Women Making a Difference

Women Making a Difference

Her mission is simple: to empower individuals with special needs to take charge of their own learning and lives, making it possible for them to be competent, caring and contributing members of society; and to provide learning opportunities through customized, innovative solutions.

At only 26 years of age, Dr. Lavelle’s belief that every student has the ability to “take charge” of their own learning process, led her to open the Almansor  Education Center with four students in a church in Alhambra, CA.  A few years later, the school grew into the Institute for the Redesign of Learning (IRL), which offers early education, special education, mental health, transition and adult, and community outreach services.

As IRL continued to increase their footprint in the community, charter schools began approaching Dr. Lavelle for support in fulfilling their special education needs. In 1997, she founded Total Education Solutions (TES), a certified nonpublic agency providing special education and therapeutic services to thousands of individuals throughout California, Michigan, and Ohio. Services are delivered in TES’ eight multidisciplinary clinics and their new school for children on the autism spectrum, as well as in schools, homes, the community, and online.

Dr. Lavelle is a creative powerhouse who thinks outside of the box and encourages others to do the same. While her vision, leadership, and drive have propelled TES and IRL to the companies they are today, she would be quick to say she didn’t do it by herself. Dr. Lavelle gives credit to the entire team who has helped carry her mission forward. By instilling the same  “taking charge” belief in her leadership team as she did with her students, Dr. Lavelle allows her team to think outside of the box and create meaningful programs for those they serve.

For those of you who do not know, Dr. Lavelle is known for saying yes! This has become part of the company culture – if you have an idea that you think will help solve a problem or serve more children and adults with special needs– 9 out of 10 times your ideas or solutions will be implemented. Employees at TES and IRL have learned to see the potential in each opportunity and say “yes” to things that may seem challenging.  As Dr. Lavelle has shown through the years, with hard work and perseverance, amazing things can happen. From the small beginning with a handful of special needs students, TES and IRL now serve almost 20,000 children and adults annually!

A big thank you to Dr. Lavelle for her continued leadership and guidance which allows her team to make a difference!

Meaghan Donahue discovered her passion for helping others while she herself was a school aged child. Through volunteer opportunities with Special Olympics and Circle of Friends, she quickly realized she had found her niche.

After graduating from the University of Southern California with a business focus, she changed careers to teach at a nonpublic agency for children with emotional disturbance. Meaghan credits this experience with changing her perception of what it meant to be a teacher as her students provided her with truly valuable life’s lessons.  Meaghan received her Master’s degree in Education and gained some experience in the public school setting before finding her way to Total Education Solutions (TES) 13 years ago.  She started overseeing the Behavior program and helped launch our first two clinics in Los Angeles.  As the Vice President, she oversees the daily operations of the organization and its offerings. She is motivated by the tremendous work each employee does with furthering the vision of empowering all abilities.

Meaghan believes in lifelong learning and is currently working on her dissertation for her doctorate in Organization Leadership at Pepperdine University.  She is committed to seeing the possibility in every opportunity and empowering those around her as well.  She enjoys coming to work each day and collaborating with a talented team to create solutions that will make an impact in the community.  She loves the saying “work hard, play hard” and she loves playing with her three young children.

Meaghan is grateful to work for an organization that creates positive change and allows for a work-life balance.

Staci Hazlett joined TES in 1997 as part of the management team when the Company was formed.  In the summer of 1998, she was promoted to Director of Human & Administrative Resources.  Prior to joining TES, Staci held a variety of roles, primarily in Human Resources, for the Institute for the Redesign of Learning, which she joined in 1990.  When she started with IRL, she was working full-time, going to school full-time, and raising her children.  Staci was promoted to HR Director when she was eight and a half months pregnant with her third child.  She is responsible for establishing a Human Resource department that not only manages the credentialing, licensing and certification requirements of over 700 employees, but also the regulatory and licensing applications required for providers of special education services in both California, Michigan and Ohio.

As the HR Director, Staci’s primary focus is on employee benefits.  Due to her efforts, TES and IRL offer excellent benefit packages which enable them to be highly competitive employers in the special education field.  She was the first person in her family to get a college education and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.  She looks forward to utilizing the information she learns into enhancing our employee engagement initiatives.

