Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow…

As I reflect back on the previous year at Lutheran Special Education Ministries I see there are many things to be excited about.  Those of you who know me know I love data, and the data is very good!  Our new preschool, Let It Shine Academy, in Austin, TX has been extremely successful.  We are now partners with three Lutheran High Schools in the Detroit area.  Existing programs have expanded.  New programs are starting all over the country.  We’ve welcomed many new teachers to run said programs.  We continue to be blessed many times over by the generosity of our donors, which enables us to operate a healthy budget.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  

The data is great, but as much as I love data, I love PEOPLE more. This data demonstrates all the different ways we are impacting people.  From the little preschoolers to the big high schoolers and every age student in between, we are giving thousands of kids the opportunity to receive the academic help they so desperately need, all while growing closer in their relationship with Jesus!  Does it get any better than that?  

The directors and I travel the country visiting our programs, presenting and exhibiting at conferences, running workshops for parents and teachers, and assisting schools (not just our partner schools, ANY schools who request our assistance).  As we travel we get to do what we love – interact with people.  

Over and over again we see the smiles on the faces of our students, appreciation from our teachers, relief from teachers and administrators who are just learning about the services we can provide, and pride from our donors.  

Can you imagine the satisfaction and energy we get from such reactions?  It comes from the people, not the data (as impressive as it is) – people God places in our path all year long.  He has blessed all of us at LSEM.  I pray that as you turn the pages of this report you get a sense of how much we love what we do and the opportunities God continues to provide to us. I also pray that you can tell what a difference YOU are making at LSEM.  Your support makes all this possible and for that, we and the thousands of kids we serve will be eternally grateful.  

May you be blessed as much as you are a blessing!  I can’t even imagine what blessings await us in 2019, but I’m excited to find out!  God is so good and His love endures forever!




Stacy J. Hoeft


The WOW! Stories…keep coming!

Lutheran South Unity School, Fort Wayne, IN

LSEM teacher Karen Shelley has been looking for more ways to increase literacy opportunities at LSUS. She was impacted by some kindergarten students who had some moving responses when asked to share about books at their home. She listened as one boy described a book at home which was his, to another who proudly described his two books, and to another who could not think of a book at home. It broke her heart.

A call to Concordia High School resulted in the students there being willing to work on a Little Library case, handmade books, and setting up a book drive over the course of the next few months for the LSUS lobby.

The collaboration of Helping Hands will be a great step forward as we provide another opportunity not only for literacy at LSUS but also for service for our high school students.

Trinity First Lutheran School, Minneapolis, MN

Michelle Melde is an LSEM teacher working at Trinity First Lutheran School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As an urban school in a diverse neighborhood, it serves the community by offering all children the opportunity to attend a Christ-centered school.  Ninety-six percent of the school’s income comes from the generosity of others, and no family is turned away from the school due to their ability to pay. 

Michelle’s classroom is called the “Tree House,” and students view the Tree House as a fun place to go. 

Michelle recently reported about a 5 year old student who initially came to the Tree House needing multiple services. Michelle recounts, “She has gone from no eye contact or words to interacting in sentences and is beginning to ask adults questions.”  This student is labeling objects and gives us spontaneous communication.  Such a joy for the school to see God working in her life. 

Let It Shine, Austin, TX

Teresa Danner, our Let It Shine director at Bethany Lutheran Church, shared that, “Let it Shine has been open for almost a year and a half and has significantly helped children and families progress and prepare for public school.  Let It Shine blends therapeutic concepts and academic concepts to support the children and meet the child where he or she is at.”

During a recent visit to the preschool, we saw happy children painting, playing with magna tiles, puzzles, toys, and moving freely in their classrooms while interacting with teachers and aides. Children were also petting and loving on the golden retriever Abner, Bethany’s comfort dog. Many of the Let It Shine children came to Bethany after they were either not successful or even turned away by traditional preschools.

One touching story was the mother who had tears in her eyes when the teachers told her positive attributes of her child. Her tears were because previously she had only heard negative feedback concerning her child and what he could not do.  Obviously, Let It Shine builds on children’s strengths (what they CAN do) and helps them reach new milestones!

Immanuel Lutheran School, Elmhurst, IL

Sometimes a child will come to us needing an extra dose of support and encouragement. Sometimes it takes just a little bit of special care in helping that child learn to make all the difference in their self-confidence and outlook at school.

LSEM began working with a young girl who entered kindergarten unfamiliar with the written alphabet and was only able to recognize 10 uppercase letters and 6 lower case letters. She did not know any corresponding letter sounds. Needless to say, when she was in school, she felt extremely frustrated that she was not able to do what her peers could. She was having a very hard time and not enjoying school. She would cry everyday.

We started working with the child three mornings a week. The first things implemented to help her were the Lexia Core 5 Learning system, as well as flash cards, and lots of multi-sensory teaching strategies. Slowly but surely, the child has improved to the point where she is now reading and ready to move on to first grade! Most importantly, she is so proud of herself and so happy. She isn’t crying in school and she participates in circle time and loves to demonstrate how well she is doing. 

St John Lutheran School, Rochester, MI

A few years ago, we were unable to help enroll a prospective student at St. John Lutheran School and everyone involved was very disappointed. The parents were also crushed as every other school they tried to attend had said the same thing. However, LSEM provided straightforward and honest instructions for how the parents could help improve their child’s education. 

The parents said two things that stuck with us. The first was, “No one ever honestly shared my child’s learning difficulties with us or has provided as many suggestions to aid our child.” The second, “We will do whatever it takes to have our child learn and attend St. John.”

Over the next 9 months, the parents did what they said they were going to do. They completed everything that was suggested, and this child met the requirements to attend St. John and finally became enrolled. We were able to say YES to this student! YES, you are special! YES, you are worthy! YES, you can be helped! YES, you can do it!

Report from Programs & Services

2018 proved to be another year of growth for LSEM. For the third consecutive year, we increased the number of programs offered as well as the amount of time we’re providing in those schools. One exciting area of growth was at the high school level where LSEM is now providing support in six LCMS high schools in four states. LSEM is also working to expand the services that we offer to preschools across the country with our “Teach Me Too” initiative. Building off the success of our preschool partnership with the Let it Shine Academy in Austin, Texas, LSEM is excited to begin the process of building brighter futures in the lives of our youngest learners. Whether it’s through a partnership, a professional development presentation, or an episode of our new “Lutheran Education Podcast,” LSEM continues to be the leader in providing specialized educational services for our Lutheran school community.

Blessings Abound

LSEM was truly blessed this past year!  It was not all that long ago that we changed our name from Lutheran School for the Deaf and started to expand our services to help students who have a variety of learning needs – and now we are serving children in 11 states coast to coast!  

This third consecutive year of growth saw the first graduates from our new special needs preschool and a big increase in services provided to high school students.  And we did this together!  Whatever your role – whether you made a financial gift or pledge, attended our golf outing or Christmas Tea, included LSEM in your estate plan, volunteered in one of our classrooms, networked on our behalf, or included LSEM in your prayers – we did this together!  

Thank you for working with us so that children who have learning needs aren’t left out – so that they, too, can receive a Christian education!

Check Out the New Podcast

In 2018, LSEM introduced the Lutheran Education Podcast. In this podcast we’ll explore trends, issues and events surrounding Lutheran education. In each episode we invite educational experts to shed light on topics that support educators, administrators and staff. Please visit the podcast page to listen and subscribe!