Learn by Heart

We are celebrating our team!

Introducing the Learn by Heart Campaign!

Each day, our school staff make a difference in the lives of children. They teach them how to read, serve them lunch, safely transport them to and from school and make sure their learning environment is clean and welcoming. They prepare our students for successful careers and life after the classroom. They challenge students to reach their greatest potential and support them every step of the way. These superheroes make a tremendous difference, and for that, our community would like to say, "Thank you!" Join us as we celebrate the hard work and dedication of everyone on our staff by supporting the Learn by Heart campaign.

The Learn by Heart campaign is designed to increase the awareness of the dedication of Berrien County educators and foster continuing public support through a countywide campaign. The focus of the campaign will be to highlight relationships between educators, students, parents, and community members through stories. In the coming months, we will be sharing those stories with you to showcase our educators, who serve as the lifeblood that makes the district beat. Do you have a story to share? Simply send your story background, participant names, relevant pictures and any pertinent information including quotes and specific story elements to Kristin Bivens at [email protected].

The Learn by Heart campaign is part of a countywide initiative in partnership with Berrien RESA. Over the next 6 months, school districts across Berrien County will be celebrating their school staff as part of the project. It is our hope that this activity will become a part of our community’s culture – celebrating and appreciating our school personnel today and every day!

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mindy watson

Berrien RESA’s Early On Program has seen a huge increase in referrals in recent months, to the point where the department’s Team Facilitators, who do intake calls for referrals, were overwhelmed. 

That is when fellow co-workers jumped in to assist with the backlog of referrals and began making calls to families in need of services.

The Early On program is the name for Michigan's early intervention system that provides services for infants and toddlers, birth to three years of age, with developmental delays and/or disabilities.

Mindy Watson, Early On Social Worker and Infant Family Specialist, typically provides home visits and assessments of children who are entering the Early On program.  After seeing how behind the department was on calling the influx of referrals, Ms. Watson offered to work for a few days during the district’s spring break to play catch up.

“I was able to make contact with over a dozen families, schedule their evaluations, and finalize many Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSP) during that time,” Ms. Watson said. “While I only put a dent in the work, it did help us move in the right direction to being caught up.”

This extra work was on top of a full caseload, but the program is so vital to young children across the area, Ms. Watson, along with other staff members felt compelled to help.

"Early intervention is often a family's introduction to educational services in our county,” Ms. Watson said. “Early identification of delays and disabilities can be crucial in supporting the child's success in school and beyond."

Heather Medlin, Team Facilitator in the Early On Program, is so thankful for the extra support.

“It made us feel less overwhelmed, and was a huge surprise when we returned,” she said, “We are very lucky to have such amazing coworkers so willing to jump in when there is a need.”

Thank you to Mindy for stepping up to the plate and helping our young children Learn by Heart!

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emily brumbaugh

Emily Brumbaugh, Adapted Physical Education Teacher at Lighthouse Education Center, is helping students make changes in their diets and to understand healthy lifestyles. For parent Meghan Wooldridge, she is so happy to see her son Gus “schooling” the household on what he’s learning about in health.

He has shared lots of information on proteins, carbs (simple and complex), fruits and I could go on,” Ms. Wooldridge shared. “He actually ate an apple at lunch that someone else didn’t want to eat.”

Ms. Brumbaugh said her class is currently using health skills, such as decision making, setting goals, analyzing influences, and practicing health-enhancing behaviors as they learn about developing a healthy lifestyle. She is also having students analyze their heart rate data to better understand how it impacts their health.

“Students are taking ownership of the content by asking relevant follow-up questions that lead to more meaningful group discussions,” Ms. Brumbaugh said. “Some have even shared that they are already making daily, positive lifestyle changes.”

Lighthouse Education Center Principal Andrea Lemon is so grateful to have Ms. Brumbaugh on her team.

“Not only does she provide fun and engaging lessons in adaptive PE and health classes, but she is also active in professional communities and a recipient of multiple grants,” said Ms. Lemon. “Emily gives 100 percent and I'm so glad that her work is being recognized outside the gym walls."

Gus is recognizing the work Ms. Brumbaugh is doing by making better lifestyle choices.

“He is even preparing his Dad to buy some ingredients to make smoothies this weekend,” Ms. Wooldridge said, “There is something much more impactful to hear this information from a professional versus his Mom telling him about nutrition choices.”

Thank you Ms. Brumbaugh for helping students make healthier choices and to Learn by Heart!

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jennifer gano

Jennifer Gano, Teacher at Berrien RESA’s ASD offsite program at Coloma Elementary, has been teaching students with disabilities for 22 years and has found her “home” within Coloma Community Schools.

“My students and other Berrien RESA colleagues are genuinely part of the school community,” said Ms. Gano. “Coloma acknowledges and supports the fact that everyone has their own unique learning needs to be successful.”

Ms. Gano says that learning with and supporting students with Autism is her passion, so when her colleague, Ethan Jasper, a Behavior Support Assistant, asked for some tips on helping students with Autism in his general education classroom, she was eager to share her ideas.

“Being a school that actively seeks out ways to help all students be successful in their Least Restrictive Environment is what Coloma is all about,” said Ms. Gano. “I’m very proud to be a small part of that.”

