2021 Winter | Wildcat Chronicle

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Wildcat Chronicle W I N T E R

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A Place Where You Fit The Stewart Center Meet the Dynamic Team That Brings Therapy to Westview

Westview Waves Goodbye A Socially Distant Send-Off for Head of School Donna Marshall

Middle School Tech Technology Gets an Upgrade for Students in the 1830 Building


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Message from the Head of School

M i d d l e S c h o o l Te c h Gets an Upgrade

2 0 1 9 - 2 0 2 0 Te a c h e r o f t h e Ye a r

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Halloween 2020 Tr e a t s o n t h e Tr a c k

2 0 1 9 - 2 0 2 0 Te a c h e r A s s i s t a n t o f t h e Ye a r

Congratulations to Our 2020 Graduates

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We s t v i e w E D U Presents 2021

Wo n d e r f u l We s t v i e w Alumni News

We s t v i e w F u n d r a i s i n g Goes to the Movies

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Contents

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Farewell Parade for Ms. Donna

Head of School, Donna Marshall, retires after nearly thirty years at The Westview School. Friends and family help Donna reflect on her remarkable career at The Westview School and pay tribute with surprise parades.

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Vi r t u a l L e a r n i n g : W h a t We L e a r n e d from the Lockdown

In the Spring of 2020, everything came to a grinding halt. Today, thanks to the collaboration among parents, faculty, and staff, The Westview School is thriving and positioned to emerge better than ever.

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Reasons to Love The Stewart Center

From art therapy and floor time to picky eaters and family counseling, The Stewart Center has you covered! Meet the seven dynamic professionals who bring occupational, speech, and art therapy to The Westview School families.


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Westview’s New Head of School Bevan Koch, Ed.D. HEAD OF SCHOOL

A highlight of every Westview Fundraising Luncheon is hearing past and present parents share their autism journey. Excerpts from the 2020 speeches express what Westview means to our families.

2020 Fundraising Luncheon

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We st v i ew S t ro n g : Staff Steps Up and Stays Strong

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In the Spring of 2020, Bevan M. Koch, by a unanimous vote from the Westview Board of Directors, was appointed as the third Head of School for The Westview School. She comes to Westview from Sewickley Academy in Sewickley, Pennsylvania (outside Pittsburgh), where she has served in increasing positions of responsibility since 2013. Bevan has a Master’s degree in Special Education and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Sam Houston State University, and a B.S. in Mathematics Education from McNeese State University.

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the westview school

a place where you fit

In this issue of the Wildcat Chronicle, we will review some of the highlights of the 2019-2020 school year and describe some of the changes instituted in the new school year.

Warmest wishes,

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I am grateful for the warmth, understanding, and support from all of you – friends, families, faculty, and staff. I look forward to seeing our students continue to learn and grow due to the tremendous innovation taking place at our school.

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In this issue of the Wildcat Chronicle, we will review some of the highlights of the 2019-2020 school year and describe some of the changes instituted this year. I could not be more proud of how our team reimagined virtually every aspect of the school day. From carpool and classroom seating to recess and technology, Team Westview has worked tirelessly to ensure that we continue to serve our students and their families in the safest way possible.

Even though things look different, our students are resilient and continue to amaze us as they learn, connect, and thrive in a year that is anything but typical. As you read through the stories contained herein, I hope you will appreciate our commitment to fulfilling our mission to provide a unique, specialized learning environment that offers outstanding educational and social opportunities for children on the autism spectrum.

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What a year to start a new job! Every new opportunity presents surprises, but nothing could have prepared me for the unique challenges of reopening a school during a global pandemic. Despite the unimaginable twists and turns, the entire Westview community, including the board, staff, and families, remain strong and united in our commitment to serving our students.

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Dear Westview Friends and Families,

Each school year, The Westview School chooses a theme to represent the year. The 2020-2021 school theme is “A Place Where You Fit.” We cannot think of a more apropos way to describe our students and community. In the words of one parent, “Westview gives my child the confidence to be and love who he is. It is the perfect fit for our family.”

