Special Education

Staff Contacts

Libby Thompson, Director of Special Education
WWPS District Office
364 S. Park St.
Walla Walla, WA 99362
509.526.6724 (Office)
509.526.4344 (Fax)
Libby Thompson was the  Assistant Director of Special Education at North Thurston Public Schools. Previously, she was an Education Specialist in the Special Education Department at North Thurston Public Schools from 2012 to 2014. Thompson also was employed by the Puyallup School District as an Educational Specialist in Special Education for two years and as a special education teacher for seven years. 
Thompson earned her Administrator Certificate from St. Martin’s University, Masters in Education from City University and Bachelors in Education from Pacific Lutheran University.
"I believe all children, no matter their circumstances, can meet high expectations," Thompson said. "It is up to us as educators to be committed and challenge them to meet their full potential."

Special Education Team

Elissa Tinder - Special Education Coordinator (Inclusion Specialist)

Diana Evenson - Special Education Coordinator

Marianne O'Leary, Special Education Secretary

Breelin Renwick, Special Education Records

Special Education Program Overview

Special Education services are offered to students ages Birth through 21 who have either suspected or documented disabilities. When a child/student has a suspected disability, they are referred for possible testing to see if they might become eligible for special education services.  Once the referral process begins, there are specific laws surrounding the timelines that have to be observed along every step of the Evaluation and (possible) enrollment process.  Once the child/student qualifies for special education services, an IEP (Individual Education Program) document is written that specifies exactly what kind of services the student will receive, for how long, where those services will occur. Each Program and/or School in WWPS has a Referral and Special Education Team composed of many different professionals who all have assigned roles and responsibilities to make sure each student receives the amount of attention and care that they deserve.

Our goal is always to serve the whole child, and to give them every opportunity to succeed as an independent learner across multiple settings that they will encounter during a typical week at school. Please do not hesitate to contact the Special Education Department if you have any questions, or if you need further information.

Child Find

The Walla Walla Public Schools offer a free screening to identify children and youth ages 0-21 with delays or disabilities who may need early intervention or special education services.

More details:

Birth to Five Special Education Programs

Community Screening

Developmental screening for suspected developmental delays is free to all children birth through five years of age who reside in Walla Walla School District boundaries.

Birth to Three – Early Intervention Services

WWPS implements a family-centered home-based program for infants and toddlers.  The program in partners with ESD 123 in Pasco.  Services include early intervention in the areas of gross and fine motor, communication, cognitive, social, and adaptive skills. Infants and toddlers are referred for Assessment, and in order to receive services, they need to meet qualification criteria established by Federal and State guidelines.

For more information: Sharon Schultz – 509-544-5745

Earlier Childhood Special Education Administer: Kellie Horn – 509-544-5744

Special Education Preschool Program

Our preschool program provides services to children three to five years of age who qualify for services in the areas of communication, cognitive, social, adaptive, gross and fine motor. Our preschool classrooms offer a developmental curriculum to support learning needs of young children with identified developmental delays.

Community Speech - Language Services

These are offered at Berney Elementary for children ages 3-5 who meet qualification criteria after an initial Evaluation to determine eligibility.

Three to Five Program Staff

  • Special Education Director: Libby Thompson
  • On Site Preschool Director: Diana Evenson
  • School Psychologist:  Emma Kubrock
  • Preschool Teachers: Shannon Hohosh
  • Speech Therapist: Missy Newcom
  • Physical Therapist: Christen Davidson-Juhnke

Developmental Preschool

Special Education Preschool Classroom

Blue Ridge Elementary: Students attend 2-4 half days per week for communication, fine motor, cognitive and other delays. (Students age 3-5)

Teachers: Shannon Hohosh

Community Based Special Education Support

Students attend community based preschools and are provided special education support by a special education preschool teacher, Speech Therapist, Occupational or Physical Therapist. (Students age 3-5)      

Elementary Special Education Program

Developmental Delay K-1-2 Classroom at Prospect Point Elementary

This classroom supports our very young students that are just entering Elementary School, but still have some identified needs that require more support than just receiving Special Education Services through the Resource Rooms located in every building.  Students in this program are specially placed by a team of Professionals from the Special Education Preschool. The students receive in-depth intervention in the areas of Communication, Social Skills and/or Behavior, and both Fine/Gross Motor therapy, as well as in the Academic and/or Pre-Academic areas of Reading, Writing, and Math. A smaller class size with a reduced ratio of adults-to-students (one Teacher and 3 Para-professionals), along with teaming by both the Speech-Language Pathologist and Physical therapist ensures each and every student will make progress over time. Students are able to learn new skills at their own speed, and can remain a member of that classroom for up to three years.

Teacher:  Meg Cochran

K-5 Self-Contained for Life Skills at Green Park Elementary

This classroom supports students with moderate to significant cognitive disabilities, as well as those who are medically fragile or have mobility challenges. Class sizes are small, and there are multiple specially-trained professionals who lend their expertise and support where needed.  Students may have a modified day per IEP Team decision (which includes the parent). 

