2019 Poster Session Participants


Sheri Modderman
Sheri Modderman Washington State University
Presentation Title: Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Classrooms- Sheri Modderman, Washington State University
Pre-service teachers often find themselves unprepared for the unique demands of a classroom that includes students with disabilities. While there are strategies in the research to support students with disabilities in the general education classroom, teacher preparation programs are not effectively teaching these strategies to their students. This can lead to pre-service teachers fostering negative perceptions and attitudes toward students with disabilities and ineffective classroom practices leading to poor outcomes. This poster presentation is a review of current literature examining strategies used by teacher preparation programs to promote improved teacher efficacy, positive attitudes toward students with disabilities, and practical strategies to use in inclusive classrooms such as co-teaching and incorporating accommodations and modifications into the classroom. Also discussed is the impact these strategies may have on students with disabilities and implications for practice.

Sheri is a Ph.D. candidate at Washington State University in the Special Education program. She has a dual certification in general education and special education and a M.Ed. in special education. she has been a teacher for 8 years, teaching everything from Pre-K to 8th grade, both general and special education. Her areas of interest are inclusive classrooms, teacher preparation, and learning disabilities.

Tara Ferriter-Smith & Jody Lehman
Tara Ferriter-Smith & Jody LehmanOffice of Public Instruction
Presentation Title: Montana Preschool Program and Content Standards – Tara Ferriter-Smith, OPI
During this poster session participants are encouraged to learn about the Montana Preschool Program Standards as well as Preschool Content Standards. The Program Standards discuss important rules for implementing preschool in a school district setting such as teacher qualifications and student to teacher ratios. The Content Standards which are called the Montana Early Learning standards outline the skills children will need before entering Kindergarten so they are ready for success.

Tara Ferriter-Smith is the Preschool Development Grant Director for the Montana Office of Public Instruction. She has worked with educators and leaders across MT as an OPI employee for twelve years and before that spent ten wonderful years as a classroom teacher. Tara enjoys sharing her passion for learning, loves inspiring others, and when she is not at the office she can be found enjoying time with friends and family in the outdoors or engaged in a decorating or craft project!

Norah Barney, EdD
Norah Barney, EdDAnaconda School District

Presentation Title: Leadership in Early Childhood Settings- Norah Barney, Anaconda School District
Research has shown that leadership impacts student achievement. However, understanding how leadership affects an early childhood program quality is key to having a high quality preschool program.

Norah is a preschool through 2nd grade administrator. She has over 13 years of leadership experience in preschool through 12th grade. She has over 11 years teaching experience as a special education teacher. She earned her doctorate degree from Montana State University with a research focus is on Leadership and it’s impact on Preschool Program quality. She is currently living in Anaconda Montana.


Jeff Crews & Dean Phillips
Jeff Crews & Dean PhillipsBeyond the Chalk

Presentation Title: Google Tools for Special Needs – 2019 Edition- Jeff Crews & Dean Phillips, Beyond the Chalk


Beyond the Chalk was co-founded by two educators who believe in the power of education and the need to continuously provide transformational learning experiences for our teachers and students. We feel technology, when used effectively as a tool by teachers and students, can facilitate the change from the traditional form of education to a 21st century paradigm. Beyond the Chalk is committed to providing a set of rich and diverse professional development experiences for all educators. These experiences focus on the integration of technology across grade levels, content domains, and skills levels. We offer trainings around the state and provide school-based professional development as well.

Shawna Hanson
Shawna HansonMonTECH

Presentation Title: How MonTECH Can Support Your Students- Shawna Hanson This poster presentation will explain what MonTECH is, how to access MonTECH, and how MonTECH can support your work with students, as well as MonTECH’s potential role in your own family’s life.


Shawna is the Outreach Coordinator for MonTECH, Montana’s state assistive technology (AT) program. MonTECH provides free loans of assistive technologies and adaptive equipment, as well as free training on how to use them. Shawna has been with MonTECH for two years, learning AT and participating in training sessions at the Missoula lab. She is also the mother of a son who is nonverbal and has severe autism, so she understands first-hand the difference AT can make in the life of an individual and his family.

Donna Sornsen
Donna SornsenMontana School for the Deaf and Blind

Presentation Title: Protactile ASL for Students who are Deafblind- Donna Sorenson, MSDB

Protactile ASL is an innovative way to communicate with individuals who are Deafblind. I will show some basics of Protactile ASL and introduce resources where staff members and families can learn more about communicating with students who are Deafblind.

I am the Superintendent at the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind. I am passionate about language, communication, and independence. I was fortunate to work with Deafblind students and adults in Washington State. I learned some basics of Protactile ASL several years ago. Protactile ASL is an innovative way to communicate with Deafblind individuals and my goal is to learn more!

Montana Center - MSUB
Montana Center - MSUBThomas Manthey

Presentation Title:On Fire: Movin’ On to Higher Education- Thomas Manthey, Center for Inclusive Education

In partnership with the Montana Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services, the Montana Center at Montana State University offers Movin’ On in Montana, an initial exposure to post-secondary education with the highest quality transition experience for high school students with disabilities.
The program provides a mentoring relationship between high school students with disabilities and current MSUB students who also have a disability, using technology. Mentoring is delivered through monthly meetings, both through video conferencing and face-to-face seminars, as well as through a closed Twitter account. The mentors address student concerns and offer guidance on how to successfully navigate the college experience.
The highlight of Movin’ On in Montana is an on campus experience at Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College (June 11-14, 2019). The participating high school students attend the four day event, partially staffed by the MSUB mentors. Students live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, attend classes on the MSUB and City College campuses, and tour three college campuses. Books, fees, tuition, room, and board are provided at no charge to students accepted into the program.

