Meet Our Team!
Meet Our Supervisor
Melanie Giddings, MA Melanie is the supervisor of the BRIDGE Team, as well as principal of the Community-based Transition Center (CTC). She earned a Bachelors degree in secondary special education from Western Michigan University, an Autism Endorsement from Oakland University, and a Master's in Special Education Administration from Grand Valley State University. Melanie has worked in the educational field for 25 years, first as a teacher of students with autism at both the elementary and secondary levels. She spent 12+ years as a teacher consultant for students with autism both in Kalamazoo and Van Buren Counties. Melanie also served as the CTC Consultant and VBISD Transition Coordinator for 5 years. Melanie became the CTC Principal fall of 2019 and the BRIDGE Supervisor fall 2020. Melanie is committed to assisting students, teachers, and families in identifying and developing the strengths and interests of students and helping them develop into independent and self-sufficient adults!
Meet Our Consultants
Heather Burleson, MA Heather is an Instructional Consultant for the BRIDGE Team at VBISD. Her undergraduate studies were spent at Michigan State University -- GO SPARTANS!! Her graduate studies were spent at the University of Phoenix, Western Michigan University, and Grand Valley State University, with an emphasis on Cross Categorical Special Education K-26 and Special Education Administration. Prior to being a consultant, she was a Special Education Teacher for 8 years having taught in both Self-Contained and Resource Level classrooms for grades K-12. Her expertise is around being a coach, teacher/student supporter, ULS/Instruction and Curriculum Specialist, supporting teachers with curriculum and instructional strategies, strategies on how to support and teach the low incidences population, and is there to help bridge the gap for teachers and students. Her passion is being able to provide resources to make a teacher’s job easier, not harder!
Brittany Busch, MEd Brittany has been in the field of education for the last 9 years, working with children in early childhood and special education. As an increase of students entered her classroom due to challenging behavior and expulsions, she began engaging in both professional and personal learning around trauma, psychology, challenging behavior, social and emotional wellbeing, and universal support necessary for all children. Her deep passion lies in implementing practical ideas and strategies within our classrooms that engage both children and adults in their own journey of integration and wholeness.
Gayle Evans, MA, CCC-SLP Gayle is the Assistive Technology consultant at Van Buren ISD and Allegan AESA. She received her bachelor’s degree in Speech, Language Pathology and Audiology from Western Michigan University, her master’s degree in speech language pathology from Western Michigan University, and an Educational Technology Certificate from Michigan State University. Gayle has 26 years of experience working in schools including 15 years supporting students in a Center Based Special education building for Speech and Language focusing on AAC and supporting students in local districts with Assistive Technology needs. She collaborated with Content Consultants (ELA, Math, Science) for over 10 years to integrate technology into the classroom, ensuring all students have the technology they need to be more successful in their classes. Gayle has been an adjunct professor at WMU, teaching an Intro to Speech and Language Pathology course and is currently teaching the online Assistive Technology course for Grand Valley State University.
Jennifer Korinek, LMSW, SSW Jennifer (Jen) received her bachelors degree in behavioral psychology in 2005 and her masters degree in social work in 2010, both from Western Michigan University. In 2011, she completed the necessary requirements to become a trainer for the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) project, gaining approval to present all START modules and content. Jen currently chairs the VBISD Behavior Committee, which focuses on providing training and technical assistance in the completion of Functional Behavior Assessments and Positive Behavior Support Plans, as well as developing resources and supports for other best practices in student behavior. She is a highly experienced trainer in the areas of autism, behavior, data collection, and crisis intervention and enjoys helping local district teams develop creative, individualized materials to promote student success.
Karla Vandenberg, LMSW, SSW Karla earned her MSW from Western Michigan University and has been a practicing School Social Worker since 2001. Karla has previous experience working in the areas of child welfare, juvenile court and mental health services. As a seasoned school social worker, she has created and coordinates a county-wide crisis debriefing team (CISM). She has served as an Adjunct Faculty at WMU for the last 7 years, teaching courses in special education law, special education assessment, and evidence-based interventions. Karla specializes in adolescent mental health issues and youth transition planning. She is a trainer for the Michigan Department of Education in the Michigan Model for Health Curriculum and Eliminating Mental Health Barriers in the Classroom.