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Westview Waves Goodbye to

Ms. Donna

by: Penelope Khuri

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Ms. Donna Retires In a year of tremendous change, perhaps The Westview School’s most significant one occurred when Head of School, Donna Marshall, retired at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. On May 18, 2020, well into the COVID-19 quarantine, The Westview School honored Donna with a surprise car parade of students and teachers. What began as a simple “end-of-year belongings pick up” morphed into a surprise party for Ms. Donna. Back-to-back parades at the 1900 and 1830 buildings allowed each family an opportunity to show their love and appreciation for Ms. Donna. The students could also cross the street to see the cars lined up with teachers and say good-bye for the summer. Following the family car parade, Donna crossed the street herself to see all the teachers, who also wished her a fond farewell. Donna Marshall came to Westview after hearing about the school from another mother. In 1991, she met Westview founder, Jane Stewart, who offered to let Donna’s son Jacob attend for free if Donna would teach. This was a typical start for

most teachers in Westview’s early days. Jacob stayed less than a year before moving on to kindergarten, but Donna remained. Oralia Burks, teacher assistant, and a friend worked as Donna’s teaching assistant for close to eight years. “[Donna] was a great teacher. I had no teaching experience, but she taught me so much. She didn’t have to spell everything out; we just “got each


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Donna Marshall, shown below with Jane Stewart and their Kindergarten class of 1992. Miss Donna taught Kindergarten for 16 years before becoming a We s t v i e w a d m i n i s t r a t o r.

“Nurturing the children, helping them learn that they are capable and ‘can do it’, was most important to me.” said Donna. “Equipping the school and enriching the children’s lives was the ultimate goal. I also believe in nurturing the teachers and staff, encouraging and helping them understand just how important their job is.”

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Ms. Donna for 30 Years of Service other.” Oralia recalls Friday field trips where she and Donna would load the kindergarten class into Donna’s Suburban and take them on field trips. “She was terrific at keeping the kids on task, and she just loved the children,” said Oralia. “Donna always brought her best self to school each day, which was an inspiration to me.” In August of 2007, Donna was promoted to Assistant Head of School. According to her longtime friend and colleague, Beth Bogaert, Kindergarten teacher said, “Teaching alongside Donna was a gift. I started teaching Kindergarten at Westview in 2001. Donna taught me everything I know about how to be a teacher with patience, kindness, and understanding. She was a mentor that became a friend throughout the years.”

Beth recalls the day when Donna got the ask to be Assistant Head of School at Westview. “She wanted to know what I thought,” said Beth, “Well, my first thought was ‘Don’t leave me! What am I going to do without you?’ But it was a great opportunity for her, and I knew she would be great at it.” Following her mother’s footsteps, Donna’s daughter, Elissa Green, is now a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at The Westview School. When asked what it was like to have her mother as her boss, Elissa mused, “It was such a wonderful experience. I got to see my mom every day. I also was able to watch her grow Westview into a wonderful, loving place for staff, children, and their families, just like Ms. Jane always wanted.”

When The Westview School founder Jane Stewart became ill, Donna took over as Head of School in August 2010. She served faithfully, carrying on the traditions of Westview for ten years. Donna Marshall shared her proudest accomplishment at The Westview School, “Keeping Jane’s vision of Westview alive is something I am most proud of.” said Donna. “I was able to hire outstanding people who loved their job and gave our students what they needed to succeed.” Donna served The Westview School students, families, and faculty of Westview with love, kindness, and patience for nearly 30 years. The Westview School will miss Donna and honor her legacy.

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“I was lucky enough to grow u p i n t h e We s t v i e w f a m i l y, ” said Elissa Green. “My mom a n d We s t v i e w s h o w e d m e what a joy teaching could bring, and 13 years later, I f e e l s o l u c k y. ”


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Middle School Tech Gets an Upgrade by: Emma Elsenbrook and Kori Spurgers

Technology Adds Value The transition to online learning for our entire school population in the Spring of 2020 was admittedly a bumpy one. In preparation for our return to campus this Fall, The Westview School knew that revamping our classroom technology was essential to meeting our students’ needs, on-campus and off, for all grade levels. However, our Middle School program was quickly identified as a group that would benefit most from a significant

upgrade to in-class technology. Technology is a crucial part of everyday life in today’s world, and education is no exception. Westview administration, teachers, and the IT department worked together to acquire the equipment and programs needed to facilitate this new learning path. Westview’s goal was to identify the most effective ways to integrate new forms of technology into our program to better prepare our Middle School students for their next level of education.

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1:1 Chromebooks for Students This year, each Middle School student has a personal Chromebook fully equipped with Google Suite. Students have access to their own computer set up for their specific classes and programs. This has completely changed how we teach and how students learn. A typical Middle School day will have students using technology to take online quizzes for ELA, research explorers for an upcoming Social Studies project, share ideas with classmates for group work, and even log into interactive quest games to enhance Math learning.

