Improving quality of life for the differently abled Children & Adults



Julie has been married for 31 years and is a mom of 5 wonderful children and a Grandmother to 6 amazing grandchildren. Julie has been working with children for most of her married life in either educational settings, care giving and or through volunteer service.

Julie led a pre-school classroom while living in Las Vegas for 5 years. The age range was 3 – 5 years old. Julie also worked in the Higley School District in the special education preschool for 2 ½ years. Julie has been a Lead Teacher at LIFE since 2013. Julie has been trained in Handwriting Without Tears, Get Set For School, Social Thinking, Keys To Behavior, Out of Sync Child, Introduction to Assistive Technology for the Pediatric Population, along with the curriculum used here at LIFE: FUNdations, Saxon Math, & ABLLS.


Welcome to Kinder/First grade! My name is Nicole Rapp and I am beyond thrilled to be teaching and being a part of the LIFE family since 2012.

My Education and Professional Background: I graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies. A few years later I complete my Master’s degree in Special Educations, with an emphasis on Autism. Right after graduation I began working at Lauren’s Institute For Education.

My Educational Philosophy: It is my goal as teacher to inspire children to become life-long learners. I want to provide students with resources and information necessary to help them succeed in their future. My teaching philosophy is based on respecting differences, tapping into talents, and sharing my love for learning. I believe we all have something to contribute and I learn so much from the students each day. I use a multi-sensory theme based instruction in the classroom and believe in a consistent, positive, and respectful approach to making lasting learning!


My name is Amy Islat and I am a preschool teacher at Lauren’s Institute for Education. I graduated from Arizona State University in 2016 with my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood & Early Childhood Special Education. I have experience working with multiple disabilities and curriculums in various school settings.

I believe that education is one of the most important tools a person can have. My philosophy of education is that children must have a stimulating educational environment that allows them to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. It is my desire to create this atmosphere in my classroom to allow children to reach their full potential. As a special education teacher and advocate, I encourage to celebrate the differences that make each individual child unique, as well as see the ability in every disABILITY!


My name is Ashley Watzke, I am an Academy Teacher and Supervisor. I am married to an amazing man and we have two beautiful daughters. I attended Eastern Arizona College, where I majored in Early Childhood Education, with a minor in Special Education. I have been in the classroom for 10 years and 5 years of that have been with Lauren’s Institute and I am so happy and grateful to be a part of this organization.

I have had training in different areas which include: Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI), programing and using augmentative devices, Article 9, Direct Care Worker (DSW), applied behavior analysis, along with all the curriculums we use here at LIFE. Teaching is an absolute passion of mine. To me teaching is a lifestyle, my job doesn’t stop once my students leave.


Hello, my name is Bari Watnick! I am excited to be joining the academy team as the Lead Teacher for the enhanced ratio classroom at LIFE. I started working at LIFE 2 years ago, when I joined the BPS team. Though I love working in the BPS department, I missed teaching in the classroom. I graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in Elementary Education K-6 and an Endorsement in Special Education K-12. Before joining the BPS department, I taught for the Scottsdale Unified School District and ASU Preparatory. While in Scottsdale, I ran the Social, Communication, and Academic Classroom (SCA). This classroom consisted of middle school aged individuals with High Functioning Autism. After 7 years of working in the SCA classroom, I decided I needed a change and became an Elementary Inclusion Specialist at ASU Preparatory in Mesa. I applied for what I thought was a summer job at LIFE and 2 years later here I am LOVING LIFE!

A little more about me! I currently live in Tempe with my husband, Matt of 2 years. In November of 2015, we welcomed our first child, Ryan Benjamin into the world! In my free time, I love spending time with my family, arts and crafts, and going to movies!


I grew up in Utah but have lived in Arizona for 21 years. I have four amazing children, two girls and two boys. I have been working in this field for nine years and feel very blessed to work with these exceptional children.

I spent 6 years working for the Gilbert Public School District in the SPICE I Program for children with Autism before coming to work at L.I.F.E in February of 2014. My training covers several areas and curriculums including; Above and Beyond Math, PCI Reading, Handwriting Without Tears, Edmark Reading, Reading Mastery, Wilson Reading System, and Saxon Math. I also have training in CPI Non-Crisis Intervention, PECS (picture exchange communication system), ABA strategies and Discrete Trial Training Programs, STAR Discrete Trial Training Program, Pivotal Response Teaching, Functional Routines, Social Thinking and Out of Sync Child. I have CPR/First Aid certifications and am very experienced with seizures and seizure protocol.