Teacher: Esther Angotti

K-5 R.I.S.E. (Reaching Independence through Structured Education) at Green Park & Edison Elementary 

This classroom provides structure, behavioral management, self-help, pre-academics and academic support through TEACCH, STAR and other developmentally appropriate methods of intervention. Students who need a structured teaching method are served in this program. Inclusion opportunities in the general education classroom with support are available for appropriately identified students.  Students may have a modified day per IEP Team decision (which includes the parent). Students are placed at the location that best serves individual needs.

Teachers: Kelsie Loree at Prospect Point and Katie Ingram at Green Park

K-5 Self-Contained for Behavioral Disabilities at Berney Elementary

This classroom provides a solid academic environment where students receive individualized and small group instruction in conjunction with behavioral interventions in their areas of identified need.  Students work under a Level System to earn privileges. Mental health components include group social skills, some individual counseling where appropriate, self-esteem building, and work to support the entire family unit. A separate full-time Intervention Specialist supports students in this program as well. Primary Students are served at Berney and Intermediate students are served at Prospect Point.

Berney Teacher: Lisa Merrill  Intervention Specialist: Tiffany Teal

Resource Room

Provides reading, written language, math, behavioral and social skills support to special education students through either an intensive pull out model, or supported work within the regular classroom.

Berney: Kathleen Gilmore
Blue Ridge: Nicole Bunker
Edison: Tasha Mayne
Green Park: Marcia Frandsen
Sharpstein: Laurie Schuetze
Prospect Point: Diane Wright

Home Bound

Students who cannot attend school due to severe medical needs can be served at home. They are provided academic, behavioral, communication, fine motor, gross motor and self help skills by a special education teacher, speech therapist, occupational or physical therapist who visits them in their home settings.

Middle School Special Education Program

Intermediate Self-Contained for Life & Pre-Vocational Skills

Students in the “middle” grades (6-8, 5-8, 6-9, depending on the given population) attend the Intermediate classroom at Pioneer Middle School to continue their education in Pre-Academic & Functional Academic areas, along with Social Skills, Communication, and specially-designed Pre-Vocational Activities. The curriculum in this room also emphasizes self-help skills in the areas of grooming, learning simple cooking and food preparation tasks, and other household chore responsibilities.  As with Green Park Elementary, there are multiple specially-trained professionals who lend their expertise and support where needed.

Teacher is Jordan Poynor.

Intermediate R.I.S.E. (Reaching Independence through Structured Education)

Students in the “middle” grades (6-8, 5-8, 6-9, depending on the given population) attend the Intermediate Autism classroom at Garrison Middle School to continue their education in both Regular and Functional Academic areas, along with Social Skills, Communication, and specially-designed Pre-Vocational Activities. The curriculum in this room also emphasizes self-help skills where needed.  Some students spend only part of their days in this location, and are out in general education classes (Electives, PE, Science, etc) with para-professional support as needed.  As with the Elementary program, there are multiple specially-trained professionals who lend their expertise and support where needed.

Teacher is Michelle Paine.

Intermediate Self-Contained for Behavioral Disabilities

Our middle school behavior program is currently housed at Garrison Middle School. Students will have a different start and end time than the high school students. This program works with students social and behavioral needs as well as academics. Students that are ready to transition to some general education classes are transported to Garrison Middle School to attend their grade level classes.

Teacher is Chad Patterson.

Resource Room Support at the Middle School level

A Language Arts/Reading Block is taught at both schools; students receive targeted and intensive intervention as needed in the IEP areas of Reading and Writing. A special education Math class is taught at both schools; students recieve targeted and intensive intervention as needed in the IEP in all areas of Mathematics.

  • Garrison: Nate Carrara & Nate Ferraro
  • Pioneer: Gina Stahlheber, Jaimee Rossi, & Nathan Dross


Garrison Middle School 509-527-3040

  • Counselors: Steve Pitzer, Angie Gardea
  • Speech Therapist: Holly Anderson & Tyler Comstock
  • School Psychologist: Rob Graham

Pioneer Middle School 509-527-3050

  • Counselors: Theresa Dolye, Jeff Bartlow
  • Speech Therapist: Holly Anderson & Tyler Comstock
  • School Psychologist: Gregg Marron

High School Special Education Program    

The high school years become the time to focus on post high school outcomes for students. There are several “Pathways” that students can work through to make sure they are really ready to enter the world of work upon graduation, or to continue their chosen career through more education and/or training.  At both high schools, a wide variety of classes are offered, specific vocational objectives are addressed for all students, and support is given to them as they move forward and complete their prescribed course of study over the four years. The Pathways are:

  • 4 year college
  • 2 year college and/or a technical college education/degree
  • Competitive Employment
  • Supported Work Employment
  • Skills for Daily Living

Walla Walla High School

WWHS serves approximately 200 students who receive special education services.  The students are taught in multiple settings, and there is a staff of seven certified Special Education teachers. They are: Laura Bertinelli, Brian Taylor, Jenny Butenhoff, Cassandra Darlinton, Dave Larson, Patty Jones, and Cheryl Peters. Ms. Peters and Mr. Larson work primarily with students who require specific programming to address specially-identified needs, including moderate to severe cognitive delays, moderate to severe autism, and multiple disabilities (including medically fragile).