Emma Elsenbrook teaches ELA to Middle School students using a Google Docs file from her laptop l i n k e d t o a C l e ve r To u c h s c r e e n .

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The big reveal for this school year was the delivery of a 65-inch interactive screen for each homeroom. The addition of the Clevertouch screens gives teachers the ability to meet both virtual and conventional classroom needs. Teachers can access all materials and lessons from their cloud accounts, simplifying the switch between classes and rooms. This piece was essential for the Middle School as our teachers needed to transition between lessons and classrooms seamlessly. Screen Mirroring

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Teach er s Use I nterac tive Screens

Technology in the classroom is a powerful tool and can transform the way we teach and better meet each of our students’ needs. This is a learning process for all of us! We are committed to learning new ways to use and incorporate this technology. We are delighted to be part of this new and exciting opportunity at The Westview School.

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There is also a social responsibility component to an increase in personal technology usage for our students. Each Middle Schooler signed an “Acceptable Use Agreement,” which stresses the importance of personal responsibility and respect for self and others while using electronics. Students’ computer activities at school are monitored, and it is essential that by adding on technology, we also teach our students how to use it safely and responsibly.

With internet access on all boards, teachers can pull up maps, images, videos, and interactive games that can instantly enhance lessons. The Clevertouch screens have also played a crucial role in getting our ancillary teachers and virtual students in the classroom in real-time. With a large and clear display, teachers can help guide students step-by-step through the new virtual platforms used in the classroom. These boards are equipped with features to support teaching and add value to the lessons.

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By layering technology into Middle School students’ daily learning, Westview teachers have already seen an increase in student productivity. Technology adds a layer of fun and interactivity to daily lessons, and students are instantly more engaged and motivated.

allows both teachers and students to share their computer screens for a truly collaborative learning experience.


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Jane Stewart

Award of Excellence

Kaylee Bond

Picasso famously said that “every child is an artist.” As art teacher at the Westview School, Kaylee Bond has the privilege of nurturing and fostering that inner artist in her students. Friend and co-worker, Chaz Corder said of Kaylee, “She has an inherent ability to know her students; to know that not every student’s success point looks the same. She is really good at identifying this and meeting our kids where they are.” Kaylee has been a member of the Westview community since Fall of 2016. She began as an assistant in our Early Childhood Development classes and began working towards her teaching certificate. Kaylee became head of

The Westview School art department in Fall of 2019. This fulfilled a dream Kaylee had since college at Wichita State University where she graduated with a degree in Studio Art with emphasis on Painting and Drawing. “Being an art teacher was always a dream of mine,” said Kaylee, “Art therapy had its appeal, but a class setting with big groups of kids, that was my goal.” A typical day for Mrs. Kaylee includes up to 5

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art classes. In non-COVID years, the art studio on the Westview campus is a revolving door of little and big kids throughout the day getting messy and exploring creativity under Mrs. Kaylee’s watchful tutelage. This year started with some challenges, but flexibility and the creativity she is fostering in her students led the way for Kaylee to connect and meet the needs of her students. Kaylee zooms into classrooms and often moves her groups outside, carting her supplies as needed. Oncampus restrictions have lifted enough so our youngest Wildcats have started having time in the art studio located in our 1830 building. “I love what I do at The Westview School,” said Kaylee. “I teach all the students throughout their entire career here. I get to see not only their artistic talent develop but how our students grow emotionally through art as well.”


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“I see myself retiring doing this job. There is a real peace to feel set and know you are where you’re supposed to be.” Congratulations to Kaylee Bond for being awarded our 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year.

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“Art can be hard for our kids,” said Kaylee, “So, it makes it even more rewarding when a student completes a project or piece of art they are proud of.”

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When Kaylee Bond took over the role of art teacher for the 2019-2020 school year, her first order of business was to execute a backdrop for the school’s yearly theme. With the help of Hillery Jones, art therapist, Mrs. Kaylee created a visually stunning, life-sized masterpiece of inspiration for Westview students.

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Halloween 2020

treats on the track

The Westview School is all about flexibility and costumes! When COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the wildly popular Trunk-or-Treat event usually held the Saturday closest to Halloween, faculty and staff figured out a better way. Treats on the Track was a safe alternative and a huge hit!

