Erin Cernuska: Emotional and autistic support teacher, Bellefonte Elementary School
Life skills and autistic support instructional coach, Bellefonte Area Middle School
Hello! I'm Erin Cernuska and I have worked for Bellefonte Area School District since 2009. My current position is the emotional and autistic support teacher at Bellefonte Elementary School, and life skills and autistic support instructional coach at Bellefonte Area Middle School. This dual role allows me to work with students and staff members to enhance learning opportunities and build skills. In my role as a special education teacher, I manage student’s Individualized Education Plans, teach specific social skills, assist students with managing their behavior in school and collaborate with teachers and parents to create positive working relationships. I especially enjoy watching students learn new skills and practice using them in their classrooms to work to their best potential. My second favorite thing is going on field trips! In my role as an instructional coach, I have worked with classroom teams to implement the Competent Learner Model, which serves as a structure for staff training, student assessment and a curriculum resource to build independence, problem solving and communication with students who struggle to participate in school and other settings. I am also a Safety Care trainer for the district and serve on the schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports team and Safety Committee.
My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Science in special education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I earned my master's degree in special education with an emphasis in autism endorsement, and completed the Special Education: School Supervision program from Slippery Rock University. My teaching certificates include Special Education K-12, Elementary Education, Middle School Mathematics and Autism Endorsement. In my free time, I love to read professional articles and books, as well as random books for leisure – often mystery or psychological thrillers. I also enjoy running, exercising and playing sports; planting flowers and landscaping; and spending time with my family. My husband Matt and I have two quickly-growing daughters Annie and Aalyn, and an old, but rowdy dog named Xander. We enjoy our summers together boating at the lake at Bald Eagle State Park and taking road trips to see different parts of the country.
Rachael Davis: Life skills teacher, Bellefonte Area High School
Hello, my name is Rachael Davis and I am the life skills teacher at the high school. I started at Bellefonte Area School District in the fall of 2015 as a learning support teacher. Prior to Bellefonte, I worked in the mental health and alternative education field as a clinical teacher and an emotional support teacher. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in special education with a minor in psychology from Lock Haven University in 2011, and my Master of Education in reading from Edinboro in 2016.
While working at Bellefonte I have completed the Tucci Competent Learner Model program, which is based on a behavioral analysis of functional language. We implement this program on a daily basis in our classroom in a variety of ways. I also work closely with the ICAN Talk Clinic of Pittsburgh, implementing various strategies to allow learners to communicate independently by utilizing their Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices. Our classroom focuses on molding our students to become successful and contributing members of their community. I provide direct instruction for all content in our classroom that is modified to suit the learner’s ability and a realistic goal for their life after high school. Our learners are exposed to a variety of life skills such as cooking, cleaning, finances and communication skills they are required to perform as independently as possible while working in our Life Skills Cafe. We build upon these skills and others such as problem solving, interpersonal and self-advocacy through our weekly community-based instructional trips and job shadowing opportunities provided for the students. We work closely with many organizations such as OVR, The Arc, Nittany Employment Services, The ACRES Project, Special Olympics and more.
Outside of work, I really enjoy volunteering. I am part of the Juniata Big Brothers Big Sisters program and have been for three years, now. I enjoy sharing new experiences with my little (pictured with me) and watching him grow and mature. I really enjoy spending as much time as possible outdoors. My husband and I often going hiking, kayaking, fishing and mountain biking throughout Pennsylvania. We have three dogs who typically participate in the majority of our outdoor activities that we obnoxiously love. We also enjoy working out at the gym and really love Crossfit! If I’m not doing something physically challenging, you can find me reading a good book or baking some delicious treats.
Megan Douty: Learning support teacher, Marion-Walker Elementary School
Hello! My name is Megan Douty, and I am the fourth- and fifth-grade learning support teacher at Marion-Walker Elementary School. As a learning support teacher, I provide both push-in and pull-out services to students on my caseload. When I’m in the regular education classroom, the general education teacher and I co-teach together by sharing teaching responsibilities, and providing additional teaching opportunities and enrichment activities when needed, to all students. When I pull students, I provide additional instruction in math, reading and writing on the students’ instructional levels.
I am very proud to say that I am an alumna of the Bellefonte Area School District. Due to the amazing and inspiring teachers I had while attending the district as a child, I decided to become a teacher. My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Achuff, was my inspiration. I decided to get my degree in special education because I truly believe that, “Every student can learn; just not the same way or on the same day.” I enjoy helping students realize learning strategies that work best for them and teaching them how to be a self-advocate.
