Author: Karen Scuito

LASE names Karen Wittmayer Assistant Director

Karen Wittmayer and LASE crewLASE board members, staff and faculty are excited to officially announce that Karen Wittmayer (middle, in blue) has been appointed to a new position and will be the Assistant Director of LASE.

Her past duties as a facilitator are embedded in her new job description and she will continue to provide educational services to two of our Lutheran Schools. In her fulltime role, Karen will split her time – 2 days serving schools and 3 days as the Assistant Director. Her priority will be to provide support, advocacy, mentoring, facilitation and solutions to teachers, as well as to parents, students, staff and principals.

LASE Selects New Executive Director

Dear Friends of LASE,

We are truly blessed as an organization to have had the exceptional strength from within to continue to lead, provide full services, and even grow our ministry over the past 8 months, since the death of Lori Christiansen. Our special education teacher from Zion Harvester, Chris Tomlinson, stepped up to the plate, filling in as the acting Executive Director of LASE. She managed to visit all our partner schools, teachers, and principals while continuing her own classroom duties three days a week. Chris worked with the Lutheran High – St. Charles team to retool the Learning Center program, increasing the number of students enrolled from 10 to 15 students for the coming fall term. This expansion paves the way for Lori’s dream of starting Learning Center programs in other area high schools. Thank you, Chris!

A completed school year well done! It could not have happened without the extra support from our office staff, Diane Stout, and Karen Scuito, keeping fundraising and events on track. Board Treasurer, Judy Ruf, stepped in half time as operations manager, while Janey Menner and Karen Wittmayer maintained links to teachers.

Now, the LASE Board is pleased to announce our search results in the selection of a new executive director, who will take charge June 1, 2016. We welcome Jackie Smith to our LASE family, where she will partner with our faculty in delivering resourceful teaching to our learning challenged students.

Jackie comes to us from NSC (Network for Strong Communities), an agency that provides training and consultative services for not-for-profit agencies in St. Louis and throughout the state of Missouri. While there she helped develop and implement capacity building services for nonprofits in customized training, nonprofit management, governance/leadership, strategy, and resource development. Jackie was previously the Admissions and Marketing Director at Miriam School, which provides a wide range of services for children with complex learning disabilities. She brings a wealth of business connections and a proven history of development success from working at the Rohan Woods School, Kids in the Middle, and The Central Institute for the Deaf.

I am excited to share my passion for children and to work with the LASE team to find the right solutions for each child as they discover their God-given talents,” said Smith.

Jackie has a BA in Psychology from Auburn University, a Post Baccalaureate Degree in Education from Kennesaw University, and a Master of Arts in Management and Leadership from Webster University.

She is a warm, relational person that you will be pleased to meet. Jackie has taken inspiration from her own daughter’s challenges, who she reports is now a successful sophomore at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She is happy to share her passion for struggling kids and is excited to begin work with the LASE team to find the right solutions for each child as they discover their God given talents. Jackie enjoys singing in choirs, contemporary praise teams and occasionally dabbles in musical theatre.

We look forward to introducing you to Jackie very soon as we prepare for another great school year.

Thankfully,

The LASE Board of Directors

LASE Awards Londoff Scholarship

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to help you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Jeremiah 29:11

The Londoff Scholarship is meaningful to the faculty and staff of LASE. It was founded by the family of Michael Londoff, a beloved former LASE board member, to honor his son, Blake, who is a 2001 graduate of LASE’s Jeremiah Program (now known as the Learning Center). The scholarship is presented every May to a deserving student during chapel service at the high school.

Pictured from the Londoff Scholarship presentation are Blake Londoff (a Jeremiah graduate from 2001) with this year’s recipient Elizabeth Culligan, current Junior at LHSSC and Jon Bernhardt, LHSSC Principal.

