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Lavinia Gripentrog – Creekside High School

Lavinia Gripentrog is the teacher for Murray Adult Transition, an extension of special education where students are given a few extra years to apply what they have learned to real life. She spends her days in the rain, snow or heat helping students maneuver public transit, find their way on SLCC campus, journal activities in a weekly newsletter, and record and budget personal financial decisions, all while working on individual goals for each student. Twice a week students make their way to a variety of job sites she has acquired through relationships developed with store managers, human resource people and college personnel. Once there, she provides the training as well. In order to provide as much community involvement as possible, her office is her backpack. Extra preparation and planning go into every day, and it shows. This level of dedication can be exhausting, but she continues to go above and beyond. Lavinia doesn’t just want to send her students out into society, she carves out a place for them.

My son, Alex, has Downs Syndrome and is legally blind. I have benefited from dedicated teachers throughout his years at Murray. Lavinia culminates these efforts and raises the bar in both opportunity and expectation. Helping students get off the sidelines and become an active part in the world around them, whatever their disability. Alex works on individual goals, but even more, he is creating a productive, active life. Self confidence is not something that can be taught, it is a by product of experiences. Lavinia provides these experiences. Small things like making a choice, vocalizing a need, buying a ticket or typing an email. These lead up step by step to where he is today. Alex works part time for Murray City and attends a cardio fitness and Special Needs Institute class at the SLCC campus. He now navigates Trax independently from school. My son is a college guy. Simple words cannot describe the tender feelings of a parent when their special needs son turns, waves goodbye, and shouts out “Gotta go.” Indeed.

Lavinia’s efforts go beyond teaching the students, she’s an advocate. She stays current with changing laws and programs available to parents for their students. DSPD, SWI, SSI, Voc Rehab, EPASS, UILC, Guardianship, Flex Pass, Utah Parent Center, Family to Family Network, Special Needs Trusts, you name it, she knows about it. She provides an arena for students to succeed, gain self confidence and independence. In essence, Lavinia makes a bright future move from possibility to reality.

–Sherry Njord