Team Members

TempleGrandin-203Jennifer Wilger, M.A.
Executive Director, Co-founder

M.A., Early Childhood Education
B.A., English, Westmont College
Special Education licensure, University of Colorado

Jennifer is the parent of a young adult son with Asperger Syndrome, a proud member of TGS’ first graduating class who is now attending Knox College. Since 1998, she has devoted intensive time and study (both in and out of the classroom) to understanding the Asperger learning style, and was excited to contribute her knowledge, experience and dedication to these exceptional students to the founding of Temple Grandin School in 2011. Jennifer’s passion for creating dynamic, supportive learning communities spans a wide variety of ages and settings, from preschool to high school. Prior to TGS, she has worked as a special educator, preschool teacher, freelance writer and editor, and curriculum development specialist. Through the years, she has benefited from the guidance of skilled mentors—an experience she hopes to share with the students of TGS as they grow from their strengths.

At TGS, Jennifer is a resource to staff, students and families. She supports all members of the administrative team as we work together to develop and document responsive school-wide and individual programming. As Executive Director, Jennifer guides TGS’ collaboration with community partners for research, current program planning, and future organizational development. In addition to her work at TGS, Jennifer supervises student teachers in special education, participates in several family support networks, and is a frequent guest lecturer on autism and parenting topics.

David HazenDavid Hazen, M.A.
Co-founder, Administrator-on-special-assignment

M.A., Educational Administration and Principal Licensure, University of Phoenix
B.A., Theater, Eckerd College

In 2010-2011 David Hazen was the Head of School at Bridge School in Boulder. From 2005-2009 David served as Principal at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette CO. Prior to Peak to Peak Charter School, Mr. Hazen was the Principal at The Center for Discovery Learning (K-12th grade charter school) in Lakewood, Colorado from 2000-2003. In addition, from 1994–2000 he was the Assistant Director for Projects, Americorps, National Civilian Community Corps, in Denver Colorado.

nisawebNisa B. Hallesy, BSOT
Occupational Therapist

B.S., Occupational Therapy, San Jose State University
NBCOT certified


Nisa brings over 26 years of experience with Asperger’s Syndrome , other neurocognitive differences and co-occurring mental health challenges.  Nisa’s three children have multiple diagnoses of neurocognitive differences, including Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).  One is now in college studying nursing, another is an engineer and lives independently and one is a senior at Temple Grandin School and is co-enrolled at Front Range Community College with dreams of pursuing a field in engineering or architecture.

Nisa has advocated for her own and others’ children in public and private schools, therapeutic programs and elsewhere. Her most recent professional experience was with the Western Institute of Neurodevelopmental Studies and Interventions (WINSi), where she set up an Occupational Therapy clinic and developed and ran the Occupational Therapy program in coordination with Dr. Kytja Voeller and colleagues. Nisa has been with Temple Grandin School from its inception and  continues to participate in program development, including life skills programming for the benefit of current and future TGS students and their families.

IMG_5572_ppAbigail O’Loughlin, M.A., BCBA
Director, Behavior Support Program

M.A. Special Education, Moderate to Severe Disabilities Ohio State University
B.A. Special Education, Learning Disabilities, Language Arts; Michigan State University

Abigail has worked with individuals between the ages of 3-26 years old, with a wide range of abilities.  Her dual background in special education and applied behavior analysis helps guide the creation of individual and school-wide positive behavior support plans that are accessible to TGS academic staff, students and families. She is passionate about supporting students in referencing their own goals, monitoring their progress, and identifying strategies for their academic and social success. Her work includes guiding TGS’ teachers as they intertwine executive function support and strategies into the classroom.

In addition to her roles as special educator and behavior specialist, Abbey serves as a member of TGS’ administrative team, where she brings her insights gained from supporting the social-emotional needs of students to the big picture of TGS’ organizational development. Her contributions to TGS’ curriculum development are creating a strong program that prepares TGS students to be independent self-advocates and life-long learners.


IMG_5637Lea Anne Paskvalich, B.A.
Director of Public Relations

B.A., Indiana University, Criminal Justice

Lea Anne has been active in the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) as a mentor and group leader to families with special needs. She has served on district councils and committees involving special ed for over 10 years. She volunteered in the Child Development Unit at Children’s Hospital for two years as a parent liaison. Lea Anne recently resigned as a Board Member with the Autism Society of Boulder.  She taught in First Presbyterian Cooperative Preschool for two years and served as a BVSD substitute. She moved from Chicago to Colorado in 1998 with her husband and two children.

