Leadership Team & Staff

Polly Vanden Boogaard  email
Assistant Superintendent of Student Services
(920) 832-6114

Polly came to the Appleton Area School District in 2010 after serving ten years in the Kimberly Area School District (KASD). Polly’s focus as a teacher was on students with learning disabilities, specifically at the middle school level. She then went on to serve as the Special Education Coordinator of Instructional Services for the KASD where the focus was on closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities. 

Upon moving into the AASD, Polly assumed the position of Special Education Coordinator, Assistant Director of Special Education, Director of Special Education and currently Assistant Superintendent of Student Services.

Polly remains focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gaps for all students and staying student centered in decision-making. She is passionate about advocating for students (inclusion) with disabilities as well as advocating for the dedicated student services staff that provide support to all students.

Karen Geerts  email
Executive Assistant
(920) 832-6114

Associate Directors of Special Education

Alexandra Baierl email
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 2104
E-6 Teaching & Learning Team: Columbus/ABS, Edison, Ferber, Franklin, Highlands, Houdini, Huntley, and private school services coordination

This is Alex's fifth year working as an Associate Director of Special Education. Prior to being in Appleton, she was a School Psychologist for the Ashwaubenon School District for nine years. Alex graduated from Shiocton High School and went on to complete her Masters of Science in Education Degree, Educational Specialist Degree, and receive her Director of Special Education/Pupil Services Certification. 

Alex completed her undergraduate studies at UWSP and graduate studies at UWEC. Alex has been involved in several educational activities such as working with at-risk students one-on-one and in small groups, working as a member of a multidisciplinary team, facilitating the implementation for RtI 4K-12, consulting with parents, teachers, and school staff, and conducting formal and informal assessments for the purpose of evaluation for special education. 

Amy Steiner email
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 2253
7-12 Teaching & Learning Team: Einstein, Kaleidoscope Academy, Madison, Wilson Middle Schools; East, North, West High Schools and Alternative Programming (i.e., Higher Ground, PRIDE, Project SEARCH)

Amy Steiner has been in the AASD as a Special Education Program Support Teacher at the elementary level for the past five years. She was previously a special education teacher in the Kimberly Area School District teaching at the elementary and middle school levels. 

Amy has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and was a National Board Certified Teacher in Exceptional Education. Amy’s experience is with mentoring/coaching teachers, providing professional development, implementing interventions, and diagnostic work in the evaluation process. Amy is passionate about closing the gap for students with disabilities. 

Melissa Toshner  email
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 2119
EC-6 Teaching & Learning Team: Badger, Berry, Dunlap, Foster, Horizons, Jefferson, Johnston, McKinley, Richmond, and compliance coordination

Melissa joined the Special Education Leadership team in 2011 as a Diagnostician. Prior to coming to work in the AASD, Melissa worked in Green Bay Public Schools first as a special education teacher and then as a special education program support teacher.  

Melissa has attended and earned degrees from Silver Lake College, University of Green Bay and Walden University. Melissa views her role as a leader with a goal to work alongside families with dignity and respect to provide students with the support they need to be successful learners.

Michelle Wranosky  email
(920) 997-1399, ext. 2906
EC-6 Teaching & Learning Team and Diagnostic Center, APM, Classical, Valley New School, Wisconsin Connections Academy, and transportation coordination

Michelle Wranosky has been an administrator in the district for eleven years. Prior to being a special education administrator Michelle was a special education teacher in the AASD for four years, and prior to that a special education teacher in the School District of Shiocton for seven years. 

Michelle specialized in the area of Early Childhood Special Education while in Shiocton and Appleton. Michelle has a Master’s degree in administration and a Bachelor’s degree in special education in the areas of Early Childhood and Specific Learning Disabilities. 

Program Support Teachers

Sara Hechel email
(920) 997-1399, ext. 2111
Support and consultation: Edison, Highlands, Houdini and parochial schools

Sara Hechel has been an AASD educator for the past twenty years. During that time, she has worked at Houdini, Franklin, McKinley and Huntley Elementary schools with students with learning disabilities, as well as emotional and behavioral disabilities in both resource and severe/self-contained programs. Sara also has experience serving students with autism and intellectual disabilities.  

As a school leader Sara served as a PBIS Internal Site Coordinator. She also was a member of her site’s Student Services Team, Behavior Intervention Team, as well as Building Leadership Team. Sara is committed to ensuring students can be successful at school to the best of their ability.  

Samantha Vaughn email
(920) 997-1399, ext. 2113
Support and consultation: Einstein, Kaleidoscope Academy, North, Xavier Middle School

Sam is beginning her sixth year in the District and her first year as a Program Support Teacher. She previously worked in the District as a Special Education Teacher at the elementary level. Sam earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education from UW-Oshkosh and is working on her Master’s Degree at UW-Whitewater in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis.