This year’s recipient, Elizabeth Culligan, will be an 11th grade student in the 2016-2017 school year. She has been a goalie on the JV soccer team for the past 2 years.  She was the co-captain of the team but also serves as captain during home games.  Elizabeth is known for being a very polite young lady who works hard and puts out maximum effort.

The goal of the Londoff Scholarship is to “provide hope and a successful future for a LASE student at the high school”. The Learning Center Program at Lutheran High School-St. Charles is a program unique to LASE. In cooperation and partnership with Lutheran High St. Charles the program offers students with disabilities academic support and accommodations, modified curriculum, and life-skills training all in a high school setting. Recipients are chosen based upon grades, school involvement, and personal leadership in the school setting at Lutheran High St. Charles.

LASE Educators Participate in National Convention

One of the main goals of Lutheran Association for Special Education is to mentor quality faculty members who use best practices to teach children with special education needs in our schools. LASE allots each faculty member a budget along with a listing of professional development opportunities in our community during every school year. This spring, LASE teachers joined thousands of Special Educators from all over the country at the national Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) convention that was held at the St. Louis Convention Center.

Nationally known speakers and researchers presented wide ranging topics from A-Z—A (Autism) to Z (special educations practices in New Zealand. One LASE teacher stated, “It was exciting to hear about the most recent research based strategies that we can use to touch the lives of our students.” One of the most touching moments occurred in the session entitled, “Hey Mom I’ve Got ADHD and a Couple of F’s”.

When students from the ‘Learning and Educating About Disabilities (LEAD) program shared their personal experiences in order to give educators a better understanding of the personal challenges these students face every day. Through attendance at the CEC convention LASE teachers were once again reminded of the vital importance of LASE’s ministry of serving God’s children with special needs in our Lutheran schools and our teachers are more equipped than ever to meet those needs using current best practices in the field of special education.

Rachel Schmieder – The Perfect “Model” of a LASE Student

LASE’s Herald the Holidays fashion show featured faculty, donors and family this year, but one model shone brightest of all. Rachel Schmieder is a LASE 8th grade student attending Salem Lutheran School in Affton. Her parents celebrated a family of four sons and then along came Rachel. Needless to say she is very special to her entire family! Rachel works hard at school and appreciates an opportunity to share her faith in Jesus with others.

She had all six godmothers attending to cheer her on at her Herald the Holidays’ modeling debut. Her biggest worry that day was walking the runway in her three inch heels. Rachel shared her great looks as a model at the event, but her compassion, ethics and hard work in the LASE classroom make her shine bright at Salem Lutheran School.

Great job, Rachel!

Learning Center Senior Named to Homecoming Court

As a senior at Lutheran High School St. Charles (LHSSC), Katie is an accomplished poet and member of the National Honor Society. This confident young lady does not allow her diagnosis of autism to hold her back. She is a former Key Club member, and was the 2014 Herald the Holidays ambassador and model. Just this year she was chosen by her fellow junior and senior classmates to be part of the Homecoming Court.

Katie has faced many challenges along her journey to be a successful student and when asked about her success at LHSSC Katie stated, “My teacher, Mrs. Klobnak, has helped me learn to advocate for myself, become more independent, become more social and has provided me with study guides that have helped me study and get good grades.”

Katie reflected on her time at LHSSC with Learning Center teacher, Mrs. Klobnak, and stated, “I have learned that in the beginning I was quiet and shy, and not so independent. Now that I am a senior I have learned that I can be brave, smart and can accomplish a lot of things.”

In Memoriam: Lori Christiansen

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Philippians 1: 21-23


Lori Christiansen lived a life dedicated to serving as a strong witness to her faith in Jesus Christ. She fulfilled this in every role: wife, mother, sister, aunt, teacher, Executive Director, advocate and friend. We were blessed at Lutheran Association for Special Education (LASE) to see her “fruitful labor” first hand on a daily basis. She found her passion in the ministry of LASE and lived each day focused on impacting the academic and spiritual lives of children with special needs. Lori handled hundreds of phone calls from desperate parents seeking a Christian school that would welcome their child who “learned differently”. She visited pastors, school principals and teachers to educate and update them on the blessing of having special education programs and teachers in their school community. Lori mentored decades of Christian teachers not only in utilizing the best special education procedures available, but also on the importance of children growing in their faith and knowing Jesus as their personal Savior. Her strong example and words inspired many young students to pursue careers in the field of special education.