After graduating high school, I attended Lock Haven University where I graduated in the spring of 2011 with a dual degree in elementary and special education. I earned my master’s degree from Wilkes University in the spring of 2015 as a PA reading specialist. I love to learn, and I'm constantly seeking opportunities to improve in and out of the classroom. Outside of school, I love to spend time with my family. My immediate family consists of my husband Adam, our son Weston and our beagle Lucy. We enjoy hiking, camping, traveling and having campfires with friends. I also enjoy reading, baking, shopping and playing games. Since my husband is an avid skier, my newest adventure is learning how to ski better. I want to spend more time on the skis than in the snow! I’d love to go on a family vacation out west to ski.
Kate Glocke: Learning support teacher, Bellefonte Elementary School
Hi! My name is Kate Glocke, and I'm a third- and fourth-grade learning support teacher at Bellefonte Elementary School. I started at Bellefonte in the fall of 2016. I have been teaching special education since 2010, when I started in the Chicago Public Schools. I absolutely love what I do. Advocating for students and watching them grow is my favorite part of this position. I am a 2008 graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology; and a 2010 graduate of DePaul University with a Master of Education degree in elementary and special education. My family and I live in State College. My husband Nate teaches seventh-grade general music and choir at Mount Nittany Middle School. Our son Gabe is 4 – hilarious, busy and keeps us on our toes! In our spare time we like to spend time watching and playing sports, adventuring to new places and visiting our family in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Kevin Hilsey: Learning support teacher, Bellefonte Area High School
Hi! I am currently working as the developmental reading teacher and learning support teacher for sophomore students at Bellefonte Area High School. I have been teaching for 15 years and have had several positions in special education, including learning support, emotional support and as a behavior specialist. I was also a biology teacher for many years. I have also worked for the USPS in the past as a mail carrier. I have two adult daughters -- one who is married, but I have no grandchildren. I’m not sure I want to be a grandpa just yet, anyway! In my spare time, I enjoy trail running, hiking and exploring new places.
Jess Ketner: Life skills support teacher, Pleasant Gap Elementary School
Hello! My name is Jess Ketner and I am the life skills support teacher at Pleasant Gap Elementary School. I graduated from Lock Haven University in 2015 with a dual degree in early education and special education and will receive my master’s degree in applied behavior analysis in April. I was hired by Bellefonte in 2016 after completing a long-term substitute position within the district. At Pleasant Gap our classroom consists of kiddos in grades K-5 who receive instruction in all academic areas. My favorite part of my job is letting the students know they can do it, hearing them say they can do it, watching them do it and then showing everyone that they can do it! The paraeducators in our classroom play a huge role in the success of our program. They help reinforce learned concepts to the students, are advocates for our students and believe in each student’s success. When I’m not in the classroom I enjoy spending time with my husband Ryan, our two children William and Olivia and our dog Charlie. There is never a dull moment in our house, but we wouldn’t want it any other way!
Kate Kohler: Learning support teacher, Pleasant Gap Elementary School
Hello! My name is Kate Kohler and I am the learning support teacher at Pleasant Gap Elementary School. Prior to teaching at Pleasant Gap, I worked as a special education teacher for Albemarle County Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools for six years. As a special education teacher, I’ve worked in the elementary and high school settings as both a learning support teacher and a life skills teacher. My current role involves working with students in kindergarten through fifth-grade, with learning disabilities to help them grow as learners and progress in the general education curriculum. One of the things I love the most about my job is getting to work with a variety of students to help them better understand what is being taught in their classrooms. Being able to work with students in small groups allows me to build a strong rapport with the students and really get to know their strengths, interests and areas of need. I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity to work with such wonderful kiddos!
Jen Kroboth: Learning support teacher, Bellefonte Elementary School
Hi! My name is Jen Kroboth. I’m a learning support teacher for students in kindergarten through second-grade at Bellefonte Elementary School. I grew up in Allensville and attended Indian Valley High School. I graduated from Penn State University with a degree in special education in December 1996, and earned my certificate in workforce education in 2001. I started my career as a learning support teacher at Bellefonte Area High School in August 1997 – now, I’m showing my age! In 2002, I transferred to Bellefonte Elementary where I’ve been happily teaching ever since, and, while I hate to brag, I do have the best job and students in the whole world! As a learning support teacher, I provide both push-in and pull-out support to my students. When I push-in, I am fortunate to work with some very amazing regular education teachers, while they teach language arts and math within their general education classrooms. When I pull-out, I provide supplemental reading instruction and targeted math support to students in my classroom. I work alongside Debbie Caldwell, my wonderful learning support paraeducator. Without her, I would not be able to meet the unique learning goals and needs of all my students.