Sam is passionate about cultivating relationships with families, as well as identifying the function of behaviors so that students can have positive experiences at school.

Gretchyn Karch email
(920) 997-1399, ext. 2929
Support and consultation in the area of Early Childhood (EC) district-wide

Gretchyn Karch has been an AASD educator in the district since 2013. She began her role as a Program Support Teacher, with an emphasis in Early Childhood, in 2016. Prior to this, she was an Early Childhood Special Education Itinerant Teacher with the district. Before working for the AASD, Gretchyn worked as a 4K/Preschool Teacher for the Appleton YMCA and Holy Spirit School.
Gretchyn has a Bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology, Child Development and Special Education. Her experience is in the area of mentoring/coaching new teachers, assisting with the evaluation process and classroom placement of special education students in the Early Childhood program. Gretchyn’s passion can be seen in her day-to-day interactions with the students she works with. She values the collaboration with her colleagues and takes pride in working to make a difference in the lives of our students every day. 

Christine Watkinson  email
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 2252
Support and consultation: Badger, Dunlap, Jefferson, Johnston, Richmond

Christi has been a special educator for the past eighteen years. She and her family relocated to the Fox Valley in 2014, where she joined the AASD team as a special education teacher at the middle school level.

Christi received her Undergraduate Degree with a Bachelor's of Science from Ball State University in Elementary and Special Education and a Master’s Degree of Arts in Special Education and Autism Spectrum Disorders from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis/St. Paul. She looks forward to helping facilitate growth within school teams, in order to provide an equitable education for all learners.

Gail Heitl email
(920) 997-1399 ext. 2115
Support and consultation: Wilson, West, and Xavier high school

Gail Heitl has been an AASD special education teacher for the past nineteen years. During that time, she worked at Appleton West High School as a Learning Disability Teacher and also gained experience as a secondary Special Education Literacy Coach. As part of her experiences at West, Gail served as a member of the Student Services Team, Building Leadership Team, PBIS Internal Site Coordinator, along with experiences focused in Standards Based Practices, Spec. Ed. Assessment, RTI and focus on transition.

Gail has joined the AASD Special Ed. Leadership Team as a Program Support Teacher focusing on secondary education. Prior to her work in the AASD, Gail worked in the Howard Suamico School District as a special education middle school teacher as well as experiencing her first years of teaching in the Merrill Area Public Schools at Merrill High School.  
Gail received her Bachelor’s degree from University of WI, Stevens Point in Exceptional Education with a focus on Learning Disabilities as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. Gail completed her Master of Science in Education in School Counseling from the University of Oshkosh, WI. 
Gail continues to demonstrate her commitment to inclusion in education through her day to day interactions supporting students, staff, and families.  She continues to focus on building relationships with students, school teams, and individual staff that will create resiliency, bridge communication, and foster change to help each and every student reach their full potential and to be successful.  

Valerie Plath email

(920) 997-1399, ext. 2114
Support and consultation: Madison, East, alternative programs, and Fox Valley Lutheran middle and high school

Valerie Plath holds a BSEd in Special Education and has been a learning disabilities teacher in AASD for eighteen years. She has additional training in team teaching, transition planning, student assistance programming, and implementing interventions. Having worked primarily at the secondary level, she has a particular interest in transition planning and helping students prepare for their futures. 

Additionally, she has successfully co-taught in the regular education setting in various curricular areas and draws on that experience when working with all learners. Valerie knows that a quality education can open doors and deliver opportunities to students. She feels it is her job to ensure that students receive an excellent education and that they, and their families, know about all of the opportunities available to them.

Christine Winkler email
(920) 997-1399, ext. 2155
Support and consultation: Badger (shared), Foster, Horizons, Jefferson (shared), Lincoln, McKinley

Christine is going into her seventh year in the field of special education. Christine previously taught as an elementary special education teacher in the Eau Claire Area School District for four years. Christine then moved to Appleton and taught as a Special Education Teacher at the elementary level for the past two years. Christine will be starting her role as Special Education Program Support Teacher this school year.

Christine earned her Bachelor's degree in Comprehensive Special Education K-12 from UWEC. Christine looks forward to continuing her growth as an educator and a leader. She is passionate about supporting teachers and families to positively impact the lives of students.
Shawna Waters email

(920) 997-1399, ext. 2251
Support and consultation: Columbus, Ferber, Franklin, Huntley 

Shawna Waters has been an AASD educator for the past ten years at McKinley Elementary working both with special education students and regular education students. She was a lead teacher in the program for students with severe emotional disabilities for four years. She has worked as an interventionist in reading and mathematics for four years as well. Shawna loves watching students learn and make gains both academically and socially. 

