Get to know Tressa Evans @ Bacon Elementary School.

“Sometimes real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles.” 


oreo game

There is something unique and special about early childhood special education. It is a place where a child experiences many firsts. It can be challenging and exciting often all in the same day. It is a place where students and families alongside teachers, navigate through what it means to have special needs in the context of the school environment. Early childhood special education is a place where achievements, no matter the size, are celebrated.

April 11 024Monday through Thursday morning, you will find the sweet sounds of little voices playing and learning in the early childhood special education class of Tressa Evans at Bacon Elementary School. While small in stature, her heart fills the room. Her fun yet steady approach with her students does not go unnoticed.

Here is Tressa Evans’ story: “I earned my Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Northern Colorado in 1998 and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in May of 2013.  I have taught in an early childhood special education classroom for the past 15 years and in an autism specific classroom for the past 8 years. I did my student teaching in Poudre School District under Sarah Belleau and then left the district for a few years. I came back in 2005 so my boys could receive their education in this amazing district.  I was Poudre School District’s Rotary Teacher of the Year in 2013.

Outside of school I have a wonderful husband of 20 years, Shawn and two Evans, Tressa 2015 3awesome boys, Aiden (14) and Avery (12). In my free time I love spending time with my family, riding my road bike, being outdoors and reading.  My favorite part of my job is watching the progress in students as they grow and learn. Sometimes having the privilege of hearing their first words and being a partner with parents on their journey as they enter school and as they support their children. I love helping to build their foundation!  As a Behavioral Consultant for the district I have recently gained experience in all grade levels and love supporting teachers in their learning about autism and providing them with supports for challenging behaviors in the classroom.”

Evans, Tress 2015“Tressa displays the finest qualities we look for in special education teacher.  She has passion for her students, partners with parents to help students progress in all environments, is highly motivated, looks for solutions all of the time, believes that data tells a story to help make change, is fun, creative, has a great sense of humor and shows that she loves her job!   It is a pleasure watching and working with Tressa!” Sarah Belleau, Director of Integrated Services for Poudre School District.

Thanks to Tressa Evans and her team, little ones at Bacon Elementary are given a new lease on life.

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

Autism Awareness Month

April 11 116As the world becomes more familiar with autism, huge strides are being made at an educational level. We are constantly learning and evolving in the ways we educate each child as the wonderful individual that they are. Leading the charge in Poudre School District are an amazing group of educators whose passion for teaching have lead them to programs designed to support students all over the spectrum.

“The strength of PSD’s research based programming for students with autism is evident when we look at the data related to students who have participated in a center based program in early childhood or elementary and then are able to attend their neighborhood school, with special education supports, by middle and high school.  We serve approximately 70 students in early childhood and elementary center based programs for students with autism using strong research based programming.  By middle school, a large percentage of the students are able to return to their neighborhood school with supports.  There are some students who continue to need intensive supports through a center based programs, which we of course continue to provide.  By high school, we have a smaller number who continue to need intensive supports.    We believe that early intervention is key and provide great research based intervention at these levels.  This continues on throughout the students time in PSD, though, whether in early childhood, elementary or secondary levels.” Sarah Belleau, director of Integrated Services (special education) for Poudre School District.puzzlw

In honor of autism awareness month we will be introducing you to some amazingpuzzle piece people who give their hearts to the children they serve each week. These teachers work with countless dedicated people to ensure each child is striving for their full potential, constantly pushing and growing. Follow along as we share their stories.

Inclusion… we all want to be part of something.

kindergarten all inInclusion may or may not be a part of your vocabulary when it comes to the school environment. As a part of specialized education, inclusion takes on many forms. There is no definitive answer to what inclusion is as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. What IDEA does state is that students with disabilities have a right to be educated as often as possible with their non-disabled peers.  The IEP team makes this determination.  So, what does inclusion look like for those working with students with disabilities in the education environment?

In Poudre School District, educators have embraced and succeeded in looking past the challenges that come with learning gaps and work to be highly inclusive of all students. By remaining in general education classrooms, students are learning valuable skills such as developing and maintaining friendships, how to get along with people of all backgrounds, time management, how to communicate their ideas and work with others, and are provided access to core content instruction alongside peers. It gives students the opportunity to discover what they enjoy and where their passions lie. It is a chance to be exposed to a variety of people and activities.

