Inclusion Heroes 2020-2021

Aileen Wall, Principal, Walnut Elementary School
Mrs. Wall has a big heart. She makes sure that all students and staff members have a sense of belonging on the Walnut campus. Her role as a principal exceeds the job duties assigned, and she truly creates a sense of family amongst the whole school community. Her positive attitude makes a great impact on the whole Walnut team, supporting staff in their roles and leading all students on a path of academic success each and every day. She leads inclusion by example, she is very generous of her time and shares her expertise to support the success of all she encounters. The Walnut community, and beyond, looks up to her, as a shining example of how to lead with kindness and respect for all. 

Jacqueline Bennett, Para Educator I, Madrona Elementary
Ms. Bennett  is a bright light for all who work with her. An invaluable member of the LEAP program, her kind sweet spirit brings a smile to the students’ faces every day. Her passion for her role and the love she has for the children she serves is undeniable. Working with her makes everyone a better person! Ms. Bennett is always the first person on the playground to bring all the kids together so no one is feeling left out.   She engages with students in such an enthusiastic way that they all feel important and inclusive of each other regardless of their ability.  The encouragement she gives is easily picked up by all of the kids and they continue to encourage each other both in class and on the playground.  Jackie is known for her kindness, positivity, and cheerful demeanor who students and staff members can count on! She truly makes a positive impact on the Madrona Elementary campus. 

Sandra Martinez-Galvan, Teacher, Thousand Oaks High School
Mrs. Martinez-Galvan is know for the positive impact she makes on the Thousand Oaks High School campusI She is an advocate for more inclusivity and representation of Latino Students and marginalized students on the TOHS campus. She has worked tirelessly to help give students a voice. Her commitment to providing opportunities to students is seen with her involvement in Latino Connection and Latino Youth Leadership. These clubs provide a safe space for students to connect, share their passions, feel proud about their heritage and grow as leaders. Everything she does is for her students and for the community. Even outside of the classroom she is involved with Adelante  and providing for families during these unprecedented times. 

Sairey Andrews, Teacher, Maple Elementary
Mrs. Andrews is all about inclusion. She is kind, warm and caring to her students and to her colleagues She is extremely tech savvy and always comes up with the greatest programs for Maple students. She gives so much of her time and her heart each and every day. Maple students benefit so much from having Mrs. Andrews as their teacher, a true leader and voice for all students. 

Jericho Delaney Ross, Teacher, Sycamore Canyon

Ms. Delaney is a force of support for the students she serves. Over  the last nine months she has gone above and beyond to make students feel safe and special. She is very determined and passionate to include everyone no matter what their disability might be. Ms. Delaney responds to all her emails and messages promptly and makes parents/guardians feel very comfortable to approach her regarding any questions or concerns they may have. She works tirelessly to spread kindness and make all students she encounters feel as though they belong.

Inclusion Heroes 2019- 2020

These dedicated educators were formally recognized as Inclusion Heroes with a certificate of appreciation at the Tuesday, December 17, 2019 Board of Education Meeting. We are so proud of all of our school sites for their on-going efforts to create campuses of inclusion and kindness!

Susan Frisoli – Para Educator, Acacia Magnet School for Enriched Learning 
Ms. Frisoli is a champion for inclusion at Acacia Magnet School for Enriched Learning. She encourages students to share commonalities with one another, which helps to forge friendships both inside and outside of the classroom. Her daily actions showcase how inclusivity, and kindness to one another truly enhance the learning for ALL students.

Debbie Hanna – Sparkles Leader/Coach
Ms. Hanna has organized the District’s Sparkles Cheer Program for almost ten years. This program is an opportunity for all CVUSD students to play, work, and learn together weekly during school, after school, and at extra-curricular events. Their Cheer performances at school rallies, sport event, and other schools, demonstrate inclusion for their entire student body and community. Each student is welcomed to participate, and encouraged to do their best

Patty Lewis – Principal of Maple Elementary School
Principal Lewis works tirelessly to create a school climate of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. The seeds of change she planted are beginning to grow and flourish, seemingly on their own. Inclusion is always at the forefront of her every thought, idea, suggestion, or plan, whether it be the playground, classrooms, drop-off/pick-up, meetings with parents, meetings with staff, or speaking with students. Inclusion is the lens in which she views her Maple Mustangs and it is evident in everything she does. Kindness, acceptance and inclusion are a part of her everyday language, and Ms. Lewis makes sure that every student feels welcome at Maple.

Erin Nassar – Special Education Teacher, Ladera STARS Academy
Ms. Nassar works hard to make sure that students’ needs are being met and that they have all the same opportunities as every other student on campus. She is dedicated to ensuring her students get to participate with their peers and foster friendships with all students. She goes above and beyond to help students, and gives her expertise to assist with the learning of those are not in her class.  She is an inclusion advocate, facilitates students working together, learning from each other, and appreciating each other's abilities and strengths.

Sammi Stewart – Adapted Physical Education Teacher, Newbury Park High School, Sequoia Middle School & Westlake High School
Coach Sammi has dedicated her life and career not only to serving students with special needs in their health, wellness and physical lives, but she is also a dedicated champion bringing Special Olympics Unified Sports to CVUSD schools. This is a specific effort that unites students both with and without disabilities to play as teammates together, enriching the lives of all. She is a consummate cheerleader when it comes to raising awareness that everyone’s lives are touched in positive ways by being fully inclusive.

