SRI Team

Dr. Stuart Shanker
Science Director

Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Psychology, internationally celebrated speaker, thinker, and writer, Dr. Stuart Shanker is one of the world’s leading authorities on self-regulation. Stuart trained intensively in child psychotherapy under Stanley Greenspan; he was the Director of the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative at York University; President of the Canadian Council of Early Child development; Director of the council of Human Development; and has served for many years as an advisor to government and education organizations across Canada and internationally.

Throughout his career, Stuart has researched and studied the role of self-regulation in mental and physical wellbeing and academic achievement. He has focused on the beneficial role that positive stress plays in children’s development and learning and the worrying effects of excessive negative stress.

Stuart founded SRI, where he currently serves as Science Director to continue his research into self-regulation.

Lisa Bayrami, Ph.D
Executive Director

Dr. Lisa Bayrami is the Executive Director of the Self-Regulation Institute (SRI). Lisa is passionate about fostering wellbeing among children, youth, families, and communities. As former Director of Research at Roots of Empathy, a large non-for-profit organization, Lisa oversaw all aspects of research globally. Lisa trained as a developmental psychologist under Dr. Stuart Shanker and Dr. Stanley Greenspan and continued her journey as Senior Scientist at the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative (MEHRI) at York University where she designed and led multiple school-based research initiatives and worked with children with special needs and their families. She has instructed as a Professor of Psychology in the School of Liberal Arts and Academic Partnerships at Seneca at York. Lisa also consults internationally supporting children, educators, parents, and Governments with the central focus of cultivating wellbeing.

In addition, Lisa is on the Advisory Committee for Measuring What Matters (People for Education) and the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Holistic Early Learning and Development. Previously, she has served as a member of the Babies and Preschool Working Groups as part of the National Reading campaign.

Lisa believes that Self-Reg is foundational to changing the landscape of wellbeing for all and is excited to bring her vision and enthusiasm to lead SRI into the future.

Brenda Smith-Chant, Ph.D

Brenda began her career as a research expert by examining how kids learn to count. This important research lead to work with Peel Public Health on the transition to parenthood, publishing research findings on early numeracy and literacy, and work with multiple community-action research projects, such as the CARA Project (Community Aboriginal Recreation Activators) and Best Start community pilot projects. For Brenda, self-regulation is directly connected to her research in cognitive development as it lead her to look at the social, educational, cultural, language, and parenting influences on children’s thinking development. In addition to her research, Brenda was a foster parent. She began to see the damaging effects of trauma, stress, and anxiety on her foster children, and how feelings of safety allowed them to blossom. These two areas, research into early learning and foster parenting, have combined under Dr. Shanker’s guidance to inform Brenda’s self-regulation work.

Brenda also serves as a member of the board of directors of SRI. For Brenda’s complete bio, please visit our board of directors page.

Anne Showalter, B.Ed., Ph.D. Candidate

Anne is currently a doctoral candidate in Canadian Studies examining ideas of memory in four Canadian films and the on-line writing they have inspired. Past research includes practices of dying in long term care facilities, Girlhood in Canada, and the benefits environmental awareness in education. Anne finds connections to Self-Regulation research as a teacher and in her own research into how we narrate, discuss, and dispute traumatic memories.

Anne believes that research matters because it is takes a problem and seeks to find ways to address it. Research makes life better.

Esther Kushnir
Manager, Board Relations and Operations

Prior to working for SRI, Esther was Manager, Business and Legal Affairs at Bell Media Inc. (formerly CTV Inc.) where she gained invaluable experience with boards, corporate entity management including not-for-profit corporations and governance. Esther graduated as a Law Clerk in 1994 and has been a member of the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario since 1998. In October 2016, Esther was the first hire of SRI initially to assist with its board and corporate matters. Seeing how self-regulation research supports the health and wellness of individuals of all ages, Esther is delighted to be part of the SRI team.