Matt Wilger, MA, CCC-SLP Matt is a consultant at Van Buren ISD. He received his bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from Wayne State University and his master’s degree in speech language pathology from Eastern Michigan University. Matt has 7 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist working with students from pre-k to age 26. He also has 3 years of experience as a VBISD program consultant. He brings expertise in the areas of behavior intervention, Crisis Prevention and Intervention, Communication, augmented and alternative communication, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Matt was a 2019 recipient of the Excellence in Education award.
Meet Our Interventionists
Laura Crandall Laura is a Behavioral Interventionist for VBISD. She has had several years of experience working as a Program Assistant in both early elementary and early childhood special education, as well as working in the local districts supporting transitions. Within those classrooms, Laura has helped with behavioral and classroom strategies. She has attended several trainings over the years, including positive behavior supports, CPI, PECS, core board, and TEACCH. All of these learning opportunities have helped her to work with children with limited language and develop proficiency in using visual strategies and behavioral supports. Laura has also received training in trauma-informed practices, which has allowed her to best support students within their classrooms who have been impacted by trauma.
Sara Ledesma Sara is a behavioral interventionist for VBISD who supports local school districts in the area of behavior with a concentration in preschool to second grade level. Sara guides school districts to understand and implement special plans for their students with high needs in behavior and/or academic areas. Having worked in the local districts for 20 years and 28 years in Migrant Education as a Family Liaison, Sara has supported the ISD as a Spanish translator and interpreter for IEPs, parent–teacher conferences, and parent meetings. Her years of experience in education has given her a first-hand understanding of how to support special education students, as well as with the migrant child. Growing up in the amazing city of San Antonio and moving as a migrant child to the small village of Lawrence has given her insight with learning how to cope with change. As a San Antonio native, Sara is a big Spurs and Dallas Cowboys fan.
Vinee Lloyd Vinee is a behavioral interventionist for VBISD. She has experience working at the Behavior Education Center and as an ancillary behavior interventionist staff at a local school district. She assists in behavior planning, strategies and responses, as well as training and coaching of support staff. She has also received training in the area of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Amber Stacy Amber is a behavioral interventionist for VBISD. Amber has had several years of experience working as a classroom aide in both early elementary and early childhood special education, as well as working in the local districts supporting transitions. Within those classrooms she helped with behavioral strategies and classroom strategies. She has had several trainings over the years such as SMART/START trainings, CPI, PECS, and TEACCH. All of these trainings have helped her be able to work with children with limited language, using visual strategies and behavioral supports.
Graig Stacy Graig is a behavioral interventionist for VBISD and has 20 years experience working with students with behavioral challenges. He has worked in the local districts supporting transitions and behavioral planning for students. He also has been a Master Level Crisis Prevention Intervention Trainer for more than 10 years.
Melissa Thompson Melissa is a Behavioral Interventionist for the VBISD. She began her educational career as a Middle School Secretary, frequently connecting with and supporting students who were sent to the Principal’s Office for challenging behavior. Driven by a desire to support students more directly, she pursued a position as a Program Assistant at the VBISD Behavioral Education Center. During her four years in this position, she gained lots of knowledge and experience in teaching and supporting students with Emotional Impairments and Autism Spectrum Disorders, both behaviorally and academically.
The Van Buren Intermediate School District is pleased to partner with Dr. Jessica Van Stratton's Learning About Behavior (LAB) Lab within in the Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University. Members of Dr. Van Stratton's LAB Lab lend their time and talents to the BRIDGE Consultant Team and other VBISD Programs. Their work supports individual student intervention, program analysis, and professional development. Learn more about Dr. Van Stratton's LAB Lab.