Tr ick- or- Tre a t Westview celebrated Halloween in the most fun way with a socially distanced Treats on the Track event. Staff got creative and decorated kid friendly themed tables, and our excited students walked the track and trick or treated from table to table. The weather was beautiful, so safe and not-too-spooky fun was had by all.


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Campus Changes

Dad s’ Day Goes Vi rtu al

Our students are rocking their masks! 95% of Westview students have opted for in-person instruction. Wearing masks indoors, combined with social distancing and frequent handwashing, is a crucial component in keeping everyone healthy.

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Westview LOVES our dads, and every year, we set aside a day to celebrate them! This year we changed our school day connection from in-person to online. From dad crafts to dad dress-up, the excitement of celebrating the special role dads play in the growth and development of our students remained strong for our community. More of the same is planned for our annual grandparents’ and moms’ days.

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One change parents saw upon return to The Westview School last fall was our daily carpool procedure. New carpool routes plus weekly health screening forms were just a few of the precautions put in place to keep carpool flowing smoothly and student health in the forefront. All students are temperature checked before exiting their vehicle to ensure temperature readings are below 100 degrees.

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The Westview School has hired a School Nurse! We are so excited to welcome to Mirjana Meraja (Nurse Ana) to our campus this year. Ana is a registered nurse with over three years’ experience in school nursing. She also holds a BSN in nursing and will be responsible for the Westview Health Clinic located in the 1900 building.

COVID-19 has required everyone to do things differently, but sometimes those changes make us better. One of the more noticeable changes is hiring a school nurse for the first time in Westview history. Other changes, like temperature checks in carpool and wearing masks, enable staff and students to stay healthy in school and engaged in the classroom. We even re-invented traditional events like Dads’ Day, which allowed parents and caregivers the opportunity to “tune in” to see their kids in the classroom.

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Joel Stewart Award of Excellence Kristi Anders

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A cheerleader can be defined as an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of someone or something. If the something is The Westview School, that supporter could very well be our 2019-2020 Teacher Assistant of the Year, Kristi Anders. Multiple nominations came in from her peers, all highlighting an underlying theme: Kristi is a cheerleader. No matter staff or student, she is a constant source of support and encouragement to our Westview community.

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Kristi started at Westview as a mom. Her son, Noah, spent four years as a student at The Westview School from the ages of 3 to 7. During that time, an assistant was leaving, and Kristi was asked if she would ever consider working at the school. “I had no experience except being a mom,” said Kristi, “But I knew these kids, and I felt like I could help.” Kristi worked several years at Westview until her son Noah mainstreamed to public school.


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“My children came first,” said Kristi, “but I always knew that I would come back.”

“Kristi is a great cheerleader and encourager,” said one Westview staffer, “always doing all she can to help her students and going above and beyond for her co-workers, too.”

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And come back she did. As her children became older, Kristi returned to Westview, this time as a Lower Elementary assistant to Julie Walker. Kristi recalls her conversation with Donna Marshall, former Head of School, upon the placement. “She said, ‘I have the perfect person for you.’ She put me with Julie Walker, and the rest is history.”

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2020 marks Kristi and Julie’s 5th year working as a team. “I can’t imagine working side by side with anyone else,” said Kristi. “We were a perfect fit from the start, just like Donna said.” Julie Walker shares the sentiment. “She’s an amazing assistant. She works so hard for our kids, and she loves them deeply.” Julie adds with a smile, “And, she’s the best work wife ever.” Julie isn’t the only Westview staffer who sings Kristi’s praises. Another staffer had more of the same to say: “Kristi is a leader, teacher, mentor, helper, and a soft place to land for both her students and co-workers. She truly shows that we are her Westview family.” It was a special day when Kristi received her award. During the lockdown in late spring, Donna Marshall showed up at

Kristi’s home with balloons and an envelope filled with kind words from her co-workers. “It was amazing,” said Kristi. “Donna made sure to include Noah in the pictures because he was an important part of the journey, too.” “When you work here, you never work towards [an award],” said Kristi. “You do your job and love your kids, and getting recognized for that is just icing on the cake.” Congratulations to Kristi Anders for being named the 2019-2020 Teacher Assistant of the Year.


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Virtual Learning:

What We Learned from the Lockdown by: Bevan Koch

In the spring of 2019, when COVID-19 began to spread across the globe, schools and businesses everywhere were shuttered, and people were told to work from home. Teachers and their students transitioned to online learning. Westview teachers had never before been tasked with teaching their students from a distance. After spring break, all learning for The Westview School was remote. Teachers quickly explored online elements of their curricula and learned how to meet students via Zoom. Ancillary teachers recorded videos to push to students and periodically popped into virtual classes for a visit.