Hi! I’m Miss Julia. Helping kiddos grow and learn is an absolute passion of mine. I have my bachelor’s in secondary education that I received from Arizona State University in 2009. I then received my masters in curriculum and instruction: teaching and learning: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) from Arizona State University in 2013.

I taught 8th grade language arts in the Gilbert School District. I have been doing habilitation and ABA services for six years. I worked for Lauren’s Institute for almost 2 years in the Behavior Programming Services department. I worked one on one with our client’s, was the assistant program manager on some cases and conducted our fidelity checklists. I then moved over to be a teacher in the academy and I have been doing that for a year and a half.

I enjoy reading, trying new food and visiting my family back east. I love the cold weather! I used to live on a ranch and had three horses. I have one dog named Holly. A few of my favorite things…Color: Mint and Pink; Season: Winter; Book: The Harry Potter Series; Food: Italian food; Hobby: Baking


My name is Melissa Makela and I have had the honor of working at L.I.F.E. since 2016. I started in the BPS department and switched over to teaching in March of 2017.

I have my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education at Rio Salado College in Tempe. My Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies with the emphasis in Education, Social Sciences and Humanities at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. My Master’s Degree in Special Education from Northern Arizona University. I moved to Arizona in 2005 and felt like I was home. I have two beautiful daughters and I LOVE being their mom. I feel blessed and honored to be the teacher for L.I.F.E.


My name is Sara Coombs. I was born and raised in Arizona. I am a mother of 4 wonderful children. I have been part of the LIFE family for 5 years. Since here at LIFE I have been fortunate enough to work in the Academy and learn under the guidance of some amazing mentors in both traditional curriculum based instruction classrooms and through application of ABA principals within a classroom setting.

Most recently I was trained by the (BPS) Behavioral Programming and Support department in the principals of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Starting in the fall semester of 2015 through the 2015/2016 school year I was personally trained, mentored and raised up with the intention of taking my own class in the fall of the 2016/2017 school year. I was able to demonstrate my skills through the successful passing of the behavioral programming and support fidelity checklist system and ran my own class last year. In June 2016, I passed the (RBT) registered behavioral technician program which is another program that will help support my abilities to accurately discuss, demonstrate and roll play proper competency in utilizing the principals of applied behavior analysis in a classroom setting. I look forward to expanding that knowledge and using it in my classroom in the fall.

With the support of the fall academy resource team and my support team I am confident I will be able to successfully uphold the mission and vision of L.I.F.E. and provide your child with a very robust and well-rounded learning experience. I believe you will see through my programmatic approach to teaching and my data collecting system the progress you are wanting for your child. I love being in the classroom and watching the children develop.

I am excited for the added curriculum we have this year and to watch your children grow academically. I look forward to getting to know each of them individually. I love LIFE and all it stands for.


My name is Sasha Davison and I am ecstatic to take on the facilitator role for the enhanced ratio classroom at Lauren’s Institute for Education! I am originally from Washington State, I have two dogs, and will be getting married in February of 2018. I have been a part of the L.I.F.E. family through the Behavior Programming and Support (BPS) department since 2015 as an ECM Program Manager and Lead ABA Therapist working in the clinical, classroom, and home settings.

In 2014 I graduated from Washington State University (Go Cougs!) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development and a certificate in Family Systems. After receiving my bachelors, I moved to Arizona to pursue a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University, which I obtained in May 2017. Within the next year I will be siting for the exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

I have always felt a passion to advocate for children in need. I have seven years of experience assisting foster youth and individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities. I began my love of teaching working with children with developmental disabilities as a habilitation provider. Through this experience, I discovered the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and became engulfed in the principles as they pertain to those with developmental disabilities and their application for everyday life. As an ABA therapist, I have gained extensive training and knowledge managing behavior and utilizing ABA principles to guide appropriate behavioral outcomes.

I am a strong believer in teaching to the whole child by showing each individual the love and respect they deserve. I am beyond blessed to be a part of this organization, and look forward to guiding your child’s journey. My philosophy is that education does not have an end, there is always something new to learn.

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