PCHS junior appointed to inaugural USBE Student Advisory Council

Daniel Bernhardt

Daniel Bernhardt, a junior at Park City High School who has a visual  impairment, is one of 15 students appointed by the Utah State Board of Education’s inaugural Student Advisory Council.

“The students will advise the USBE on issues relevant to high school students throughout the state,” according to a press release from the USVE. “They were selected following an application period this fall after the USBE approved a new policy establishing the council.”

Students appointed to the council represent both traditional and charter  schools. They will be advising the board of student issues such as: mental health and bullying, racism and discrimination, access to STEM and technology, homelessness, LGBTQ challenges, students with disabilities, college readiness, and school funding.

The SAC will meet at least every other month to discuss how decisions made at the state level affect students.



Wilson Reading System Kicks Off in PCSD Following Intensive Educator Training


By Kara Brechwald | Teacher Leader Specialist

Teachers, special educators, and 13 interventionists, from all of Park City School District’s K-9 schools recently gathered at the University of Utah Reading Clinic for an intensive training in the newly released Wilson Reading System (WRS) 4th edition.

The WRS is an intensive reading program for students with phonological deficits who are not making sufficient progress with other teaching strategies and require multi-sensory language instruction and intensive structured literacy instruction due to a language-based reading disability.  

The first three days of the training were filled with information on the fundamentals of reading, the benefits of multi-sensory structured language instruction, and an overview of all ten steps of the Wilson Reading System.

Day four, the teachers observed a Wilson lesson in action and then collaborated in school teams for student practicums. By the end of the week, the teachers were are prepped with materials and lesson plans to kick off their Wilson Instruction.

This school year, the teachers will continue with training and coaching from certified Wilson trainers as they work toward their own Wilson Instruction Level 1 credentials.

In just three years, PCSD has gone from piloting “Fundations” at one elementary school to implementing instruction for all K-3 students, as well as using extra-Fundations instruction for Tier 2 intervention.

This year, interventionists and teachers, Grades 4-9, are training in “Just Words,” a Wilson curriculum. We will be implementing the program to help struggling readers at the upper elementary level through the junior high level.

All of these Wilson resources, in conjunction with the 13 WRS Level 1 teacher trainees, will create a districtwide continuum of instruction and intervention for all learners.


The Digital Promise

Daniel Bernhardt works with Vision Specialist Suzy Blackham at Park City High.

By Diane Bernhardt | Parent

A digital promise is what brought our family to the Park City School District: the promise inherent in digital technology to provide the equity that our son needed to thrive and reach his high potential.

Daniel is a bright student with a visual impairment that leaves him debilitated in the classroom: unable to see the white-board or read even the largest print. He faced an awkward, difficult high school experience in a traditional paper-based classroom: working with a full-time aide, cajoling instructors for early copies of paper handouts, hoping that beleaguered braille teachers would get materials adapted before class, and suffering the social stigma of being different. What Dan would have been honing were the skills needed to be a dependent; the skills of how to be the exception in the sighted world. But what did Daniel actually need? He needed to learn independence, self-advocacy, and how to realize his exceptional future.

The technology-based learning of the Park City School District is the great equalizer. In Park City, all 6th-12th-grade students use Mac computers. Dan uses the text-to-speech and video magnification features of the operating system to access the very materials provided to the general education students. In the math and science classrooms, Dan can see and follow white-board based lecture notes on his Mac. With additional software, Daniel can read and type complex algebra, graph detailed physics problems, and listen to books while digitally interlining with his notes. Dan participates in the general education classroom in every way and is held to the same standard as his peers.

Through a partnership between the Park City School District (PCSD) and the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind (USDB), Dan receives instruction on topics unique and essential to the success of visually impaired students: assistive technology tools, orientation and mobility skills, braille de-coding and, most importantly, self-advocacy skills. Dan’s Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Suzy Blackham who is employed by the USDB, is respected by the administration and staff of the PCSD as a valued member of the district’s instructional team. This four-year partnership between PCSD and USDB has created a synergy that has benefited blind and visually impaired students throughout Utah. In cooperation with the Utah State Board of Education, PCSD and USDB were instrumental in the creation of a course code for a Braille and Assistive Technology class. Blind/visually impaired students throughout Utah can now earn elective credits for their intense work learning Braille and assistive technology. Looking forward, a tentative program in which general education students in the PCSD’s middle school mechanics course could provide maintenance and repair of Perkins braillers throughout the state of Utah.

Innovative thinking leveraging technology has put Daniel in the position to thrive, accomplish and look to a bright future. Inventive approaches with affordable, common-place technology will certainly help other students challenged by their own unique circumstance.

ABC4 news story