Teachers spent hours working to find materials and activities to use with their students; they worked around the clock and found it difficult to distinguish between home life and work life. At the end of the school year, administrators surveyed parents about their experiences. Fifty-two families provided feedback. Our parents appreciated having access to teachers via Zoom and curricular materials that were either mailed or available online. Still, they longed for more oneon-one support from teachers and opportunities for their children to engage socially with their classmates.

Similarly, we asked teachers to reflect on their experiences. It was not at all surprising that their impressions were closely aligned with feedback from families. One teacher stated, “Once we all got the hang of Zoom, we had scheduled meetings daily. We made the best out of a crazy situation.” When asked, “If you had a ‘do-over,’ is there something that you would do differently?” one teacher responded, “I would start by having my small groups for ELA and Math every day, just like I do in the classroom. It took me a few weeks to figure out that one Zoom meeting a day wasn’t working well and how to make it more beneficial for everyone.”


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One family noted, “We are delighted with the remote learning experience. We appreciate how responsive the teachers have been to our questions and how they are allowing our son to engage with his friends.”

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Our students are thriving socially and academically, and our faculty and staff have adopted a spirit of collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation that is inspiring. I do not doubt that we will emerge from this global crisis stronger and better than before.

”Our students are thriving socially and academically,” said Head of School, Bevan Koch. “Our faculty and staff have adopted a spirit of collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation that is inspiring. I am confident that we will emerge from this global crisis stronger and better than before.”

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Another observed, “We are most appreciative of the teachers’ efforts to keep our son engaged with his classmates and moving along academically.”

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Westview surveyed each family for their preference for beginning the school year, and when the school opened in the fall, we had 11 students who started remotely. We asked each family to commit to blocks of four weeks to minimize the number of transitions happening in the classroom.

Every day our virtual learners are engaged with academic instruction, live ancillary classes, and social interaction in real-time. Also, each student has a one-on-one checkin with their teacher or teaching assistant every week. At the end of each interval, the administration checks in to gather feedback on their experience. The reviews have been fantastic!

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This observation and many others reflected a desire to deliver an online program that more closely resembles the personal attention that students at The Westview School receive in the event we have to pivot to remote learning again. Thus, this goal would be at the forefront when developing a more robust plan for virtual school. The Remote Learning Plan, developed over the summer, responds to feedback from families and reflections from teachers. The team who authored the plan spent considerable time and energy researching best practices in online and blended learning and the technology needed to support those efforts. As Westview revealed the plan to staff and families, we realized that we could launch a modified version of the plan at the beginning of the school year to meet the needs of those students and families whose circumstances warranted a delay in returning to campus.


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The Westview School

XANDER BLUMBERG

EMERSON STORY

“Xander was an exceptional student, and his classmates looked up to him. As a leader in the Middle School, Xander displayed strong social skills and was always there for a fellow student in need. We are so proud of you, Xander and cannot wait to hear about all you accomplish in the years to come!”

“Emersen was an amazing student while at Westview and has grown and matured so much. Emersen pushed himself to overcome his fears during Middle School, made amazing friends, and experienced many things he thought he never would have tried to do. We are so proud of Emersen, and we hope to see him keep trying new things!”

- Emma Elsenbrook

ALEX FISHER “Alex is the type of student that reminds us of why we became educators. He always strived to be the exemplary student and consistently put forth his best effort in class. His kindness and radiant smile never went unnoticed. We are so proud of how far he has come and excited for his next chapter!” - Kori Spurgers

- Crystal Irvin

MAGGIE KJELSBURG “Maggie deeply cares about her teachers, her classmates, and her work. She was always eager to guide new students around or reach out to a friend. If you were lucky, you may have heard Maggie’s infectious laugh in the halls. She has found her self- confidence. We are so proud of what Maggie has accomplished- she is ready for her next chapter!” - Megan Coleman

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WESTVIEW EDU

2021

APR 8 We s t v i e w A l u m Have So me t h i n g t o Sa y ! Please join us for a wonderful opportunity to hear from the students who went to Westview! Former students and graduates of The Westview School come together as a panel to talk about their time at Westview and where they are now. You won’t want to miss this!

M AY 6 Su mme r P l a n s a n d C a mp s Get ready for the summer! Explore options and suggestions for camps, vacation, strategies for successful travel, and more!

