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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.

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LASE Alumna is on the Move

Keeping up with 2008 LASE Alumna Lindsey Hawkins is no easy task. This young woman keeps busy with work, sports, volunteer activities and speaking engagements for a very full schedule of activities.

Shortly after graduating from the LASE Learning Center at Lutheran High, St. Charles, Lindsey started work as a hostess at 026 Pub N Biergarten in Fenton and has worked there ever since. As a hostess three days per week, this friendly and outgoing woman has the opportunity to greet guests to the restaurant and make them feel welcome.

When Lindsey is not working, she can be found volunteering at the Down Syndrome Association one day per week or doing a speaking engagement for Special Olympics. Lindsey visits 10-15 schools each year, sharing with students how Special Olympics has positively impacted her life and encouraging others to get involved. As a two-time featured speaker at the Shop N Save Golf Tournament, Lindsey has shared with her audiences the joys of participating in Special Olympics.

Lindsey is actively involved in sports through Special Olympics. She competes in six different sports throughout the year including the year round sport of bowling. Last year she was one of 100 athletes on the USA Team for Special Olympics as they traveled to New Jersey for competition. Lindsey came home with three third place medals. Congratulations to Lindsey for being an active member in your community and for all of your successes!

Jeremiah Award Presented to Word of Life Teacher

Enthusiastic, proactive, committed. These are just a few adjectives that Word of Life Lutheran School Principal Alicia Klug uses to describe Kindergarten teacher Jill Moormann. Jill is the recipient of the Third Annual LASE Jeremiah Award. This award is given annually to a general education teacher who is outstanding in his/her work with students with disabilities and special needs. Mrs. Moormann was presented the Jeremiah Award in a special ceremony in front of the entire school on February 18, 2015.

Jill embraces students with special needs. She is willing to adjust her strategies to fit the needs of her students and not afraid of a challenge. Principal Klug says that Jill is in constant communication with LASE teachers to find methods and strategies that will help students with both learning and behavior needs. She is always open for suggestions and ideas that will help. Mrs. Moormann is well loved by ALL of her past and present students. She truly makes a difference in the lives of children!

Green Park Gymnast Works to Achieve Academic Success

 

Allison is a competitive gymnast whose favorite events are bars and floor activities. This friendly Green Park Lutheran School 7th grader also loves to walk her dog, Hershey, and ride her bike. Allison’s mom, Stephanie, says that Allison is able to handle the work at Green Park because of help from LASE Resource Teacher, Mrs. Sandi Loduca. Stephanie believes Mrs. Loduca does awesome work with her daughter with the personal kind of attention that she feels she would not get if Allison was in public school. Allison works with Mrs. Loduca for Language Arts in a small group setting which helps keep her focused. She thinks Mrs. Loduca makes the subject easier to understand and is a fun teacher. Mrs. Loduca observes that Allison has grown in her independence and ability to advocate for herself over the past five years. Her reading and math have improved as see by her report card that is now filled with A’s and B’s. Way to go Allison!

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.

Tyler’s Triumph

Roberta, Tyler’s mom, can’t talk about her son without welling up with tears. Tyler has had many struggles in his young life including two open heart surgeries. Partial DiGeorge syndrome has affected his heart, immune system, fine motor ability, and learning. Before starting kindergarten at Word of Life Lutheran school, Tyler needed a lot of help. All of this sounds like the beginning of a really sad story, but Tyler’s is one of triumph.

Tyler loves to read, laugh, and make jokes with friends. He can often be heard telling his resource teacher, “You’re gonna tell my mom I did this myself, right?” Tyler is proud of the work he does and eager to share what he has learned with others. Partnership with LASE has made it possible for Tyler to be a part of the Word of Life family.

Roberta says, “I want people to know how hard Tyler works. It is a relief to see how far he has come since he started at Word of Life. (The LASE staff) has made it possible for him to learn with the friends he has made here. They help the other teachers understand how Tyler works.”

