Judy Shapiro is excited to start her second year of teaching at Ben Franklin Academy. She has been teaching special needs students for 23 years, starting in Michigan, spending 2.5 years in the Boston area, and moving to Colorado 2 years ago. She has taught mostly in public schools but has taught in a Charter School and at Religious Schools.
Judy went to college at Michigan State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary and Special Education with a minor in music. She went onto earn her Masters of Sped Degree at Grand Valley State University in the area of Learning Disabilities, where she graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
Judy loves being in Colorado with her daughters, mom, sons in law, grandson and 2 granddaughters, and a dog that was rescued from the shelter. Spending time together and making memories is her favorite pastime. She also loves working with students of all ages and disciplines with the goal of growing in confidence, knowledge, and life skills to be the best we can all be!!
Significant Needs SupportEmail
Esther’s teaching experience began when she was in high school, teaching neighborhood Bible clubs in the inner city of Washington, D.C. After graduating from Baptist Bible College of PA, she lived briefly in the Denver area, and then spent the next 22 years in Leavenworth, KS, where her husband pastored a small church. Her teaching continued in many aspects in her church, and also as she homeschooled 4 children until they went off to college. She then was a substitute teacher in the local school district, spending most of her time as a long-term sub in a school for children with severe emotional and behavior issues. When her family moved back to Denver in 2005, she began working as a Significant Support Needs educational assistant in Highlands Ranch, supporting students with many needs, including Down syndrome and autism. She loves helping students with great challenges.
Esther and her husband of 38 years, Kevin, are enjoying grandchildren, two energetic Jack Russell Terriers, biking, hiking, and the new experience of car camping (which mostly has been a disaster).
Speech Language PathologistEmail
Sarah Russell is an accomplished Speech Language Pathologist who graduated with her Masters degree from the University of Colorado and Undergraduate degree from Miami University. She has always wanted to work with children and help them improve their communication skills. Sarah’s experience covers many settings including schools, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and Purdue University as an associate professor. After taking a few years off from her career to spend time with her three amazing young children and wonderful husband. Sarah is excited to be part of the BFA team!! As a fun fact, Sarah attended school in Michigan as a child, and for 8 years wore the same plaid as the students at BFA! What a coincidence!!
Liz Dennison, occupational therapist, is excited to be part of the team at Ben Franklin Academy. She received her Masters degree from Colorado State University and her Undergraduate degree from Colorado Mesa University. A passion for working with children and healthy living led Liz to occupational therapy,a field that is dedicated to helping individuals across the lifespan do what they need and want to do everyday and which upholds the motto ‘live life to its fullest.’
Liz’s experience ranges from working in various clinical settings including hospitals, outpatient hand therapy, Early Intervention and multiple pediatric facilities including working with children with Autism. Discovering that nutrition and lifestyle changes across all settings supported greater progress towards client goals, Liz obtained a certification in health coaching and in her spare time she enjoys teaching clients how to accomplish their health goals through making simple and effective nutrition & lifestyle upgrades. In addition to developing new recipes, Liz enjoys the outdoors and spending time with her family.
Tina Baird is happy to return to Ben Franklin Academy for a second year as a Speech Therapy Assistant. She graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana with a degree in Communicative Disorders. She received a post-baccaloreate degree in Early Childhood/Exceptional Education Needs from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tina has worked with children in a variety of school and residential treatment settings; a favorite being at a summer camp for children with special needs located on Lake Superior in Big Bay, Michigan.
Tier III ParaprofessionalEmail
Jackie has worked as an ISS para for several years in Douglas county. She received her college degree from University of Northern Colorado. She has worked with various special needs populations over the past 30 years. Jackie lives in Highland Ranch with her husband and her dog Layla. She has two adult children, a son and a daughter. Jackie calls herself an energizer bunny; she enjoys yoga, weight lifting, and speed walking. She has a unique passion for serving individuals with disabilities.Faculty Favorites