Renee Ostergren, Integrated Service Coach and educator for Poudre School District describes inclusion as a mentality and culture, not a set amount of time. “Is every student a valued contributing member (of the classroom)? If yes, then the amount and time considerations don’t matter.” “It boils down to, do they matter?” She believes that inclusion in a team sport.

“When I’m looking at my students’ schedules in regards to inclusion, I try to look at the most interactive times of day. When will they have the most opportunity to interact with their peers and form relationships? There are times of the day that lend themselves easily to this, such as specials rotations (art, music, and PE), lunch, recess, and science/social studies – when students tend to be doing more group work or hands-on projects. I also work with the grade-level teacher to find other times of day, when students can be included in small groups, or have a job within the classroom.”

“The overarching idea of inclusion to me is that everyone is seen as a community member. That everyone recognizes that each person in their classroom, community, or work place, has something to offer to the better good of the group. I’ve seen this done amazingly well by young children. When they have opportunities to interact with people who are different than them, and are taught to value differences, it makes the community better. It always lightens my heart when I hear a student tell me about how well one of my students can do something, or that they’re excited to see a peer do something new. Inclusion really is a collective idea.  It isn’t something that one person can do by themselves. It takes an incredible team that values this idea, and will work to see it improve, that really makes the community. Inclusion is almost a feeling to me – you know when you walk into an environment if it is there or not.” Integrated Service teacher, Rice Elementary School.

By modifying activities for students opposed to isolating them in a self-contained program, everyone is benefiting including staff. These benefits are a beautiful reminder that as humans, we are all the same.

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

Sensory Smarts.

Sensory Smart Classroom.

team pic

 (Whitney Bennett-Clear, Mathew Bruno, Sara Thompson & Kathy Roberts)

red desk fidgetIt is not uncommon to hear someone talk about being overstimulated. Have you ever considered that there may be an amount of stimulation that is just right? The team at Lincoln Middle School did just that. School social worker, Whitney Bennett-Clear saw a sensory need that was not being met, so she and Integrated Service teachers Sara Thompson and Mathew Bruno took on the challenge. Their goal was the integration of sensory tools within their classroom and out in student’s general education classrooms.

To make their dream a reality the team applied for a Supporting Partnerships in Innovative Education or SPIE Grant. SPIE Grants are designed for teachers to include innovative teaching materials for creative and inventive learning. The process was a true collaboration. Parent Stephanie Haynes worked closely with grant coordinator Stacy Poncelow to compose the grant with the Lincoln Middle School staffers. The group was awarded $2,346.92 with which they were able to purchase standing work desks, rocking chairs, balance stools, fidgets, light minimizing tools, scented oils, weighted blankets and more.

bracletThe philosophy behind the sensory smart classroom incorporates our need for sensory stimulation and depression. Think about it, there are times that we may be sluggish and think to have a cup of coffee or bounce a foot while concentrating. The purpose of these aids are to ramp-up energy or decrease sensory stimulation in order to focus. A target group of students, are working toward being able to identify and facilitate these needs. Mr. Bruno, Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Bennett-Clear have streamlined the use of socially appropriate tools for students. The goal is for students to identify what they need to be successful and access it independently. Does someone feel that rocking would allow them to focus on the task at hand? Grab a rocking chair. Does someone feel that holding and manipulating something pliable would help them relax? Grab a fidget. The only way this is possible is if they are available. That was the vision for the Lincoln Middle School staff.

By providing tools, students are able to accommodate their sensory needs, in return the student agrees to a contract of sorts in which they agree to use them appropriately and responsibly. So what are their favorite sensory tools? Mr. Bruno likes the standing desk, Mrs. Bennett-Clear likes the rocking chairs, as do the students and Mrs. Thompson likes a firm desk top fidget.

Congratulations Sara Thompson, Mathew Bruno and Whitney Bennet-Clear on your 2014 SPIE Grant.

balance stool    rocking chair standing desk

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

Congratulations to all Mary Hull award recipients and nominees!

There is so much to be proud of around Poudre School District! Here are the 2015 Mary Hull award winners and nominees.