New Software Enhances Student Writing

For children who are challenged by writing, the task of composing an essay can seem daunting.  Thanks to new software used by LASE, children with writing disabilities can learn to construct stories that include varied sentence structures, a wide range of vocabulary words, and interesting content. Story Book Weaver software is an innovative program that encourages students to personalize each essay by adding colorful characters, outrageous settings, and even sound effects. Austin is a 6th grader at Atonement who uses Story Book Weaver as he learns to write paragraphs with Mrs. Carol Lima, LASE Speech and Language Pathologist, and Mrs. Kim Paquette, LASE Resource Teacher.  His mother, Nicole, is thrilled to follow his progress in writing with this new software.  Recently, Austin used Story Book Weaver to independently write a clever story about Gila monsters.  He accomplished the goal of using lengthy sentences and specific vocabulary words in descriptive fashion.  Austin is delighted to share excerpts from his essay with you:

The Gila monster emerged from the desert.  The man pulled out his binoculars to see what the Gila monster was doing.  The Gila monster was stashing his food.  The lizard came to the man and the man ran away.  He told the guys at work what he had seen.  They did not believe him.  The man cringed and was exasperated at them.  He showed them were he had seen the lizard.  One of the guys was mesmerizing the lizard.  The man was legendary. Way to go, Austin the Author!  

Zion Lutheran Teacher Honored by LASE for Teaching Excellence

Sue Riemenschneider, 6th Grade Teacher at Zion, St. Charles, is known for utilizing many interactive techniques and projects that encourage students to think “beyond the assignment.” Whether she is collaborating with the LASE special educator to help her students learn, or trying out a new strategy in her 6th grade classroom, Sue is always focused on what is best for her all of her students, including those with learning challenges. Sue is empathetic when working with students and recognizes the difficulties that struggling students have. However, she challenges them to use their God-given gifts to overcome their difficulties and shine in their areas of strength. She celebrates successes along the way and perseveres with them during difficult times.

Sue was awarded the LASE 2014 Jeremiah Award for Teaching Excellence on February 26, 2014 in a surprise ceremony after chapel.  She was nominated by Principal Marc Debrick because of her collaborative skills in working with parents and teachers for the good of children who learn differently.  Congratulations Mrs. Riemenschneider.

New Logo New Beginnings

new-logo

Exciting, inspirational, hopeful. These are words that describe the new Lutheran Association for Special Education (LASE) logo. But who really is Lutheran Association for Special Education (LASE)? LASE includes everyone with a heart for reaching, inspiring and strengthening the potential and purpose of every child of the King.

LASE is every loving parent who struggles to understand how to help her child flourish and grow; who has wept with “lost” potential. LASE is the Lutheran school administrator and classroom teacher, who dedicate their existence to reaching, teaching, and loving each child in their schools. LASE is a supportive team of special education experts, who are strong and durable, dedicated and competent, compassionate and tough, and driven by their share value for educating the promise and potential in the spirit and mind of every child of God. LASE is volunteers and donors, each with a story and a reason for engaging with this unique and compelling mission.

LASE is a cause, not just a program, that uplifts and treasures the diversity of learning in all children.

The new logo communicates the brand of the organization in a very simple and easily understood way. This logo symbolizes the community and relationships within LASE. Each figure is shown growing and exhibiting joyful movement as they reach upward, forming a cross, emphasizing our unique Christ-centered mission. The solid, uppercase typeface give a very foundational feel to the name of the organization, while also speaking to the expertise and strength within it.

LASE did not choose a new logo simply to create something novel or beautiful. The new LASE logo is a visual symbol of new beginnings and a revitalized impetus to change our community for Christ. A new logo speaks to the bigger impact that LASE wants to have on our students, teachers, principals, parents, donors, and volunteers. Together we are a part of the community of LASE, here to encourage and inspire the God given potential of every child into reality.

“I Can Do” Attitude Drives Success for Orion Melton

When asked how he has grown as a student, Lutheran High School St. Charles junior Orion Melton replied, “I’ve learned to think of homework less as daily torture and more as something that needs to be done and that I can do.”

Orion attributes much of his high school success to the LASE Learning Center, a program that provides academic instruction, support, and curriculum modifications for students with varying disabilities. Orion’s grandmother, Pam Melton, said that she used to be worried what high school would be like for him since he is a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism.

Pam said her fears were dispelled when they found the LASE Learning Center and teacher Mrs. Sue Klobnak. “Mrs. Klobnak helps him tremendously by keeping him organized. I couldn’t ask for a better teacher.” Teachers at Lutheran High are very complimentary about Orion’s work ethic and thoughtfulness.

Orion says he sees the love of Christ show through at LHSSC because the students are so positive. When asked what he wants others to know about people with Asperger’s, he carefully replied, “Asperger’s make people act and think differently but it does not mean they are not intelligent or not interesting.” Orion is not sure what the future holds but he definitely wants to go to college and perhaps become a writer. The best is still to come for this bright young man!

