Services Provided by PANDA
Disability Consultative Services
Staff provide information, resources, teaching strategies and much more to ABE teachers statewide. Contact PANDA when you suspect a student may have a disability, when a student has disclosed a disability, are concerned about a students learning challenges, such as memory issues, mental health, learning disability or attention difficulties, or if you need special equipment for a student. Note: We do not provide instructional services or one on one tutoring to students.
Assistive Technology/ Loan Program
Magnifiers, speaking calculators, personal amplifiers, adaptive keyboards and mice, multi-sensory items, printed materials, videos, and much more are available for loan to teachers for student use.
Minnesota ABE Disabilities Website
In 2007 the Minnesota Department of Education and PANDA teamed to create the Minnesota ABE Disabilities website. Disability categories are listed on the right. Each category includes an overview, instructional strategies for teachers and community resources for students. Important forms can be found in the website header.
Do you have a student who has not made a level gain, is easily distracted, forgetful or acts out in class? The purpose of the intervention is to assist US born and ELL students with learning challenges to:
- Determine the root of learning difficulties
- Improve student academic progress in the classroom
- Provide instructional strategies, resources and assistive technology
- Empower students to understand their learning strengths and challenges
Click here for detailed information and forms for the intake process.
Professional Development Workshops
PANDA staff present professional development workshops on disability topics at statewide events. Find course offerings here.
State-wide volunteer members include teachers, program managers, program directors, and the education policy and program specialist with the Minnesota Department of Education. Via webinar, members bring disability related concerns to PANDA and in turn educate their peers about PANDA services.
Staff are located in the Robbinsdale Area Schools Adult Academic Program, located at:
Crystal Learning Center
Robbinsdale Area Schools
305 Willow Bend
Crystal, MN 55428
Main: (763) 504-4095
Fax: (763) 504-4096
MA, Licensed Psychologist
Wendy Sweeney became the PANDA manager in July 2015. Wendy has worked in the ABE field since 2007 and joined PANDA in 2009. Her expertise is mental health, learning disabilities and ADHD. She oversees PANDA’s Learner Intervention and provides workshops on mental health, learning disabilities, and ADHD. She also works in a private practice at Innovative Psychological Consultants providing counseling services and formal testing for LD/ADHD. Contact Wendy with any disability related questions or concerns.
Laureen (Lori) Yurick
Lori Yurick joined PANDA in 2006. Since 1996, she has held various positions in the Robbinsdale Area Schools K-12 system. She is responsible for the editing of this website, budget management, researching and purchasing assistive technology and office administration.
Colleen joined PANDA as a consultant in September 2015. Colleen teaches EL Transitions Literacy at the Robbinsdale Area Schools Adult Academic Program (AAP). She has been with the program since 2008. She is a graduate of St. Olaf College and Hamline University, where she completed an MAEd in 2007. Colleen has completed STAR, MNI, and UDL training, and has a strong interest in the use of multi-sensory/multi-modal strategies and technology tools to meet the needs of adult students. In August 2017, Colleen was awarded the ABE Advocacy Award at Minnesota Adult Basic Education Summer Institute conference. In January 2018, Colleen was nominated for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award and the Robbinsdale Area Schools Teacher of the Year Award.
Miriam joined PANDA in March 2021. She has been with the Robbinsdale Area Schools AAP since 2006. Miriam graduated from Hamline University with a B.A. in English. She attended the University of Minnesota in 1991 and received an Early Childhood teaching license. Miriam started at the AAP as an Education Assistant, working in all levels of ESL. She returned to the University of Minnesota to obtain her ABE teaching license. She has been a Level 1 ESL teacher since 2009. Miriam has participated in many professional development initiatives including: two study circles for Low-Level Literacy; ACES; CCRS; UDL; and a Pronunciation study circle. She has volunteered for the Center for Victims of Torture since 2015 as an ESL tutor and community guide.
Erin joined PANDA in March 2021. She has been an ABE teacher with the Robbinsdale Area Schools AAP since 2003. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BS in Education and Psychology in 1997 and
St. Cloud State University Special Education Licensure Program in 1999 where she earned a teaching license in learning disabilities. Erin has participated in many professional development initiatives including: Project STAR; Minnesota Numeracy Initiative; ACES, Project IDEAL and Technology Integration Cohort. She is interested in differentiated instruction strategies and the use of technology tools to meet the needs of adult learners.
“Minneapolis Adult Education would like to express many thanks to PANDA for supporting our students and teachers by providing adaptive equipment, accessible testing materials, technology, and advisement. During the last few years, 10 students with blindness and vision loss have earned General Education Diploma and 5 of them pursued higher education. Currently, 20 students in English Language classes are able to access learning material because of PANDA’s support. Minneapolis Adult Education sincerely appreciates this partnership!”
Romana Pulkrabek, Student Support Coordinator, Minneapolis Adult Education
“The resources and staff with PANDA have been a huge resource for us at Rochester ABE. No matter the student’s needs, we can rest assured that the staff with PANDA will walk us through all the available resources and steps to make the best learning scenario for all.”
Monica Benavidez, Adult Literacy Coordinator, Rochester Adult Basic Education
“I teach a class of adults with disabilities, and the expertise and professionalism of the PANDA staff has been an enormous help to me. They have consulted with me on the learning challenges of individual students, offered guidance on the proper placement of students during the intake process, and offered materials through their lending library. PANDA’s compassionate, goal-oriented, student-centered advice has increased my own understanding of how to best serve my students. Thank you, PANDA!”
Sheila Brandes, Teacher, Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS),
Robbinsdale Adult Academic Program
“PANDA-Minnesota ABE Disability Specialists has been a supportive partner to our program for many years. Whether it’s welcoming us to their facility to meet with staff, visiting our facility to better understand our challenges, or responsive communications whenever we reach out for assistance; we’ve always felt that we have an expert in our corner to help us meet the needs of our learner community. PANDA’s expertise in assessing a situation, and providing a range of solutions, has enabled us to offer programming to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, as well as enhancing the learning environment for all of our students. We are a better program because of our relationship with Panda!”
Lloyd Brown, Learning Center Coordinator, Literacy Minnesota, North Minneapolis
“When I was struggling to teach and support a student with significant mental health issues in my ABE classroom, I reached out to PANDA for guidance. Wendy was amazing! She listened, provided support and resources, and helped me make a plan to help my student while also protecting the classroom environment for staff and other students. The resources on the PANDA website were also very useful. Highly recommend!”
Shari Brunes, Hutchinson Adult Education Site Manager