Meet the Leiphart family: parents Stacie and Brad, and children Reese, Raegan, and Rhett. Thanks to an amazing career opportunity, they have lived in three different countries and traveled all over the world, though they are now back home in Berks County, PA, where they grew up.
Stacie has a background in Education, and Brad’s professional background is Information Technology. Both of her sons, Reese and Rhett, are on the autism spectrum, and her daughter, Raegan, is a competitive figure skater. Stacie expressed, “everyone knows that we only accept the best when it comes to our children’s education. As a parent, our one job is to make sure these kids are educated and grow to be independent adults.”
After moving back to PA, Stacie and her husband noticed that their oldest son, Reese, became sullen and depressed. By the end of 5th grade, he was refusing to go to school. “When he started coming home with school work that showed clear struggle, and his grades were either straight A’s or slightly lower, we knew we had to find something else for Reese.”
Stacie explains that Reese had been struggling for years, and he didn’t understand why. What he needed was a different way to learn – something different from a regular brick-and-mortar school. “It took a toll on his self-esteem, as he thought if [he] tried harder, he would perform like the other kids.” Now age 13, Reese has the opportunity to excel at PALCS. Stacie adds, “until PALCS, no other school gave him a level playing field.”
Rhett, age 7, is described as the funny one in the family. He loves to play soccer, tennis, and dance in his free time. Rhett’s mom says that, “he wants to be a Marine when he grows up, but until then, he wants to be a YouTuber and get lots of ‘sus-skibers’ [subscribers].”
In 2016, Stacie found out that, “the other kids were pushing [Rhett] down on the playground and making fun of him, [we] decided that we can’t trust sending him to a school until he has the verbal and interpersonal skills to tell us when something happens.” Aside from the bullying that Rhett was experiencing, the local school district informed Stacie that even with his IEP in place, Rhett would have little to no support until he showed a need in the classroom.
The Leiphart’s knew that there had to be a better education option out there. After enrolling into PALCS, Stacie states, “I knew we had made the right choice for Rhett.” She adds that “he is happy again and being challenged at an academically appropriate level.”
Stacie believes that both Rhett and Reese “would not be thriving and learning as much as they are now, if it were not for PALCS.” She adds, “I know PALCS is not a specifically special needs school, but it really exceeds any school district I have ever seen with regard to the IEP process and support offered. I am truly thankful and impressed.”
Raegan, age 12, has been skating since around the age of 3. “She took one of those Learn to Skate group classes where the kids all wear helmets and snowsuits, and she just never stopped skating,” Stacie shares. Raegan has been competing since the age of 4, and at the age of 5, she placed 1st in her skill division at the Pennsylvania Keystone Games.
Stacie mentioned that, “although Raegan has been to many different schools, she never found brick-and-mortar school to be the right fit for her. She ultimately made the choice to cyber school herself, after seeing her brothers in PALCS.”
With the help of her mom, Raegan follows a tight schedule for all of her assignments and training times. She’s at the rink between 2 and 5 hours a day, and usually brings her PALCS work with her.
Over the past 9 years, Raegan has worked with many coaches, such as Worlds medalist and Olympic pairs skater, Alex Vlassov. Now, Raegan trains at Ice Line in West Chester, with her coaches Shannon Patton Huffman, Kate Blanchette, and Jeff Czarnecki. “All three are highly accomplished skaters in their own right, training at the Olympic training centers, and competing up through the senior levels,” Stacie adds. Along with training in the competitive figure skating track of US Figure Skating, Raegan is also training in Ice Dance and Synchronized Skating. She has recently been invited on the elite Ice Line Synchronized Team, which travels all over the country to compete.
Stacie shares that Raegan is an all-around perfectionist and always tries to reach her highest goals. Besides her goal of making it on the Olympic team, Raegan also wants to discover what causes autism and how to cure it. “She knows how difficult it will be to get there [the Olympics], but that hasn’t slowed her down yet,” expressed Stacie.
When she is not on the rink, Raegan works at home on her arts projects and anything else she needs to catch up on. She loves science, reading, space and NASA, as well as painting and making pottery. Raegan also loves technology, such as designing and making things with 3D printing.
The Leiphart family is going into their second year with us at PALCS, and say it has been a wonderful experience so far. When asked how PALCS has made a difference in her family’s life, Stacie says, “I get more time with my kids now. I hated sending them off to public school, where I felt left out, locked out, and treated like an intruder for asking questions. I love that I can see their real to-date grades EVERYDAY and help them right in the moment, rather than waiting until parent conference time to be told what’s going on.”
Thank you, Stacie, for taking the time to talk with us, and congratulations to Raegan, Rhett, and Reese for all of their amazing accomplishments! We are so happy to have your family with us at PALCS, and are very proud of you!