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Former LASE Student Finds Niche as Mechanical Engineering Intern

Corey Bryan’s mom, Karen Starnes, wondered how she would ever get her son through school when he was diagnosed with learning disabilities in reading, processing, and short-term memory issues. LASE helped her find the answers. Corey was a hard working student and learned to compensate for his challenges with the help of one of his favorite LASE teachers, Mrs. Sandi Loduca. A Christian school and LASE Resource Room at Christ Community Lutheran School was a blessing for Corey because no one picked on him or made him feel dumb.

Fast forward over 10 years to the present. The boy who couldn’t remember his math facts in grade school is now a doing high level math as a senior Mechanical Engineering student at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, MO. Corey is currently completing an internship in Sweetwater, TX with United States Gypsum (USG), the largest manufacturer of building materials in North America. Corey’s learning disabilities did not magically disappear, but over the years he learned how to overcome his challenges. His job prospects after graduation are promising.

Corey’s mom, Karen, says, “I cannot thank LASE enough for the work they did with Corey from second grade on to put him in the position he is today! In Corey’s case LASE absolutely met and far exceeded their mission to…’serve a child with special needs to grow in Christ and enjoy his God-given potential.'”

Ability Awareness Day Ignites Student Sensitivity

What would it be like if you had trouble seeing, trouble hearing, or couldn’t use your hands?

Students at St. Mark’s Lutheran School, Eureka, discovered what it was like during a day dedicated to Ability Awareness when they learned that the biggest word in “disability” is “ability.” Lutheran Association for Special Education (LASE) Resource Teacher, Carlyn Reed, and School Counselor, Susan Howard, organized the March 2013 event to develop student sensitivity and compassion toward people with disabilities.

The activities were designed to heighten student awareness of different disabilities, convey to students how people with disabilities feel, and highlight the many accomplishments people with disabilities have made in the world.

Students learned first-hand from presenter, Aaron Likens, what it is like to be a person with Asperger’s. Likens told students how he did not know he had Asperger’s until he was out of high school, but knew that he approached life differently than most people. He has also written a book about his experiences.

Students also engaged in simulation activities that helped them experience what it might be like to be learning disabled, and physically, visually or hearing impaired. Fourth grade teacher, Linda Dehn , asked students to reflect on what they learned from the day.

Here are some ways in which they grew in their awareness:

  • I learned that it isn’t easy to do certain things if you have disabilities. I felt how it can feel with disabilities. It can be very hard.
  • Even if people are different you should still treat them the way you would want to be treated.
  • Just because you are different, you can still be smart.
  • People with disabilities want to be treated like a normal person.

LASE Resource Teacher, Carlyn Reed, believes that heightening students awareness of the different gifts in others helps everyone to love and accept others for who they are, which is exactly what our Christian faith calls us to do.

Thank You LASE, I’m Ready to Face the World!

Things just weren’t clicking for Meredith Rauscher in third grade at Salem Lutheran School, Affton. Reading, math, and writing – “Why is it so hard to get this stuff?” Her questions were answered at the end of 3rd grade when she found out she had a learning disability. Help came to her through LASE Resource Teacher, Mrs. Karen Wittmayer. Meredith recalls how Karen went above and beyond expectations to give her learning strategies she needed to blossom and the encouragement to persist throughout grade school. That memory planted a seed: “I want to impact others’ lives. I want to give back to others because of my teachers’ kindness to me.”

Meredith transitioned well to public high school and learned to be her own best advocate. The special relationship between Meredith and Mrs. Wittmayer continued as the two kept in touch throughout her high school years. Meredith was thrilled to be nominated for a $1000 scholarship for special education students to Webster University and ended up choosing Webster to complete her BS in Education.

Looking back on her grade school years, Meredith is grateful for the mentors like Mrs. Wittmayer who inspired her to succeed. Meredith is currently an admissions officer for Harris Stowe University where she is able to use her gifts of speaking on panels and doing workshops for high school students. She is also attending UMSL to pursue her Masters Degree in Higher Education.

Karen and Meredith recently reconnected at the LASE Purse Auction in September where Meredith got to get to know some of the LASE faculty and staff. She indicated that she would be “proud to be an ambassador for LASE. You have so many amazing people in your organization. . . and you help the children. Thank you for all you do.”

Congratulations, Meredith, for making a difference in the world. God has great plans for you.