Our Team

Our team

Carolyn KocurekCarolyn Kocurek
President/Founding Partner
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant

Carolyn Kocurek is the founder of Academic Answers and a Lead Therapeutic and Educational Consultant. Over the past two decades, she has spent her professional life in the fields of educational consulting and behavioral healthcare for struggling teenagers. Her ability to understand the needs of children and to intuitively connect with parents in a supportive but directive manner has made her a model consultant.

Carolyn’s collective experiences in admissions, program development, marketing, and client relations helped her realize her true passion: helping families. In 1998, Carolyn founded Academic Answers by conceptualizing a full-service firm with varied specialties in helping students and their families succeed. As a mother of two and a professional, she personally understands the challenges that parents face in our changing society.

Carolyn is an avid practitioner of yoga, and enjoys gardening.

Chris Kocurek, M.Ed.Chris Kocurek, M.Ed.
Chief Executive Officer/Founding Partner
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant

Chris Kocurek is the Chief Executive Officer at Academic Answers, and also serves as a Lead Therapeutic and Educational Consultant. He has more than 30 years of experience in education and behavioral health. Chris holds a Master’s degree in Education, specializing in Counseling and Guidance and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He is an active member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and with an emphasis in the educational consulting areas of special needs, schools and learning disabilities. He is also a Licensed Child Care Administrator in the State of Texas. He also served as the Chief Executive Officer of a subsidiary of the Brown Schools, Inc., where he developed and operated a continuum of residential schools and treatment programs for adolescents and young adults.

Chris has assisted hundreds of students and families, helping them to identify and select the best schools and programs for their own success. In addition to his role as an educational consultant, he also provides consultation and training to the faculty of schools and programs throughout the United States. His extensive knowledge in program development and operations is a valuable resource.

Outside the office, you can find Chris playing guitar, listening to live music, watching the Dallas Cowboys, or trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

Debbie Hopper, RDDebbie Hopper, RD
Partner – Orange County office
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant

Debbie Hopper is a Lead Therapeutic and Educational Consultant and a Partner at Academic Answers’ Orange County office. She specializes in working with parents and guiding families to explore options that will lead their children to success. A Registered Dietitian, Debbie has extensive knowledge in nutrition systems and support, and public health.

Debbie previously worked in the specialty school and treatment program industry, where she led professional outreach for a continuum of residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, programs for young adults and outdoor behavioral health programs. During her 11-year tenure, she helped 3,000+ families make appropriate therapeutic treatment choices for their children.

As a single mother, raising 2 teenage daughters, Debbie is humbled to continue working in Orange County and offering help and sharing knowledge with parents who are searching for answers and hoping to restore their families.

Claudia SchwarzElizabeth Hamilton, B.A, M.A.
Director of College Planning & Academic Services

Elizabeth Hamilton is the Director of College Planning & Academic Services at Academic Answers. She guides students and families through the college selection and admissions process, develops and leads college seminars and workshops, and provides motivation and support as students seek out their best fit colleges.

With a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of Mississippi, a membership in SACAC and IECA, and an extensive background in academia, Elizabeth is certainly a crucial member of the Academic Answers team. Her previous experience includes work as an Academic Advisor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Mississippi; an Instructor, Dorm Parent, and College Counselor at The Darlington School; as Academic Programming and Outreach Coordinator for Science and Engineering at Tulane University; as Instructor/Professor at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy, Hyde Park High School, and Austin Community College; as College Access Coach at College Forward; and as Educational Consultant and Founder at UAhead Consulting.

Elizabeth grew up in Atlanta and Austin, but her favorite city is New Orleans. Very well rounded, she is a professional artist, an amateur baker, and a huge sports fan. She was the Young Women’s Alliance Volunteer of the Year in 2016-2017. And Elizabeth loves live music and is often found leading her own dance party.

ennifer GriffithJennifer Griffith, B.A, MSW
Associate Therapeutic and Educational Consultant

Jennifer Griffith is an Associate Therapeutic and Educational Consultant at Academic Answers Orange County. Her role is to help families navigate resources available to them in order to achieve short- and long-term goals set forth during treatment. Jennifer earned a B.A. in Psychology from The College of the Holy Cross with a minor in cultural studies, and then pursued a Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California (USC) with a focus on Human Resources Management.

Jennifer has extensive experience within the public- and private- sector therapeutic and educational communities, and she has served thousands of families & individuals in these industries since 1996. She has a passion for those with learning exceptionalities. Her career highlights include developing curriculum for the Center for Autism and Related Disorders Skills program, building offices across California for special education programs while fostering the necessary partnerships to access funding, corporate training, serving as a national conference speaker on how best to serve the neurodiverse – and creating necessary programs across communities and colleges to meet their needs. She is a fun, yet firm, educator who works with all personalities and generations.

Unsurprisingly, Jennifer’s favorite pastime is problem solving – she loves puzzles, analytics, and strategic planning. Where others see barriers, she often sees possibilities. She is also a mother of two boys who love Legos & gaming, and¬†teaches them to be self-sufficient young men with manners. She and her husband met in an educational setting and have served families together for many years. Gardening, cooking and hiking / exploring are her hobbies.

