Welcome back to Sequoia!!!
We would like to extend a warm welcome to our students and families. As we begin the 23/24 academic year Sequoia Falls Academy is committed in in the academic and well being of our students and looks forward into seeing each and everyone one of our students.
Sequoia is a program of Silver Falls School District designed to recover and successfully support students who:
- Have disengaged from school
- Are at highest risk of disengaging from school
- Need an alternative learning experience in order to thrive
Sequoia offers mental and behavioral health supports and strategic partnerships to assist students and families in navigating complex systems of transition and support. Sequoia is a three-point program including education, personal health, and mentorship.
Sequoia Falls Academy is an alternative program of Silver Falls School District located at 622 North Water Street in the city of Silverton. The program serves students in grades 8-12+, offering an alternative learning environment, on-site mental and behavioral health support, and comprehensive case management. Sequoia offers educational opportunities ranging from GED preparation and credit recovery to college prep, tailoring curriculum and learning experiences to what each student needs to complete K-12 education and transition to life beyond.
Flexibility is a key aspect of Sequoia. It means designing an education around the needs of the individual students. While our SFSD classrooms very effectively meet the needs of most students, SFSD recognizes that some students require something different. Sequoia offers flexibility in classes offered, class scheduling, accommodation of learning styles, proficiency demonstration, opportunities to create independent study projects, and high school credit for internships, jobs, and volunteer work with high school credit.
The Proficiency model utilized at Sequoia is all about demonstrating learning rather than completing tasks. Our teachers give students the tools and opportunities to demonstrate understanding and proficiency through a variety of means and across many modalities. In traditional schools, time is the constant and learning is the variable, at Sequoia learning is the constant and time is the variable.
Sequoia offers between 2 and 4 class periods per school day in sessions lasting 3-6 weeks. This schedule allows students to focus their learning in one area reaching deeper levels of engagement and proficiency before moving on to the next study.
Sequoia offers bilingual on-site mental health treatment for individuals and families as well as a variety of on-site support groups and staff social workers. Sequoia offers acute trauma debriefing as well as ongoing trauma treatment and support.
Sequoia students, staff, and families value inclusion, teamwork, compassion, and care. Students and staff work daily toward personal success and success of the learning community. Sequoia is a place for all students to feel safe, to feel valued, and to know that their voice is heard. The staff at Sequoia is uniquely qualified to support the complex needs of young people who find it challenging to thrive in a traditional school setting either short or long term.
While each of our students is unique and different from one another in many ways, everyone at Sequoia has at least one thing in common. We all work together to build a welcoming community where every individual can be successful.
The staff at Sequoia is uniquely qualified with diverse backgrounds and advanced trainings in mental and behavioral health support, trauma informed practices, and effective mentorship. Each of our students are assigned to and work daily with their staff mentor to successfully navigate the work at hand and to prepare for the work to come. Our staff is dedicated to making sure our students leave the academy with a plan for what comes next and the skills they need to successfully navigate it.
No two students at Sequoia Falls Academy will have the same education experience. We recognize that our students have different life experiences, needs, skills, interests, and hopes for the future. Our students have flexible schedules, personalized academics, and transition supports that fit their needs and their goals.
Throughout our students’ time at Sequoia, they will participate in college and career exploration opportunities and work in partnership with their mentors to formulate a rigorous but attainable plan for their transition between K-12 education and successful independence.
How can a student get into Sequoia?
Referrals to Sequoia go through school counselors and administrators in school a student is attending.
Can Sequoia students take classes at their home schools?
Yes. Both academic and daily schedules are different between schools, but we can accommodate limited class periods at home school sites.
Can students at Sequoia participate in sports and activities at their home school?
Yes. Sequoia is a program of Silver Falls School District, not a stand-alone institution. Students remain enrolled in and eligible for programs in their home schools while placed at Sequoia.
Does flexible scheduling mean that a student can work online or attend only designated days?
No. Students are expected to attend every class, every day. In fact, because Sequoia offers fewer classes in shorter sessions, missing any class can create a challenge. Students have the ability to earn credits toward graduation faster in this model, but also risk falling behind faster if they miss class.
