Reaching all LEarners

What are some of the great lessons we’ve learned in working with vulnerable populations and students with extreme life challenges?

monday, november 18
Tuesday, november 19
monday, november 18

Title: The Importance of Student-Teacher Relationships in Student Retention and Learning

School/Organization: Maine Academy of Natural Sciences

Time: 9:05-10:15am 

Presenter(s): Emanuel Pariser and Rebecca Dennison 

Description: Participants will learn about our home based education model Threshold, which is a part of Maine Academy of Natural Sciences (MeANS). Based on our intention to build strong relationships between teachers and students, Threshold works to address barriers to education by bringing school to students at home who are chronically absent, have dropped out, or have never participated in schooling. We will also explore other aspects of our approach to building strong, positive relationships with students at MeANS. Participants will learn innovative strategies from our experience working with vulnerable student populations that may be applicable to their own programs.

Emanuel Pariser co-founded the Maine Academy of Natural Science at Good Will Hinckley in 2010, where he currently consults at Threshold, the School’s program for pregnant, parenting and socially anxious students. Emanuel received his PhD in education and psychology from the University of Maine, Orono.


Rebecca Dennison is Dean of the Threshold program at Maine Academy of Natural Science. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Maine at Farmington and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of New England.

Title: All Means All! Lessons Learned from our Therapeutic Learning Class

School/Organization: Alpha Public Schools

Time: 10:20-11:05am

Presenter(s): Russell Michaud    

Description: This presentation explores the theoretical foundations of misbehavior, and the unique challenges of supporting behavioral challenges in high performing, academically-focused schools. It also will walk participants through the planning, execution, and iteration of Alpha’s Therapeutic Learning Class, and provide high level guidance on developing small and large scale support systems for ensuring that all learners, especially those with emotional and behavioral disabilities, are able to see success in school.


Russell Michaud serves as the Senior Director of Special Education at Alpha Public Schools in San Jose, California. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Ithaca College and a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from San Jose State University.

Title: “What Do You Mean I Can’t Do That?”- Navigating Special Education Law In An Independent Charter School

School/Organization: National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools

Time: 11:10-11:55am

Presenter(s): Wendy Tucker 

Description: Charter school autonomy provides exciting opportunities to establish policies and procedures designed around the unique needs of the specific school community. However, there are certain legal responsibilities, particularly related to the education of students with disabilities, that must be followed by every public school. When those laws conflict with policies and procedures, or when personnel are not well-versed in the law, the results can be devastating, particularly in today’s polarized climate around charter schools.


This session will address some of the common situations where autonomy and special education law collide. Topics will include access, FAPE, least restrictive environment and discipline.


Wendy Tucker is the Senior Director of Policy for the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools. Wendy currently serves as the founding board chair of Nashville’s Diverse Learners Cooperative. In 2014, Governor Haslam appointed Wendy to the Tennessee State Board of Education, a position she continues to hold.

Title: Implementing School-wide Culturally Responsive Approaches to Teaching and Learning

School/Organization: NYC Charter School Center

Time: 2:30-3:15pm

Presenter(s): Kristen Coelho 

Description: Classrooms across the U.S. are becoming exponentially more diverse. It is critical to build the capacity among educators and school leaders to ensure that culturally responsive practices are implemented in order to best meet the needs of our student populations. Students have tremendous stories, capabilities, talents, and perspectives that must be siphoned into the curriculum and learning environment. In this session, the presenter will define Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and unpack its three prongs: institutional, personal, and instructional practices, and how these areas can be assessed and infused with CRP in order to ensure a more inclusive and responsive school environment.


Kristen Coelho serves as the ELL/MLL Specialist at the NYC Charter School Center. Kristen earned her BA from Boston University and an MA in TESOL from Columbia University Teachers College.

Title: 11 Steps to Prepare Students for College and Beyond

School/Organization: PODER Charter Schools

Time: 3:20-4:05PM

Presenter(s): Patrick Bannister; Virginia Johnson; Wendy Consoliver

Moderator: Marcos Martinez

Description: In Wyoming, the path to college is full of roadblocks such as single parent potholes, behavioral issue pitfalls, and plenty of financial loose gravel. Because the challenges of poverty, vulnerable employment options, and inequality continue to hinder young people, PODER Academy provides students and their families the support to get graduates to college. As the only free public charter school in Cheyenne, the PODER Academy creates a quiet, disciplined student environment with a variety of special features. In this session, participants will learn about the most important factors for student achievement.  