Mary Hull Award:

Gayna Jobe, Cooper Home Learning 4 Living


(Second Row: Tristan Belew, Devon Little, Grady Bearden, Gayna Jobe, Kim Nelson, Jourdan Hersch, Sue Cecil, Beth Ackerson, Shannah Scott, Emilie Ring; First row: Ryan Davis, Christian Llamas, Sammie O.)

“Gayna has a remarkable knack for learning what her students need and being able to not only tailor her day to meet those diverse needs, but being able to switch on a dine in her personal interactions with students throughout the day.”

—Truman Solverud, Vocational Paraprofessional-Cooper Home Learning 4 Living

Collaborative Award:

Kelby Benedict- Assistant Principal at Poudre High School


(Kathy Ghidossi, Kathy MacKay, Heidi Graber, Kelby Benedict, Sarah Belleau and Christine Villard)

Kelby “has shown concern and care for the students, has responded professionally and with incredible skill and tact in difficult situations, and has been a leader to his Integrated Services staff.  He cares about all his students regardless of their ability, and teams that support these students.”

—Matt Cloven, Children’s Advocacy Specialist, Arc of Larimer County

Honorary Award:

Natalie Littauer- Peer Helper at Rocky Mountain High School


 (Craig Woodall ,Karen Bennett, Natalie Littauer, Wayne Moddelmog, Brett Larsen)

“Natalie spends her day improving the school experience for our students with special needs.  She is a peer helper and spends lunches and passing periods helping our students.  She is actively involved in our Unified Basketball team, Special Olympics and Connection club.  She is committed to improving social and emotional experiences here at Rocky on a daily basis.”

—Craig Woodall, Rocky Mountain High School Principal

Mary Hull Award Nominees:

Kathy Bettis, PSD Global Academy

Erin Gilbert-Poudre High School

Cathy Hettleman-Fort Collins High School

Kelli Schultz-Bethke Elementary School

Tricia VanHorssen-Rocky Mountain High School


Collaborative Award Nominees:

Chad Kuhlman- Fort Collins High School


Honorary Award Nominees: 

Tom Drungil- Fort Collins High School

Ruth Miller- Zach Elementary School

Teresa Pelster- Bennett Elementary School

They shoot, they score! Unified Basketball is a win.

If you are looking to be inspired, you don’t have to look far. Poudre School District in connection with Special Olympics’ Project Unified has formed it’s very own unified sports IMG_0260basketball league with not only one but four unified high school basketball teams. Unified Sports are teams consisting of students with and without intellectual disabilities. The heart behind this project is that when you practice together, play together and learn together,  understanding grows and friendships are formed.

To get to this point was a labor of love and quite a few people. One of the most instrumental people is Erin Coy, Integrated Services Coach for Poudre School District. After 10 years as a special education educator she was frustrated with the lack of opportunity at a high school level for her students with special needs.

In 2011 she and 4 other educators from Poudre School District and Thompson School District came together to create a Special Olympics Track and Field Event for high school students in the two districts. “Our mission was to provide the opportunity for students with disabilities to compete in athletic activities as a representative of their high school.” says Coy.

The event was a success and a relationship between PSD and Special Olympics was formed. In 2012, Project Unified was gaining traction in the state of Colorado. An area representative contacted Coy about the possibility of bringing Unified Sports to Fort Collins. This was what Coy had been looking for. That year she put together a unified basketball team with students from Fossil Ridge High School to play exhibition games at the Budweiser Event Center during the Harlem Globetrotters Show. The same team had the opportunity to play later that year in an exhibition game at the Pepsi Center for a Denver Nuggets game.

It was time to take it to the next level. In the fall of 2013, a district committee including Rick Yonker (2012 interim district athletic director), Sarah Belleau, and the athletic directors from each school was formed.  The committee with help from Chaka Sutton and Allo Perry from Project Unify Colorado, founded Unified Sports in PSD with 2014 Winter Basketball.

Just like most teams, players try out and partner players have an additional application component. Teams generally practice about 2 times per week. Many of the schools spend practice time with freshman JV, and varsity basketball. Unified Sports are funded by PSD and Unified Sports Grants and  are free to the public. This is something you should not miss!635576567977326195-Coloradoan-012415-UnifiedBasketball-8

Unified Basketball Winter 2014/2015 Schedule.


