Program Information

Program Information

Our student populations face learning disabilities in a variety of areas, including speech-language, auditory processing, central auditory processing, sensory integration, social skills deficits, neurological issues, or other health impairments. Additionally, they often come to us with low self-esteem related to previous school failures.

Our school program includes:

  • Occupational Therapy & Sensory Integration 
  • Speech-Language Therapy 
  • Small Class Sizes
  • Small-Group Instruction / Specialized Programming
  • Social Skills Training 
  • Counseling Services
  • Life Skills Training 
  • Schoolwide Behavior Management Program

At Sierra Academy, we want students to experience success in the classroom as quickly as possible. We start by helping the child master achievable academic skills and problems. Once the child reaches that level of attainment, they get more excited about learning. Gradually, we introduce more challenging material—never overwhelming the student, but always continuing their development. In this way, children are able to feel successful in the classroom—some for the first time. That academic success translates into a healthier self-esteem, which in turn gives the student the confidence to aim for higher levels of achievement. The student learns to trust and feels supported enough to risk taking on new learning challenges. In our experience, this approach helps reverse the negative image that many children have of themselves as students when they first arrive.

Sierra Academy’s Life Skills program is designed to prepare high school students to enter the community by using a hands-on, interactive approach to real-world learning. Students are exposed to basic life and vocational skills, many directly in line with their IEPs (Individualized Educational Programs). The students explore these skills through a theme-based program. Students are responsible for creating their own portfolio, which includes such items as a current résumé, sample job applications, mock interview questions, a library card, and a California ID card. The Life Skills program at the Sierra Academy utilizes “experience-based learning,” which stresses direct participation in order to increase motivation, acquisition, and retention of the skills being taught.

Sierra Academy of San Diego works to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for students who need an alternative setting to achieve their potential. We follow state and district requirements and have the capacity to create highly individualized curriculums for optimum student success for all our students.

SARC (School Accountability Report Card)

Click here to see Sierra Academy San Diego’s 2016–2017 report

A Positive Approach to Self-Regulation

The Sierra Academy of San Diego has implemented the “Zones of Regulation” approach to assist students in understanding the power of self-regulation. This program encourages students to take control and ownership of their own emotions and behavior using a clear, easy-to-follow, color-coded framework. Zones are organized into four colors: blue, green, yellow, and red. Blue means “I have low energy”; green says “I’m ready to learn”; yellow is elevated and having trouble staying on task; whereas red indicates rising anger or frustration. Students are encouraged to access available strategies that support the transition to an optimal arousal level for learning throughout their academic day. This program stresses the reality that people have feelings and emotions that are okay to have and express. Expression of these emotions is not wrong, and the “Zones” offer a way to learn to regulate the nervous system, with the goal of returning to  “green level.” This system encourages our already-amazing students to be the best they can be and supports them to access the dynamic individualized curriculum that the Sierra Academy of San Diego offers.


PEERS Program

Sierra Academy is excited to announce that we are now offering the PEERS (Program for the Evaluation and Enrichment of Relational Skills) program, a parent-assisted intervention focusing on teens who are having difficulty making and keeping friends. In this evidence-based program developed at UCLA by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson and Dr. Fred Frankel, teens learn how to use appropriate conversational skills, how to find common interests in conversations, how to enter and exit conversations between peers, how to use appropriate humor, how to use electronic communication, how to handle rumors and gossip, how to be a good host during get-togethers, how to choose appropriate friends, how to be a good sport, how to handle arguments with peers, how to change a bad reputation, and how to handle teasing and bullying. More information will be sent home to the students involved in the program.

SEEDS Program

The counseling program at Sierra Academy is excited to announce that we now offer the SEEDS (Self-Esteem Education and Development in Sexuality) program to our high school students, as a forum to discuss and learn about relationships in a more in-depth way. Students begin by learning about themselves, then branch out into acquaintances, friends, and boy/girlfriends. As they explore this important aspect of their social development, they are having fun and supporting one another, making SEEDS a valuable addition to Sierra’s program.

Life Skills
This elective course is offered to all 9th–12th graders. Students earn 5 elective credits for this class, and the course is designed for students working toward their diploma. Students will be exposed to life and vocational skills, and these skills are directly in line with the students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Students in the program will be responsible for creating their own portfolio, which will include such items as résumés, sample job applications, mock interview questions, industry tour information, community outing reflections, planning guides, and a library card.

Adult Career Transitions (ACT) Program
This is a full-time class offered to high school students aged 18–22. The Sierra Academy’s innovative transition program works to support students in their academic studies while still helping them learn about themselves and the real world. They will receive a life skills based curriculum that is directly in line with their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Students who are in the ACT Program will have the opportunity to participate in work experience. Students will continue to get in-class academic instruction, as well as community-based instruction, which will help students generalize skills outside of school. The students involved in the ACT Program will have an opportunity to explore on-campus jobs, community jobs, internships, and volunteer experiences. Students in ACT also utilize community facilities to help them focus on a healthy lifestyle.