A favorite part of my job is having a classroom setting that is conducive to small group and one-to-one learning. I have the opportunity to get to really know my students, and since I often have them for more than one school year, I am able to watch them grow and mature by leaps and bounds!
In addition, I’m proud to say that my educational philosophy has not changed since the day I wrote my interview essay in August of 1997. I still wholeheartedly believe that for children to learn, they must first feel respected, feel safe and feel secure in their learning environments. It is imperative that basic needs be met for all students to reach their maximum learning potential. As an educator, it is also my responsibility to constantly change my teaching styles to fit my students’ unique learning styles – not vice versa. Because of this, I view every year as a new challenge and learning experience. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me!
Outside of the classroom, I enjoy spending time with my family; exploring Pinterest to start – and sometimes finish – crafts for family and friends; shopping online; and watching college football. My husband Jason is an executive chef for Penn State where he does a lot of cooking for Coach James Franklin and my favorite football team. My son Evan is 15 and enjoys attending every PSU home football game and playing video games. My daughter Tori is 13 and enjoys playing on several travel and middle school softball and soccer teams. During the summer, we all enjoy spending long, hot days swimming in our new swimming pool and making s’mores by our fire pit. We have two pets – a puggle named Duke and a black cat named JoJo. They enjoy following me around the house all day long! In May 2018 I received my Masters of Teaching degree from Wilson College.
Gina MacFalls: Director of special education
Gina MacFalls has been with the Bellefonte Area School District since October 2007 as the director of special education. She has 31 years in the field of education as a teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disorders; Intermediate Unit special education supervisor of emotional support and partial hospitalization programs; and director/supervisor of special education in two other school districts. She received her bachelor's and master’s degrees in special education from Pennsylvania State University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the same institution.
Dr. MacFalls enjoys working with teachers, parents and other administrators to collaboratively solve problems to meet the needs of challenging students. In addition, she regularly presents on various topics related to special education law, instructional practices and other topics of interest during district professional learning days. She has served on the Governor’s Panel for Education for three years and presents annually at the Lehigh University Special Education Law Conference. MacFalls has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in special education and career and technology education for Penn State, as well as graduate courses in curriculum-related areas for Wilson College. She frequently guest lectures for other professors at Penn State and Juniata College. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her sons and husband, and traveling and working out.
Renee McNichol: Speech and language pathologist
Bellefonte Elementary School and Bellefonte Area Middle School
Hello! My name is Renee McNichol and I'm one of the speech and language pathologists at Bellefonte Elementary School and Bellefonte Area Middle School. I started at Bellefonte Area School District in the fall of 2016. I have been teaching speech and language students since 2005, when I started in the public schools at Penns Valley Area School District. What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to work with students on a regular basis. I enjoy helping them correct and master articulation errors, as well as achieving their language goals. I'm a 2003 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree, and a 2005 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a master’s degree. I've lived in Bellefonte since 2005 with my husband Zeb; three daughters, Alannah, Ava and Audrina; and two dogs, Moxx and Jaxx.
Molly Molnar: Learning support teacher, Bellefonte Area High School
Hello. My name is Molly Molnar and I am a learning support teacher at Bellefonte Area High School, as well as the transition coordinator for the Bellefonte Area School District. I have been a teacher in the district since August 2016. Before working for Bellefonte, I also taught in Huntingdon, Pa. and Eugene, Ore. I graduated in 1999 from Juniata College with a bachelor's degree in English-secondary education, and from the University of Oregon in 2006 with a Master of Science in special education. Go Ducks! My favorite part of my job is watching students mature and make the transition into adulthood. I live in Port Matilda with my two daughters Lily and Violet, my husband Adam and three cats Cali, Nugget and Stormy.
