Our Team

Our team


Carolyn KocurekCarolyn Kocurek
President/Founding Partner
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
carolyn@academic-answers.com

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 scrapbooking and gardening.



Chris Kocurek, M.Ed.Chris Kocurek, M.Ed.
Chief Executive Officer/Founding Partner
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
ckocurek@academic-answers.com

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.



Scott CanterScott Canter
Managing Partner – Dallas/Fort Worth office
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
scanter@academic-answers.com

Scott Canter is a Therapeutic and Educational Consultant and the Managing Partner at Academic Answers’ DFW office. Since 1987, he has helped families with underachieving students. With a passion for working with at-risk teenagers, Scott began his career as a counselor and teacher, and spent many years in admissions at several therapeutic boarding schools. He served as Director of Admissions at Second Nature Wilderness, as well as National Director of Admissions for Aspen Education Group’s Outdoor Division, supervising the admissions offices of 10 outdoor behavioral healthcare programs.

Scott’s extensive expertise provides families with an unmatched knowledge and understanding of how special needs schools and treatment programs work to help at-risk youth.

A husband and father himself, raising three children, Scott is especially committed to assisting parents with struggling youth and reuniting families.



Shay ButtsShay Butts
Partner – Houston office
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
sbutts@academic-answers.com

Shay Butts is a Lead Therapeutic and Educational Consultant and a Partner at Academic Answers’ Houston office. Her extensive background in admissions, program leadership and program development makes her an advocate who understands the therapeutic process and can assist families rediscover hope.

Prior to joining the Academic Answers team, Shay spent much of her career working with young adults. She has served in Executive Leadership roles for some of the nations most cutting edge treatment programs and most recently as a founding member of a fine arts based young women’s program as their Director of Admissions & Marketing. Shay is active in the greater Houston community and serves as the Dean of Students for a leadership-training program called Leader’s Edge.

Shay is a mother of three, plays dominoes regularly, and is quite the musician and chef.



Debbie Hopper, RDDebbie Hopper, RD
Partner – Orange County office
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
dhopper@academic-answers.com

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.



Amanda Moore, B.A.Amanda Moore, B.A.
College Planning Consultant and Academic Services Liaison
amoore@academic-answers.com

Amanda Moore is a College Planning Consultant and Academic Services Liaison in Academic Answers’ Austin office. She works closely with families to find the best colleges or universities for their student, helping them every step of the way to navigate the college search process, and coordinates other academic services, including tutoring, test preparation, credit recovery, and more.

Having earned a Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University, currently pursuing her Master’s in Sports Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University, and working in the industry for 6+ years, Amanda has extensive insider knowledge in everything from the collegiate sports world to active recruitment, from academia to college transition. She’s an expert at guiding students to success.

Amanda is a native Austinite who loves anything college sports related, spending QT with her rescue dog, Reggie, and travelling. Her favorite destination? The mountains, preferably snow skiing.



Bill LanganBill Langan
Director of Operations
blangan@academic-answers.com

Bill Langan is Director of Operations and oversees administrative personel, marketing, operational development and sales tasks throughout all Academic Answers’ offices.

Bill holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA. Prior to joining Academic Answers, Bill had an extensive career with Fortune 500 companies in management roles, specializing in establishing and accelerating market and office growth in multiple cities. Bill also has background in various other industries, including software sales, and commercial real estate sales and leasing.

In his spare time, Bill enjoys spending time with his family, epicurean food & wine, and physical fitness activities.



Brian TaylorBrian Taylor
College Planning Consultant
btaylor@academic-answers.com

Brian Taylor is a College Planning Consultant in Academic Answers’ Dallas Office, and he holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. With more than 16 years of industry experience, Brian is an expert on holistic admissions application review and can help students determine their academic and institutional fit. His first-hand, behind-the-scenes knowledge is a great benefit to clients as they write their essays, create their resume, and work to craft their strongest admissions applications overall.

Brian still stays active in the broader Higher Education community as a member of the Texas Association for College Admissions Counseling (TACAC), and the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC). He has been honored to present various sessions at conferences, serve on the TACAC Executive Committee and as a member of the NACAC Government Relations Committee. He was also awarded both the TACAC and NACAC Rising Star Award.

Brian is an avid sports fan, and spends his free time exploring Dallas with friends.