Sequoia does offers flexible schedules so our students can take advantage of outside learning experiences such as off-site classes, part-time jobs, volunteering, and internships to earn credit.
Does Sequoia allow for Independent Study options?
Yes. We recognize that many students have interests, talents, and skills beyond what is offered in the master schedule. We also believe they perform better and demonstrate proficiency more quickly and at higher levels when they are engaged and excited about their learning opportunities.
Students interested in a special project or independent study work closely with their advisor to design the study plan and define the educational outcomes and measurement tools.
What is the culture at Sequoia?
Respect, acceptance, growth, and community are key values. Students and staff actively model those values. As a result, students that have struggled with “fitting in” at other schools often find a place at Sequoia where they feel safe, comfortable, and appreciated for their unique perspectives and individual contributions.
Why does Sequoia focus on proficiency rather than traditional coursework?
Using proficiency models creates flexibility for the teachers to teach according to each student’s needs; flexibility for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned in ways that best communicate the skill level they’ve achieved; and flexibility for teachers to evaluate when students have achieved an acceptable level of learning.
In traditional educational systems, students have a finite amount of time (generally one term) to achieve the academic standards for a course. Many are able to do so, but many others are unable for a variety of reasons, some related to mastery and some not.
At Sequoia, students take as little or as much time as they need to learn and demonstrate mastery of course standards. If students need more time to demonstrate their learning, they confer with their instructor. If they have finished, they move on to new challenges.
Are there grades at Sequoia?
Yes, but failure is not an option. At Sequoia our grading scale recognizes:
A, B or C
I = In Progress
R = Revision/Resubmission
W = Withdrawn
Students are given the time and support they need to achieve proficiency without the burden of taking classes over and over, and without the stigma of failing. Sequoia emphasizes students owning their education and success. This is key to a learning environment that is academically challenging, while accepting students’ differences.
Why is the academic calendar different at Sequoia?
Traditional high school calendars use quarters, trimesters, or semesters ranging from 9-18 weeks and offer 6-8 course at a time. We find that most Sequoia students master learning targets faster and at a higher level if they focus on 2-4 courses at a time and intensively engage over 3-6 weeks.
Additionally, the sessions calendar allows for greater flexibility for off-site and independent courses, credit recovery, and college preparation projects.
Can a student on an IEP attend Sequoia?
Each student’s IEP team determines most appropriate placement. If an IEP team determines that Sequoia is a best placement, that student is welcomed at Sequoia.
What kind of diploma do students at Sequoia earn?
Students at Sequoia can earn a Silverton High School Diploma, an Oregon State Diploma, or a GED.
Annie Schacher: Head Teacher Sequoia Falls/ Drop-Out Prevention Specialist
Annie Schacher comes to us from Silverton High School where she has served three years as Drop-Out Prevention Coordinator. In this position Annie was focused on working with high school students who were struggling to engage or be successful in the traditional academic setting and students who had dropped out of Silverton High School prior to completion. Annie worked with students and families to remove social, economic, and academic barriers for students in order to allow them to continue to progress toward their life goals and academic completion. Annie received her undergraduate degree in Education from George Fox University and has continued her education by taking graduate counseling courses, becoming certified as a Trauma Informed Trainer, and is currently pursuing certification in secondary Science with a focus on the Scientific Perspective “Teaching Story-Telling Through Science”. Annie is trained in Crisis Response, Trauma-Supportive Care, ENVOY classroom management, Differentiated Instruction, and serves on the Willamette Social Emotional Learning Network. Annie has used her expertise working with social services, alternative education networks, and district staff as well as her passion for engaging the whole student to ensure future life success for SFSD students for many years including her time teaching in our K-8 Schools. Annie was born and raised in Silverton and attended Central Howell K-8. She was an active student leader at Silverton High School where she met her husband Dan. Dan and Annie have 4 children together (ages 8-13) and both remain active in community activities, volunteering in community youth outreach organizations, as well as owning 2 local, small businesses.