Fifth-Year Program
This program is geared toward students who are still in the process of completing their credits for a high school diploma, but also need some of the critical skills taught within the ACT Program. Participating in this program allows them an opportunity to finish up their credits while also gaining valuable community-based experiences that are provided in ACT. In addition, we support students in preparing for college by helping them complete college applications, connecting them with DSPS, supporting online college courses, etc.

Career Experience Opportunity  (CEO)
This course is designed for 10th–12th graders who have completed at least one year of the Life Skills elective class or students who are enrolled in the ACT Program. Students earn 2.5 credits for this class. The students who take this course are dually enrolled in one of our life skills programs. The students will begin exploring on-campus jobs, internships, and volunteer experiences. Students will be responsible for appropriate attire, arriving on time, completing a time card, and garnering an above-average performance review. While students are participating in these activities, they will also be reviewing career/job-oriented curricula. This may focus on job retention, job safety, interviewing skills, self-advocacy skills, and self-reflection.

Internships/Work Experiences
The Sierra Academy has the WorkAbility grant, which gives us the opportunity to place students at various job sites in the community. We work individually with the students to find job sites in the community that fit their areas of interest and also match their ability level. Students are paid for their hours worked through the WorkAbility grant. This allows them to understand/practice working in a real-life job/career settings. Students are placed at a variety of different work sites, including Scripps Ranch Library, Posies Flower Shop, First Choice Business Brokers, Mission Trails Regional Park, Petco, Old Navy, Marshalls, Fuddruckers, and Panera Bread. The end goal of the program is to develop the students’ employment skills and social skills in order to maximize their success in the real world.

Career Day
Every year, the Sierra Academy hosts a Career Day for all high school students. Students participate in presentations on six different careers. Speakers have included: a police officer, bus driver, graphic designer, dentist/dental assistant, and veterinarian/vet technician, as well as representatives from Posies Flower Shop and Lifetouch Photography, to name a few. The presentations are hands-on and interactive. Students learn about educational requirements, job specifics, and other interesting facts.

Mobility Training
Students in the ACT Program also participate in Mobility Training. After lessons on bus rules and safety, students learn how to ride the local bus. Students have learned how to travel to worksites, the grocery store, the bank, and other common locations. This allows them to be more confident and independent in riding and finding locations on the bus route. They use the classroom iPod Touch to identify bus routes/numbers and have also learned how to use Google Maps to help them complete this task. We are very excited about the enthusiasm and independent skills this training is instilling in our students!

Being Fit in the Community
Students are learning how to be fit in their community and how to access different community resources in a healthy way. Students have set up their own gardening plot and are responsible for maintaining all the crops. They have also participated in such off-campus activities as an aquatics course at Miramar College, a walking club at Lake Miramar, a yoga class at the YMCA, and bowling at Mira Mesa Lanes. It is our goal to teach students how to be healthy and independent adults.

Technology-based learning is a vital supplement to the Sierra Academy’s core instruction, to familiarize our students with up-to-date hardware and software and to acclimate them to the products and programs so prevalent in their daily environment. Accordingly, we make concerted efforts to stay technologically current in our classrooms, outfitting them with multiple computers, all loaded with the latest instructional programs and teaching aids. We enhance basic computer skills and knowledge with leading-edge advancements, like disability-specific interactive software programs, adaptive technologies and equipment, and iPad-assisted learning.

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Schoolwide Student Learning Outcomes

Sierra Academy’s goal is to build the confidence and competence of children facing learning, language, and social challenges through personalized academic interventions. Sierra is committed to achieving success with each student even in the face of obstacles, challenges, and excuses. The program is geared toward preparing youth to become responsible adults who are able to participate in their communities and lead self-fulfilling lives. We aim to build each student’s skills and self-esteem to a level that allows them to return to a mainstream school and become fully functioning members of society. In order to achieve this, Sierra has developed the following expected schoolwide learning results.

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Sierra Academy Wolves

The Sierra Academy Wolves have the opportunity to participate in flag football, basketball, and softball. Participating in the sports league is an amazing way for students to practice leadership and positive sportsmanship with their peers. All middle and high school students are welcome to join the Sierra Academy Wolves on the field! Please visit the CAPSES Sports League website at for more information.

Presidential Fitness

Presidential Fitness helps motivate our students to increase their physical activity and improve their fitness levels. Every month, the students are evaluated on seven different exercises: the 40-yard dash, shuttle run, sit and reach, one-mile run, flexed arm hang, curl-ups, and push-ups. Students are assessed monthly so we can monitor their fitness levels. This is a great way to educate students about the importance of physical activity and encourage them to live more active and healthy lifestyles.