What We Teach » Exceptional Student Services

Exceptional Student Services

Mission and Vision


The mission of Exceptional Student Services at NACA is to engage students, educators, families, and community in a culturally supportive and holistic manner to prepare exceptional learners to thrive as empowered, healthy, well-rounded, responsible adult members of their communities.  Our vision is of a thriving and dynamic community where well-informed, insightful students, parents and community members and skilled, knowledgeable, compassionate and accountable educators come together, creating a place for exceptional learners to grow and excel both academically and personally.


ESS Goals

  1.      To focus on personal experiences, special aptitudes and limitations alike in preparing exceptional learners for future success.
  2.      To ensure students learn the necessary skills to thrive in and outside the school setting.
  3.      To educate and empower parents and families to communicate their needs to teachers and administrators, and to effectively support their children’s learning.
  4.      To coordinate with regular education teachers to provide a culturally relevant education that meets the diverse needs of exceptional learners and provides each student a valid and respected role within the learning community.
  5.      To engage the expertise and compassion of the school community in building a network of supportive relationships around each exceptional learner.
Bill Nichols



Director, Bill Nichols   [email protected]


Now in his second year at NACA, Mr. Nichols oversees identification and support of exceptional learners. He came to the Southwest as a student of Diné language and culture and spent several years as Deputy Director of Northwestern University's Ethnographic Field School on the Navajo Reservation. Mr. Nichols earned his Bachelor of Science in Anthropology at Northern Kentucky University and his Master of Arts in Teaching of Special Education at Western New Mexico University.  He spent most of his 23 years in education in the Gallup area, where he taught seven years at a reservation high school, then worked three years as an IEP Facilitator and thirteen as a Special Education Coordinator.  His areas of expertise include data and culturally relevant instruction. Mr. Nichols enjoys spending time outdoors with family.


Danilynn Romero


Administrative Assistant, Katanna Ellis [email protected]


Ms. Ellis provides administrative support to our team. She earned her Associate's in Integrated Sciences from Central New Mexico Community College and is currently completing her Bachelor's in Sociology, with an emphasis in psychology. She collaborates with staff, students, and families to schedule and prepare meetings, fill records requests, and communicate with vendors, and is available as a resource to families who have questions about meetings or ESS records.  In her off-time Ms. Ellis loves spending time with loved ones, watching a scary movie, baking, and visiting Disney as often as possible.  




Lisa Nagurski


Teacher of Gifted, Lisa Nagurski  [email protected]


Ms. Nagurski provides gifted services and case management in grades K-12.  She is a Teacher of Gifted with over 42 years' combined experience at Bureau of Indian Education schools.  Ms. Nagurski earned her Education Specialist in Special Education/Gifted; her Master of Arts in Art Education at University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; and her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas. Her grandparents were Italian immigrants who spoke Italian at home, prompting her family to travel to Italy to rediscover family and cultural roots.  Two of Ms. Nagurski's sons are veterans and another is a self-advocate.  Her oldest daughter is an optician at the VA with a degree from SIPI, and her youngest earned her Masters in Architecture with Honors from UNM.  Ms. Nagurski and her husband, Ben, live in Albuquerque and enjoy cycling, gardening, cooking and going on adventures.



Danilynn Romero

Special Education Teacher, Danilynn Romero  [email protected]


Ms. Romero is from the Pueblos of San Felipe and Taos. She earned her Associate's in Early Childhood Education at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and a Dual License Bachelors in Elementary and Special Education at the University of New Mexico. Ms. Romero has worked in Early Childhood Education for over ten years. She strives to promote culturally responsive and diverse learning practices for students with disabilities. As an educator, she believes it is important that we become aware of our personal biases and cultural differences, and consider how our own culture is intertwined with the cultural diversity of students and their families. Her work is to provide a strong foundation for developing cultural responsiveness and inclusiveness for families and students with disabilities. In her free time, Ms. Romero enjoys spending time with loved ones, participating in her community and managing her small business.  



Katherine Cordova

Special Education Teacher, Katherine Cordova  [email protected]


Ms Córdova serves as Multi-Layered System of Supports (MLSS) and Student Assistance Team (SAT) Chair, teaches middle resource language arts, and provides inclusion support for regular social studies and science classes. Ms Córdova was born and raised in Albuquerque and is of mixed heritage. She first worked with NACA student interns while working at KUNM and the Singing Wire. She has always been impressed with NACA's educational model as evidenced by those student's knowledge of history and grounding in their specific culture. Ms Córdova received her undergraduate at Tulane University and did further studies in Boston; London, England; and Toronto, Canada. She did her teaching course work at CNM and is dual licensed in general education K-8 and special education. She has been teaching formally for four years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and in museums and is currently on the board of the Gutierrez-Hubbell House in the South Valley. Ms Córdova is passionate about local history and culture and being part of the NACA community.



