and degrees in journalism from Northwestern University and the University of Kansas. Michael specializes in art therapy for adolescents. His previous experience includes work at the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Rockville, MD.

Read more…


Maria Valencia

recreation Therapist

Maria Valencia, CTRS

Maria is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She received her BS in Therapeutic Recreation from San José State University with a Minor in Child and Adolescent Development. Along with completing clinical internships for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto, and the National Institutes of Health, Maria spent her free time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Autism Speaks, Team River Runner, and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Her areas of interest include leisure and recreation for rehabilitation, adaptive sports, mental health and early childhood education.



Education Team


education supervisor

Ann Kennedy, LSET

Ann is a Licensed Special Education Teacher.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education from American University, with an emphasis on Learning Disabilities.  Ann has spent over 20 years as a classroom teacher, teaching learning disabled students on the high school level.  As a special education classroom teacher, Ann focused on teaching math to learning disabled students employing strategies which enabled students to succeed.

Read More…

Learning specialist

Candace Sahm, MA. Ed

Candace is the Learning Specialist at NorthStar Academy. She holds a MA in Special/Vocational Education from George Washington University and a BA in Special Education and Elementary Education from the University of Maryland. Candace has over 25 years of experience as an ADHD Coach.

Candace also brings to NSA her experience as an Interim Instructional Services teacher for over 12 years with Montgomery County Public Schools. She is familiar with the MCPS Curriculum and APEX learning. She believes that each student learns differently and she is innovative in creating a positive learning environment in the classroom at NSA.




Rachel Koehn

Lead Coach/Mentor

Rachel Koehn

Rachel recently graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with an undergraduate degree in Sociology. Her passion lies within adolescent therapy, addiction/recovery specialization and interventionism. Prior to joining the NorthStar team, Rachel held an internship position at the Maryland Department of Health and Human Services-Child Protective Services Treatment Foster Care Unit. In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school and earn her Masters in Social Work. 


Colm McCarthy Lister

Colm is a passionate 200 hour certified yoga instructor who brings 8 years of experience teaching mindfulness and yoga to adolescents. He approaches instruction from a 1 on 1 perspective, helping students to develop an individual curriculum, catered to the unique needs of each students mind and body goals. His passion come from a desire to help young people find what intrinsically motivates them to work towards a happy and healthy life style, in our fast paced modern world.

Read More…



Harry Wright

Harry's life experiences have brought him to NorthStar Academy to work one-on-one with students assisting in both school and other activities pertaining to mind and body growth and development. Some of those experiences include 14 years as a transporter, protectively transporting adolescents from their homes to distant academies or programs.

Read More…