Fort Collins High School:  Stacy Sidebottom, Kelly Kappel  & Troy Tollar

Fossil Ridge High School:  Kim Eberhart, Jamie Westyn, & Brittany Hutson

Rocky Mountain High School:  Amy McLean & Chris O’Grady

Poudre High School:  Wendi Miller & Lisa Owsley

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

Philanthropists of Fort Collins High School

Something Beautiful is Happening at Fort Collins High School!

We are raising money for a good cause, but even more important we want our voices to be heard. Please view and share the video that our class put together with the help of PSD tech. genius Michael Foster. You can donate, Feb. 2nd through Feb. 28th   at the following link:

The students of the Fort Collins High School Give Next Service Learning class are philanthropists.  We give of our time through service projects and volunteerism. We give of our talent through crafts that we make to give away and to sell to raise money to give away.  We give of our treasure through providing grant money to local non-profit organizations who inspire positive change.

Our mission is to make a difference in our community with assistance from the Give Next Program of United Way of Larimer County, financial support from Woodward Charitable Trust, OtterCares Foundation, Houska Automotive, and additional fundraising efforts. Together we will fund local nonprofit organizations that focus on suicide prevention and bringing hope to the hopeless.

Krista Churchill

FCHS Integrated Services Teacher

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

Unified Basketball Winter 2014/2015 Schedule

Unified Varsity Basketball- Winter 2014-2015 Schedule


Date Time Home/Host Opponent Location
01-28 6:00PM Fossil Ridge Silver Creek Fossil Ridge High School
01-28 6:30PM Poudre Rocky Mountain Poudre High School Main Gym – Gym – High School
01-28 6:30PM Poudre Rocky Mountain Poudre High School
01-30 6:00PM Brighton Fossil Ridge Brighton High School
02-04 6:00PM Fort Collins Rocky Mountain Fort Collins High School Main Gym
02-04 6:00PM Fort Collins Rocky Mountain Fort Collins High School
02-04 6:30PM Poudre Fossil Ridge Poudre High School Main Gym
02-04 6:30PM Poudre Fossil Ridge Poudre High School
02-11 5:00PM Greeley West Poudre Greeley West High School
02-12 6:00PM Rocky Mountain Fossil Ridge Rocky Mountain High School
02-18 5:30PM Rocky Mountain Silver Creek Rocky Mountain High School
02-18 6:30PM Poudre Fort Collins Poudre High School
02-18 6:30PM Poudre Fort Collins Poudre High School Main Gym – Gym – High School
02-25 6:00PM Silver Creek Poudre Silver Creek High School
02-25 6:00PM Rocky Mountain Brighton Rocky Mountain High School
02-25 6:30PM Fossil Ridge Fort Collins Fossil Ridge High School Main Gym
02-25 6:30PM Fossil Ridge Fort Collins Fossil Ridge High School
02-28 TBD TBA Rocky Mountain TBA
02-28 TBD TBA Fort Collins University of Northern Colorado – Greeley
02-28 TBD TBA TBA University of Northern Colorado
03-04 6:00PM Silver Creek Fort Collins Silver Creek High School
03-04 6:00PM Fossil Ridge Brighton Fossil Ridge High School
03-20 TBD TBA Fort Collins Gold Crown Fieldhouse – Denver
03-21 TBD TBA Rocky Mountain TBA
03-21 TBD TBA Fort Collins Gold Crown Fieldhouse – Denver
03-21 TBD TBA TBA Gold Crown Field House-Denver


Fort Collins High School:  Stacy Sidebottom, Kelly Kappel  & Troy Tollar

Fossil Ridge High School:  Kim Eberhart, Jamie Westyn, & Brittany Hutson

Rocky Mountain High School:  Amy McLean & Chris O’Grady

Poudre High School:  Wendi Miller & Lisa Owsley

Coffee Roasting– 2014 SPIE Grant

“The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things.”                                                                                                        – Temple Grandin

ACE Supported Employment Program

The goal of any educational institution is to prepare students for post high school Michael Woodruffalso known as “the real world”.  Here is the thing, the real world looks different for different people. Sometimes it leads to continued education, sometimes vocational work, other times it can be entrepreneurial work. As educators it is our responsibility to help guide students to where they can be most successful.