Dewayne Thomas



Special Education Teacher, Dewayne Thomas [email protected]


Mr. Thomas teaches middle school resource math and provides inclusion support in regular language arts, science and social studies classrooms.  His goal is to create academically engaging learning experiences through an environment that fosters creativity, curiosity, and kindness.  Mr. Thomas earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Ottawa University and Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary Education from Western New Mexico University. In his six years as an educator, Mr. Thomas has worked as a classroom teacher; Title 1 Special Education Teacher and general education Science teacher, in both middle and high school classrooms. As an educator, his work is rooted in a belief that a great education is foundational to life success.  


Sierra John
School Social Worker, Sierra John  [email protected]

Ms. John serves as Special Education School Social Worker for kindergarten through 8th grade.  She is Haudenosaunee, a member the Oneida Nation, and also Tewa. Her goal as a Social Worker is to provide social and emotional services that encourage important skill building and healing, while fostering students' connection to their own cultural practices and beliefs. Over the past year, she has collaborated with the Land Based Healing and Learning team to build on the goal of Indigenizing, decolonizing, and localizing social work services in special education. She looks forward to building more strong relationships with students and their families so we can support their learning together. 



Carol Beare




Special Education Teacher, Carol Beare  [email protected]


Ms. Beare teaches language arts at high school, both in the resource environment and as an inclusion support teacher.  She also provides inclusion support for regular social studies classes.  Ms. Beare has more than 30 years of teaching experience and holds a Master of Arts in Secondary and Multi-Cultural Education, and English as a Second Language from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.  Ms. Beare is patient and compassionate and celebrates the accomplishments of every learner. 






Sierra John
Special Education Teacher,  Susan Borders  [email protected]

Ms. Borders teaches resource math and provides inclusion support for regular social studies classes at high school. She earned her Bachelor's of Science in Chemistry from University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, and Post-Baccalaureate in Teaching from University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.  Ms. Borders believes all students should hold space for themselves, have self-confidence, and know that they can do anything they want to. In her spare time, Ms. Borders enjoys walking her dog.



Gwen Johnson




Special Education Teacher, Gwen Johnson  [email protected]



Ms. Johnson provides inclusion support in regular science, social studies and language arts arts classes at high school.  She has 20 years experience in special education.  She is licensed in secondary and special education with endorsements in social studies, language arts and science. Ms. Johnson earned her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.


Clem Wings



Special Education Teacher, Clem Wings  w[email protected]


Ms. Wings provides inclusion support in regular math, social studies and science classes high school.  Prior to becoming a special education teacher, Ms. Wings taught regular math for 13 years at NACA.  She loves problem solving, and she loves NACA’s commitment to students and the community.  She appreciates the relentless reflection and willingness to grow and change on the part of the NACA community, and is thrilled to be part of the continuous quest to figure out how best to indigenize education and support our students as they become academically prepared, secure in their identity and healthy.




Lisa Keck




Diagnostician/Special Education Teacher, Lisa Keck  [email protected]


Ms. Keck provides educational evaluations for students with documented or suspected exceptionalities, and also provides inclusion support in regular math and science classes at high school.  She has worked in public education supporting children and youth in Special Education for over 20 years. Ms. Keck has her undergraduate degree and teaching licenses in elementary education and special education. She received her master's degree in Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies from UNM. When not at NACA, she is out exploring and appreciating the beauty of New Mexico and beyond with her friends and family. 




Bonnie Stetson


School Psychologist, Bonnie Stetson  [email protected]


Dr. Stetson is a school psychologist who provides social-emotional support services to special education students at the high school level.  She has a Master's in Counseling and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.  Dr. Stetson worked with adolescents and adults in private practice before moving to school psychology in 2007.  Since that time she has worked primarily with Native youth on three Pueblos (Acoma, Isleta, and Tsiya) as well as at NACA for over eight years.  Her approach to working with students is to provide a safe, accepting, and positive place to explore social, emotional, behavioral and psychological issues that are affecting their ability to succeed in school.  Dr. Stetson is committed to helping all students graduate and find meaningful lives beyond high school.  She communicates with families frequently and can help find outside resources when needed.  She has a strong bond with NACA and with the children and families we serve as a community school grounded in Native values.  Dr. Stetson is always available by phone or text to students and their families (505-463-4434).



Resources for Students and Families
Procedural Safeguards for Students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
EPICS Parent Organization for New Mexico Native Families of Children with Disabilities or Developmental Delays
New Mexico Center for Development & Disability Autism Portal - Native Resources Page
National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) Students and Families Page
Re-Wordify Text Simplification Tool
Fact Monster Math Flashcards
Integer Operations Flashcards for Grades 5+