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In 2021, all sessions will begin at 7PM via Zoom. Sessions may be recorded for future viewing with speaker permission. Invitations will be sent via email, and flyers may be sent home with students. Speakers, topics, and times are subject to change; watch for invitations on social media and email.

Perennially popular talk on how to prepare you and your child for the inevitable – puberty! What to be on the lookout for, how to practice appropriate social norms for personal hygiene, and more!

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WestviewEDU is an education series for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. These sessions are open to the community - you do not have to be a Westview parent to attend! So bring your friends and help spread the word.

MAR 4 P u b e rt y a n d A d o l e s c e n c e for K i d s w i t h Au t i s m

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Anxiety can be crippling and affect every aspect of one’s life. Adding autism to the mix can make it even more challenging. Learn how to effectively manage anxiety and stress in your life and mitigate anxiety for your child.

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FE B 4 De a l i n g w i t h A n x i e t y


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The Stewart Center Therapy on Campus

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Jackie Casper MS, CCC-SLP Vocation: Speech Pathology Super Powers: It Takes Two to Talk ; More Than Words ; Teletherapy for parent trainings, Social Thinking ; beginning DIR course TM

Abby Cook MS, OTR/L Ali Nevins MS, CCC-SLP Vocation: Speech Pathology

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Fun Fact: Jackie has known since Middle School that she would be in health care, AND she can beat box!

Super Powers: SOS approach to feeding; Picky Eaters food groups Fun Fact: Ali has two Goldendoodles named Oakley and Duke, and she will only eat raw fish, not cooked.

Vocation: Occupational Therapy

Caroline Moreland MS, OTR/L

Super Powers: SOS approach to feeding; Picky Eaters food groups

Vocation: Occupational Therapy

Fun Fact: Post graduate education moved Abby around the U.S.. She has lived in six different states; her favorite being Maine.

Super Powers: Sensory integration techniques, CE in DIR and Floortime Fun Fact: Caroline has volunteered with The Westview School since Middle School.


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A therapeutic clinic serving families in the Houston community Ho w It B e gan

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The Stewart Center was founded in 2012 in founder Jane Stewart’s memory to serve the Westview families and the greater Houston community by providing therapeutic services, resources, and support.

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Vocation: Art Therapy Super Powers: Helping students identify feelings, learn tools to self-regulate, and be the best versions of themselves through counseling and art therapy. Fun Fact: Hillery is lefthanded and loves to paint with her three year-old.

Michael McKee

Vocation: Individual, Marriage, and Family Counseling

Vocation: School Psychology

Fun Fact: Mimi knows how to manually develop photos in a dark room, and she has had artwork displayed in art galleries on three different occasions.

Ed.S, LSSP, NCSP

Fun Fact: Michael is a rabid New York Yankees fan living in an Astros town.

Super Powers: Supporting the Westview families, students, and staff. They help with individualizing behavior plans and facilitate communication between the staff, teachers, students, and parents. They also welcome new students to Westview and transition current Westview students on to their next step.

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Hillery Jones MA, LPC, ATR

Mimi Le MA, LMFT, LPC

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We cannot give our staff and faculty enough credit. They showed tremendous grace and flexibility in their studentfirst approach to the abrupt transition to distance learning in the spring. Their willingness to change and adapt while ushering in a successful start to in-person schooling fall is just one of the many reasons, we are WESTVIEW STRONG.

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Wonderful Westview Avery Najarian Caroline Love

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alumni news After leaving The Westview School, Avery attended and graduated from Gateway Academy. Avery is currently attending Advance, a transitional program that helps people on the spectrum navigate adult life. He lives in his own apartment and plans to get a job soon. Avery credits Westview with helping him learn in an environment that taught him what he needed to move ahead in life. Avery’s advice for Westview students: “Be yourself. Don’t let other people tell you to be something that you are not. As long as you have the right determination and momentum, you can accomplish anything. Frustration is temporary, but in the long run, it is all worth it.” At the age of 4, Caroline had a sudden onset of Landau Kleffner Syndrome. She was deaf and unable to communicate with the world. Per Caroline, “Westview provided me with the environment and resources I needed as I regained my ability to process sound. It was the perfect place for me to learn how to gain back the power of my voice.” Caroline spent her high school years performing theatre, choir, and dance. In 2019, she graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in journalism. Caroline currently attends the graduate journalism program at Northwestern University. Set to graduate in August 2021, her dream is to work at NPR.

