Mater Dei Catholic High School

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Aquinas Center for Learning

Mater Dei Catholic Offering More Options for Students with Special Learning Needs


Mater Dei has always admitted students with special learning needs to the school on a case-by-case basis, but we now have a fully-fledged support program for mild to moderate learning disabilities. The goal of the Aquinas Learning Center program is clear. “Just as God has designed each student uniquely and individually, we designed this program to cater to the unique qualities of each student.”

We take time to discover and understand each student’s unique needs. What is their learning history? What sets them apart? What are their strengths? How do they learn best? Are they creative?

The Aquinas Learning Center helps students enhance their strategies for independence and learning, while teaching life skills. Students who have an IEP, 504 plan or any documented learning disability that interferes with his or her ability to learn in a general education classroom will qualify for the extra support.

The program has three credentialed and experienced teachers working with students at all grade levels. 


link_erinOver the past two years, Kristen Vlahos  has been teaching at Mater Dei. Her drive for working with students with learning differences stems from her experience being diagnosed with a learning disability during her sophomore year in college. She was a motivated and engaged student who accessed the Disability Resource Center while at Point Loma University to help her reach her full academic potential. She developed a deep interest in the science of learning and began extensive research into evidence-based strategies for supporting diverse learners. She is passionate about guiding students to take ownership of their education and develop personalized strategies to support their academic success.

Ms. Vlahos holds a Bachelor of Arts in Cross-disciplinary Teacher Education, with a concentration in English Literature. She also has Education Specialist Credentials for Moderate/Severe and Mild/Moderate Disabilities.


link_erinBrooke Laird grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio and received a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from The Ohio State University.

After teaching for six years, she joined the faculty at Mater Dei Catholic High School to share her gifts in the English department teaching World Fiction as well as teaching at the Aquinas Learning Center. She finds her work with students extremely rewarding because she understands how to connect with them and is encouraged to see the grow and reach their academic goals.



link_erinDenise Lepard is a Navy veteran and comes to Mater Dei Catholic High School with a B.A. in Music, Masters in Education, and Special Education Clear Credential from San Diego State University. An educator of 12 years, Ms. Lepard has been working at MDCHS since 2019 as a Math teacher and teacher in the Aquinas Learning Center.

This tiered support system offers study skills classes which are embedded in the students’ everyday schedule. Students do not have to feel different or as if they have been removed from a class. Mater Dei also offers a Testing Center, which provides students with extended time to take tests in a quiet, anxiety-free zone.