A big thank you to Mrs. Hazlett for her efforts in hiring and retaining high quality employees to carry out both organizations’ missions.  She is proof that with drive, determination, and the willpower to do a good job, amazing things can happen.

Born in Akron, Ohio and raised on a relatively modest hippie commune, led Tawnia to where she is today. Her father was a habilitation specialist in a workshop and her mother was a house manager in a residential group home.  Most of her childhood was spent at the workshop or hanging at the group home with the clients.

To her, special education seemed like a natural fit; Tawnia worked in a group home as a job coach, as a tutor, an aide in a workshop for adults with disabilities, and at a summer camp for children with disabilities.  Always seeking new experiences, she applied for a teaching job on the Navajo Indian reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico. She spent three years on the reservation teaching and supervising, and though the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Education she learned about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  After three years, she returned to Ohio to teach at an inner city Akron Middle School and became a special education coordinator for a charter school company.

Through that experience, she met Lynne Porter, the director of Total Education Solutions’ (TES) Michigan office.  Lynne approached her about starting a TES office in Ohio and arranged for her to meet Dr. Lavelle, Founder and CEO of TES. Tawnia was impressed by Dr. Lavelle and the company and knew that this is what her years of experience had set her up to do. TES Ohio began in November of 2007 as Tawnia learned about building and running a business, managing and hiring people, financial analysis, and budgeting.  By 2012, they launched their clinic and expanded their educational and therapeutic programs.  With the support of the headquarters in South Pasadena and some amazing and empowering people, they now have over 160 employees, a flourishing clinic, a growing school -TES Academy, a robust waiver and transition program, and a thriving behavior program.

Looking back, her journey began with a genuine passion for serving children with disabilities and ensuring their needs were met by great providers.  Tawnia has learned so much over the years, but the five things that stick out to her are:

  1. Don’t be afraid to take on challenging situations or experiences -you go through these situations to make you the best professional- you need those experiences to take you to the next level.
  2. You are only as good as the people you hire and she has been fortunate to hire amazing and talented people who believe in the mission.
  3. Empowering others to be the best they can be is your biggest accomplishment.
  4. Follow your instincts.
  5. Never lose sight of the passion and vision you started with. It may evolve and change with experiences, but never lose it.

Tawnia thanks her mom for showing her how to work hard, her dad for always believing in her and telling her she could be anything she wanted, Dr. Nancy Lavelle for empowering her and giving her wings to soar, Meaghan Donahue for always being the calm in the storm, and last but not least, all of the incredible staff and leaders within TES. 

Traci Bean began working with children back in elementary school when the Apple IIe was the computer of choice and the floppy disk was a whopping 5.25” square. She would tutor the younger students, her peers, and even her teachers on how to program and use the computer.  It was like learning a new language. Writing simple code and watching the graphics appear on the screen. As her schooling continued, she pursued the field of music education because Traci was also drawn to the idea of leading and inspiring students to pursue their passion for music. But, after taking a few courses in language development, child development and special education, she found her career path in Speech-Language Pathology.  It was through this field that she found her inspiration in helping children and their families. But somehow, there was always a sort of drawback to technology.

Fast forward to 2003 when Traci joined the Total Education Solutions team as an itinerant Speech and Language Pathologist.  She had worked in school districts and in skilled nursing working one on one with patients and students on their speech and language goals.  Total Education Solutions gave her the opportunity to grow both as a Speech-language Pathologist, but also as a leader working my way up the ranks to Coordinator, Clinic Director, and then Regional Director.  Traci felt as if she was in the right place at the right time and that her calling was to be a leader.  From this place of leadership, she could guide other professionals in their passion to teach.  Traci also found it comforting and inspiring to be among a number of strong women leaders all working to make the lives of our clients more fulfilling and enriched by the work that we and the providers that we lead do each and every day.

In the past half dozen or so years, Traci felt the draw back to her technological roots.  All around me the field of telehealth and telepractice was continuing to take shape opening doors for children and adults to receive special education and therapeutic services online.  The advent of high quality, secure and low cost video conferencing has further brought telepractice into the hands of people throughout the country and abroad.  Working in such an entrepreneurial setting lead her to pitch our company’s potential to grow our tele-presence and she has since been tasked with leading the charge to take our company and our clients into the future.  Traci cannot wait to see where this venture will take us!