IMG_5731_ppPolly Dana, M.A.
Head of School

M.A., Dartmouth College, Demography & Public Health
A.B., Princeton University, Geological & Geophysycal Sciences, cum laude
Certified Instructor: IB Biology & AP Chemistry

Polly has a diverse background in education. She has been part of the development of two small independent high schools in California and Florida.  While at Kyiv(Kiev) International School in Kyiv, Ukraine she defined the overall program and created the high school science and IB Biology programs. Other adventures in education include developing science curriculum and training middle school teachers through the University of Colorado, leading wilderness trips for Outward Bound and other programs, by land and sea. Polly has passion for kids and for learning; seeing kids grow and develop over time is what makes working at small schools especially rewarding. Polly has even more passions: the sea and sailing, her family, the mountains, skiing and tennis too!

Thrasher before Sept 2013Amy Thrasher, M.A., CCC-SLP
Perspectives Instructor, Consultant

Clinical Assistant Professor, University of CO, Boulder
M.A., Speech-Language Pathology, University of CO, Boulder
B.A., Psychology, Williams College

As clinical faculty in the Department of Speech, Language, Hearing Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, Amy’s focus has been early childhood communication development, with a particular interest in social communication and peer interaction. She has developed inclusive group intervention programs for preschool and elementary students on the autism spectrum. Amy and Jen Wilger developed the TGS Perspectives program in 2011. During the summer, Perspectives has been held at KGNU radio in Boulder, providing students with the opportunity to learn about perspective-taking through interviewing a guest on a topic of their choice.

During the school year, Perspectives is provided as a weekly class and co-led with Abbey O’Loughlin and TGS staff. Perspectives provides TGS students with explicit instruction in perspective-taking in order to adaptively use both nonverbal and verbal communication. Under Amy’s supervision, graduate clinicians in speech-language pathology use video replay of student interactions to provide social communication coaching toward each student’s individual Interaction goal.

On a personal note, Amy thrives when she is making art, attempting yoga, rock gardening, laughing, and being with her dog and husband by the creek.

TempleGrandin-030 - Version 2Mandy Henderson, MHP
Director, Counseling Support Program

B.A., Sociology, Luther College

Mandy is a recent transplant to Colorado from Minneapolis, MN and has worked in the autism community for the past eight years.  Prior to joining the staff of TGS in 2013, Mandy completed a six-year tenure at Fraser, Minnesota’s largest and most experienced provider of autism services, where she served as a Mental Health Practitioner.  While at Fraser, she facilitated individual, family and group skills training, and led the adolescent day treatment program.

Mandy is passionate about working with teenagers and young adults with ASD. Through her work she strives to form meaningful relationships with kids and their families, and provide them with skills, strategies and resources that serve toward the achievement of a more fulfilling life.  Mandy is skilled at both making individual connections and facilitating groups, and loves to incorporate common interests like humor and music in her unique approach to building relationships.

TempleGrandin-177Maura Seidel, B.A.
Behavior & Academic Support

B.A., Psychology, Lehigh University

Originally from the east coast, I have been working with individuals with learning and developmental disabilities in Colorado for eight years. I have worked with mild to severe children on the autism spectrum between the ages 6-18 both in center and home based programs.  I have experience working with these individuals on the areas of academic intervention, behavior reduction and life skills. When not working, I am an avid skier in the winter and enjoy all the outdoor aspects of living in Colorado.


Nicole Stutte, M.S.W.
Counseling, Behavior & Academic Support

M.S.W., University of Nebraska at Omaha
B.S.W., Humboldt State University
Licensed School Social Worker, Birth-21

Nicole has a strong background in serving students within their classroom settings. For the last twenty plus years, she has worked in public, private, and day treatment schools assisting students with autism and Asperger’s syndrome to overcome challenges, develop positive coping skills, and learn to use their strengths to meet their goals. Through out her career, Nicole has served as an individual and family therapist, school social worker, and behavior support specialist. She believes in leading students on creative ventures that increase their confidence and tolerance, and develop their ability to persevere through interesting challenges and group work. Outside of work, Nicole is a Destination Imagination (DI) team manager and uses components of DI with her students with autism spectrum disorder as well. Students come to love the flexibility, challenges, and problem solving skills they develop from her creative teaching style.


Jules Bell, B.A.
World Studies, Language Arts, French

B.A., Ancient History, Royal Holloway, University of London
Secondary Social Studies Teaching Licensure, University of Colorado, Boulder

Jules is originally from France, from a French Mother and an American Father. He brings a wide range of experience and educational practices to his teaching, having been educated in France, England and the USA, in a number of different settings. Jules’ interest in working with disenfranchised learners emerged out of his own personal struggles in the French public system, and the positive changes he experienced after transferring into a small, independent school.

Jules completed his student teaching at Erie High School, then spent his first year teaching middle school French and literacy in Longmont. He is excited to translate social studies and language arts content into lesson plans that engage the diverse learners at TGS, and to help TGS launch its first course offering in World Language (French). Outside of TGS, Jules enjoys fitness, miniature wargaming and live music.