Christina Peterson: Speech-language pathologist
Benner and Marion-Walker elementary schools
Hi, my name is Christina Peterson and I have worked for Bellefonte Area School District since 2003. I am a speech-language pathologist at Marion-Walker and Benner elementary schools. As a speech-language pathologist, I help students to produce sounds correctly, build their vocabulary and grammar skills, and improve their fluency skills in conversation. In addition to seeing small groups for speech-language support, I am also trained to teach mindfulness from the Mindful Schools curriculum. I go into some of the kindergarten through fifth-grade classes at Marion-Walker and Benner to teach mindfulness. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are a Bachelor and Master of Science in communication sciences and disorders from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. I recently earned a Master of Technology degree from Wilson College with classes taken through Eduspire. I am currently in the process of becoming a certified mindfulness teacher from Mindful Schools. I also enjoy baking, reading and listening to music in my free time. My husband John and I live in State College with our two sons, Dante and Anthony.
Sarah Plotts: Learning support teacher, Bellefonte Elementary school
Hello! My name is Sarah Plotts. I'm the fourth- and fifth-grade learning support teacher at Bellefonte Elementary School. My favorite part of this position is getting to know my students on a personal level and celebrating their growth with them. I attended college at Lock Haven University. While there I earned my bachelor's degree in early childhood and special education. In August 2014, I began my first teaching job at Sugar Valley Rural Charter School in Loganton. During my two years there, I taught special education to students ranging from elementary to high school. I became a part of the Bellefonte Area School District family in August 2016. When I'm not at school I enjoy spending time with my family. In the fall, my husband Brock and I enjoy spending our weekends in Happy Valley attending Penn State football games. We like to spend time in the summer months traveling. Two of our most memorable moments from trips include zip lining in Colorado and salmon fishing in Alaska.
Jodie Porter: Learning and emotional support teacher, Benner Elementary School
Hi! My name is Jodie Porter, and I’m a learning and emotional support teacher at Benner Elementary School. I work with grades spanning from kindergarten all the way to fifth grade. I started at Bellefonte Area School District in the fall of 2017. Being a special education teacher is a privilege. I am happy to say I get to be a part of an amazing group of professionals who are dedicated to learning and growing as teachers. My students are the coolest people I know. I love the various perspectives they bring to me each and every day. I enjoy seeing the world through their eyes, and understanding where they are coming from. I get to learn so much from my students. There is not much better than helping a student reach their full potential. I feel great knowing my students have learned something new because I was able to teach them in a way that made sense for them. One of the greatest blessings of my profession is the opportunity to advocate for this unique group of individuals. I am a 2017 graduate of Lock Haven University with a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood and special education. I am currently enrolled at Gannon University to obtain a Master of Education degree in reading. In my free time, I love spending time with my family and friends, cooking, traveling, visiting local shops and restaurants, and helping out on my husband’s family farm.
Ashley Sterbank: Autistic support teacher, Bellefonte Elementary School
Hi! My name is Ashley Sterbank and I’m the autistic support teacher at Bellefonte Elementary School. I graduated from Gannon University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary and special education. Shortly after graduating, I returned to Gannon to receive a Master of Education degree in reading. I started teaching at Bellefonte Area School District in the fall of 2013. My favorite part of being a special education teacher is not only working with amazing students, but also amazing staff members. The paraeducators in my classroom work so hard every day to make the students successful in and out of the classroom. I love getting to watch students grow and learn both academically and socially. I have lived in the great state of Pennsylvania my whole life. I grew up in St. Marys and am part of a big family. I’m one of five! Some things I love to do in my spare time are reading, traveling, enjoying the outdoors, and most importantly, spending time with family and friends.
Holly Williams: Autistic and emotion support teacher
Marion-Walker and Pleasant Gap elementary schools
Hi! My name is Holly Williams and I am the autistic and emotional support teacher at Marion-Walker and Pleasant Gap elementary schools. I attended college at Penn State University where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in rehabilitation services education with a minor in human development and family studies. I worked with children with autism in their homes and in the community for two years before deciding to return to school. I returned to Penn State and earned a master’s degree in special education with a focus on autism, applied behavior analysis and communication disorders, in 2003.
I work with students in kindergarten through fifth-grade within their classrooms, as well as provide them with direct-instruction social skills in a small group setting. In addition, I also serve as a Competent Learner Model Coach within three of our life skills and autistic support classrooms across the district. This role allows me the opportunity to work closely with staff to implement effective research-based strategies and tools to promote productivity and independence among our learners. Each student represents a unique combination of abilities and educational needs. I enjoy getting to know them and exploring ways to help them grow, learn and become productive citizens in the community. Outside of school, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our two children, Logan and Makenna. We enjoy camping, traveling and attending Penn State football games.