Northwest AEA/school success: Girl with impairments advocates for safety

Ana2_A9890FA3EEC9CBroadway Elementary student, Ana Pocasangre, is flagged by her para-professional on the right, Ann Katzer, and on the left is her general education teacher, Jackie Scheuring. 

Ana Pocasangre is a fifth-grade student at Broadway Elementary in Denison, Iowa, who has proven to be a skilled sales person despite her young age. Ana has a vision impairment that necessitates the assistance of a talented para-professional in the school, Ann Katzer, and services from Northwest Area Education Agency, in addition to her general education classroom setting. As part of her IEP, professionals from the AEA help Ana with her speech, vision and educational programming.

With guidance from her educators, she recently took the initiative to write to Mike Pardun, the superintendent of Denison CSD, to explain how a safety issue at the school was affecting her and how it might bring harm to others.

One day last December while Ana was in the auditorium with her teacher, Jackie Scheuring, she mentioned that the steps to the stage were dangerous because there were no handrails for support. It was especially tricky for Ana because of her vision problem.

Mrs. Scheuring agreed and encouraged Ana to choose that as her topic for her persuasive letter assignment in her class. With the help of her para-professional, Ana penned a letter to Mr. Pardun requesting that handrails be installed so that no one would fall walking up or down the steps.

Not only did the superintendent respond quickly to Ana’s letter, he worked with the custodial staff at the school to install a new handrail very soon after receiving the pitch from the fifth-grader.

“Ana has taught me that there is no limit when it comes to being able to learn,” said Mrs. Scheuring. “In the right settings and with the right support, you can accomplish any goal set in front of you. Through her actions, I have learned what it truly means to persevere. I am honored to have been able to teach her.”

Mary Bruck, special education strategist at Northwest AEA who works with Ana, has also been very impressed with what Ana has accomplished and said she is a “pretty outstanding” student.

“I think it is interesting how Ana’s request seems to fall outside the realm of what other students her age might ask for,” explained Mrs. Bruck. “And even though the handrail benefits her, I know her thinking was also in protecting other students. That is just Ana’s personality.”

Ana is a thoughtful young girl who is surrounded by compassionate people encouraging her to advocate for herself and others. By all standards, she is doing an excellent job!

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Northwest AEA/school success: Boy with speech delay graduates out of therapy

Luke_94E694D55C731When Luke Vande Griend was two years old, his mom said he would speak only two words. Instead of using words, Luke would point to what he needed or wanted. Concerned with his limited vocabulary, parents Allison and Derek tried to work as best they could with Luke on his language skills. That’s when frustration set in.

“The more I tried to work with him, the more he and I became frustrated,” said Allison Vande Griend.

The Vande Griends called Northwest Area Education Agency and were introduced to Meg Otto, an Early ACCESS teacher from the AEA, and Lynn Cole, speech-language pathologist at the AEA, who got the ball rolling when Luke entered preschool at South O’Brien. They worked collaboratively with Luke’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Golden.

“All of these individuals really made learning fun,” Allison stated. “I saw the excitement to want to learn things where we didn’t see that drive before with Luke.”

The Vande Griends believe the hands-on learning was what really excited Luke. The communication skills he built at this stage gave him confidence in the preschool classroom with new friends, some of whom also struggled.

“He really felt okay to be himself and that made him want to learn even more,” explained Allison.

Lynn Cole continued working with Luke until this school year when he graduated from speech therapy. The Vande Griends would encourage any parent who has a concern about their child to call the AEA. They say take action and don’t worry about what others will think.

“I look back now and think how did I even worry about such a thing,” said Allison. “Society can be harsh but our children’s future should outweigh any of society’s cruelties.”

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Northwest AEA/school success: Three siblings overcome obstacles with AEA services

Siblings Kendra, Evie and Samuel have all successfully battled through speech delays with the help of AEA employees. Photo submitted by their mom, Jennifer TenKley.

Jennifer TenKley is very appreciative of AEA staff members, Lynn Cole and Meg Otto, for the services they have provided her three children: Samuel, Evie and Kendra. The children attend school in the South O’Brien Community School District and all displayed speech delays.