Lori developed a strong, faithful faculty and staff who share her commitment to lift up children with special needs and lead them to their full potential and purpose as God’s unique creation. She even touched the lives of Concordia Publishing House employees, where the LASE office is located, with her kindness, generosity and grace. She could be seen sharing stories of faith and trust in God in the hallways and conference rooms at CPH. Lori’s desire, to “depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” is not the end of her story on this side of Heaven. Her impact and legacy will live on and grow through the many people whose lives she influenced. She has taught us well – as Christians, as educators and as friends.

Celebrate Lori’s life by giving a memorial gift which will impact the lives of students for years to come.

[button link=”http://lutheranspecialed.org/braunsite/give/tribute-gift-donation-description/” color=”blue”]Click Here to Donate through a Tribute Gift[/button]

Overcoming Stumbling Blocks

Imagine the excitement of a 4 year old preschooler starting school. Parents and children have high expectations and hope for the future. But sometimes there are stumbling blocks that crush those dreams.
Julian began school at Zion Lutheran, St. Charles, when he was 4 but by the time he was in the early primary grades, things were getting tough for him academically. That didn’t stop him from working hard. In Junior High Julian got the organizational help he needed when classroom and LASE special education teachers created a Google Doc that he could use to keep his assignments in order. Study guides and modified work load all helped Julian become more successful in school. Now as an 8th grader, Julian is confident in his abilities and able to manage his work load with increased independence. He has made incredible growth academically, socially, and spiritually. Julian will be confirmed in the Spring of 2015 and was recently named the Dance Representative to Zion’s Student Council.

Dreams Do Come True…

“And the 2014 Prom King for Lutheran High School St. Charles is Gene Wooden!” What a wonderful tribute to the student body at LHSSC that they accepted Gene’s special challenges and saw him only as a fellow classmate and leader. His mom, Kimberly, says, “Over the past 4 years, Gene has grown to become a very outgoing and productive young man. LASE Learning Center Teacher, Mrs. Sue Klobnak, along with her support team, provided Gene with an enormous amount of solution based strategies along with personal support. Gene received a solid Christian education that has helped him become the man he is. Without Mrs. Klobnak, we are not sure if Gene would have had such a positive high school experience. Thank you.” Gene has adjusted well to his new work experience in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program and is currently placed at Children’s Hospital. He misses LHSSC, but will always remember his time there, especially his memorable prom night.

What I Learned from my Students: Reflections By Brandi Hallemeier, LASE Teacher

 

As a first year special education teacher at Child of God Lutheran School, I found myself flipping through my first case load’s individual education plans (IEPs) thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” I felt an overwhelming anxiousness as I tried to figure out what and how I had to teach my students. Little did I know God had an amazing learning experience waiting for ME!

It takes many hours of observation, teaching, and spending time with my students to get to know them on a personal level. They have so much more to offer than just reading sight words and reciting multiplication facts. As my first year of teaching moved along, I saw the gains my students were making but I also felt a transformation in myself. I now feel as if I see the world through my student’s eyes.

One of my students, Lakota, taught me a few valuable life lessons: Continue to be curious. Do not give up. Be a caring and loving friend. Be thankful to God. Do everything for and through Jesus Christ.

I am honored to be a small part of Lakota’s success story; however, her drive to learn, love for Jesus, and perseverance is really what will lead her to a successful and purposeful life. I will take what Lakota and my other students have taught me to make myself a better teacher for years to come.

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