Lincoln High School

LHS is our High School for those students who desire a smaller class size, more individualized attention and various options to complete their course of study for graduation. There is a Resource Room where students are “pulled out” to receive intensive intervention in the IEP areas of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics, and there is a separate Behavior Classroom.  

In the Behavior Program at Lincoln, students receive intensive academic support where it is deemed appropriate by their IEP, and then they also receive Social and Communication Skills, and mental health services if those are identified areas of need.  Certified teachers include Faydale Curtice, Brandi McIntire and Kris Bland. The Lincoln Behavior Program is also served by a full time Intervention specialist, Karen Neher.

S.T.E.P (Students Transitioning into Employment Possibilities)

This program is designed for students 18-21 years of age with mild to moderate disabilities. Students are identified by their IEP Team as continuing to need specially designed instruction in vocational and adaptive areas. Student develop job skills in community work sites with job coaching support, identify and participate in community activities, learn transportation options, and learn soft skills through classroom and community participation. This program is housed in a portable at Walla Walla High School. The certified teacher for this program is Jacob Butenhoff and the administrator for the program is Libby Thompson.

Teacher: Jacob Butenhoff

Administrator: Libby Thompson

District Behavior Intervention and Support Program

The District Behavior Intervention & Support Team consists of two behavior specialists, a mental health specialist, and two intervention specialist/behavior coaches. The team supports our school teams in developing and implementing positive behavior support plans for students who require more individualized instruction in social/behavior skills. In addition, we offer short term school counseling services to students in need, and work with building teams to develop materials to support individual plans.

Related Special Education Services

The WWPS Special Education Department is fortunate to employ highly qualified individuals who are part of the Related Services Staff.  These itinerant staff members may be assigned to more than one building or program, serving students on IEPs with specific areas of identified need, as noted below.  The Related Services Staff includes the following:

Speech-Language Pathologists

  • Dyan Nelson – Sharpstein Elementary
  • Audrey Schmid – Berney Elementary
  • Sandra Bushnell – Edison Elementary
  • Holly Anderson – Garrison MS, Pioneer MS, Green Park, Lincoln & Walla Walla High Schools
  • Missy Newcom – Blue Ridge 3-5 Preschool
  • Megan Stadnik – Green Park & Prospect Point
  • Tyler Comstock – Garrison MS, Pioneer MS
  • Teletherapy – Walla Walla High School
  • Erin Armijo - Blue Ridge & Prospect Point
  • Kelli Neal - Sharpstein

School Psychologists

  • Kim Butenhoff – Prospect Point, Lincoln High School
  • Alicia Quackenbush – Wa-Hi, Opportunity Program
  • Heather Adams – Green Park Elementary, Edison Resource Room
  • Robert Graham – Sharpstein Elementary, Garrison MS
  • Annie Boyd - Blue Ridge Elementary & Private Schools
  • Emma Kubrock - Blue Ridge Preschool
  • Gregg Marron - Berney Elementary, Pioneer Middle School
  • Brandi McIntire - Prospect Point & Walla Walla High School

Physical Therapists

  • Christen Davidson-Juhnke
  • Jon Filkowski

Occupational Therapists

  •  Kaitlyn Reser

Assistive Technology Support Team

  • Holly Anderson – Speech Language Pathologist


Special Education Program Questions

Do you have concerns about your preschool age child’s motor, social, language, behavior or problem solving skills? 

There is support through the Walla Walla School District Developmental Preschool Program. Free developmental screenings are available for children age birth to 6. 

Do you have concerns about your school age child’s motor, social, language, behavior or academic skills?

There is support through the Walla Walla School District Student Teacher Assistance Teams. The purpose of the Student Teacher Assistance Team is to review existing information on a child whose learning has become a concern, to gather screening information if necessary, and to design intervention strategies from existing school and community resources. The pre-referral team also provides a support network system for staff in working with children with learning problems. 

Elementary: Learning Specialists
Middle and High Schools: School Counselors

Does your child have a disability that is impacting their learning so that he/she may need specific accommodations?

There is support through the Walla Walla School District 504 Teams. The purpose of the 504 team is to review information regarding the students disability, determine the appropriate accommodations necessary to ensure student success, monitor the effectiveness of the accommodations and make adjustments as necessary. 

Elementary: Learning Specialists
Middle and High Schools: School Counselors

Does your child have a disability and is in need of specialized instruction, accommodations and related services?

There is support through the Walla Walla School District Special Education Program. The purpose of the Special Education team is to determine the presence of a disability and develop an Individual Education Plan. The team provides modifications, specially designed instruction and related services to meet the unique needs of a child that results from the child’s disability. It also ensures access of the child to the general education curriculum. 


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