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.

homecoming-1

“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.

taylor-swift
(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

What I Wish You Knew – Hettie’s Story.

pic 1For the past 2 years, Poudre School District’s Integrated Services Department has been fortunate to have Hettie Hueber as a part of the team. As a mother of four children, the youngest of which has Down Syndrome, she has offered a unique perspective and insight to a department that is charged with the care and wellbeing of students with disabilities.

To understand Hettie, you must rewind the clock eight-plus years. After raising two children to adulthood, Hettie found herself the mother of a toddler with another baby on the way. When Cora, the youngest of the four came along, life changed forever. Cora was one of about 6,000 babies born in the United States each year with Down Syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

“In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.” (For this information and more regarding Down syndrome visit NationalDownSyndromeSociety.org)

Apart from concerns related to a heart condition Cora was born with, the Hueber family was elated to have their beautiful baby join their clan. Hettie did not let the concerns of others weigh her down. “I never needed to grieve,” shared Hettie, though she did wish that people would have congratulated her on her baby girl rather than offer condolences. Life had changed forever, by offering a brighter outlook on life! Cora has brought perspective and spunk to the family. “There are enough negative things happening in the world; it helps you focus on the positive and what is important,” says Hettie.

When asked what she wished people knew about her, the most important take-away was that being the mother of a child with a disability is not a tragedy. She believes the most important thing you can teach your children is to be kind. “You can be tenacious, driven and successful in this world and still be kind.” As a self-proclaimed “inclusionist”, Hettie’s desire is that all students everywhere be taught together. By helping children understand and embrace kindness, combined with growing up together all throughout their school years, she trusts that a world of accepting and inclusive adults will be formed.

We wish Hettie good luck on her next journey of student teaching in Early Childhood Education.

photo 2

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

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder

DSC_0011April is Autism Awareness month. Over the last 10 years, recognition of Autism Spectrum Disorder has grown significantly. Organizations such as Autism Speaks and the National Autism Association have increased dialogue about what the autism spectrum is and its symptoms and treatments.

According to the National Autism Association, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.”

People often ask the question, “What does autism look like?” While this can unintentionally seem to be a loaded and offensive question, it does not have a simple answer. Autism Spectrum Disorder is exactly that, a spectrum. Google dictionary describes a spectrum as “Used to classify something, or suggest that it can be classified in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme or opposite points.” This wide range allows for the focus to be less about a diagnosis and more about an individual. In Poudre School District, education is about the student first with a diagnosis offering additional pieces to support an understanding of the student from a clinical standpoint.

According to AutismSpeaks.org., “Each individual with autism is unique. Many of those on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have intellectual disability (IQ less than 70), and many have normal to above average intelligence. Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world. Others with autism have significant disability and are unable to live independently. About 25 percent of individuals with ASD are nonverbal but can learn to communicate using other means.”

Awareness builds better understanding, and better understanding leads to greater acceptance. April awareness is a great opportunity to kick off the conversation.

 

 

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

Fort Collins High School ACE program.

DSC_0387Klyd’s Closet sounds like the name of the newest Fort Collins boutique, however it is not new and it is not a boutique. It is an amazing little thrift/consignment shop run by the Fort Collins High School Alternative Cooperative Education program.

Klyd’s Closet got its name six years ago when it was founded because it was literally run out of a closet. Over the years, their space has expanded and sells merchandise such as healthy snacks, gently used donated goods, consigned items, and pieces created by students in other programs. The store gives students job, tendering and sales experience. In addition to Klyd’s Closet, ACE facilitates jobs in the FCHS cafeteria and ACE coffee shop. The goal is to expose students to a variety of jobs to help them find what connect with them. Students begin their work experience within FCHS and when ready, generally during their senior year, have the opportunity to apply for internships in the community. This semester, two students have internships with private companies in Fort Collins.

Program success can be directly attributed to the wonderful Integrated Service staff at FCHS. Director of Integrated Services Sarah Belleau says, “Cathy Hettleman has a ready smile and displays great enthusiasm when she talks about her students and their work experiences.  She has provided creative solutions for students needing a more diverse experience.”

ACE teacher Cathy Hettleman is an energetic advocate for students, who believes in their potential for the future. She knows all too well that students with special needs are told what they cannot do. Her mission is to help them discover what they can do and where they will find success post-high school. Integrated Services paraprofessional Patty Daniels shares, “my favorite part is that we are able to support so many different kids. We are able to help so many different needs. The day just flies by. I love the variety.”

Klyd’s Closet is a student run organization and is always looking for donations and/or consigned items. Local businesses are welcome to consign items with the FCHS ACE program. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Cathy Hettleman at chettlem@psdschools.org.

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

Fossil Ridge High School ACE program.

DSC_0031Fossil Ridge High School staff is a well caffeinated, happy group thanks to the Alternative Cooperative Education program at FRHS. As part of the entrepreneurial curriculum of the ACE program, students learn the ins and outs of running a coffee cart. Not only do they learn barista skills and cash handling, the service has expanded to accepting online orders from staff for students deliver!

In addition to the coffee cart, the Fossil Ridge ACE program runs the concession stand during school sporting events and holds an annual geranium sale called Bloomtown. In the spring DSC_0041each year, students in the ACE program purchase plant starters which they grow in the Fossil Ridge High School green house. Students then transplant the flowered plants into nice pots to sell. As a group, students chose a charity and donate a portion of their plant sale proceeds. This process teaches students real life job skills as well as philanthropy and what it means to give back to the community.

ACE teacher Joe Allen has fostered an atmosphere addressing the “whole student.t” Each day, he checks in with his students and staff by asking them to rate their mood on a scale from 1-10 and then gives them the opportunity to share why. This has created a platform for students to express how they are feeling and what their particular needs may be that day. Allen coaches students in all areas of job readiness including things that would be easily overlooked by many of us, like thank you letters after an intern completion.

Director of Integrated Services for Poudre School District Sarah Belleau expalins, “calm is a great word to describe Joe Allen.  His calm demeanor makes it easy for students to connect with him.  Also, the coffee cart that Joe established at FRHS is a popular spot for many staff!”

 

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