Lynn is a speech-language pathologist and Meg is an early childhood special education teacher, both at Northwest AEA. Without them, Jennifer says she believes her kids may have needed to learn sign language and fears they would be struggling with communication.

Both Samuel and Evie have “graduated” out of therapy, and youngest child, Kendra, is almost done with speech services. She can communicate much more clearly than in the past.

“Kendra has a hard time being understood by people; and when they ask her to repeat, she gets shy and doesn’t want to talk,” Jennifer explained. “I hope that someday…she will be better off with talking to people.”

Jennifer believes the services of the AEA, along with the help of the school district, has helped her kids down the path of success.

“I would just like to thank everyone who has touched my children’s lives with their kindness and help. I couldn’t thank any of you guys enough for everything you did and keep doing for my children,” said Jennifer. “It means the world to me as a mom that you guys work so hard for kids.”

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Northwest AEA/school success: Reading Recovery teacher shares her son’s journey

The Wright family celebrates at Morningside College, where James received a degree in business administration. From left to right are London, Randy, James, Pat, Matthew, and Michael. The second photo is a younger James who was placed in Reading Recovery, which paved the way for him to become a reader and writer.

Where Are They Now? A Positive Outcome and Influence

by Pat Wright l Reprinted with permission from the Journal of Reading Recovery Fall 2015

As a former Reading Recovery teacher I tend to judge the success of this intervention by its discontinuation rate. Reading Recovery teachers work very diligently to ensure that the children they teach are receiving the most powerful strategies to mold them into successful readers and writers. Many students have become successful members of the literary community with the help of these dedicated teachers.

But what happens to those students who just don’t make the gains to discontinue? Do they continue to struggle throughout their educational career? Are they so frustrated with their struggle that they give up? As a parent I witnessed the journey of one such child.

My son, James, was identified as one of the lowest-achieving students in his first-grade classroom. As a kindergarten student he just couldn’t seem to put the pieces together to make sense of what he was seeing on the page. This was very frustrating to me as a Reading Recovery teacher. Of course I worked with him at home, but sometimes a mom who is a teacher is not the best person to teach her own child. We live in a small community and at the time I was the sole Reading Recovery teacher in our school district. I knew I could not build the kind of rapport with James that is needed to make struggling readers successful. I was at a loss. The intervention that I had seen be successful with so many students was not going to work for my child because of me. Thank goodness for a very dedicated and supportive teacher leader.

Pat Fostvedt-Oxendale, the teacher leader at Northwest Area Education Agency in Sioux City, agreed to work with James. She was already teaching children in another district but stopped on her drive into the office in Sioux City to teach James. Unfortunately, James did not make the gains needed to discontinue and was placed in special education. James continued to be a part of the special education program throughout middle and high school. However, I believe, that even though he did not make the gains needed to label him discontinued from Reading Recovery, his time as a Reading Recovery student laid the foundation for future success.

As I watched him during the time he was in Reading Recovery I observed many positive things. First and foremost, he was starting to believe that he could read even though it was still very difficult. He learned that through hard work he could be successful and that there were people who believed he could read. Reading Recovery teachers are those who believe and encourage the students they teach while searching for the best methods and strategies to teach the struggling readers they encounter everyday.

James may have not have been a positive statistic as far as Reading Recovery data are concerned, but his time in that intervention had a very positive influence for years that followed in his educational career. Even though he did not make rapid gains, the foundation needed to become a reader and writer was laid. With the support of many other teachers like Pat Fostvedt-Oxendale, James graduated from Woodbury Central High School in 2011 with a GPA of 3.0 and went on to attend Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. As a parent, I am proud to say that he was a part of the recent commencement ceremony at Morningside College and graduated with a degree in business administration.

Discontinuation continues to be, as it should, the goal for all students served in Reading Recovery. However, those students whose outcome in Reading Recovery we often view as a disappointment, due to their lack of accelerated progress, have also been greatly impacted by the dedication of those involved with Reading Recovery. It is my belief that all students touched by this intervention have taken something positive away from this experience.

