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2018 Winners ​

Ben Griese and Nicole Wagner
Chief Ivan Blunka School in New Stuyahok
Southwest Region School District
Service High School Partners Club. 2017 Winners ​

Nikiski Middle/High School Intensive Needs Team, 
2016 Winners ​
KeetGooshi Heen 
Elementary School in Sitka, 2015 winners. 
Monica Stockburger and Homer High School Intensive Needs Classroom staff, 2014 winners.

2018 Inclusive Practice Award

The Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education is pleased to award the 2018 Inclusive Practice Award to these two exceptional educators, Ben Griese and Nicole Wagner.

Ben Griese and Nicole Wagner are two special educators who have embraced inclusive practices so that students with disabilities are integrated into the entire school and community. The most obvious practice they have created is to “Spread the Sign.” Ben and Nicole actively teach sign language to the school community so they can communicate with students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Ben and Nicole also created a week-long sign language course that was carried out during one of the school district’s exploration weeks. The course was designed to increase sign language awareness and competency in the whole school. Ben and Nicole actively teach sign language to the community and Elders so they can communicate with students who are deaf and hard of hearing. The result of this focus on integration is that students with disabilities are visible and active in the community, participating in subsistence activities such as fishing and berry picking. Students with disabilities are embraced by the community when Ben and Nicole take them on regular visits to the post office and the community store.

Ben and Nicole collaborate with regular education teachers and paraprofessionals on a daily basis to review accommodations and educate on disabilities in an effort to best meet student needs. Ben and Nicole have also provided staff development on assistive technology, crisis prevention, and the Zones of Regulation. Ben and Nicole have worked tirelessly to transform the special education culture at our school so it is viewed in a positive way. They utilizes tools such as headphones, theraputty, and fidgets to make large events more sensory-friendly to students with Autism. Ben and Nicole also make sure that students with disabilities are able to participate in all extra-curricular activities alongside their peers. Ben and Nicole promote the students and their abilities in a public way. For example, the special education students run a Slushee stand for the whole school to raise funds for a swim trip. Because Ben and Nicole have planned for inclusion, the students with disabilities take more social risks and are then more frequently included by their peers and community in these fun activities.

Ben and Nicole teach self-advocacy as the foundation of the curriculum. Students are taught about how they are affected by their disabilities and how accommodations can help them be successful. As the students learn about their own disabilities and accommodations, they are able to better advocate for themselves and communicate their needs to other students and teachers. With parent permission, general education students are also educated about disabilities so they can better advocate for all students.

During exploration week, students with disabilities were provided the opportunity to choose to enroll in any general education course and Ben and Nicole ensured that they have all of the resources they need to be successful in these courses. Having such support from their teachers allows these students with disabilities to be fully integrated into classes such as Pioneering, Wilderness Survival, Quilting, Gourmet Cooking, Hunter Safety, and Digital Coding. These special education teachers show full faith in their students’ abilities and many of the students have learned lifelong skills such as starting fires, quilting, and even safely handling and discharging firearms as a result of Ben and Nicole’s direction.

Ben and Nicole also advocates for special education students to travel, attend, and earn college credit for week-long Bristol Bay Region Career & Technical Education (BBRCTE) classes, such as Macintosh Repair, Nautical Skills, Science of a Superhero, and Medical Terminology. Former special education students, who have graduated but are still living in the community, are always welcomed by Ben and Nicole into the school and provided with post-secondary planning, career exploration, and application guidance.







Additional Applicants

TOPSoccer Alaska Team
Colt Chase, Director of Fairbanks Youth Soccer
John Cadigan, Coach
Bill Mitchell, Coach
Megan Coleman, Director AYSC TOPSoccer
Linda Burke, Executive Director AYSC
Lisa Cartlett, Wasilla TOPSoccer
An inclusive sports program in Anchorage, Juneau, Mat-Su, and Fairbanks.

Special Education Team
Mt. View Elementary
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Karl Kircher, Principal
Jenna Fabian, Assistant Principal
Special Education Teachers:
Kelly Burch-Structured Life Skills Classroom Teacher
Theresa (Tia) Rose-Structured Life Skills Classroom Teacher
Catherine Koskey-Structured Behavior Classroom Teacher
Samantha Seizys-Transitional Behavior Classroom Teacher
Angie Hamm-Brinkerhoff-Resource Teacher
Tina Tuls-Resource Teacher
School Psychologist-Sonya Childs
Speech and Language Pathologist-Anna Horwath
A team in a large neighborhood school which focusses on integrating special education students in general education classrooms and schoolwide events.

Anchorage School Board
Cindy Anderson, Senior Director, Special Education
Glen Nielson, Senior Director, Elementary Education

A School Based Behavior Supports (SBBS) program that closed the segregated elementary school at Mt. Iliamna and transitioned students to four neighborhood schools.

Heather Lgeik’i Powell
Lingit Language and Culture Teacher
Hoonah City Schools

A general education teacher who uses stories and language to engage all students in learning traditional arts, harvesting, healthy and safe living, song, and dance.

Special Education Team
Girdwood Community School pK-8
Anchorage School District

Erik Viste, Principal
A school team that strives to create individualized programs that help each child succeed in the school environment that does not have specialized classrooms.

Monique Christiansen
Special Education Teacher
Palmer Junior Middle School

Mat-Su Borough School District
A special education teacher who ensures that her students are included in all school-wide activities, and general education classes; and that they have responsibilities around the school that give them ownership of the whole school environment.

Lisa Kelzenberg
Physical Education Teacher, Co-Chair of P.E. Department
Eagle River High School

Anchorage School District
A general education teacher who innovates ways to partner special education students with non-disabled peers to increase inclusion in regular education P.E.; and through the Partners’ Club.

Margaret Donnelly
Special Education Teacher
Girdwood Community School pK-8

Anchorage School District
A special education teacher who ensures that special education students have the supports and services that they need to be educated inside the general education classroom and in concerts and events with “no separation from other students” (quote from parent).

The Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education established the Inclusive Practice Award to recognize outstanding educators who work to ensure students wit​​h disabilities have the opportunity for an inclusive education with their peers as part of the general education curriculum. Nominations are made by parents, students and educators and this year included teachers, teams, schools, a paraprofessional, a transition program coordinator, a FASD consultant and a school club. The award is given each February at the Alaska Statewide Special Education Conference (ASSEC).  

2017 Inclusive Practice Award