Parent Advisory Committee (PAC)

pac award announcement

2021 PAC Award Winner

 "Congratulations to all of our Excellence in Education Award nominees that have been highlighted over the past week! Tonight, we celebrate the award winner! Congratulations and thank you so much for your dedication to our special education students. Stay tuned to hear from the winner in the coming weeks! Thank you for helping us celebrate!"

2021 PAC Award Winner 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Nominee #1 - Andrea Lemon
District - Berrien RESA
School/Program - Lighthouse Education Center
Job Title - Special Education Teacher 

This has been a challenging year for many with safety regulations and health concerns, but Andrea has succeeded in building a family in her classroom during this time of social distancing. She has such creative ideas for incorporating fun into learning to engage her should see her act out the story "Room on the Broom". She seeks out ideas, makes them her own and implements them. She is able to help the student through the rough times, develop a plan to help in the future, and rework that plan per the child's needs. Tyler (student) is super excited about school, loves his teachers and his friends, and it is all because he has such a dedicated and caring teacher. 

Nominee #2 - Jenna Hawkins
District - Berrien RESA 
School/Program - Lighthouse Education Center
Job Title - Special Education Teacher 

Jenna has worked tremendously hard to ensure that the students of Lighthouse Education Center have a plethora of opportunities to learn and grow through many different modalities. By creating activities that students can generalize into their lives outside of and beyond the classroom, she provides them with tools to ensure they can be active and have positive participation in their community. Her compassion for students' families, and her love of her job are evident in everything that she does. She is a teacher who never says no, she always welcomes students, communicates with parents at all hours of the day and night, as well as works collaboratively with her peers at Lighthouse helping to build the program. 

Watch here to see the Nominee's from today (3/2/2021). 

Wednesday, March, 3, 2021

Nominee #3 - John Klein 
District - Coloma Public Schools
School/Program - Coloma Elementary 
Job Title - Principal 

Mr. Klein takes very seriously the art and skill of leadership, embraces the belief that fair is not always equal, and values that each student has access to what they need to be successful. In his eyes, all children come to school with special needs to be met, both those with IEPs and without. With his guidance we strive to meet our children where they are and move them forward both socially and academically. He has accepted the responsibility of being "a voice for the voiceless in a system that was made for a different time and different people." 

Nominee #4 - Pat Cole 
District - Bridgman Public Schools
School/Program - F.C. Reed Middle School 
Job Title - Paraprofessional 

Mrs. Cole has a special way to deal with all types of problems in a creative and appropriate manner. She cares about every student's social, emotional, and academic growth. She has eagerly assisted other students' learning, even when primarily assigned to a single student. This relentless, supportive care makes Mrs. Cole a highly effective paraprofessional as she works to monitor student behavior, reinforce curricular expectations, implement targeted interventions, and administer IEP accommodations. Her historical wisdom and practical experience translates to advice that is not only appreciated, but also welcomed by our team of educators. Mrs. Cole's unselfish demeanor makes her a treasured member of our Reed Middle School team. 

Watch here to see the Nominee's from today (3/3/2021).

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Nominee #5 - Anne MacDonald
District - St. Joseph Public Schools
School/Program - Upton Middle School 
Job Title - Special Education Teacher

Anne has always been a tower of strength while continuing to help her peers at any time with school-related items, just for a smile, or a quick pick-me up. I felt complete confidence that Anne would assist my son in closing the gap in reading and math. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. This Anne's last year of teaching and I truly believe that she deserves all of the accolades that come with a career that has spanned as long as hers and that have been filled with selflessness and excellence. 

Nominee #6 - Mindy Watson 
District - Berrien RESA 
School/Program - Early-On
Job Title - Early-On School Social Worker 

"Mindy you have surpassed as a therapist, it's like you became a part of the family." She was not only a huge asset to my son as he began his journey with Autism, but was also knowledgeable and helpful to me as a mother. She made herself available to answer questions and concerns any time I needed and gave me resources available without pushing me to do anything I wasn't comfortable with. She was also understanding and compassionate to my fears and uncertainty during the process of my son being evaluated and diagnosed. Because of Mindy we had a wonderful experience with Early-On and they are beyond lucky to have her. 