Ryan Pearse, M.Ed
Language Arts, Geography

M.Ed, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Nebraska at Kearney
B.A., English, Concordia University, Irvine

Since 2001, Ryan has taught middle and high school students in a variety of charter, private, and special education settings. Prior to working at TGS, he taught middle school writing at Belle Creek Charter School and served as a special education support teacher at Laradon Alternative School. After spending several years teaching in southern California, Ryan moved back to Colorado in 2008.

Ryan brings skills in curriculum development and differentiation, and a love of the unique middle school mind. In addition to teaching, Ryan is a professional musician, and is eager to share his gifts of music with the students at TGS. Ryan enjoys the small family-like environment at TGS, and appreciates the opportunity to provide individual support to students. He is looking forward to helping students improve their reading and writing skills this year.

DSC01676Michael Rodriguez, M.A.
Biology, General Science

M.A., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder
B.S., Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University

Michael Rodriguez is the science teacher at TGS, instructing students in general science or biology for the 2014-2015 school year.  He recently earned a master’s thesis from the University of Colorado, Boulder examining foraging efficiency in leaf-cutter ants in Costa Rica.  Michael has a passion for teaching and research and spends his summers travelling abroad conducting research in behavioral ecology.  He is very excited to be part of the TGS community.

DSC01685Michael Schefferstein, M.S., M.A.
Mathematics, Physics, Technology

M.S., Physics, M.A., Mathematics, University of Colorado, Boulder
B.S., Physics, B.S., Mathematics, University of New Orleans

Prior to joining the staff at TGS, Michael taught for ten years at BVSD’s Justice High Charter School where he also served as Registrar and Dean of Student Services. In that setting, his goal was to help disenfranchised students complete an education that would enable them to be successful individuals in society. Michael sees his work at TGS as a natural continuation of this passion to help students overcome their struggles and achieve success in life. He is amazed at the progress he sees students making at TGS with the help of our supportive staff, and is excited to make a vital contribution to the TGS community.

In addition to his work at Justice, Michael has also tutored numerous students in math and science (18 years!), and has served as an instructor at CU Boulder and CU Colorado Springs. In 2005, Michael received a letter of commendation from Governor Bill Owens for his work in education, and in 2012 he was one of six Colorado educators to be featured as one of YellowScene Magazine’s Smart Teachers. When he is not teaching, Michael enjoys traveling around the world with his wife.

DSC01679Sean Rothermel, B.A.
Personal Projects, Phoenix, Physical Education

B.A, Baldwin Wallace University, Integrated Social Studies

Sean recently moved to Colorado from Ohio, where he received his Ohio teacher certification in secondary social studies in 2013. Sean began his teaching career at Oakstone Community School, an alternative school for students with ASD. At Oakstone, Sean served as a teacher and classroom aide, teaching history, physical education, and life skills to students with a wide range of abilities. In addition to his teaching experience, Sean has also served as a basketball coach and youth camp leader.

Sean has a genuine passion for teaching, and in particular for helping students with ASD grow and mature as learners. At TGS, he gets to put his unique blend of skills and experiences into practice as the lead teacher for students’ daily Phoenix period, which he has infused with added physical activity and supported socialization opportunities. He feels fortunate to be a part of TGS and be involved in the unique approach to education each day.

IMG_6036Leslie Levinson
Business Manager

M.P.A., Public Administration, Drake University
B.S., Social Work, University of Iowa

As a financial manager, Leslie rules the business office, assuring the smooth flow of funds in and out of Temple Grandin School. Her special areas of interest include business operations and resource development of non-profit programs that address critical issues in our community. Prior to assuming her responsibilities with business operations at TGS, Leslie served as Finance Manager at Catalyst High School and Operations Director for Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA). Leslie has 30 years of experience working in human services non-profit management, program management, and community and resource development.

TempleGrandin-145Mary Kay Braccio, Ph.D., NCSP
School Psychologist

PhD, Educational Psychology, SUNY Albany
CAS, School Psychology, SUNY Albany
BA, Psychology, University of Notre Dame
CDE Special Services License, School Psychology
Nationally Certified School Psychologist

Throughout her career, Mary Kay has been dedicated to bringing together the best services and instruction for students so they have the opportunity to grow to their fullest potential.  Mary Kay worked for many years in the Jefferson County Schools at all of the education levels.  She also worked as an Honorarium Professor at CU Denver in the School Psychology program teaching and supervising school psychology interns.  Early in her career, Mary Kay was a charter member of, and then chair, of the National School Psychology Certification Board, which established a national certification process for the profession.  She also worked at the state level on licensing standards for school psychologists.  At TGS, Mary Kay is taking a leadership role in building the Transitions Program to insure that our students have many open doors upon graduation.  In addition to her work at TGS, Mary Kay maintains a private school psychology practice, volunteers at Fairview High School in the Counseling and Career Center, and enjoys her family time.