Michael Woodruff, the coordinator for the Alternative Cooperative Education Supported Employment program for Integrated Services in Poudre School District, supports students in developing employment skills. The students he works with have a disability and are served through the Integrated Services program with a high level of special education supports. The wonderful part of this ACE Supported Employment program is that it provides students with opportunities to learn job skills while in school instead of waiting until they have finished! Together students and coordinators work to find the best fit by providing job trials in various places.

coffee bagThe ACE Supported Employment program has wonderful success stories of students finding, keeping and loving employment positions.  Often, these positions continue after the students formal education with Poudre School District has concluded. Even with great success stories, there was a piece of the puzzle missing. There needed to be a place for students who were not emotionally prepared for work in the community.  Sarah Belleau, Director of Integrated Services, challenged Mr. Woodruff and his team to create an environment within the safety of Poudre School District where students could explore what it is like to be self-employed, with a real monetary product. This environment would allow students with more significant needs to be in charge of all of the ins and outs of running a business including time and money management, ordering, roasting, grinding, bagging, labeling and distributing an end product – coffee!

The 2014 SPIE Grant Mr. Woodruff received granted $3,755 toward a Coffee Roaster, Baratza Encore Coffee Mill, Jenning CJ-4000 Scale, 1 lb. Kraft Tin-Tie bags, 20 + pounds of coffee beans, and a switch Relay Device to operate the roaster and grinder.

The coffee roasting entrepreneurial option creates an environment for students who may have job placement difficulty otherwise. In addition it creates a partnership between a few student run enterprises in Poudre School District including Poudre High School’s Poudre ACE Sign Shop.  The Poudre ACE Sign Shop creates the labels for the coffee packaging.

Mr. Woodruff is in the process of setting up production materials and soon the roasting will begin. Keep an eye out for more information on our Facebook page and Twitter. It may be your new, favorite place to buy coffee.raw coffee beans

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

Smart Board SPIE Grant 2013

“If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         – Thomas Jefferson

Jennifer, Jessica, LisaO’Dea Core Knowledge, like most schools, is a school full of smart boards. However there were a few classrooms who were hanging out in the dark ages of 1990 with chalkboard, whiteboards and books.
When Jennifer Rosen and Jessica Smeins decided they wanted a part of 2015, they enlisted the help of Lead Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Autism Coach, Speech and Language Pathologist and friend Lisa Hernandez. These motivated ladies applied for a Supporting Partnerships in Innovative Education or SPIE Grants. SPIE grants allow teachers the opportunity to apply for innovative teaching materials for creative and inventive learning. Jennifer Rosen, Jessica Smeins and Lisa Hernandez won a 2013 SPIE Grant for their smart boards. Lisa credits Grants Coordinator, Stacy Poncelow with being invaluable to their grant writing and said she made the process so easy and wonderful.

Jennifer and Jessica are teachers within the center based program for students with autism at O’Dea Core Knowledge, here in Fort Collins, CO. Their students spend time in their classrooms as well as general education classrooms. While in their general education rooms, the students had access to smart boards, but not in Jennifer and Jessica’s classrooms. Now that the two rooms are equipped with the latest smart boards, their students have more access to them. It has been highly motivating for them. In particular, students are learning valuable soft skills such as waiting and taking turns as well as writing and working collaboratively in a community. As teachers, they are enjoying the ability to share multiple visuals without relying on passing books and printed material around. It has allowed for better visual comprehension of the topics they are working on.

Once Jennifer and Jessica learned they had received the grant, they immediately signed up for the informational class on how to operate their smart boards. Unsure of how long it would take until they were delivered and installed, Jennifer and Jessica were pleasantly surprised when they arrived back from winter break to find them up and ready.

The team was awarded a 2013 SPIE Grant for $5,000 to include 2 Smart Boards jenniferEpson- M600, 2 projection units and installation. The interactive whiteboards are light sensory vs touch sensory which allows for accessibility for those with decreased fine motor skill strength. It is a multi-touch unit which can accommodate two users simultaneously.

Jennifer and Jessica are excited to explore and experiment with their new technology.

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