Michaela Straub: Silver Falls School District Social Worker (MSW, CSWA)
Michaela Straub has come back to Silver Falls School District, where she had worked at Silverton High School and completed her graduate internship with Sequoia Falls Academy and Mark Twain Elementary School. She is now serving as our School Social Worker. In this position Michaela’s focus is on connecting students and families with a variety of resources and services, both in the district and in the community, as well as providing crisis intervention and advocacy for underserved populations. Services and resources include mental health services, connection to community resources including houselessness, food insecurity and specialty referrals, substance use, and addressing other at-risk factors, as well as assessing barriers in reaching academic and overall success. Michaela is a Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA) Licensed under the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers and working towards her Licensed Clinical Social Work (LCSW) licensure. Michaela also holds a Preliminary School Social Worker license with TSPC. Michaela completed her undergraduate degree at Portland State University in Generalist Social Work and graduated from Portland State University in 2021 with a Master’s in Social Work. Michaela has experience in Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment and working with children and adults with Intellectual Disabilities. Since graduating Michaela has worked as a family therapist with Providence Health & Services, and as a School Social Worker. Michaela’s experience includes crisis interventions, brief interventions, person centered care, case management, care coordination, and long-term therapeutic interventions
Benson Short: Social Science Teacher
Benson joins us most recently from Salem Keizer School District where he spent 18 years supporting the Special Education department as a Behavior Specialist. Benson is a Behavior Intervention Trainer with extensive experience working with diverse teams to find solutions to support challenging situations. He is a certified Mandt trainer, specializing in effective de-escalation strategies and management of staff and student risk and safety. Benson has a wealth of experience creating safety plans for individuals and programs and working as a liaison between students, staff, caregivers, and community agencies. Benson is trained in Social Emotional Learning, Positive Behavior Intervention Systems, Sexual Incident Response, STAT, and is a Crystal Apple Nominee. Benson’s education includes an Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy from Chemeketa Community College, B.S. of Social Science with course work in Psychology from Portland State University (completion pending), and 2 years of Pastoral Leadership through the Vineyard Institute. Benson is currently working on his Social Studies Teaching endorsement. Benson has also coached volleyball, basketball, and baseball in our community and district and has served as the Pastor of East Valley Vineyard Church here in Silverton for the past 10 years.
Natalia Escobar: Office Manager Sequoia Falls/Bilingual Support Center
Natalia was born and raised in Tlaxcala Mexico. Her family migrated to the US in 1997. She graduated from McNary High school in 2007. She comes to us from her position as a Workforce Consultant for Oregon Human Development Corporation where her job duties included providing employment training opportunities to migrant and seasonal farm workers, outreach to employers for job placement, network with community leaders and advocating for emergency services for families in need. OHDC was one of many organizations allocated with CARE funds during the pandemic to help with rent and utilities and Natalia facilitated the training temporary staff and doing intake enrollments as they provided assistance for 300 households. Prior to working with OHDC, she worked as an Office Manager for an AG employer. Natalia grew up with a strong work ethic; she developed a strong sense of family values and above all, she has demonstrated a strong desire to work with underserved populations such as the farm worker/Hispanic community. Natalia is a very professional young person with a big heart to help those in need. Natalia is a mother of two beautiful daughters, Luna and Lila and presently living in Keizer, Oregon.
Jennifer Hannan: Director Therapeutic Services SFSD
Jennifer Hannan left the classroom 22 years ago to come to Silver Falls School District as a High School Counselor. Jennifer has spent her career in SFSD serving in the roles of Counselor, Special Student Services and Student Leadership Coordinator, Behavior Specialist, Building Principal and most recently Director of Teaching and Learning. Jennifer earned her Bachelor’s in Teaching and Social Sciences from George Fox College, her Master’s in Counseling from Oregon State University where she specialized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Social Emotional Learning Skills (SEL), and her Administrative License at Portland State University. Jennifer has pursued advanced studies in Adolescent Anxiety, Adolescent Mood Disorders, Trauma Informed Practices, Collaborative Problem Solving, Equity and Inclusion, Differentiated Instructional Strategies, Suicide Prevention and Intervention, Student Risk and Threat Assessment, and Gifted Learners. Jennifer fills Regional Leadership roles on the Willamette Student Success Advisory Board, the Willamette Social Emotional Learning Workgroup, and the Regional Alternative Education Advisory Group. In addition to serving as the Director for Sequoia Falls Academy, Jennifer continues to oversee Equity Work, Gifted Services, Counseling Services and Alternative Education Services, Student Success and High School Success Grant Management, and Crisis Response for Silver Falls School District. Jennifer makes it a daily pursuit to interrupt inequitable practices, create more validating and inclusive learning environments, and nurture the gifts, interests, and assets of all individuals. Jennifer and her Husband Mark, Principal of Albany Options High School, have 4 children aged 14-30, all having graduated from or currently attending SFSD.
