I am an educational consultant, adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, author, teacher and advocate with a background in inclusive education, educational administration, teacher leadership and staff development. I work with teachers, administrators and families to create collaborative school cultures and engaging school experiences for all learners.

Through my work I have co-authored several articles, a book chapter, curricula, and online materials (including online university courses) about collaboration, co-teaching, teacher leadership, inclusive education, staff development and reflective practice to improve schools.

I work closely with parents, teachers, administrators and community members to create schools that have the capacity to support students, regardless of their disability, using innovative, diverse learning strategies.

My abbreviated professional vita is listed below (contact me to obtain a full vita or for a list of references):


Jennifer Sommerness, Ed.S.

Independent Educational Consultant, Welcome Spoken Here

Adjunct Professor, University of St. Thomas


Ed.S. Educational Administration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

M.A. Educational Administration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

B.S. Special Education, Pre-K through 12th grade, University of Wisconsin, Madison

My professional mission is to promote the inclusive education of people of all ages with diverse learning needs in general education classrooms and settings through development of supportive instructional design, and effective team collaboration. I have a passion for creating programs and inclusive service delivery models within schools which allow complete access to academics and have high expectations for individuals with disabilities through building a culture of belonging and increasing teacher capacity. Promotion of practices that allow for individuals to be successfully engaged, challenged and respected throughout their various learning and community settings and schools, results in increased positive outcomes and independence throughout the lives of students.

Professional Staff Development Certificate, University of Minnesota, Educational Policy and Administration.

Teacher Certification Licensure (PK-12th grade, Cognitive Disabilities) licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and New Mexico.

-Adjunct Professor, University of St. Thomas, Department of Teacher Education. Currently responsible for teaching license methods classes, as well as acting as university supervisor for students within their clinical practice.

-Educational Consultant providing technical assistance to over 400 schools and districts across the nation. Details about scope, experiences, references and specific work that has been provided is available upon request, with strict consideration of confidentiality for the stakeholders represented.

-Minnesota State Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP). Served a four-year, Governor
appointed term from August, 2011- August 2015. Serving Vice-Chair (2013-2014), Chair (2014-2015).

-Project Cornerstone reader and asset-building volunteer, California Bay Area Public Schools.

-Minneapolis Public Schools, MN. Lake Harriet Community School, Educational Council Member.

-Adjunct Professor, Department of Teacher Education; University of St. Thomas

-Educational Consultant; Welcome Spoken Here

-Teaching Assistant, Administration of Teaching and Learning; J. York-Barr, professor, University of Minnesota.

-Teaching Assistant, Collaboration in Heterogeneous Schools; J. York-Barr, professor, University of Minnesota.

-Research Assistant for following grant, University of Minnesota: York-Barr, J., & Ghere, G. A systems approach to paraprofessional development and support. Awarded by U.S. Department of Education.

-Middle School Special Education Inclusion Facilitator and Teacher, Albuquerque Public Schools, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 6th -8th grade students with emotional, behavioral, learning and mild to moderate cognitive disabilities.

-High School Special Education Teacher and Inclusion Facilitator, College Community School District, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Students with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities in inclusive vocational, community, and general education settings.

-High School Special Education Teacher and Inclusion Facilitator, Madison Metropolitan School District, Madison, Wisconsin. Students with severe to profound cognitive and physical disabilities in inclusive vocational, community and general education settings.

-Educational Consultant for Project CHOICES/Early CHOICES; Federal grant funded through the Illinois State Board of Education. Focus of work was planning, implementing and creating systems change around inclusive practices for students with disabilities within general education classes and settings for over 200 districts and schools in northern Illinois, including Chicago Public Schools.

-Community Connections, Bay Area, CA. Consultation including review and revision of IEPs, assessing needs of individuals and families moving to the Bay Area to find and secure appropriate school placements and services.

-Vocational Coach, Partnership Resources, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota. Supported adults with cognitive and physical disabilities in inclusive community work settings.

-Community and Vocational Coach, United Developmental Achievement Center, Duluth, Minnesota. Supported adults with cognitive and physical disabilities and mental illness in various community and vocational settings.

-What Success Looks Like: Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Brooklyn Center, MN

-What Success Looks Like: Naperville Public Schools, Naperville, IL

-Ignite Minneapolis: Why Special Ed Isn’t; Minneapolis MN

Hawaii 504: Best Practices for Writing 504 Plans, and How to Effectively Collaborate with Parents, Elk River, MN

-Student Centered Planning and Learning. Educator’s Conference, Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota.

-“Working IEPs”: How to Effectively Write IEPs that Work in Inclusive Classes and Environments. Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.

-Social Inclusion: Not Just a Seat in the Class. Inclusive Schools Week, Palo Alto, CA.

-Effective Collaboration with Paraprofessionals. St. Paul Public Schools, Increasing Student Achievement: Collaboration and Differentiated Instruction Conference.

-Towards More Inclusive Settings. St. Paul Public Schools Early Childhood Education Programs Professional Development Series.

-Including Samuel. St. Paul Public Schools Early Childhood Programs Professional Development Series.

-Four half-day presentations for paraprofessionals, adapted from Job-embedded paraprofessional development: A training curriculum for special educators. St. Paul Public Schools, Early Childhood Programs Professional Development Series.

Job-embedded paraprofessional development: A training curriculum for special educators.This presentation has been given at the following locations:

  • Naperville Public Schools, Naperville, Illinois
  • Fosston Public Schools, Fosston, Minnesota
  • Orono Public Schools, Orono, Minnesota
  • White Bear Lake Public Schools, Minnesota
  • Mounds View Public Schools, Minnesota
  • St. Paul Public Schools, Minnesota
  • Palo Alto Unified School District, Palo Alto, California
  • Valley Crossing Community School, Woodbury, Minnesota.
  • Anoka Hennepin School District, Coon Rapids, Minnesota.
  • IL-TASH Let’s Reach Everyone Conference, Naperville, Illinois.
  • National Staff Development Council (NSDC) Conference, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • National Conference of the Association for Persons with Severe Disabilities (TASH), Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Madison Metropolitan School District, Madison, Wisconsin.

-What do the movies have to say about inclusion? This presentation has been given at the following locations:

  • National Conference of the Associations for Persons with Severe Disabilities (TASH), Chicago, Illinois.
  • National Conference of the Associations for Persons with Severe Disabilities (TASH), San Francisco, California.

-School and Community Inclusive Education

-Special Education law, mediation, facilitation and advocacy

-Professional Development and Professional Learning Communities within schools

-Differentiated and Universally Designed Instruction

-Collaboration and Co-teaching

-Teacher Leadership

-School and Organizational Change

-Paraprofessional Supervision and Professional Development in Inclusive Settings

-Creating Positive Behavioral Supports

-Transition planning for students with disabilities

-Interagency coordination and planning

Learning Forward (formerly National Staff Development Council)


Arc of Greater Twin Cities

ARC of Minnesota

Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota

National Down Syndrome Association

Council for Exceptional Children



-Downhill Skiing

-BWCAW Camping