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Special Ed in the WELS: Grace, Glendale, Arizona

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

What does a Lutheran school do when it has students with needs that the staff does not know how to address? Reach out for help, learn, and grow! Grace Lutheran in Glendale, AZ has started a program to meet the varying needs of all of their students. The Student Support Program is designed to meet a variety of student needs ranging from ADHD, anxiety, trauma, and learning disabilities to autism, cognitive disabilities, and cerebral palsy.

WELS schools start with many advantages to meet the needs of students: small class size, devoted Christian teachers willing to go the extra mile for their students, and freedom from the state/federal regulations of public schools. The most important advantage is the saving gospel message! These blessings make our WELS schools a wonderful setting to let our Christian light shine to all God’s children, even to those with special needs.

Grace Lutheran has had an inclusive mindset for years, accepting students into their classrooms and school family with a variety of needs. However, the teachers desired more guidance and support to feel confident that they were providing the best education possible for their students. This support started in the form of a special education consultant working with the school and families to put together individual education plans similar to an IEP for the unique private school setting. In the first year, it grew to having a special education teacher on campus a few hours every week.

In August of 2019, Grace initiated a full Student Support Program. A special education teacher, an assistant, and several faithful volunteers provide push-in and pull-out services for both students who are struggling and students who are excelling. Students needing additional support in the area of academics have access to Barton Reading, alternate curriculum to meet their specific needs, and homework help. Students who are needing enrichment activities are offered with Spanish class, critical thinking activities for when they finish their work, and book clubs.

God has blessed Grace with qualified workers and volunteers, funding from a state program called ESA (Empowerment Scholarship of Arizona), and a committed congregation working to share the good news of Jesus! Please, pray for the continued efforts of this program. If you have any questions or would like guidance starting a program at your school, please, contact Principal Joel Walker at 623-937-2010 or Student Support Director Brenda Wagenknecht at 520-233-0554.

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