Holly Fleet Higgins MA, LPC
Holly has 28 years of experience providing compassionate mental health services to individuals, couples and families, including over 20 years in the Silverton, Oregon community. Her holistic, strength based, person centered approach guides her practice with the belief that everyone has the capacity to change and the inner resources to learn skill sets which leads to self-awareness, personal growth, the release of trauma and the empowerment to lead a fulfilled life. Holly received her Bachelors from University of Oregon in Psychology and Biology and her Masters at Lewis and Clark in Clinical Psychology and School Counseling. Holly utilizes evidence-based therapeutic modalities including: Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing, Pragmatic Experiential Therapy (PET) for Trauma and PTSD, and Critical Incident Crisis Management and use of Trauma Focused CBT for trauma debriefing. Holly specializes in (ADHD), Anger Management, Anxiety Related Behaviors, Coping Skills Training, Parent and Peer Relationships, as well as a wide range of Adolescent Mental Health issues including Depression, Self-Harm, Self-Esteem, Sleep, and Teen Violence. Holly’s experience includes serving clients in a nonprofit medical and mental health clinic, Winslow Indian Health Care Center, Marion County Children’s Mental Health, Silver Falls School District, Gresham School District and her Private Practice in Lake Oswego and Silverton. Holly regularly consults with area medical providers as a partner in medication management.
Sergio Araus: Student Success Advocate
Sergio has joined Sequoia from the Department of Corrections where he served high school students in a residential placement program. There Sergio provided support for at-risk teens to gain the skills and stability necessary to be successful in a residential community rather than a correctional facility. Sergio brings additional expertise and experience as a case manager and advocate supporting community needs from the Oregon Human Development Corporation of Marion and Polk County. Sergio was born and raised in Oregon and graduated from Woodburn High School. He earned an Associate Degree at Chemeketa Community College in 2017 followed by a Bachelors of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Portland State University in 2019. Sergio is trained in non-violent Crisis Intervention(CPI), Educational and Vocational Support, Individual Problem-Solving, and Evidence-Based Skill Building. Sergio plans to continue his education with a focus on supporting the success of youth in our community. Sergio experienced life-saving support as a young person that was instrumental in guiding his path and shaping his future. He is committed to paying that forward here at Sequoia and in his future educational and professional endeavors.
Sheila Zervas Nielsen: English Teacher/Transition Specialist
Sheila comes to us from Silverton High School where she has been an English Language Arts Teacher and the Talented and Gifted Coordinator. Sheila received her Bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts and Teaching Certification from Corban University in 1993 and has been in many classrooms since as well as serving as a Linn County Juvenile Department Peer Court Coordinator. Sheila is trained in Question Persuade Refer (QPR), Talented and Gifted Learners, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Resilience, A.C.E. Essentials, Differentiated Instructional Strategies and Assessment Cadre. Sheila volunteers as a Youth Outreach leader and has worked for the Detroit Ranger District in the Willamette National Forest and ODFW specifically, Minto and Marion Forks Fish Hatcheries. These programs focus on positive relationships, youth employment opportunities and training and environmental stewardship. Sheila strives to serve families with a whole person, relational focus. Sheila has thoroughly enjoyed the varied capacity in which she has worked with youth and sees Sequoia Falls as an incredible opportunity to continue to serve students in the Silver Falls School District. Sheila and her husband Steve have 3 sons, 3 of which are recent Silverton High School graduates. She enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, hiking, fishing, camping and exploring with her family and four dogs (her favorite children).