As a school leader, Shawna has led her school's Continuous School Improvement Team as well as served as a mentor to new teachers in special education. Shawna has attended many conferences regarding separating differences in language acquisition and disability for our ELL students. She has been a pioneer in the PBIS movement for the past eight years and she is able to utilize her expertise to guide others so that all students are successful in AASD. 

Special Education Program Leaders

Terry Cane-Peterson email
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 2117
Speech and Language Therapy

Terry Cane Petersen has been a Speech and Language Pathologist with the AASD for over twenty years. Terry leads the District's Speech and Language department and is also a Speech Language Pathologist in the District. Terry received her undergraduate degree in Communications Disorders from UW-Eau Claire and her Master’s Degree in Communication Disorders from UW-Stevens Point. Recently she received her second Masters of Art Degree in Educational Leadership from Marian University. 

Terry trained with nationally recognized Michelle Garcia-Winner in the area of Social Thinking and is considered a provider. Terry has applied this Social Thinking framework within our District in a social thinking class at West High school and District trainings. She also has completed her training with the Autism Effectiveness Academy through CESA 6. Terry has been instrumental in bringing a variety of nationally and internationally recognized speakers in the area of Autism to the AASD, most recently Sarah Ward, Jed Baker, Martin Kutscher, Rebecca Moyes, Brenda Smith-Myles, and Stephanie Madrigal. Terry serves on several Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction leadership committees focusing on speech and language topics.

Stacy Wickershiem  email

(920) 997-1399 Ext. 2151
Physical therapy, occupational therapy, specially designed physical education

Stacy earned her Bachelor's of Science in Psychology and Masters of Science in Physical Therapy from Marquette University. Stacy also has a Masters of Arts and Education in Educational Leadership from Marian University. She put her education into practice by working as a physical therapist (PT) for the district for the past seventeen years. As a PT she continuously models the vision that all students, regardless of their ability, can achieve success. Stacy has also been the Program Leader of the Therapy and Specially Designed Physical Education Department (TSPE) for the past eight years.  

As Program Leader, Stacy has fostered a culture of trust and respect amongst the TSPE team members which has enabled them to work together to initiate programs that allow students with physical challenges to have the same opportunities as their peers. She is a constant advocate for the department so that they have the resources necessary to provide the best services for each and every student and make a positive impact on the lives of all children. 

JoAnn Boisen email
(920) 997-1399, ext. 2915
Early childhood
JoAnn has been in the district for ten years with a focus in the area of early childhood special education, both as a teacher and a diagnostician.

JoAnn will work in a dual role this year, leading the early childhood special education group as well as continuing to do diagnostic work. JoAnn has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater in Early Childhood Special Education.

JoAnn's interests include reading historic novels, gardening, and quilting. She is passionate about the importance of family and helping others to understand the link between learning and the behavior of young children.

Cindy Czarnik-Neimeyer M.S., P.S. email
Catalpa Health/Appleton Schools ATODA & Mental Health Liaison, Prevention Specialist 
(920) 750-7025

Cindy is contracted through Catalpa Health and works with AASD as an ATODA & Mental Health Liaison, Prevention Specialist, Crisis Response Team Co-chair, and Therapist. She completed her Masters of Science in Educational Psychology at UW-Milwaukee and has had the honor of working with the Appleton Area School District since 1988. 

Bob Woodford  email

Transition Coordinator
(920) 749-5840
Transition to post-secondary, ages 14-21 (contracted through Valley Packaging Industries)

Bob has served as the district’s Transition Coordinator for eighteen years. Prior experience working with individuals with disabilities includes five years providing direct support in group homes and apartment residential settings in Madison and Appleton, and five years as a Vocational Case Manager/Evaluator. Bob holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Business Management. 

In 2014 Bob received the Michael J. Falconer Distinguished Service Award from The Governor’s Committee for People with Disabilities. The award recognizes individuals who demonstrate extensive involvement in advocacy activities, and have had an impact on improved service or access to the community for persons with disabilities.

Cultural Support Specialist and Interpreter

Ger Vang  email
Cultural Adviser
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 6103

Assistive Technology Team

Krista Holland  email
Occupational Therapist
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 6253

Jennifer Vandeneng  email
Speech & Language Therapist
(920) 997-1399 Ext. 6253

Student Services and Special Education Department Office Personnel

Kelly McCoy  email
Office Manager
Special Education Office
(920) 832-6129

Laura Smith  email

(920) 997-1399 Ext. 6253
Physical therapy, occupational therapy, specially designed physical education and assistive technology.

Sharon VanDomelan  email

(920) 997-1399 Ext. 2154
Early childhood itinerant services

Alisson Danen  email

(920) 997-1399 Ext. 6214
Early childhood special education diagnostic services