From the Apple IIe to our modern day smartphones, tablets and computers, Traci continues to be driven by technology in the workplace.  We are grateful for her to be part of such an amazing team of women and men who put the lives of children with special needs before their own and who strive to make this world a better place.

During the 2001-2002 school year, Lynne Porter had decided it was time to make a career change.  She was working for a charter school management company and no longer felt the passion for the job that she once had.  Lynne was at that point in my life again where she wasn’t sure “what she wanted to be when she grew up.”

After assisting with opening up 4 charter schools, the one thing Lynne did know was that she loved working with start-up companies and companies that deal with children.  Lynne put word out to colleagues and business contacts (there was no LinkedIn back then) that she was looking for a new job.  That’s when a friend said; “Too bad you don’t have a degree in special education.  I just met the most amazing woman. You would love her.” “This was meant to be” Lynne thought.  Lynne happened to have a teaching certificate in special education.  And so TES Michigan’s story began with a meet up with Dr. Nancy Lavelle, Lynne’s friend and Lynne at a local Applebees.  Lynne promised Dr. Lavelle one year. That’s all she could commit to at that time.  Lynne would get TES Michigan started and running smooth.  Fast forward to 16 years later, both TES Michigan and Lynne are still here and going strong.

A big thank you to Ms. Porter for her efforts in establishing a new location for Total Education Solutions and her daily commitment to making it a success! 

After spending time as a legal assistant, changing her career path to work with children and adults with special needs was a decision that Lorette has never regretted.  She returned to school to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, with a Minor in Spanish.  While raising an infant daughter, she didn’t hesitate to pursue her Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from the University of the Pacific.  Although accepted to a local graduate program, she chose to commute out of town to attend a condensed program with the goal of receiving a graduate degree while continuing to expand her family.  Giving her commencement address while 8 months pregnant with a second child felt like she had achieved both goals!

Lorette began her new career as a school-based speech-language pathologist working in a school district with a large bilingual-Spanish population.  Eventually wanting to explore additional opportunities in her field she became an independent contractor with a focus on providing bilingual speech-language evaluations.  Having a desire to experience more collaboration with professionals in her field, she accepted a position as a Speech-Language Pathologist with TES and was appointed as a Lead Therapist, then promoted to Speech Team Coordinator.  Lorette found being in a leadership position was extremely rewarding.  Leading a team project, coordinating services for her team, and collaborating with her colleagues have been some of the highlights of working as a leader with TES. After enjoying a position as the Speech Team Coordinator for approximately 7 years, she was appointed as TES’ Clinic Director in the Northern California region.

Knowing there are opportunities for growth within TES, she can attest to the fact that being actively involved, taking the lead, and enjoying those efforts can lead to amazing opportunities!

Julie is the Regional Director for Southern California and has been with Total Educations for 12 years.  Born and raised in the small town of Northfield, Minnesota, Julie knew she wanted to be a teacher at an early age. She loved it so much that she would play school with her neighborhood friends after regular school hours.  In high school, Julie was a physics teacher’s aide and volunteered in the special education resource rooms. She chose teaching as a career path because she was determined to help struggling teenagers reach their potential through the power of knowledge and self-worth.

Julie brings her experience from public, residential, and non-public school settings.  After obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in English and Secondary Education, she taught Language Arts and Community-based instruction to severely emotionally disturbed teenagers while mentoring them in a residential treatment facility.  Julie received her Master’s degree from The University of Northern Colorado in Special Education where she brought her knowledge to California to teach emotionally disturbed and learning disabled teenagers in a non-public school setting.  Julie holds a second Master’s from California State University’s Educational Leadership program which has allowed her hold several leadership positions within the company. Currently, Julie is expanding her support to our Northern Region and is focused on team leadership and development.

A great big thank you to Julie for her continued dedication and commitment to Total Education Solutions.  She is an integral part of our organization and a respected leader with a quick wit.  Julie is always willing to help our company and our employees succeed no matter what it takes.

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