Casey DegrootCasey DeGroot, M.Ed., LPC-Intern
SuccessPlans Facilitator
cdegroot@successplans.net

Casey DeGroot is a SuccessPlans Facilitator who collaborates with families to build proactive and individualized parenting plans. Over the last decade, she’s made it her mission to bring hope and healing to families experiencing various life challenges.

With a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Masters degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Houston, Casey brings a breadth of knowledge to the Academic Answers team. She has worked with families in non-profit, private-practice and educational settings, and has also served on various boards within the Houston area to help promote mental wellness.

A wife and mother of two, Casey enjoys a good laugh, a cup of coffee with close friends and spending quality time with her dog, Peaches.



Erica CurtisErica Curtis
SuccessPlans Facilitator
ecurtis@successplans.net

Erica Curtis is a Success Plans Facilitator, partnering with parents to promote effective strategies that decrease stress at home, increase family connection, and support children’s success. A practicing Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Board Certified Art Therapist for over fifteen years, Erica has extensive experience using compassionate, creative, and cutting-edge strategies to promote family health and happiness.

Erica has appeared in over 50 articles, books, and interviews including PBS, Cosmo, Elle, USA Today, Lifehacker, Boston Globe, EHow Family, and is a parenting expert on the award-winning online resource, Kids in the House. Previously, Erica was a clinical director at a large nonprofit working with children and teens challenged by Autism, ADHD, and Learning differences. She also taught in the Marital and Family Therapy department at Loyola Marymount University and has lectured widely for universities (including USC and UCSD), Kaiser Permanente, and local groups (including Moms Club International and the Boys & Girls Club). In addition to maintaining a therapy practice, she regularly teaches for UCLArts and Healing.

Erica lives in South Orange County, CA with her husband and 3 children. When she is not working or spending time with her family, she might be found volunteering at her kids’ schools, jogging, or plugging away at writing a book about using art to raise connected, happy, and successful kids.



Henry B. EwertHenry B. Ewert, M.A.
College Planning Consultant
hewert@academic-answers.com

Henry (Hank) Ewert is a College Planning Consultant at Academic Answers. Hank was previously a member of the faculty of St. Stephen’s School, a private day and boarding school, from 1975 until 2005. He was a college counselor there for twenty-six years, and served as Director of College Counseling for twenty-two of them. He was also Site Director of the Los Angeles campus of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in the summers of 1993 and 1994. He has served on the board of Admission Control, a nonprofit organization fostering college opportunity for disadvantaged Central Texas students, since 2001.

During his career Hank has served as a workshop presenter for the College Board, TACAC, and the Austin Independent School District among other organizations. A native of Kingsville, Texas, Hank graduated from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in 1970.

Hank earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University in 1974 and his M.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979, writing his Master’s thesis on the poetry of W.B. Yeats. He also received the William W. Fleming Award for Counseling Excellence and the TACAC Founders’ Award.



Hope VanDykHope VanDyk, M.A.
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
hvandyk@academic-answers.com

Hope VanDyk is a Lead Therapeutic and Educational Consultant at Academic Answers’ Austin office. She holds both a Masters in Counseling Psychology from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and a Master of Accountancy from the University of Tennessee. Hope works with families to evaluate recommended options, and helps them to find the best fit based on their individual needs.

Prior to joining the Academic Answers team, Hope worked as therapist and Director of Admissions in a residential treatment environment. She helped young women struggling with anxiety, depression, substance use, mood disorders, and trauma to discover tools necessary to overcome their struggles and flourish. Concurrently, she worked with parents and families as their daughters worked to regain passion and perseverance.

Hope prefers being outside in the sunshine. She lives a full life, which wouldn’t be complete without some good wine from time to time.



jeff-hollowayJeffrey S. Holloway, MSW
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
jholloway@academic-answers.com

Jeff Holloway is a Lead Therapeutic and Educational Consultant at Academic Answers’ Atlanta office, and he has a passion for working with students who suffer from learning difficulties. Jeff is a fountain of knowledge, holding a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of South Dakota and a Master of Social Work from the University of Iowa. He continues to focus on his studies, and is currently working on his Doctorate of Education at the University of Phoenix.