John SchaefferJohn Schaeffer, B.S.
Director of Family Safety and Security

John Schaeffer is the Director of Family Safety and Security at Academic Answers. His main focus at our firm is on safety and security issues as they relate to the families we work with, even including the development of new communications strategies and social media monitoring products.

John holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Old Dominion University. He has 40 years of unparalleled experience in corporate and high-profile family security, including hostage and missing person negotiations, emergency and contingency planning, residential and personal security, and travel planning and coordination.

Is John an interesting guy? We sure think so! He’s travelled to over 70 countries throughout the world – and has even lived in Cairo, Islamabad and El Salvador. He’s also a fan of pursuing a healthy lifestyle with his wife, and has run in two marathons.

Kolbie KieferKolbie Kiefer
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant

Kolbie Kiefer is a Therapeutic and Educational Consultant Academic Answers. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Texas A&M University, as well as an M.A. in Professional Counseling from Texas State University, concentrated on marriage, family, and couples counseling. In addition, she is a National Certified Counselor (NCC).

Essentially beginning her career in the field as an Administrative Assistant in the Academic Answers’ Austin office, Kolbie has been most recently focused on finishing up school. With these impressive credentials, Kolbie brings a fresh perspective to the Academic Answers’ team – and we’re so happy to have her back with our firm.

Kolbie loves baking, traveling, and being outside with her dog, Wrigley.

Leslie WoodLeslie Wood, LCSW
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant

Leslie Wood is a Therapeutic and Educational Consultant at Academic Answers’ Dallas/Fort Worth office. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from Texas Tech University.

Leslie brings with her long-term experience in adolescent treatment from residential treatment program to outpatient, and every level in between. She has previously facilitated the development of programming and therapeutic space in partnership for anticipatory support program for children and adolescents with family members who have devastating diagnoses, established a grief support group program with local area school districts serving populations at risk, and focused on individual, group, and family therapy.

When away from her day job, Leslie has been a former owner/partner of therapy dog team with Pet Partners (Formerly Delta Society). She enjoys being active and outdoors, especially running, hiking, skiing and exploring new places through travel! She loves watching college football, especially Texas Tech University. She’s a mom of three amazing girls and a lifelong learner.

Lisie Sillers - Achievement ConsultantLisie Sillers, M.A.
Success Plans Facilitator

Lisie Sillers is Success Plans Facilitator who works with the Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin teams to provide parent coaching. She received her Master’s degree in counseling from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. She has also worked professionally for area non-profits and businesses for the past 20 years. In addition to facilitating Success Plans, Lisie has a private practice in Austin counseling adolescents, couples and individuals.

In addition to her counseling experience, she has an impressive resume working professionally for non-profit agencies in fund development, grant writing, and volunteer services. She’s also worked with various non-profit programs and communication fields establishing important community connections. These experiences offer years of knowledge and insight, with skills in relationship-building, attentiveness to diversity and managing crises. All of these experiences make Lisie a perfect fit for the Academic Answers team.

Lisie has an active spiritual life, and enjoys running, reading, and being with family. Originally from Boston, MA, she has called Austin home for over 25 years. She has been married for 30+ years, has three adult children and two precious dogs.

Richard Ribb, Ph.D.Richard Ribb, Ph.D.
Achievement Consultant

Richard Ribb is a Lead Achievement Consultant with Academic Answers. He specializes in advising young adults how to identify, evaluate, and achieve realistic academic and personal goals. He facilitates individualized plans that prepare each student for a lifetime of learning and success. He also works with students who have not yet achieved appropriate academic and career paths. Over the course of his career, Richard has helped several thousand individuals find their paths to success.

Prior to joining Academic Answers, Richard was a multiple-award winning educator with extensive experience in higher education. He began his career as an early-decision admit at Brown University, and earned his doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin in American Studies. For ten years, he served as Senior Academic Advisor at The University of Texas at Austin, as well.

Richard is the proud parent of two young men, who are both currently enjoying their own college experiences. He’s passionate about live music, swimming, reading, and his Vizsla (Ginger) with whom he hikes Central Texas.

Zack TedderZackery A. Tedder, M.A.
Licensed Psychological Associate

Zack Tedder is a Licensed Psychological Associate at Academic Answers. He earned his Bachelors of Science Degree in Psychology at Texas State University in 2009, and was accepted into the Health Psychology Master’s program there, where he graduated in 2012. During his academic tenure, Zach focused his studies on assessment techniques, intelligence and achievement testing, personality assessment, and other disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

Over the course of his career, Zack has consulted with many different state and federal agencies, as well as with families from all socioeconomic backgrounds. His notable areas of expertise include: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, substance use disorders, learning disorders, and behavioral disorders.

Zack has lived in the Austin area since 2004, although he was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He joined the United States Navy right out of high school, and served for several years.