Smell that? It just may be Lobo Bistro.

dsc_0092Schools have always sought to balance academic education with hands on, life experience. One way Rocky Mountain High School students achieve experience is through a consumer concepts class called Lobo Bistro. Teacher Chris Rosazza has transformed his enjoyment of cooking into a program that teaches students what it takes to plan, budget, shop for, prepare and serve a meal. Students spend an entire semester learning and practicing what it takes to coordinate a lunch service at a student run restaurant. They are assigned job roles such as host, manager, set-up/clean up, wait staff and cook. The early part of each week is spent preparing for the meal so that when Thursday rolls around students are ready to prepare and serve lunch to staff who have come to enjoy the bistro. What was once a classroom/kitchen is transformed into a comfortable, cozy, dimly-lit bistro. Patrons are simply asked to make a $5 donation to help offset the cost associated with their meal. Even if students decide the restaurant industry is not for them, they are gaining confidence and experience in their cooking abilities. Job experience, life experience and the wafting scent of bacon, what could be better?

 

Poudre School District Integrated Services

Director: Sarah Belleau

2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

What I Wish You Knew – Teagan’s Story.

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“And the winner of Homecoming Queen 2016 is Teagan Motschall!” September 23, 2016 was a special day for Poudre High School. It was homecoming week; it was a football victory over Rocky Mountain High School; and it was a win for the whole Poudre High School community. That evening, 19-year-old Teagan, with an infectious smile, was queen for the night. Teagan, who is beset by health complications and unable to speak without assistive technology, sparkled like the gem she is.

Teagan’s childhood was a fight from her first moments. At birth, Teagan suffered a brain injury that would significantly affect her brain. Within 6 minutes of her birth, baby Teagan began what would become a life of seizures. Through determination, fight and her faith, Teagan has made the most of life with, and despite, her limitations. To friends and family, she is the sassy girl with a great sense of humor.

Being the oldest of four children, Teagan’s siblings have never known a life untouched by Family photo (2).pngdisability. Teagan’s brother Taylor, who is 13 months younger, has helped her become the young woman she is. He treats her the same as anyone else. As children often do, he expected a lot from her. He didn’t stop to consider her limitations; instead, he pushed her beyond them. The night Teagan was nominated for Homecoming Queen, her whole family, including her brother who made the hour drive from college, were there cheering her on. As we sat and visited for this article, Teagan scrolled through years of photos saved on her phone, beaming with pride over pictures and videos of her sisters and brother.

“We are better people for having her in our family,” shares mom Christine. They have had enough close calls to know how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone. When Teagan was eleven she experienced an allergic reaction to pain medication. One evening while napping on the family’s couch, she became unresponsive and her heart stopped.  She had for all intents and purposes died. Paramedics were called and revived Teagan. “We got her back!” says Christine.

Over the last year and a half Teagan has become a beloved member of the Poudre High School Community. “I am so happy that Teagan came to Poudre High School and that I have been one of her teachers. She brings the best kind of energy to our school; she not only has a great sense of humor, but also real determination to try everything and have fun while she’s doing it. She is an incredibly valuable member of Poudre High School and will be truly missed when she graduates this year!” Lisa Owsley, Integrated Service teacher, shared.

“The thing I appreciate and cherish most about Teagan is her sense of humor. That girl is one of the funniest people I know. She’s also incredibly caring and has a great attitude. basketballSometimes I catch her playing with my hair and loving on me, just because. She’s got so much love in her heart and she radiates that to everybody she meets. In Unified basketball, I might have perfected her shooting form but in high school she didn’t need my help. She has shaped me into a better human being and has helped me be successful in viewing things in a different perspective. Teagan has been successful at PHS in the fact that she has touched so many people’s hearts. She is unafraid to make new friends and is very accepting of everyone. She puts her all into her academics, sports, and the meaningful relationships she creates along the way. I am truly blessed to call Teagan Motschall my friend,” shares classmate and friend Madi Giles. Whether it’s secret handshakes or playing together on snapchat, Teagan has been accepted and loved by her community and peers.

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(Teagan and her favorite artist Taylor Swift)

Teagan’s favorite class is PE with Mr. Goyler, so it’s no wonder she is active in Poudre High School’s Unified flag football and basketball teams. She spends free time with her family, care takers and her Capernum (Young Life) group.

“We are so grateful for the Poudre High School kids, Ms. Owsley, paras and teachers.” Christine, Teagan’s mom, shared why Teagan is thriving at school. “I genuinely believe it [the school culture toward people with disabilities] comes from the top down at Poudre. Lisa has revolutionized how typical kids’ attitudes have changed toward students with needs. Lisa gets everyone excited! She loves her students! She is amazing with all of the students.” Christine had no shortage of praise for the PHS staff, in particular Lisa Owsley. “Every time I am around her I think, I want to be like Lisa, to love as much as Lisa does.”

In addition to the Poudre High School community, the Motschall family is excited about and supportive of High Pointe Services. High Pointe Services is an organization that provides private care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A variety of services are offered based upon the needs and desires of each client. By partnering with PHS, High Point, and home care providers, Teagan’s family is given the chance to be father, mother, brother, sisters and not simply care takers.

It’s not hard to figure out why Teagan was elected Homecoming Queen by her peers. She is brave, resilient, sassy and inspiring. I dare you to see her smile and not return it in full.homecoming-2-2

Poudre School District Integrated Services

Director: Sarah Belleau

2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Our important School Psychologists!

In Poudre School District, 33 well trained, caring school psychologists focus on understanding and supporting students through the difficulties of adolescence. Many students go their entire school career without needing the support of school psychologists but for others, these experts are invaluable.