Before accepting a position at Academic Answers, Jeff held several leadership positions in residential treatment facilities, therapeutic boarding schools, and traditional boarding schools in Iowa and Georgia. He also served as a private consultant, helping schools with post-accreditation reports and developing improvement plans. In his vast experience with students in therapeutic programs, Jeff has found that many behavioral issues can actually stem from undiagnosed learning issues. It is his belief that for every learning style and ability there is a school that can help students excel academically and emotionally.

Jeff is a husband and a father of three. Away from the office, you’ll find him with his family and enjoying some of his favorite hobbies: Golf, Judo, and riding Harley Davidsons through the north Georgia mountains!



John SchaefferJohn Schaeffer, B.S.
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
jschaeffer@academic-answers.com

John Schaeffer is the Safety and Security Director 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.



Mary Beth ThurmanMary Beth Thurman, B.A.
Associate Consultant
mthurman@academic-answers.com

Mary Beth Thurman is an Associate Consultant at Academic Answers.

A veteran to the Academic Answers family, Mary has recently returned to Texas from an adventure living in Washington State! She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mississippi State University.

Mary Beth loves to travel and experience different cultures with her husband. Her life goals are to visit all U.S. states, 7 continents, and as many countries as possible. She’s an avid reader who also loves to write. Having just completed her first novel, and keeping a travel blog in her spare time, we’d say she’s pretty talented!



Richard Ribb, Ph.D.Richard Ribb, Ph.D.
Achievement Consultant
rribb@academic-answers.com

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.



Shannon DeVilbissShannon DeVilbiss
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
sdevilbiss@academic-answers.com

Shannon DeVilbiss is a Lead Therapeutic and Educational Consultant in Academic Answers’ DFW office. Prior to joining the Academic Answers team, Shannon worked at one of the leading residential treatment centers in the nation for girls and women struggling to overcome eating disorders, substance abuse, mood disorders, trauma, and co-occurring disorders. This experience has equipped Shannon with knowledge of the comprehensive treatment process.

Shannon also established and was President of the Dallas Fort Worth Chapter for the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP) Foundation, driving both leadership and vision for the chapter and its members. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Texas Tech University in Marketing. As a mother with two young girls of her own, she has a passion for bringing awareness to social pressures and providing treatment resources in the community.

Shannon loves spending time with her husband and family, traveling, camping, scrapbooking and reading.



Shannon HigginsShannon Higgins, M.A., LPC-S
SuccessPlans Facilitator
shigginspeake@successplans.net

Shannon Higgins, M.A., LPC-S is a SuccessPlans Facilitator supporting parents in providing effective parent strategies that help create family wellness. Shannon has over 15 years of experience working as a Licensed Professional Counselor and behavior specialist in public/private education, non-profit sector, and has owned a private practice for 10 years.

Shannon specializes in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, trauma, various psychosocial issues, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, learning differences, and behavior issues. She is devoted to helping families voluntarily and serves as both a clinical assistant and on the Practice Group Committee for Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly’s cutting-edge project, Safe ConversationsĀ© of Family Wellness Dallas.

In addition to being a prominent LPC in Dallas, Shannon is a busy wife, as well as a mother of three boys and a daughter.



Vaughn HeathVaughn Heath, Ph.D.
Therapeutic and Educational Consultant
vheath@academic-answers.com

Vaughn Heath is a Therapeutic and Educational Consultant at Academic Answers who has specialized in trauma work with women who were sexually abused as children; group, family, and individual work with sexual perpetrators; work with adolescent females in the wilderness treatment setting; and outpatient therapeutic work with young adults and their families in transitioning from therapeutic schools and treatment centers.

Vaughn earned a Bachelor of Arts from University of Alberta with a specialty in Psychology, and both a Master’s degree and a PhD from Brigham Young University in Marriage and Family Therapy. He wrote his dissertation on how the effects of childhood sexual trauma differed in women from current negative life experiences. Vaughn is also a published author, with articles in Contemporary Family Therapy, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, and American Journal of Family Therapy.

Vaughn’s time away from the office is spent outdoors – on the water or in the snow – he loves to wakeboard and snowboard. He also enjoys golfing and playing the guitar.



Zack TedderZackery A. Tedder, M.A.
Licensed Psychological Associate
ztedder@academic-answers.com

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.