Watch here to see the Nominee's from today (3/4/2021). 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Nominee #7 - Brittany Brethauer
District - Coloma Community Schools 
School/Program - Coloma Elementary 
Job Title - Early Childhood Special Education Teacher 

Mrs. Brethauer (known as Mrs. B) is nothing short of amazing every single day! When a student is having a challenge, she goes above and beyond to make sure they can overcome it, not just in the classroom, but at home as well. Thinking of how the parents must feel to drop off their child that cannot verbally communicate their needs, express frustration or run away, Mrs. B find a way each time to balance concerns, console a crying student, and then move forward into the classroom. It is AMAZING. She is a model teacher and an effective problem-solver. The patience and consistency that she demonstrates on a daily basis in some very challenging circumstances is remarkable. 

Nominee #8 - Susann Dec
District - Countryside Charter Academy 
School/Program - Countryside Charter Academy K-12
Job Title - Special Education Director 

Mrs. Dec is an extremely dedicated district-wide special education coach and lead high school special education teacher. Sue dedicates her time, day in and day out, to supporting all. Her willingness to adapt, stimulate effective change and inspire students to become their "best selves", puts her at the top of my list for any award that I can think of! All in all, Mrs. Dec is a very well-spoken, astute, team leader and teacher who stops at nothing to ensure the success of her kids, fellow colleagues and school. In my eyes, she single-handedly reshaped the Special Education Program at Countryside to what it is today. 

Watch here to see the Nominee's from today (3/5/2021). 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Nominee #9 - Laura Gonzalez
District - Berrien Springs Public Schools
School/Program - Mars Elementary 
Job Title - ESL Classroom Teacher 

Laura went WAY above and beyond when the Coronavirus first started. Although translating is not listed as one of her duties, she is CONSTANTLY translating for our EL families. Laura went house to house to explain to the families in Spanish how to login to the Chrome Books, how to get into the programs, what a ZOOM meeting was, and what the expectations were for their children. The parents are so appreciative of the respect, cultural values, love and care that Laura puts into her job! I am definitely blessed to have her in my class!! 

Nominee #10 - Shelby Coppens
District - Berrien Springs Public Schools
School/Program - Sylvester Elementary 
Job Title - 4th Grade Teacher 

Every year, Shelby goes above and beyond to make accommodations for each and every student she has to ensure their success. She has worked with students of varying abilities and disabilities. Shelby uses a variety of teaching strategies and techniques to ensure that every student has what they need in order to be successful in the classroom. Shelby truly teaches to each individual student, and not to the class as one homogenous unit. I believe that Shelby has shown that she is an extremely hard worker, an advocate for all her students, and an integral part of Sylvester Elementary and Berrien Springs Public Schools as a whole. 

Watch here to see the Nominee's from today (3/8/2021).

You are not alone. 

We know. We have been there. We understand. It is OK to feel scared, frustrated and overwhelmed. Those are all important feelings to have when you learn that your child qualifies for special education services. The good news—you are not alone.

During the academic years of your child’s life, you will experience tremendous joys and may also be faced with challenges. Know that as you navigate your child’s special education experience, there is a network of parents, guardians, friends and others who are here to help you called the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC). The goal of PAC is to support you as you learn about the special education system and to help you become more confident about your child’s school experience.

What is the PAC?

The PAC is a group of parents who have one thing in common: a child with a disability. It is a peer network that allows you to take a step back from your particular situation and gain insight and valuable information to assist you and your student. Additionally, in partnership with local school districts, PAC members serve as a voice for the families whose children attend special education programs and receive special education services within Berrien County.

What we do:

  • Provide emotional support/listening ear through a peer network

  • Attend and offer parent assistance during Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings

  • Share experiences and resources

  • Offer outreach support in the community

  • Celebrate the accomplishments of educators who make a difference in the lives of students receiving special education services.

Download our Parent Advisory Committee Brochure.

Contact Information

Accountability & Program Improvement Specialist
Autumn Poole
Tel: 269-471-7725, ext. 3309
Fax: 269-471-0314

PAC Activities

Your PAC representative can be reached by contacting your home school district’s special education coordinator.

 Upcoming Meetings:

2020-2021 Meeting Schedule

PAC representatives meet monthly during the school year. The meetings are open to the public—everyone is welcome! Meetings are held at the Berrien RESA Administrative Center Room B, located at 711 Saint Joseph Avenue in Berrien Springs from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Excellence in Education Award Banquet (PAC Awards):
The 2021 PAC Excellence in Education will be held virtually on Facebook. Tune in March 2 - 8 to see who was nominated this year (10 nominees total). The winner will be announced at 7 p.m. on March 9, 2021!

Past Meetings:





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