The role of a school psychologist is constantly in motion. They work directly with students and are experts in intervention design; behavioral assessment; direct intervention; and addressing mental health needs with all students through assessment. They work directly with counselors, teachers and administrators on understanding behaviors to help meet each student’s individual needs. They also help parents with their concerns and how best to navigate these concerns.

Brittany Hutson has held the role of lead school psychologist DSC_0018in Poudre School District for the past five years. Her love of students and the way their brains grow and develop over time led her to become a school psychologist. Hutson and her team work tirelessly to learn the ‘why’ behind student behaviors.

All comprehensive high schools have a full time school psychologist. Most comprehensive middle school psychologists are full time or close to full time and elementary schools have a school psychologist in their buildings multiple times per week. Many principals are seeing the value of having a full time psychologist and are increasing their building support by using their individual schools’ budgets to address mental health needs, behaviors, interventions and social skills for all students.

As any mental health professional will tell you, behavior is a form of communication. They must figure out what is going on to best understand each student and to help students find and use appropriate forms of behavior. “We have an amazing group of experts in their fields” says Hutson. Many school psychologists are experts in areas as diverse as trauma, behavior, academic interventions and reading disorders to mention a few. Hutson explains that by having people versed in many different areas, they are able to work together as one unit to share their skill sets. “They do a good job of addressing student needs!” says Hutson.

Rice Elementary School principal Karen Kohen says, “Having a full time psychologist at Rice has dramatically changed the way we are able to support students with emotional, mental health, and behavior needs.  Not only our students with disabilities, but also our general education students who are challenged in these areas are now receiving one-on-one or small group support.  In the same way interventionists address the needs of students who struggle academically by targeting specific skills, our psychologist addresses the specific mental health needs of our struggling students.  Our psychologist also provides support to the teachers by providing tools and strategies to use within the classroom so that ALL students can be successful.”

Christine Hendricks, principal at Tavelli Elementary School says “Our school psychologist is a critical part of the core team that supports all students at Tavelli.  I value that she observes, assesses, works with and writes plans for any student that has social emotional, behavioral or academic needs.  I value the work of our school psychologist.  She is currently at my school three and a half days a week and I would love to have her five days a week!”

The African proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child.” Never have truer words been spoken.

 

 

 

 

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Social Work and PSD.

DSC_0089 (2)More than ever before, the subject of mental health is being broached from all angles. Poudre School District Integrated Service staff are wholeheartedly accepting the challenge of helping students live a healthy lifestyle. A team of highly educated, experienced Integrated Services staff are hard at work, building relationships and advocating for students with emotional needs. One group working with students mental health needs are our School Social Workers, a dedicated group focused on understanding the whole students.

Lead Social Worker Derrick Searle is at the forefront of school social work. As a Northern Colorado native, Searle’s investment in the Fort Collins community goes deep. After receiving both a Bachelors and a Masters degrees in Social Work, Searle went on to earn a Masters degree in Education with administrator licensure from Colorado State University. He has worked for 7 of his 19 years as a social worker in PSD.

“It sounds cheesy but I wanted to make a difference,” shares Searle. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities for social workers. With 9 school social workers and 2 career coaches, each school in PSD is served. The goal of a social worker is helping people help themselves. They are advocates, encouragers as well as accountability. They are the people to notice and point out the good things students are doing no matter what size accomplishment that may be. They get to know students and what their struggles are. They work with students on understanding their emotions and how to regulate them. They look at the complete story of a student’s life and the best way to reach them.

Searle says there are things that ring true for all student. Behavior is a form of communication, whether it is conscious or subconscious. Student academics and emotions are deeply connected. Kids often ask for love in the most unlovable ways. Defiance is typically a result of stressors that underlie the behavior. Kids want to be good, they want to be loved and cared for and to have friends.

As a team, PSD mental health staff work passionately with a zero tolerance policy related to hurtful behavior, and work toward a better understanding of each individual. Social workers work together with administrators, school resource officers, counselors, deans and teachers on education and advocacy. Together they work to understand why a student is responding the way they are and what the deeper rooted cause may be. They are then able to provide support or a consequence to directly address the why of the problem not just the manifestation.

Derrick Searle says that Poudre High School, where he works, has adopted a great cultureDSC_0069 of inclusivity, openness to new intervention ideas and collaboration. In December of 2015 the PHS community put together a community event addressing mental health. PHS staff came together to address some heavy concerns facing students.

“There is something magical in the intersection of people connecting,” says Searle. This is why he, and his team of social workers have chosen a path of genuine investment into the lives of student in PSD.

 

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

 

Centennial High School ACE program.

 

DSC_0058The fast paced, condensed schedule of Centennial High School is unlike any other in Poudre School District. As an alternative high school option, Centennial operates on an abbreviated hexter schedule. For Centennial, the focus of the Alternative Cooperative Education (ACE) program is job/life readiness for high functioning at risk students.

 

Each Centennial student goes through the ACE program fulfilling either personal financial literacy or economics requirements. ACE teacher Cassidy Montoya has created a fun, energetic, fast-pace and informative environment complete with intermittent “brain breaks.”

Director of Integrated Services Sarah Belleau says, “Cassidy works with a wide variety of students who may have struggled in a traditional school settings. She has diligently worked to find meaningful internships and experiences for students. Cassidy’s relationships with her students are strong which in turn helps her when finding meaningful experiences.”

Unlike other traditional programs, Centennial does not have a full time, student run business. With the shortened schedule, students have a few weeks at the end of the semester to experience different jobs. However, throughout the semester Cassidy Montoya runs a snack shop for ACE that will fund a scholarship for a graduating senior.

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521