‘They go the extra mile.’ Bryant special education team honored by the Michigan Council for Exceptional Children

Bryant’s special education team includes (left to right): Kathy Gaines, Kristen Baryo, Charlene Mangi, Amy Satchwell, and Melissa Vella. Not pictured: Cayte Moutard.

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News

The competition was stiff for the Michigan Council for Exceptional Children‘s state-wide 2023 Dr. Dawn Gallup Honor Recipient Award.

So Jessica Lucke, the district’s Teaching Consultant for Cognitive Impairment Programming, was thrilled to learn the award goes to the Bryant Elementary Special Education Team.

What makes six specialists so remarkable, she said, is their ability to not only meet each student where they are but to provide specialized direct instruction alongside their general education colleagues.

“They do this at developmentally appropriate levels for the students they are servicing, to support continued advancement and progress not only on the IEP goals/objectives but also to progress through the curriculum using the differentiated output to address their various needs,” said Lucke. “Their collaborative work supporting students within their building demonstrates many of the AAPS Framework Principles: Culturally Responsive Teaching, Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and Universal Design for Learning.”

The award recognizes an individual, group, business, agency, or community that has promoted and provided for the enhancement, awareness, or employment of individuals with exceptionalities in order to promote and support their full participation within the community.

Bryant is the only Y5-2nd grade school in the district.

Bryant’s winning team consists of Special Education Teacher Amy Satchwell; School Psychologist Charlene Mangi; Speech-Language Pathologist Cayte Moutard; Occupational Therapist Melissa Vella; Physical Therapist Kathy Gaines; and School Social Worker Kristen Baryo.

Kathy Gaines, who has been a physical therapist in AAPS for more than 20 years, says she’s always been proud to work with the special education staff at Bryant.

“This team highlights the students’ strengths, while also supporting whatever challenges they may have, to help them thrive in what is often their first school experience,” she said. “The entire Bryant staff, faculty, and administration all share this recognition because everyone here works so well together to support the needs of the students and families at Bryant. It is truly a community.”

Special Education Teacher Amy Satchwell said she knew she was home from the moment she set foot in Bryant in 2018.

“I love everything about Bryant—from our wonderfully diverse student body to the safe, inclusive environment our building offers, and the remarkable humans who work here to make each school day seamlessly flow,” said Satchwell, who has worked in special education for more than a decade.  “Every student, caregiver, and staff member who walks through our doors has an important role in what makes working in this building so special to me.” 

She said that Bryant Principal Jamar Humphrey is not only a remarkable administrator but also a positive male role model for everyone at Bryant.

“The dedication of our staff, and the way they throw their whole hearts into nurturing the minds of the young children we serve, make it a true honor to work alongside them,” said Satchwell.

In nominating the team for the award (along with Lucke), Humphrey noted that year after year, he’s observed the team provide students with skills, tools, and supports to help maximize their success in the classroom.

“They accomplish this by combining their strengths and expertise from their respective disciplines to create and execute individualized accommodations for students,” he said. “For example, this year the team worked together to carefully create a targeted resource program for a student that consisted of the physical modification of a classroom environment that supported the unique needs and challenges of a student enrolled at Bryant. This was a brand-new experience and learning opportunity for everyone involved. However, it did not stop the team from diving in head first and doing whatever it takes to provide the modifications needed to support this student.”

He said that the team works together to support general education students and teachers by delivering lessons building wide on social-emotional learning.

“This supports the building as it gives everyone common language, resources, and strategies, which has made a world of difference in our school culture and climate,” noted Humphrey.

Bryant Speech-Language Pathologist Cayte Moutard

Bryant Speech-Language Pathologist Cayte Moutard said that her teammates “resonate on a really rare frequency.”

“Our strong team dynamics allow us to place students at the center of everything we do,” said Moutard. “Each member can be counted on to tackle challenges head-on with their respective knowledge, enthusiasm, and respect for all invested parties: students, parents, general education teachers, and teammates alike.”

She said they have faced many obstacles together, each time rising to meet the challenge—often with their kind, strong leadership team cheering and supporting them along the way.

“Top it all off with the desire to keep the Bryant spirit and love for learning as a priority, and you end up with a winning combination,” she said.

“This award represents one fabulous piece of the many great pieces that keeps Bryant School in action every day.

Speech-Language Pathologist Cayte Moutard

Lucke said the team goes the extra mile working with their students and families to develop, implement and generalize support within the school and Bryant home communities.

“They will share supports with their general education colleagues or the building as a whole,” she said.  “They will support any teacher with changing their environment in order to make education more accessible for a student. The team knows that this mindset will not only support the needs of a particular student but also benefit the growth and achievement of the other students in the classroom.”  

The team has developed support for just-in-case situations, such as when a student is in crisis and needs additional support/strategies, Lucke said, adding that this includes ideas around regulating or problem-solving challenges through multiple visual supports, calming strategies, and social narratives. 

“This team demonstrates everyday the belief that what is essential for some students is effective for all students.”

Jessica Lucke, District Teaching Consultant for Cognitive Impairment Programming

Occupational Therapist Melissa Vella said the team comes together to communicate, listen, and support each other.

“With such great collaboration, we are able to work together as a team to support and advocate for all of our students and families,” she said. “I am so honored to work with such amazing individuals and share this recognition with them.”

In just her second year as a school social worker at Bryant, Kristen Baryo said she’s seen the team dedicate themselves to supporting and advocating for the needs of all of our students.

“It’s been important for me that every student I work with feels seen, heard, loved, and respected,” she said. “I have been blessed to be a part of a team that collectively works together towards this same goal through the services and support they provide to our students here.”

The award will be presented at the 2023 Michigan Council for Exceptional Children’s Conference on March 2 in Grand Rapids.

The Bryant team receives the MCEC award

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