Sarah Behl
Webmaster and Social Media Specialist

Sarah is the Webmaster and Social Media Specialist at The Self-Regulation Institute. As a communications professional, having 10+ years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Sarah finds opportunities to bring her expertise to organizations that align with her own values. She is excited to be a part of SRI and learn more about how Self-Reg can be applied in her own life.

What helps Sarah stay calm and alert: Long, meandering walks outside, and knitting doll clothes for her daughter’s toys.


John Hoffman
Communications Officer

John has had three distinct careers that have blended together at times: roots musician, stay-at-home father and freelance writer. A former long-time columnist and feature writer for Today’s Parent, John now specializes in knowledge translation, blogging and writing for not-profit organizations like the Self Regulation Institute, The MEHRIT Centre, The Psychology Foundation of Canada and Dad Central Ontario. What helps John stay calm and alert: Playing the fiddle, sailing his Laser and making wisecracks.

Casey Burgess, Ph.D. Candidate
Research Assistant

Casey Burgess is an adjunct faculty at Algoma University (Psychology) and Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology (Social Service Worker) in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. She is also a facilitator in The Mehrit Centre’s Foundations Program, and a Research Assistant for the Self-Regulation Institute. She was introduced to Shanker Self-Reg through her PhD work at Lakehead University, where she was struck by the tremendous demand for this neuroscientific approach among educators and the richness of the psychophysiological research upon which it is based. She began examining potential measurement of the psychometric and psychophysiological components of self-regulation as well as the relevant application of Self-Reg within early learning environments. Her research interests include psychophysiological measurement of the stress response, how it may be used with high validity in research, and kindergarten educator understanding of the theory, framework, and application of Shanker Self-Reg within the classroom.

Travis Francis, M.Sc. Candidate
Research Assistant

Travis is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Neuroscience at Trent University in Peterborough. Having presented on Self-Regulation at the Conference on Holistic Early Learning and Development as well as the Canadian Conference on Student Leadership, Travis has a strong understanding of Self-Regulation. Travis believes that Self-regulation is at the root of development and is pertinent to reaching our full potential as individuals. Quality research is foundational to not only our understanding of Self-regulation but is the medium through which we can share our findings to create a stronger, flourishing community.


Rebecca Leslie, B.Ed., M.Ed. Candidate
Research Assistant

Rebecca completed The Mehrit Centre’s Foundations program, became a Self-Reg Consultant with TMC, and joined the research team at SRI in 2016-2017. Drawn to Self-Reg as a way to understand stress, both negative and positive, she is particularly interested in the brain-body connection and applying this framework in classrooms, families, and the workplace. With a B.Ed. and graduate studies at McGill University, she is now completing her M.Ed. in Developmental Psychology & Education at the University of Toronto. Her interests there revolve around exploring the most evidence-based ways of supporting children via strong teacher-student relationships, as well as neuropsychology.

Rebecca has taught for the last 15 years, in English and French, both in the inner-city and specialized with children experiencing attachment issues, and draws on her diverse experience living in France, the United States, Quebec and now Toronto, Ontario. Building relationships is at the heart of her work with kids. She passionately embraces Dr. Shanker’s statement that “Self-Reg is an approach of great optimism and hope.”

What helps Rebecca stay calm and alert: That first cup of coffee in the morning, friendship with her husband, hot Moksha yoga, cuddles with her two boys, daily texts with her best friend, and getting her hands dirty while gardening.

Daisy Pyman, M.Sc. Candidate
Research Assistant

Daisy Pyman is a M.Sc. Psychology student at Trent University, an avid self-reg researcher, and keen self-regger. Daisy is incredibly motivated to learn, and has an insatiable desire for more knowledge and understanding. For Daisy, the beauty of education and research work is that the more knowledge you gain, the more you realize how much information remains foreign and unknown to you. At Trent, our motto is “nunc cognosco ex parte” which translates into “now I know in part”. This quotation has shaped Daisy’s approach to her life, schooling, and research. Daisy’s goal through her research work with SRI is to help extend self-reg’s reach, whether this be through journal articles, blog postings, providing teachers, parents, or just about anyone with the information they need in their arsenal to help them cope with the day to day stresses of life.

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