Learning Specialists Duo Fired Up to Support Student Achievement

By Daniel Langhorne
A new team of experienced learning specialists will be ready to support Sage Hill students on the first day of the 2023-24 school year.

Lead learning specialist April Leavenworth and learning specialist Lance Hollandsworth are excited to offer support and resources to students. Through existing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and conversations with students and their parents, Sage Hill’s learning specialists will offer study and organizational skill development and accommodations for learning differences.

Leavenworth traces her educational career’s origins to tutoring elementary school students while she attended high school. Her passion for education has evolved in new ways but she still thrives on working with students.

“I practice everything with unconditional, positive regard,” Leavenworth. “I’m just assuming that everyone is trying their best at all times and there’s a reason behind everything. I really like to create partnerships with my students and let them know I’m on their side and we’re in this together.”

Leavenworth comes to Sage Hill after driving across the country with her dog and two cats, including a cranky Himalayan named Rhaegar. She previously served as Learning Specialist and Student Accessibility Coordinator at an all-male boarding school, Blue Ridge School in St. George, Va. She’s also worked as a High School Educational Support Specialist at Maine Coast Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

After earning her bachelor's degree from Emerson College, Leavenworth pursued her passion for sports writing but landed in a media job market contracting amid the Great Recession. She decided to harness her writing experience to become an English language arts teacher. Leavenworth continued her schooling and earned her master’s degree in Education from the University of Bridgeport. She went on to teach for five years in Winthrop Public Schools but found something was missing, the more personal interaction of educational therapy.

Leavenworth has since earned a professional graduate certificate in educational therapy from UC Riverside. She is a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology from Wichita State University and expects to complete her research within 2 years.

Leavenworth considers her move to Orange County to be a sort of homecoming.

“California has been this angel on my shoulder for my entire adult life,” she said. “A lot of my college friends were from California or moved here to work in entertainment because that’s what Emerson is known for. Spending time out here and visiting friends, I thought that if I ever get the opportunity to move here, I’m going to take it.”

Working under Leavenworth’s guidance, Hollandsworth brings experience in education, athletics and public service to Sage Hill. He played collegiate football, baseball and soccer before earning his bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies at Central College in Pella, Iowa. 

After graduating college, Hollandsworth wanted to serve the community and started working as a coach at St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City, Ca. His public safety experience includes stints as a police officer, firefighter and emergency medical technician. 

“It kind of stems from athletics and working as a team and having a common goal,” Hollandsworth said. “My passion is really in giving back and teaching and learning, so when I first worked in schools, I wanted to do more. It was public safety. So, I jumped in and got hired as a police officer for the City of Torrance. I worked there for two years and realized it's a great experience but not really what I want to do long-term.”

Hollandsworth went on to work for six years as athletic director, learning specialist, teacher and coach at Rolling Hills Preparatory and Renaissance Schools in San Pedro, Ca.

When he’s not working with Sage Hill students or maintaining his daily gym routine, Hollandsworth moonlights as a firefighter at Disneyland Fire Department.
Both incoming learning specialists appreciate that some students, like many of their peers across the nation, are still emerging from the academic and social skills gaps created during the pandemic. They standby to build on the students’ strengths while recognizing they experienced novel distance learning forced by COVID-19.

“Even if we must come a little bit further to support them, that's OK,” Hollandsworth said. “We’re willing to come as far as we can to reach the potential of the students we’re working with.”

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Sage Hill School

Sage Hill School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. The School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship programs, and athletic and other School administered programs.