Patrick Bannister is a third grade teacher at PODER Elementary School. He has a B.S. from the University of Wyoming and two AA’s from Community College of the Air Force.


Virginia Johnson is a Kindergarten teacher at PODER Academy Elementary School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She has a BA in Communication Disorders from the University of Milwaukee and a MS in Elementary Education from Colorado State University. 


Wendy Consoliver is a fourth-grade teacher, a Salvadorian, and a mom. She graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Post-Baccalaureate in Elementary education, and she has taught at PODER Academy since she graduated.

Marcos Martinez is the CEO and founder of PODER Academy schools in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He has opened multiple high-achieving charter schools in Colorado and Wyoming, and his schools have won numerous awards for academic excellence, athletic championships, and overall financial viability. These schools have truly closed the achievement gap, as evidenced from state test scores. Apart from his administrative history, Marcos has taught at the secondary and collegiate levels, and is also a certified fitness instructor. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Education Literacy at the University of Wyoming.

Title: Arts Youth Empowerment and the Power Behind Integrated Learning

School/Organization: Arts Youth Empowerment

Time: 4:10-4:40pm 

Presenter(s): Anna Stampfli 

Description: Integrated learning makes connections across curricula to reinforce material within a lesson. The motivation for this interdisciplinary approach is to assess students on multiple levels during one class period. Ultimately, this method enables the teacher to reach students with varying learning abilities while at the same time sparking an interest in the student to learn the required material. Integrated learning is the answer to every teacher’s question, “How do I, as one person, teach 35 different learning styles in my classroom?” This presentation will show how instituting integrated learning in schools improves student performance by enabling children to make connections between the arts and their core subjects.  


Anna Stampfli is the founder and CEO of Arts Youth Empowerment. She holds a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University, is a licensed School District Administrator, and sits on a national board that discusses the infusion of integrated learning in our nation’s schools.

tuesday, november 19

Title: Trauma Informed Practices

School/Organization: Center for Independent Charter Schools; APEX Academy

Time: 9:35-10:35am

Presenter(s): Laurie Inman; Alfonso Paz 

Description: How does a school go through system change to be truly trauma informed? Participants will hear about the phases a school goes through and step-by-step procedures to implement systemic change. Real-life examples will be shared to activate visualization of what it can look like when a school is safe regardless of the constant and daily experience of trauma. The goal is to create a sustainable system of support for students and avoid the” hire an expert to do the work for us” syndrome that is all too common an occurrence in today’s educational environment.


Dr. Laurie Inman is currently chair and lecturer at California State University, Dominguez Hills in the Liberal Studies department and founder of the Center for Independent Charter Schools, a nonprofit that provides resources to leaders of color, specifically in the area of trauma-informed practices. Her background includes 35 years of experience in K-16 teaching, in school and district level administration, and in professional development. Dr. Inman earned her Ed.D in Educational Leadership at USC. She also holds a M.Ed. from the University of LaVerne and graduated from CSU, Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communicative Disorders.

Alfonso Paz has been supporting/helping under-represented students and families in Los

Angeles’ east Hollywood area to have greater opportunities and access to college and other

post-secondary options for close to 30 years. In his various capacities, he has been a teacher,

counselor, and is Co-Founder/Co-Director of APEX Academy.

Title: Lessons of Inclusion at the ASL Academy 

School/Organization: the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy

Time: 11:45am-12:45pm

Modrator(s): Raphael Martinez; Stephanie Lovato

Panelist(s): Laura Vasiliauskas; Deidree Romero; Therese Garcia

Description: Join the leadership team of the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy (ASLA) in a panel discussion led by executive director, Rafe Martinez and director of instruction, Stephanie Lovato.  Learn the details about the ASLA’s revolutionary inclusion model where the academic and language needs of deaf, hearing and special needs students are met as they work together to rise as one connected community.


Raphael Martinez, a former high school English teacher and basketball coach, is the Executive Director of The Albuquerque Sign Language Academy. The ASL Academy is the only state certified bilingual program incorporating American Sign Language (ASL) and English in the nation. Under Mr. Martinez’s leadership the ASL Academy has developed partnerships with Harvard University, McLean Hospital, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and many other national and local organizations.

Stephanie Lovato is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy.  In her 28 years in public education, she has been a classroom teacher, an instructional coach and a Title 1 resource teacher. Prior to joining the ASLA, her most recent leadership position was as the Principal at Apache Elementary in the Albuquerque Public Schools system. Born and raised in Albuquerque, Stephanie attended New Mexico State University, the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands University.