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Northwest AEA/school success: Reading Recovery helps fourth grade boy attain tenth grade reading level

Written by Jess Jensen, Reading Recovery Teacher in Schleswig

Reprinted with permission from the 2014 Reading Recovery Site Report for Northwest AEA

In March, I received an email from Jana O’Brien telling me about the great news she had received at her son Nainoa’s spring conferences. Nainoa, now in 4th Grade, had scored at the 10th Grade level in reading on his Iowa Assessments!

Nainoa is one of those children that a teacher never forgets. He came into Reading Recovery as a first round student and discontinued at a Level 16 in early December that year. He ended that year reading a Level 26. I was able to get to know him in the Reading Recovery setting and in my 1st Grade classroom. He was a charmer with the cutest dimples imaginable. I was even lucky enough to receive emails from Nainoa sent from his home computer after school hours. I must say that he and I had a bond.

I was able to catch up with Nainoa at his current school at OA-BCIG. He still has a love for science and enjoys building things with Legos and tools. He chooses to read books about animals and realistic and historical fiction. When he gets bigger he’d like to become a veterinarian and live close to his mom and dad.

I’m so proud of his accomplishments and so thankful that Jana thought to share this exciting news with me!

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Northwest AEA/school success: Boy born with hearing loss chosen for Deaflympics and more

Written by Sandy Leach, educational interpreter at Northwest AEA

Sam Holzrichter is an 18-year-old senior at North High in Sioux City. Sam was born with a hearing loss, and his hearing progressively got worse. He started working with the AEA at 13 months of age. In May 2002, he received a cochlear implant in his right ear; and in October 2009, his left ear was implanted.

In August of 2014, Sam tried out for the 2015 Deaflympics while attending AHIHA (American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association) camp in Buffalo, NY.  Hockey is a huge part of Sam’s life, so this just made sense. In December, he was chosen, and was one of the youngest on TEAM USA to travel to Russia in March to compete in the 2015 Deaflympics. TEAM USA brought home a bronze medal!

Sam is currently an assistant captain of the Sioux City Metros and refs youth hockey games. He was chosen as the North High student to attend Boys State 2015 in Johnston, Iowa. Most recently, he was selected as Sioux City Rotary Club’s Student of the Month.

Sam attended Clark Elementary and North Middle School. He has been very active in extracurricular activities. Sam plays the cello in orchestra, drums in marching band, concert band and jazz band. He also was in wrestling and cross-country during middle school. He is a member of the National Council on Youth Leadership. Sam is also a member of the North High National Honor Society and has taken AP classes and honors classes. He has a 3.9 GPA and ranks twentieth of 334 students in his class.

He works with a sign language interpreter. Sandy Leach, an educational interpreter at the AEA, has been with Sam since fourth grade.

“Sam has challenged me to become a better interpreter, said Sandy. “What an amazing young man! If there is one thing Sam has taught me, it is to believe that anything is possible!”

After graduation, Sam plans on attending RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), in Rochester, NY.  More specifically, he will attend NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf), a college of RIT.  He will major in chemical engineering.

Sam has been an incredible role model for all younger students with a hearing loss. He is proof that the deaf and hard of hearing can do anything the “hearing” can do…except hear.

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Northwest AEA/A to Z Preschool success: Girl hears with amplifier

Can you imagine not understanding what people are saying to you; yet, you need to follow instructions in class? This was the reality of a little girl at A to Z Preschool in Kingsley.

With a severe hearing loss in both ears, the child received hearing aids last December. However, she tried her best to understand teachers and classmates but would get frustrated and she wasn’t playing much with others. Her teachers knew something more was needed. One teacher, Ann Bowman, and Nichole Fettig, itinerant teacher of the hard of hearing at Northwest AEA, decided to access an amplifier for the girl. She can now hear those speaking to her.

According to Ms. Bowman, “She is so much more active in our singing, playing with all the kids, working on the computer because we can plug the amplifier into the speaker of the computer, and reading books. She can answer questions and is so much more involved with everything we do. We have seen huge strides in her since we have gotten the amplifier to use with her.”

In addition, the child is picking up on things much easier now, her speech is so much clearer, and she doesn’t get frustrated easily anymore.

“The first time she heard my voice through the amplifier her eyes lit up, and we sat and just talked to one another. This amplifier was the best technology invented,” exclaimed Ms. Bowman.

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