921 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix AZ 85013
Sierra School of Phoenix (formerly Desert Heights Academy)
Our mission is to provide a positive educational experience that teaches students the necessary skills to transition their lives towards success within their community. Our academic, clinical, and vocational programs provide the necessary structure and guidance to help students learn the skills to make these transitions a reality. At DHA, we believe all students have a desire to succeed. For some students, success is right on the horizon, and for others, success may take a bit more time. Our staff is dedicated to promoting achievement in each student.
Students are referred by their school district to attend Sierra School of Phoenix. Our students are generally in grades K–12 (aged 5 to 22). They face disabilities in a variety of areas, including Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disability, Intellectual Disability Multiple Disability, Other Health Impairments, ADD/ADHD, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech or Language Impairments, and Traumatic Brain Injury.
We are proud to employ certified special education teachers, a Transition Coordinator and Transition Facilitator, a Clinical Director, Lead Clinician, Speech-Language Pathology Assistant, and more
Upon enrollment, students receive an orientation consisting of a review of our program, rules and procedures, and expectations. This orientation is designed to set each student up for success. Following the orientation, students are given a ‘Welcome Tour’ of our program, meeting the staff and familiarizing themselves with the building.
- Eganged Teaching: The staff at Sierra School uses engaged teaching techniques with SMART Board technology. These particular techniques offer a powerful way of motivating students to learn and expand their knowledge.
- Voyager Math: Vmath creates confident, independent learner in Math. Many students need extra support to succeed in math and pass high-stakes tests. VMath fills critical learning gaps with a balanced, systematic approach, combining print materials, robust assessment and online technology.
- Voyager Language: This comprehensive literacy curriculum is an intensive mastery-based language arts intervention that targets the needs of non-readers, struggling readers and English learners. It accelerates them to grade-level proficiency by utilizing a sequential, cumulative, skill-based instructional format that addresses all learning styles.
- Lindamood-Bell Learning Process: The development of reading skills is very important for students to make the transition toward success in the real world. Sierra School utilizes the Seeing Stars, Symbol Imagery for Fluency, Orthography, Sight Words, and Spelling as well as the Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking programs.
Desert Alternatives is an alternative education program serving students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Students are referred to Desert Alternatives due to disruptive behavioral problems in their home school classrooms. Desert Alternatives provides a highly structured, positive learning environment for students to strengthen their academics and improve their behavior.
Staff consists of certified teachers and instructional assistants who are effective in providing both academic instruction and positive behavior management. Students receive excellent academic programming (small work groups are regularly used) along with an evidenced based positive behavior management model to assist with their behavior (Productive Conflict and CPI models).
School districts use Desert Alternatives as a time limited intervention for students who are not responding to behavioral interventions within their home school. The progress of students is measured by their advancement through the stage system, which targets the consistent practice of appropriate academic and social skills. Once a student advances to stage 4, a transition process is started to re-unite the student back with their home district. Desert Alternatives is an effective intervention.
The Desert Oasis Program provides refreshing, all-inclusive instruction for students with Mild to Moderate Intellectual Disabilities, Autism, Emotional Disabilities, Down Syndrome, Orthopedic Impairments and Other Health Impairments.
The Desert Oasis Program is designed to meet the individual needs of each student through the use of high quality academics, community based learning experiences, positive behavior interventions, integrated transition planning, social skills development, job preparation, and independent living skills. The Oasis Program is designed by highly experienced and educated professionals in order to successfully teach students how to become more independent within their community and home environments, as well as introduce and teach replacement behaviors to reduce aggressive tendencies.
The Desert Oasis curriculum is tailored to address the unique needs of each student as outlined in their IEP (Individual Education Plan). The Desert Oasis curriculum is a real world application of skills that assists students in transitioning between school, home, community and vocational settings. ❖ Classrooms are structured in a way that caters to the needs of a variety of different disabilities and functioning levels.
A key component of the Desert Oasis Program utilizes the Structured Teaching Model. Four elements are considered when developing the Oasis Classrooms. These elements include:
- Daily Routines and Schedules
- Work Systems
- Visual Structure
Another key component of the Desert Oasis Program utilizes the Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research (STAR) Curriculum and the Links Curriculum. STAR and Links are comprehensive programs that are designed to teach children with developmental disabilities critical academic, functional, and communication skills. Desert Oasis uses these curriculum packages alongside of the Structured Teaching Model in order to best serve and help promote growth in our students.
Community Based Integration Opportunities
Desert Oasis students participate in weekly field trips in the community to develop appropriate social emotional skills, social skills, and provide structured opportunities to practice functional life skills in real world environments.
In addition to the above community based learning locations, our transition coordinator works with students to set up sites for off-campus job preparation. Many of our students are able to gain meaningful employment in a community setting. At Desert Oasis we strive to help our students make these connections before they leave our program.
