Special Education

15250 Avenue of Science, San Diego, CA  92128
Phone: (858) 521-2800  Ext. 2216, Fax: (858) 485-1501

Meet the Program Specialists


Monica Gideon
Adobe Bluffs, Creekside, Rolling Hills, Sundance, Turtleback

Monica's passion for working with children began as a young child and it continues to remain the center of the work she does daily. She supports many of the ASD programs offered to students at the school sites at which she works. Monica strives to remain student centered and lead with the heart when collaborating with families and staff. When she's not supporting her school sites she is an avid hiker and runner, loves to read and travel, and support her daughters in club soccer and dance. Make A Wish San Diego is also near and dear to her heart and she is an active volunteer with the organization.

Megan Harkins-Mobarak

Canyon View, Painted Rock, Higland Ranch, Sunset Hills, Valley

Megan currently works as a program specialist with Canyon View, Highland Ranch, Painted Rock, Sunset Hills, and Valley Elementary Schools.  Her background is as a resource specialist as well as working within residential treatment facilities.  Megan is married, has 4-year old son and a French bulldog.  She loves traveling, spending time with family and friends, being crafty, and baking.

Trish James

Del Sur, Los Penasquitos, Monterey Ridge, Pomerado, Stone Ranch

Trish has been an educator since 1997. She graduated with a BS from Creighton University and received a MS from the University of Nebraska. She has taught general education and special education both as a resource specialist and a mild-moderate special day class teacher working with students grades K-6. When not at work, Trish enjoys attending sporting events with her husband, son, and daughter. Her hobbies include reading, spending time outside with her family, and movie night. 

Michelle Jilly

Bernardo Heights, Del Norte, Rancho Bernardo, Twin Peaks

Michelle earned her Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts and Masters in Special Education at California State University, San Marcos.  She also holds credentials in K-12 Special Education: Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe, K-8 Multiple Subjects, Single Subject English, and in Administration.  Michelle was a Special Education teacher for 8 years in Escondido High School District before becoming a Program Specialist for Poway Unified. She currently oversees BHMS, DNHS, RBHS, TPMS, and Statewide Assessments for the district. 

Kathryn (Kadee) McKinney

Deer Canyon, Garden Road, Midland, Westwood

Kadee recently started her 16th year in education and throughout the years she has gained a great deal of experience in many different educational settings. She started her career as a general education teacher and then moved into special education. While with PUSD, she has taught the NSH/SDC class, was a Resource Specialist at the elementary school level and most recently joined the Program Specialist team. She has three amazing children of her own who all attend PUSD. As a busy mom of three, she cherishes her summers greatly and loves visiting Maui. Kadee recently completed her administrative credential and she is beyond excited to jump into her new role and work with the teams at Garden Road, Midland, Deer Canyon & Westwood. It’s going to be a great year, ALOHA!

Judy Monday

Preschool Assessment Team, Park Village

Judy brings more than 20+ years of expertise including program development, staff training, conflict resolution as well as education and administration for students with disabilities from preschool to adult.  Since 2002, she has worked as a Program Specialist supporting elementary and secondary schools in addition to the Preschool Assessment Team. Her training and research interests include inclusive preschool and elementary programming for high functioning students on the autism spectrum. In her free time Judy likes to hike and create new Vegan dishes.

Meghan Moore

Chaparral, Morning Creek, Shoal Creek, Tierra Bonita, Willow Grove

Meghan has worked for the Poway Unified School District since 2015. She has her Moderate to Severe Education Specialist Credential along with a Master’s in Education. She is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and is currently completing her Preliminary Administrative Services Credential. Meghan is married to her college sweetheart and they have 2 boys, Davey & Artie. Meghan’s interests include running half marathons, travelling, crafting, and reading. Meghan looks forward to working with school site teams and families to meet the needs of all students.

Laura Mueller

Abraxas, Extended School Year, Transition Partnership Program/WorkAbility

Laura has worked in Poway Unified School District since 2005. She began work in the District as a Piano Accompanist before moving on to become an Instructional Aide, Substitute Teacher, School Psychologist, and Behavior Specialist. With her doctorate in Educational Psychology, she also serves as an adjunct professor for Alliant International University in the California School of Education.  She is the proud mom of eleven grown children, including five who were adopted from the County of San Diego and one who received Special Education services right here in our District. 

Sara Nielsen

Design 39 Campus, Mesa Verde, Oak Valley, Westivew

Sara has worked in Special Education for over 15 years, supporting students and families in the role of an instructional assistant, special day class teacher, education specialist, and program specialist. She has worked with students from Pre-K to 12th grade in the continuum of placement options from residential treatment centers, public school special day classes, blended specialized academic instruction programs, and full inclusion placements. She is honored to be currently supporting students, families and staff at the secondary level in the Poway Unified School District.

Stephen Whittaker

Black Mountain, Meadowbrook, Mt. Carmel, New Directions, Poway
Stephen's interest in education began with seeing his brother, who had an IEP, struggle to find success in school. Starting when he was 12 years old he volunteered his summers working in special day classes, worked as an instructional assistant for several years as an adult, and taught a variety of classes for students with special needs including classes for students with emotional disturbances, students with mild to moderate disabilities, and students with moderate to severe disabilities. He's passionate about school and community inclusion and finding the path to make students successful. Stephen is excited to be supporting Mt. Carmel High School, Poway High School, Meadowbrook Middle School, Black Mountain Middle School, and New Directions this year!

Kelly Xitco

PAL/BASES, NCA, Private Schools

Kelly has over 20 years of Special Education teaching experience at every educational level, preschool through high school, that has allowed her the opportunity to be a strong advocate for students with varying needs. For the past year and a half, she has had the privilege of taking on the role of Program Specialist and oversees the PAL, BASES and PPPSS programs for PUSD. In her free time, Kelly is an avid reader, enjoys hanging out with her five children and two grandkids, hiking and going to the beach.

The Poway Unified School District (PUSD) is an equal opportunity employer/program and is committed to an active Nondiscrimination Program. PUSD prohibits discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, national origin, nationality, immigration status, ethnicity, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression or association with a person or a group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. For more information, please contact: Title IX/Equity Compliance Officer, James Jimenez, Associate Superintendent of Personnel Support Services, Poway Unified School District, 15250 Avenue of Science, San Diego, CA 92128, 1-858-521-2800, extension 2121, jjimenez@powayusd.com. For students, you may contact Title IX Coordinator Jamie Dayhoff, Director of Attendance and Discipline, Poway Unified School District, 1-858-521-2840, jdayhoff@powayusd.com

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POWAY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT | 15250 Avenue of Science, San Diego, CA 92128 | (858) 521-2800