Laura Vasiliauskas has taught middle-school students for 4 years at ASLA. Previously, she has worked as a teacher, department chair, early childhood parent advisor and college ASL teacher. Laura graduated from California State University, Fresno with a BA in Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies, a MA in Deaf Education, and CA teaching credentials. She is licensed as a teacher of the Deaf/HH in AZ and as a special educator in NM.

Deidree Romero has been a teacher at the ASLA for four years.  A graduate of the University of New Mexico’s Dual License Program. Ms. Romero’s background in American Sign Language helped open the door for her to teach at the ASLA.  She is passionate about working with the school’s unique community and teaching students who are deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing in an inclusive setting.

Therese Garcia is a Nationally Board Certified, Tier 3 teacher at the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy. She is dual certified in Regular and Special education and is passionate about working with students who are deaf, hard of hearing and have multiple disabilities. She has taught 14 years in early elementary and has a background in early childhood practices.

Title: Music Across the Disciplines

School/Organization: The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation

Time: 2:00-2:55pm

Presenter(s): Christine Nick 

Description: This session features TeachRock, a standards-aligned, arts integration curriculum that uses the history of popular music and culture to help teachers engage students. 


Innovative lesson plans developed by experienced educators and top experts in the field foster genuine learning in areas including social studies, language arts, STEAM, general music, and more. TeachRock has crafted engaging and meaningful material for every classroom and developed exciting professional development workshops to share it with teachers. All for free. No cost, period. Attendees will learn how to incorporate TeachRock into their existing curriculum plans and interdisciplinary curriculum planning best practices. Participants will also have the opportunity to practice arts-integration techniques.


Christine Nick is a former teacher and current public school advocate. She is the Director of Policy & Outreach at The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, where she supports a vibrant community of educators, acts as resident policy-wonk, and supporter of arts education.

Title: Transforming to a Trauma Informed Compassionate School 

Time: 3:00-4:00pm

Presenter(s): Dan Ondich; Renee Parcheta; Amy Larsen

Organization: BlueSky Online Charter School

Description: At BlueSky Online Charter School, education is not only about classroom preparation, but also personal attention and acquiring the skills needed for success in life. We know students' learning needs are unique; each student has their own learning style, life circumstances and family situation. BlueSky fosters success by meeting the unique needs of our students and their families. Each of our students is supported by a three-person team of caring professionals – a licensed educational advisor, a licensed counselor, and a licensed social worker. In this session learn how BlueSky has transitioned to becoming a trauma informed school that embraces compassionate practices to meet the needs of all students. And how this transformation has led to the implementation of social and emotional learning standards into existing curriculum.


Dan Ondich is currently the Assistant Director and 7-10th grade Principal at BlueSky Online where he has led the technology development and alignment of all content areas to local, state and national standards. He has over eight years of experience teaching in traditional, alternative and blended programs and was a co-leader in developing a blended online program. Dan has worked in a charter school setting the past 12 years. He has led professional development training in technology integration, standards-based instruction, professional learning communities, and using data for results and Google Apps for Education integration. Additionally, Dan has an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Administration and has conducted graduate level research in best practices for online learning.


Renee’ Parcheta is currently the Student Services Director, and 10-12 grade Principal. Renee’ has over thirty five years of experience as a family therapist, school counselor, and school administrator. Renee' has led the initiative for the student services model which links all students to a triage team of social worker, counselor, and advisory upon enrollment. This team is the center for every student to help them with their socio/emotional and academic development. As a school leader, Renee’ has been participating and overseeing our trauma centered school educational initiative for staff and students. Renee’ holds a Minnesota counselor, principal, and superintendent licensure and an Educational Specialist Degree in School Administration.


Amy Larsen is currently the Superintendent and Executive Director at BlueSky Online School where she has worked since 2007. Through Amy's leadership over the past 12 years, BlueSky has established a tradition of innovation and a model of continuous improvement, collaboration, and support. Because of this, BlueSky has very low staff turnover and high ratings on our staff, student and parent satisfaction surveys. BlueSky has been named a Top Workplace by the Star Tribune for four years in a row and earned the 2018 Values Driven Award of Excellence from AdvancED. Amy received the Minnesota Charter School Leader of the Year Award in 2019  and is a pioneer in leading the development of a comprehensive, individualized, and dynamic online school.

#icss19 #indiecharters