Colin Brogdon Colin attended The Westview School for three years. Next, he went to Kirk Elementary for two years, and then The Grace School. He is currently a freshman at Houston Christian. Colin said about his time at Westview, “Westview has greatly helped me not only in my academic success but also in the way I conduct myself and interact with others. [Westview] helped me to make friends, communicate and discuss how I feel, and taught me a great variety of communicative skills. It helped me reach out of my bubble and explore many new diverse opportunities that I would have never been able to dream of doing without the help of Westview.”


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Tyler Therriault

Eli Mogil

Eli is a junior in high school at Gateway Academy. He attended Westview for ten years from the age of 4-14. Eli says he made a lot of friends at Westview that he still has today. Regarding Eli’s favorite thing, he says, “I love to drive my car. I worked hard and got my driver’s license last year. I drive to school every day by myself.”

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Alex graduated from The Westview School after twelve years as a Westview student. He is currently a senior at Gateway Academy. Alex’s memories of Westview include his friends, the middle school dances, presentations in Mrs. Irvin’s class, and science with Mr. Standish. Alex says that Westview helped prepare him for high school. His advice for current students: “Friends are important. Don’t forget to work hard and have fun.”

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Alex Taeger

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Following Westview, Tyler went to The Briarwood School for high school. He is a freshman at the University of Houston studying Computer Information Systems with an emphasis in Cybersecurity. Tyler has plans to pursue a Master’s Degree when finished with his undergraduate studies.

Kaitlin spent most of her childhood at The Westview School. Kaitlin says that Westview taught her it was ok to be different because the world is nowhere near perfect and that she will always have a support system for the hard times. Kaitlin works as a patient escort at the medical center’s VA hospital. Talking about her job, Kaitlin says, “I like that I can interact with many people and listen to their stories.”

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Kaitlin Winkler

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Support Westview

2020 Fundraising Luncheon In February 2020, Westview friends and families gathered at River Oaks Country Club. There are no truer words than “hindsight’s 2020.” We count ourselves fortunate that The Westview School Annual Fundraising Luncheon was successfully held and was such a great event for our school. Gathering in a room filled with 100+ people seems a bit nostalgic now, but, truthfully, the Westview luncheon brings those feelings to many guests. Everyone that gathers in support of Westview has an autism connection. It is always impactful to listen to the heartfelt stories of our former and current parents. The 2020 luncheon invited former parent, Joni Garcia, and current parent, Shannon Griffiths, to share their autism journey. It is always humbling for us as a school community to hear, in our parents’ words, the significant impact The Westview School makes in the lives of those we serve. We have included excerpts from last year’s speeches. The messages of Westview’s influence on the lives of children with autism and, subsequently, their families should be shared with everyone, even our supporters not able to attend our luncheon.


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Alex’s journey is a bit different than his peers. At 34 weeks, an ultrasound picked up irregularities in his heart, indicators of a genetic disorder called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. TSC causes tumors to grow in the body’s major organs and is the leading known genetic cause of epilepsy and autism, with almost half of all those affected on the spectrum. To say we were afraid is an understatement.

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Shannon Griffiths: Current Westview Parent 2014-present

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Our family’s journey began six years before we found Westview. My husband, Ray, and I had plans for our family. We wanted several kids close in age, and we knew our family was going to be different and special: we were going to have all girls. Ray and I both come from families with many boys, and we knew something different was in store. So, we got married. And, we quickly had three beautiful, healthy, amazing... boys! While we did not get the prediction of daughters right, we were spot on with different and special.

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Joni Garcia: Former Westview Parent 2013-2018


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2020 Luncheon Speeches:

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Westview Past and Present Share Their Autism Stories

Joni Garcia (continued) All three of our amazing boys have Autism and, between them, ADHD, Anxiety, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Giftedness. Yup, we nailed different and special, for sure. Our middle son is Grayson. Grayson was a healthy, happy, mild-mannered baby who met all his early developmental milestones. One of our favorite developmental stages was when he was learning to talk. Grayson did the typical cute babbling, nonsense words, but what made his baby jargon so adorable was that he would end each sentence with the perfectly annunciated Madagascar. Not only could he say Madagascar, but he could point to animals that belonged in Madagascar in books like he knew what the word meant. That should have been our first indicator that Grayson was different and special, but we just thought we had the most adorable little world traveling zoologist on our hands. Around the time our youngest son was born, Grayson’s happy but shy demeanor started to change. He went from being the kid who loved listening to music and participating in storytime to becoming easily upset, grumpy, and agitated all the time. Despite interventions, his behavior got worse and worse. He became very picky about food until he almost ate nothing and stopped babbling at us. He even stopped saying Madagascar. Our

