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

Beth Baker, MEd Beth began her tenure as a Behavior and Instructional Consultant in 2016.

A native to the greater Grand Rapids area, Beth has nearly two decades of experience in education. She is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and holds a B.S. in Psychology and teaching endorsements in Elementary Education, Emotional Impairments, and Cognitive Impairments. In 2011, she received a M.S. from Walden University, specializing in reading and mathematics intervention and instruction. In 2019, Beth obtained her administrative credentials.

Beth's educational passions are inclusion for all and reducing suspension rates in our public schools by providing instruction of missing skills, teaching accountability, and utilizing restorative methods.

Dana Brower, MEd With over 27 years of experience in education, Dana has been a Special Education Teacher, Teacher Consultant for Students with ASD, Special Education Supervisor and an Assistant Building Principal. Dana holds a BA in Elementary Education and Special Education (K-12) from Northwestern College, IA. She also is a Grand Valley Graduate with a degree in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a Masters in Special Education Administration. Dana is also a a trainer for the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) project and is able to present all START modules and content. Dana enjoys working with teachers and teams to help develop systems and individual plans to help students find success in the school environment.

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.

Brittany holds a Bachelor's degree in elementary education, special education Pre-K through 12th grade, and early childhood special education from Northwestern College, IA. She also holds a Master's degree in early childhood education from Northwestern College, IA.

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 and her masters degree in social work, both from Western Michigan University. She is a fully approved trainer for the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) Project and is actively involved in START's Peer to Peer Community of Practice and Online Data System Work Group. 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, crisis intervention, and team development. She enjoys developing technical assistance tools and creative, individualized materials to promote student success.

N. Taylor Mueller, M.A., BCBA, LBA Taylor is a Kalamazoo/Van Buren local who earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Behavior Analysis from Western Michigan University under the advisement of Dr. Jessica Van Stratton. She has had the pleasure of providing services to a wide population of individuals with varying ages, abilities, and diagnoses. Taylor has a passion for working in the schools and providing helping hands to the staff and students in which she serves. She is dedicated and committed to providing outstanding services to make a meaningful impact.

Karen Ryder, BS, MA Karen earned her Bachelor's degree in education and her Master's degree in socio-cultural studies from Western Michigan University. She holds a preschool endorsement, as well as endorsements in elementary education, secondary English, and special education, K-12.

Karen was a classroom teacher for 27 years, teaching in both general and special education. During that time, she taught multiple grades preschool through tenth grade. Helping students with emotional and academic struggles is her passion. She enjoys teaching others on the topic of trauma and building strong relationships with students. Karen loves helping others to feel good about the students in their classes and the strengths they possess as teachers.

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

Albert (Bert) Compton In addition to bring a part of the BRIDGE Consultant Team, Bert is also a CPI Certified Trainer for the VBISD. Bert graduated from Allegan High School. After graduation, Bert enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He also attended Montcalm Community College.

Bert has worked in the field of education for 25 years and was a high school varsity track & field coach for 24 years. Bert loves mentoring and teaching students of all ages. Bert worked several years as a Teacher Assistant and Paraprofessional in general education, special education, ASD programs, and with young adults. Bert spent 10 years as a High School Coordinator/Supervisor of In-School-Suspension, before entering the field of student transition and behavior intervention.

Vikki Cook Vikki is a Behavior Interventionist on our BRIDGE Team. She has 15 years of experience as a paraprofessional. She has worked with a variety of students ages 6-22. She has worked with students with autism, cognitive impairments, emotional impairments, severe multiple impairments, and learning disabilities. Most recently, Vikki worked as a Program Assistant in a middle school classroom at Maple Creek Education Center. Vikki has always had a desire to help struggling students be successful in school and with life skills.

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.

Lacey Farrell Lacey has several years experience working with students and classrooms in a school setting with behavioral concerns. She has helped transition and integrate students into programs within the ISD and transition back to their local district. Lacey loves working with staff and students to support and promote a nurturing and enriching learning environment.

Lacey has experience and training in therapeutic crisis intervention. She aims to continue to bring awareness, coaching & support to the classrooms and students, and the staff that best support them.

Nicole Johnson Nicole started her career in education in 2017 as a Paraprofessional at Gobles Elementary School. At Gobles, she worked with students who had a wide variety of behavioral needs and became drawn to students who needed additional support. After this, Nicole worked as a Program Assistant at the Maple Creek Education Center within the middle school and high school classrooms. She has experience supporting students in transitioning from Maple Creek to a General Education setting.

Nicole has always felt the need to help children be successful no matter what obstacles may lie in their way; she believes that every child deserves the very best chance to be successful no matter their circumstances.

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.

Melissa is extremely passionate about what she does and firmly believes that behaviors are communication. She takes a personal interest in helping to identify and address root issues, develop and implement the best management plan, and ultimately - help students succeed.

Melissa is a seeker of knowledge who enjoys researching and participating in training opportunities to further educate herself and develop her skills. She has special interest in Bipolar Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders and is trained in crisis intervention. As a member of the BRIDGE Team, Melissa is excited to share her passion county-wide!

WMU Partnership

LAB Logo

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.