Meet our new director
Heather Graham

As I begin my fourth month at Oak Foundation, I am excited and inspired by the work of our partners and I feel a deep sense of urgency about the importance of our collective efforts. My greatest motivations for joining the Learning Differences Programme stem from my deep belief that all children can learn and my impatience with education systems and practices that are built on outdated mindsets about learners and learning.


Over the past two decades, I have worked in various roles to promote quality education for all students.

I began my career as a middle school teacher in the South Bronx where I had some students who could not read.  Overwhelmened as I sought to both identify the causes of their struggles and find tools and strategies I could employ to support them, my few successes were profound and my shortcomings abundant.


Now, as a parent of a child who learns differently, I am grateful to have knowledge and resources I can deploy to help her navigate a system of education that was not designed to help her realize her potential. It continues to be a humbling journey for my family and that experience redoubles my commitment to shifting the conversation for children, parents and educators from a deficit-based approach to learning differences to one that recognizes the extraordinary potential of students who learn differently and acknowledges that we are all unique learners.


I look forward to working alongside you to shape the dialogue, research and practices in the United States and globally that will transform and create learning environments that support and unleash the potential of all learners.




Heather Graham


In the Learning Differences Programme, we envision a world where students with learning differences are agents of their own learning success and are supported by educators and environments that expect, embrace and respond to diverse learner profiles.


We support teacher development, student engagement and parental understanding to enable students to follow their own individual paths to lifelong learning success. We seek partners who design and create learning environments that are informed by student voices, neuroscience, personalised learning best practices and universal design concepts.


Download our Strategic Framework document. This framework reflects the strategic direction of Oak Foundation’s Learning Differences Programme. It is not meant to serve as a framework for other organizations focused on education and learning differences. It reflects our effort to prioritize our resources based on our knowledge, experience and context.


Our core beliefs

In addition to the overall principles of Oak Foundation, our programme strategy is based on the following core beliefs:

Changeable and unique learner profiles

Each learner possesses a diverse set of cognitive, social, and emotional assets, knowledge, skills, interests and preferences. These characteristics interact to form a unique learner profile that changes over time.


Understanding how = Academic success

Students, particularly those with learning differences, can achieve greater academic success when they understand how they learn and use that knowledge to plan for and adapt to learning environments and advocate for themselves as learners.


Embrace differences - Personalise education

Educators should expect and embrace students’ diverse learner profiles and have the knowledge and tools to personalise their instruction based on these profiles.


Parental education and support
Parents should understand their child’s unique learner profile and have the tools to advocate for him/her.


Accountable education systems

Education systems should hold themselves accountable for the success of their students who learn differently.


Success measured using multiple frameworks

Student success should be defined using accountability frameworks with multiple indicators of academic performance as well as measures of social and emotional well-being, persistence and engagement.






Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.


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