I am the Director of the Montana Center for Inclusive Education; Returning to my alma mater to make a difference in the lives of students with disabilities in Montana. This is truly my dream job. Throughout my career, I’ve partnered with teachers and administrators to make learning relevant, engaging, and always striving to pique the natural interest in learning. Prior to coming back to Montana I created and directed the Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports and wrote numerous successful federal grants over a twelve year period.

MSU- Billings
MSU- BillingsSusan Gregory & Rene Yarbrough

Presentation Title: Learn about higher education opportunities, Susan Gregory & Rene Yarbrough – MSU – Billings

Learn about the higher education opportunities available to you through MSU – Billings.

Montana Schools Recruitment Project
Montana Schools Recruitment ProjectLori Ruffier
Presentation Title: Finding Candidates with Passion

Discussing what the Montana Schools Recruitment Project is.


Lori Ruffier is a member of the Montana Council for Administrators of Special Education (MCASE). She is the Project Director for the Montana Schools Recruitment Project. This project helps school districts and cooperatives find candidates for the hard to fill special education positions needed in Montana. The project was begun in 2005 by Lori, a small committee of directors and a representative from OPI special education department. Lori has been a special education teacher, school psychologist and special education director. Presently she is the Project Director and part time school psychologist for Deer Lodge Elementary School District.

Mary DiBiase
Mary DiBiaseMontana Youth Transitions
Presentation Title: Learn about Montana Youth Transitions, Mary Di Biase – Montana Youth transitions

Learn about the services offered through this program and how it may serve your needs.

Montana Youth Transitions is a non-profit organization that partners with schools, families and service provides to strengthen transitions plans for youth with disabilities. MYT provides training on employment soft skills, student-led IEPs and transition planning training to youth with disabilities for free. Also highlighted is the Montana Youth Leadership Forum, which is a free and FUN training opportunity for youth with disabilities to enhance their self-advocacy and leadership skills.

As a certified Special Educator, Mary Di Biase, brings hands-on experience, knowledge, and skills critical to school staff. Di Biase also brings experience from her work as a Special Education teacher, Project Coordinator with Montana Youth Transitions, as well as from her time as a Job Training Program supervisor for Montana Dept. of Labor Workforce Services Division. Mary has experience with curriculum development and training for parents, youth with disabilities, educators and counselors regarding transition services in Montana and how to teach employment readiness skills to youth. She holds a BA in Psychology from Carroll College and a BA in Special Education and M.Ed. from University of Great Falls.

Movin' On In Montana
Movin' On In MontanaSuzy Bertsche

Presentation Title: Movin’ On in Montana – Suzy Bertsche


Learn about rights and responsibilities as a college student, develop and practice self-advocacy and communication skills, learn about the differences between high school and college accommodations and life. Movin’ On is a program for high school students with disabilities to explore post-secondary educational options. During the Summer Program, students come to the University of Montana Missoula campus and stay in residence halls for three nights, eat in the dinning room, attend college lectures, learn about resources, practice self-advocacy, connect with current college students and participate in fun recreational and community activities. New this year is the Movin’ On Club, where high school students across Montana participate in online engaging, educational activities and connect with University of Montana student mentors.

Suzy Bertsche is the coordinator for Movin’ On in Montana, a collaborative project of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the UM Disability Services for Students Office. Suzy is a first year graduate student in Social Work at the University of Montana.

Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon UniversityJoyce Armijo

Presentation Title: Learn about Grand Canyon University and how we can help with your educational needs – Joyce Armijo

Grand Canyon University is Arizona’s premier, nonprofit, private Christian university committed to delivering affordable, transformative higher education. Find your purpose at gcu.edu.

Earning your degree from Grand Canyon University (GCU) represents a positive next step in achieving your career goals. Founded in 1949, GCU offers a wide variety of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in business, education, Christian studies, liberal arts, fine arts and production, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and nursing and health sciences. Classes can be taken at our Phoenix campus or online. Whether you’re a community college transfer student or working adult, GCU has degree programs and student resources to help you be successful on your academic journey.

Montana CEC
Montana CECMCEC Board of Governors
Presentation Title: Highlights from National CEC Conference & National CEC Leadership Conference- Lowell Long, Mandy Hickel & Melissa Hardman

Two of our Board of Governors attend the annual CEC Conference, bringing home a wealth of information each year.  Additionally, two more Board of Governor members attend the Annual Legislative Session.

Visit our session to learn what is new!


QBS, Inc.
QBS, Inc.Patty Pruden-Lennox

Presentation Title: Quality Behavioral Solutions to Complex Behavior Problems™ – Patty Pruden-Lennox

QBS Inc. is a consulting and training company. Safety-Care™ Behavioral Safety Training is founded upon principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and Positive Behavioral Supports, training staff in the prevention, minimization, and management of behavioral challenges.

Patty Pruden-Lennox joins QBS, Inc in 2016 after having consulted with the company since its inception as well as being an officer. Patty received her Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication from Ithaca College and an MBA from Northeastern University. Prior to joining QBS, Patty has held many sales leadership positions in National Long-Term Care companies over the past 25 years. Her experience includes Admissions Management, Sales, Business and Program Development, Customer Service and Sales Training, and Network Development, toward the end goal of driving revenue and census development. Patty has also been licensed as a Nursing Home Administrator and an Instructor for Lasell College in their School of Business teaching Healthcare courses.