STM PALS: Parent Advocates for Learning Success

Our Mission:


Our purpose is to support our children and walk hand-in-hand with administration, teachers, and staff to make STM the best possible learning environment for students diagnosed with learning differences, while bringing the whole child to Jesus Christ. We desire that all students be encouraged to have a positive attitude about who they are and help them develop and maintain a competent sense of themselves as learners and as Catholics.


Our Cornerstone – The Three C’s:




More About STM PALS

STM Catholic delivers a robust, uniform learning curriculum and partners with parents to support student learning differences through:

On-staff Specialists to help students achieve STM’s academic curriculum

  • Counselor – Tracie Poniatowski
  • Elementary Learning Specialist – Julie Hefele
  • Middle School Learning Specialist – TBD


Working with parents to accommodate diagnosed student needs, such as:

  • Meeting with Learning Services and staff to plan accommodations for diagnosed students at the beginning of each school year, followed by periodic check-ins throughout the school year.
  • Support of grade to grade and elementary to middle school transitions.
  • Extended time on tests
  • Class notes, study guides, and word banks.
  • Option to replace specials with parent-arranged and parent-funded private tutoring sessions.
  • Promote at home repetition, reinforcement and support.


As a parent support group, we work with STM administration by:

Facilitating parent and staff focus group meetings to gather ideas and identify opportunities:

  • Provide a conduit for communication between administration and parents
  • Support each other throughout our children’s educational journey.


Seeking teacher engagement to foster practical and positive change within the school:

  • Mainstream best practices that help all students.
  • Ensure consistency with student accommodations.


Organizing education and research within the community, such as:

  • Teacher in-service training with licensed psychologist.
  • Parent presentation with specialists.
  • Site visits of fellow archdiocesan schools to learn and share ideas.
  • Student awareness of learning differences via Second Step.
  • Participation in archdiocesan focus groups to continue the advancement of Learning Services programs throughout the school system.


Providing support to the school:

  • Assisting the Elementary and Middle School Learning Services staff members.
  • Helping establish and support the Elementary Learning Resource Lab.
  • Working with the teaching staff to identify opportunities for providing parent support, then supplementing those services.
Common Terms Associated with Learning Differences

Accommodations – changes that help students manage or remove barriers to learning, without lowering expectations of what they need to know or learn; changes that impact how kids learn, not what they learn.

ADHD – difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity.

Auditory Processing Disorder – affects how sound travels through the ear and is processed or interpreted by the brain.

Dyscalculia – affects the ability to understand numbers and learn math facts.

Dysgraphia – affects handwriting and fine motor skills.

Dyslexia – affects reading and language; impacts basic processing skills.

Dyspraxia – difficulty with muscle control.

Executive Function – affects the ability to plan, organize, strategize, remember details, and manage time and space.

Language Processing Disorder – difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups that form words, sentences and stories; can affect expressive language and/or receptive language.

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities – discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills; causes difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expression or body language.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) – when sensory signals are either not detected or are not organized into appropriate responses.  Sensory processing (originally called “sensory integration dysfunction” or SID) refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them in appropriate motor and behavioral responses.

Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit – affects the understanding of information that is seen, or the ability to draw or copy.




Contact Us:

Tracie Poniatowski

Elementary Learning Specialist:
Julie Hefele

Middle School Learning Specialist:
Amanda Bockhop