Desert Oasis has a wonderful sensory space that can be used by all Oasis students when needed. Oasis staff is trained on different sensory integration techniques that can be used both in the sensory space and also in the classrooms. These techniques include auditory, vestibular, visual, and tactile inputs that can be used to help students be successful and learn how to monitor and independently meet their sensory needs.
Maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment is the number one priority at Sierra School. In order for this to be accomplished, conflict needs to be managed in a productive and positive fashion. Our goal is to teach our students that conflict is part of any healthy relationship and that it can be managed in a productive fashion that strengthens and not fractures relationships.
The clinical model provides the necessary framework to teach students about productive conflict as well as other important social and coping skills that strengthen relationships. The clinical program also utilizes Why Try: Resilience Education. Why Try’s multi-sensory approach has built resilience in millions of youth in schools and youth worldwide. The Why Try Program uses a series of ten visual metaphors to teach social, emotional, and leadership principles.
The program’s unique multi-sensory approach caters to every learning type. Teachers and clinicians utilize the Why Try curriculum to help students build resilience, understanding that it is often not possible to remove the stressors of their life that at times impact their ability to be successful in the classroom or life endeavors. Instead, resiliency offers students the capacity to deal with, cope with, and grow stronger from their experiences. By focusing on the relationship with students and making the material relevant to them, resiliency increases. As this resiliency increases, students show an increase in self-esteem, social skills, emotional stability, and leadership skills.
The Transition aspect of Sierra School is centered on Vocation Education. All students are given a career assessment to identify strengths and emerging skills so they can begin to work towards possible career areas. Students will be afforded the opportunity to gain work experience and employable skills needed for a successful transition to life after Sierra School. While in the program, students will be able to identify personal learning styles and the necessary accommodations to be a successful learner and worker. Students will be able to identify career interests and skills, complete interest and career inventories, and identify additional education or training requirements.
The premise of this program is based on the idea that students can be successful in the world of work once they leave Sierra School. Sierra School is dedicated to empower students with the necessary social, academic, and job readiness skills that will make them suitable candidates for employment. This basic education will establish an ethical and pragmatic standard in hearts and minds, helping them determine the kind of people they choose to become. These ideas are typically based on the attitudes, behaviors and competence they will be exposed to while in the vocation program.
Vocation Education (social skill development):
This course assists students in discovering and applying personal, social, employable, and academic skills through active involvement in real life situations. Students will develop interpersonal skills so they may be able to manage various relational situations that are commonly experienced on the job. This course helps students focus on future endeavors regarding school and career choices. This program focuses on four areas that promote a successful transition from student to contributing citizen.
This part of the program prepares students to navigate and map out their transition from youth to adulthood by way of self-discovery, career/occupational possibilities, and learning functional living skills to cope with the trials of everyday life.
This portion of the program allows students research career opportunities and the aspects of those endeavors to help develop their various careers of interest. Specifics include:
- Occupational tasks, duties, and responsibilities
- Complete understanding of occupation of interest
- Pay possibilities
- Forecasted scale in hiring market
- Career advancement
- Working conditions
- Related occupations
Post-secondary education, training, and/or employment:
This final step encourages each student to:
- Become gainfully employed
- Obtain specialized training, and/or;Continue on into a post-secondary educational institution, especially to pursue a bachelors or advanced academic degrees
The Positive Behavior Management Model is a consequence driven approach that emphasizes accountability, responsible decision making, and prosocial behavior. It parallels real world practices by teaching students that there is a consequence for every action. Our staff target positive student behaviors, identifying how such behavior helps them transition toward success. Positive reinforcement is frequently used to support students practicing prosocial behaviors. All DHA staff receives ongoing training in Positive Behavior Management techniques and approaches. Our interventions are developmentally sensitive, recognizing effective approaches for each age group. When students exhibit negative or inappropriate behavior, negative consequences are applied. Our model does not punish nor shame students. We encourage students to not make it personal when we set limits and apply consequences. We explain to students that it is our job is to teach them responsible ways of handling various academic and relational situations and stressors. We teach students that mistakes can offer valuable learning experiences.
The Positive Behavior Management Model is a consequence driven approach that emphasizes accountability, responsible decision making, and prosocial behavior. It parallels real world practices by teaching students that there is a consequence for every action. Our faculty target positive student behaviors, identifying how such behavior helps them transition toward success. Positive reinforcement is frequently used to support students practicing prosocial behaviors. All DHA staff receive ongoing training in Positive Behavior Management techniques and approaches. Our interventions are developmentally sensitive, recognizing effective approaches for each age group.
When students exhibit negative or inappropriate behavior, negative consequences are applied. Our model does not punish nor shame students. We encourage students to not make it personal when we set limits and apply consequences. We explain to students that it is our job is to teach them responsible ways of handling various academic and relational situations and stressors. We teach students that mistakes can offer valuable learning experiences.