boy seemed to be slipping away, and we knew he needed to be evaluated. When Grayson’s evaluation was complete, we were told that he had Autism, and his diagnosis was more severe than his brothers’; it felt heavier, sadder. The psychologist said Grayson needed extensive intervention, about 40 hours a week of behavioral interventions, occupational and speech therapy. After a few school tours, Ray and I found ourselves at Westview, and for the first time, we felt like they had a program that fit our family. We wanted it for Grayson; we wanted it for all of us. For the next 4.5 years, he had the most amazing teachers learn to speak his language and teach it to us. They figured out how [Grayson] learned best and what motivated him. They were able to teach him how to express himself without having a complete meltdown. They taught him how to make friends and how to have fun in tough sensory overload situations. They helped him to be brave and feel pride through singing and dancing in Holiday plays. They taught us how to nurture his abilities and comfort his fears. They held our hands when we worried that he was regressing, and they celebrated with us every time he made progress again. They walked with us through every step of his transition into public school.

“Grayson is now thriving in an elementary classroom with 22 typical kids and has joined a local children’s theater” says Joni. “He still has Autism, but because of the kindness, love, and understanding shown to him at The Westview School, Autism is just a piece of who he is and will never hold him back from his endless possibilities again!”


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Shannon Griffiths (continued)

By the time Alex hit pre-K, he could

Four short weeks later, Alex very smoothly

still barely say a word, so his speech

entered the world. Our foremost questions

therapist had him using an iPad as a

were about his future. What would his

communication device. Alex didn’t need

quality of life be? Could he play with his

it for long because he finally found his

brother? Go to school? Kick a soccer ball?

voice. Once the words came, they never

Talk one day?

stopped, and a whole new world opened up.

The answer was, “possibly,” along with a piece of advice: Alex’s quality of life

Today Alex is eight and rocking First

was essentially up to us whether we chose

Grade. He is learning to read and write

to focus on what he can’t do or celebrate

sentences. He loves math and earning his

what he can do. Wise words that we keep

pennies to purchase trinkets on Friday

close to our hearts.

afternoon. On Mom’s Day, I got to watch him type on the computer, which blew

For the next 18 months, Alex developed

me away, and he did the parent-dreaded

on target. Crawling, walking, getting into

science fair project with a little help from

everything. We relaxed, and the worry

mom and dad.

subsided until our bubble was broken. The

but progressively became more intense,

with at recess and birthday parties. He

happening anytime and everywhere. It

takes karate at school, where they work

took months of trial and error to get things

as individuals or as sparring partners.

under control and stabilize him. In the

They perform together during the Holiday

meantime, the few words he learned were

Play, entertaining the audience with

gone.

their talents and personalities. It’s truly amazing to watch and brings tears to your

We started therapy right away. Speech.

eyes.

began to sink in—the Big A. We had been

There have been so many people at

mentally preparing for this, but it didn’t

Westview who have worked to get Alex

make things any easier or lessen the worry.

where he is today, a team effort that hasn’t stopped. It’s where people know

The hunt began for Alex’s place, where

Alex, appreciate him, and high-five him

he would be safe, loved, challenged, and

throughout his day. He jumps out of the

accepted while getting what he needed for

car in the dropoff line each morning,

his development and learning. We toured

happily giving everyone the daily traffic

several different facilities, day programs,

update. Alex loves his school, and we

and full-time ABA. Our last stop was

couldn’t imagine him anywhere else.

a place called The Westview School. We parked and walked in, and our lives changed. We immediately felt that this was where Alex would be at home. It was a school, not a clinic, with teachers and staff who would push him but hold his hand along the way—a place where we wanted him to be and where he would like to be. We were so thrilled when he was accepted into the program.

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OT. PT. We all worked hard, but the reality

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seizures appeared, and we were snapped

At Westview, we found a group of professionals who truly understood us, not to mention the many parents who offered support and friendship. Having people walking the same mile with whom you can discuss and share experiences, tips, and tricks is truly invaluable. Westview is a place where you can get a hug on a rough day or a little dose of hope when it feels like there is none.


The Westview School 1900 Kersten Drive Houston, TX 77043 713.973.1900 www.westviewschool.org