Conejo Valley Unified School District's Commitment to Inclusion

The Conejo Valley Unified School District recognizes each child is unique and when differences are celebrated, a community of inclusivity, kindness, and respect results, which enhances the learning for all.

Universal Design for Learning in CVUSD

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an instructional mindset that acknowledges the variability of all learners and seeks to remove barriers to learning by providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and action expression. UDL strengthens the universal instruction provided to all students by intentionally designing a learning environment to be more accessible and inclusive for diverse student learners.

UDL was introduced to all CVUSD teachers during a full day of professional learning in August 2019. This kickoff event featured a keynote address by renown author and practitioner Dr. Katie Novak. This training was followed up in November 2019 when all teachers worked collaboratively to determine barriers to student learning and then apply the UDL Guidelines as grade-level or content area departments. Continued training was provided throughout the school year through additional teacher collaboration, principal-led training, and through "UDL Learning Walks", in which teams of educators observed their colleagues' classrooms to identify and discuss the applications of UDL. During the 2019-2020 school year, specific resources have been provided to teacher that supports the implementation of UDL in the remote/virtual learning environment. 

At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, staff underwent professional learning that emphasized how to provide access to curriculum to all students in the remote environment. The district purchased licenses for Kami, an extension that allows students and staff to annotate on top of text and provides speech to text, Screencast-O-Matic, which allows teachers to record directions for their students, and EdPuzzle, which allows teachers to embed questions into videos. These extensions and websites are some examples utilized to break down barriers to learning and create a path to inclusion for all students.


Inclusive Activities around the District

The Aspen 3rd grade holds a Wander and Wonder on Wednesdays where the last 40 minutes of each cohort is run by one of the 3rd grade teachers on Zoom (for both in-person and remote students) teaching, exploring, and discovering something of interest.  

  • Optical Illusions

  • Game show history and learning how to play Kahoot!

  • A history of cartooning

  • Slime in the International space station and experimenting with slime ( I sent home a small slime sample with all students at a Materials Pick Up)

  • History of origami and making some folded animals


At Madrona, Mrs. Nash Wynner and Mrs. Denton team up to focus on building friendships and working together. In the past, they have done cooking together, art projects, and even had special guests. Together, these two classes are also learning all about ASL. They have worked on signing their names, colors, and letters. They learn other fun words like food and feelings, too! 


Sparkles Inclusive Cheerleading

The Sparkle Effect was started by 2 high school students in Iowa in 2008.  In 2020, they made the decision to change their name to ‘Generation Spirit’ to match the power and the passion behind what has truly become a nationwide movement for inclusion!  Today there are over 225 teams in 31 states, involving over 20,000 students.  

Here in the Conejo we have 3 clubs at each of our high schools, run by spirit cheerleaders!

Students with & without disabilities cheer together at football & basketball games routinely, and have also cheered on our teams playing baseball & softball!  We participate in school rallies, ability awareness events, and attended the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles in 2015, along with numerous other events.

We are not about perfection!  We are about positive interaction between all students, respect of each other, and forming friendships.  The impact they have had at each of our high schools has been overwhelming.

Conejo Valley Unified School District is proud to have Debbie Hanna as the Sponsor of our Sparkles program!

For more information in the Sparkles program, please contact Debbie Hanna.

Unified Sports

Conejo Unified Valley School District is proud to have Unified Sports teams at Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, and Westlake High Schools and Colina and Redwood Middle Schools. The Unified Teams are comprised of approximately half Athletes (students with intellectual disabilities), and half Unified Partners (students without intellectual disabilities). Each school has developed a unique model of stewardship for their Unified Sports Leagues – with a variety of district staff, from a ceramics teacher, Varsity Basketball coach, history teacher, social studies teachers, and English teacher, in addition to Special Education teachers and Adapted Physical Education teachers, lending support to the teams. Each school site also has a variety of participants in the games – including students from Sparkles, ASL club, ASG, Band, Dance, and Sports Medicine.

The community is invited to cheer on students, and support this program by attending future games.

In addition, the schools apply to be formally recognized as Unified Champion Schools. Each Unified Champion School receives up to $3,000 in grant monies from the Special Olympics to help cover costs associated with the program, such as uniforms, travel, and equipment.

“Sports and physical education are a perfect way to develop social bonds between students with disabilities and without that will hopefully transcend past their time in high school,” - Samantha Stewart, CVUSD Adapted Physical Education Teacher.

Young Athletes Program

The Young Athletes Program – TK-2: Special Olympics Young Athletes is a sport and play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities(ID), ages 2 to 7 years old. YoungAthletes introduces basic sport skills, like running, kicking and throwing. Young Athletes offers families, teachers, caregivers and people from the community the chance to share the joy of sports with all children.

Unified Juniors – 3- 6: Unified Juniors is for students, grades 3-6, with and without intellectual disabilities. Students will gain knowledge of Special Olympics and an introduction to competitive sports in a fun, non-intimidating manner, while breaking down barriers at an early age through the Play Unified movement.

Unified Juniors – 3- 6: Unified Juniors is for students, grades 3-6, with and without intellectual disabilities. Students will gain knowledge of Special Olympics and an introduction to competitive sports in a fun, non-intimidating manner, while

breaking down barriers at an early age through the Play Unified movement.

Current schools that use the Young Athletes Program are

  • Acacia Elementary
  • Aspen Elementary
  • Be Me Preschool
  • Madrona Elementary
  • Maple Elementary
  • Wonder Elementary