Three Lewistown educators receive award

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Reporter

Lewistown School District’s award-winning Head Start team includes (from left) Jennifer Johnson, Lisa Charbonneau and Paula Drissell. The three were named CSPD Region 3 Paraeducator/Teacher Team of the Year by the Montana Council of Exceptional Children.
Photo by Doreen Heintz

For the past four years, Lewistown teacher Paula Drissell and paraprofessionals Lisa Charbonneau and Jennifer Johnson have worked as a team for Lewistown School District’s preschool special education. It was no surprise when they received an email from Garfield Elementary School Principal Matt Lewis about a meeting Thursday afternoon at the Garfield gym. The purpose of the meeting was to help teachers and paraprofessionals in the district collaborate on ways to work more effectively with Head Start.
Although Drissell, Charbonneau and Johnson work for the school district, they do work at the Lewistown Head Start building in collaboration with Head Start.
When Lewis began the meeting, the husbands of the three ladies walked in, so the three may have become a little confused at that point, but it wasn’t too long before Lewis let the “cat out of the bag.”
The real reason for the meeting was to honor Drissell, Charbonneau and Johnson for being selected CSPD Region Three Paraeducator/Teacher Team of the Year by the Montana Council of Exceptional Children.
“This is a day of celebration,” Lewis said after introducing the three ladies.
Lewistown School Superintendent Thom Peck congratulated them on their extraordinary work ethic as a team.
“Later you are going to get a packet of the nomination letters,” Peck told Drissell, Charbonneau and Johnson. “Keep these packets close to you just in case you are having a bad day.”
Peck said five letters of support are needed for each nomination, but 17 letters were included with the nomination form for this special team.
“These three not only work with special kids, but also work directly with the families,” added Peck.
After presentations of certificates and flowers, many of their co-workers congratulated the three during a coffee and cookie social hour.

Lewistown team one
of five honored in the state
The state of Montana is divided into five regions for Comprehensive System of Childhood Development. The MCEC requests nominations each year for a paraeducator/teacher team of each region. Gail Brevig, a certified adapted physical education specialist for School District No. 1, nominated the team.
“One question on the nomination form is ‘what makes this team special.’ Well the answer is everything,” Brevig stated in her nomination. “They are a true team, who has made differences in children’s lives. Whatever the child needs, this team of Paula, Lisa and Jen are ready, excited and willing to give their best. By blending each other’s strengths, they have created a program that takes each child from wherever they are to reaching their potential.
“What differentiates this team from other teams is they are ‘solution seekers,’” continued Brevig. “Paula, Lisa and Jen, through collaboration with each other, the blending of a variety of programs, and input from specialists, will ‘find what works.’ Paula’s, Lisa’s and Jen’s work should be an example for all special education programs where paraprofessional/teacher teams are used.”
“They show true team work and true dedication to kids,” said Lewistown School District Director of Special Services Chris Rice. “The team will be formally honored during the Montana Council of Exceptional Children Conference in Missoula on March 1.”
Driscoll has been a teacher for about 25 years and has worked work with the special education pre-school program for the last 17 years.
According to Driscoll, in this year’s class of preschool 3-5 year olds there are currently eight students.
“We may soon move up to 11 students,” said Driscoll.
Teachers, parents, social service workers and doctors often refer children to Driscoll’s classroom.
“We have a testing process each child goes through to see if they qualify for our program,” added Driscoll.
Charbonneau began working for Head Start in 1999. In 2009, she became the behavior specialist for Garfield School. Charbonneau began working on Driscoll’s team in 2012.
Johnson joined the group four years ago to bring the team together as a very special one.

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