The Least Restrictive Environment is a federal regulation that allows students with disabilities to remain in general education classrooms as much as possible.

Ms. Gano shared several principles she’s used over the years to teach children with Autism and provide the support they need. Her number one rule is to give children “a time and a place, a voice and a choice.” In doing so, she doesn’t just tell a child “no,” she says not at this particular time or in this particular setting. She believes in asking a child what they need and letting them know that you hear them. She also encourages children to have the opportunity to make a choice as much as possible.

After dwelling on it for some time, I can firmly say that this is applicable not only for students with Autism, but ALL students in the general education setting,” said Mr. Jasper about the advice Ms. Gano provided. “It is a well-rounded viewpoint that explains the importance of providing structure while empowering the children in their role as the student.”

Thank you, Ms. Gano, for providing support to your educational peers and giving our students the tools they need to Learn by Heart! 

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project search story
 

Charlotte Jones, Receptionist at Berrien RESA’s Administrative Center, is the first face people see when they enter the building. She keeps the front office humming, handles the switchboard and gets visitors where they need to go. She is essential to the functioning of the district.

When Robin Snyder, Supervisor of Ancillary/Health Services, needed to find a job shadow experience for Project SEARCH Intern Desi Thompson, she reached out to Ms. Jones to see if she would be willing to show Desi around for the day.

Project SEARCH is a special education transition program that trains and equips individuals with disabilities to perform complex jobs, and supports each student in finding meaningful work within the community. Students intern during the academic year at Spectrum Health Lakeland in departments throughout the hospital and in other work environments.

Ms. Snyder thought seeing the typical Berrien RESA workday would be beneficial for Desi and may open new doors for her in the future as she searches for the right career fit.

“Being able to shadow Charlotte allowed Desi to experience a career option that she may not have otherwise considered,” said Ms. Snyder.

Desi spent several hours at the front desk to see how everything operates and what a career as a receptionist might entail.

“I enjoyed spending time with Desi and incorporating her in some of the tasks that I complete daily,” said Ms. Jones.

Desi really enjoyed the experience and feels prepared to move forward in her job search.

“We loved an opportunity to show Desi what an asset Charlotte is to Berrien RESA and open her eyes to her job development possibilities,” said Janis Dowell-Wold, Project SEARCH Skills Trainer. “Desi left the job shadowing experience filled with optimism and confidence.”

“Charlotte is very nice and she took the time to show me what she does and I really appreciated it,” Desi said.

Thank you to Ms. Jones for showing Desi how to Learn by Heart!
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fitness fun
Fitness fun

In the fall of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the entire landscape of the school day at Blossomland Learning Center.

One of the biggest losses was the students’ use of the pool. In order to keep students and staff safe during the pandemic, the pool was shut down. Additionally, due to a multi-year construction project, the school gym was also unavailable for students and staff to use. This situation left the physical education team in a tricky situation - navigating how best to provide a safe environment for fun, engaging movement activities for Blossomland students. 

Through collaboration with administration, P.E. teachers Brian Kuening and Karen Mandarino and Paraprofessional Rae Williams got together to create the Fitness Fun program. The main priority of the program is to be able to provide movement opportunities for the students, while focusing on having fun.

Without the use of the pool, they had to increase the amount of adaptive P.E. classes for classrooms,” said BLC Principal Craig Kuhn. Fitness Fun has helped to provide some normalcy outside of the classroom setting for our staff and students during our construction project and the pandemic.”

The team put together a range of activities to fill the void. Students have been learning forms of dance, learning how to bowl using temporary bowling lanes constructed in the school’s front lobby, taking part in team-building games, obstacle courses, yard games, biking, and most recently the BLC Winter Olympic games.

“They created an Opening Ceremonies video to start our Winter Games, which included staff and students from around the building along with events for students to learn about and participate in during PE classes,” said Mr. Kuhn. “Classrooms participated as various countries and brought flags colored by students to be displayed in the gym during the events. This time has not just been a fun and exciting thing to do with students, but a way to connect them with current events.”  

The Olympic Games allowed students to participate in modified versions of the two-person bobsled, speed skating, curling and a biathlon. The smiles and laughter from students and staff were more precious than Olympic gold!

“Fitness Fun classes allowed socialization for our students during a time when that was limited,” said teacher Shailah Nowlin. “The staff created unique and engaging activities that ALL students are able to participate in.”

By being adaptable and innovative, the Physical Education team has provided new and exciting opportunities for students at Blossomland Learning Center to Learn by Heart!

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snow learn by heart

At Berrien RESA’s ASD classroom at Coloma Elementary School, students are experiencing winter in a new way thanks to Teacher Libby Wuszke.

We have been studying winter in our classroom, but unfortunately have not been able to make it outside either due to students not having snow gear or the frigid temperatures,” said Wuszke.

Wuszke and paraprofessionals, Pam Crumb and Heidi Emery, decided that instead of students having to go outside to play in the snow, they would bring the snow into the classroom! The students enjoyed being able to play with snow in the warmth of their classroom. The students also read a book about snow and sang songs about snowflakes to round out the full immersion sensory experience.

Thank you Libby, Pam and Heidi for helping the classroom become a winter wonderland and for inspiring students to Learn by Heart! #learnbyheart #BRESAhasHEART

 
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