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I’ll never forget the moment I met Suzanne Fitzgerald, Author and CEO of SDES. 

It was May 2022 and I had just dragged my exhausted self to yet another education conference – this time in Myrtle Beach. After 27 years as a high school special ed teacher, and spending 27 years developing My Transition Portfolio, I was running on fumes but was determined to find resources to compliment My Portfolio program in order to better support my students. 

For years, I struggled to create consistent, data-driven programming and meaningful connections with students’ families. I pieced together my own makeshift curriculum and spent late nights designing books, videos, and digital tools to guide my students in building school-to-work transition portfolios. Although I had the transition component covered, I felt like something was missing.

I was desperate to lighten my heavy load but hadn’t found solutions that truly worked for my population – students with moderate to severe disabilities. 

So there I was, glassy-eyed and overwhelmed, wandering the vendor hall at this latest conference. I decided to stop at the SDES booth. “Functional Academics” their banner read. It sounded promising, as my district used their program, yet I knew little about it. 

I walked up to the woman standing there and introduced myself. As we chatted, I was shocked to learn she was from Bothell, Washington – my hometown! What were the chances?

We spoke for hours and uncovered so many commonalities in our approach to special education. But most importantly, her program included the components I had been lacking for years – comprehensive academics broken into clear standards and objectives, assessments pinpointing student levels, data tracking for progress monitoring. Game changer!

Suzanne, the creator of the program, extended an invitation to connect more back home. I couldn’t believe this chance meeting and how perfectly her decades of work addressed my pain points as an educator and complimented my decades of work to find the right solutions for functional skill development post-school planning.

Since then, Suzanne and I have spent many hours discussing our shared passion – empowering special education teachers with the resources they desperately need. 

You see, Suzanne understands those needs intimately because she’s still in the trenches herself, working directly with students like mine. She’s not some disconnected curriculum company. 

Her vision is “a game-changing, comprehensive functional academics program that enables students with moderate to severe disabilities to improve their ability to live independently and show meaningful growth both academically and personally, while creating accountability with data-driven, evidence-based results.”

As she describes it, “The real standard for teaching functional academics. Developed by teachers for teachers, SDES has created a comprehensive, evidence-based roadmap with a scope and sequence designed to empower students with complex learning challenges to increase their independence and reach their full potential.”

Unlike so many other resources, her collaborative work directly with fellow educators, students, and families gives her program an unmatched depth of understanding of real needs in the classroom. 

Suzanne is truly a thought-leader in special education. But she is also a teacher at heart who cares deeply about each student.

And she recognized in me a kindred spirit – someone equally passionate about stepping outside the status quo to create positive change for our kids. 

Which brings me to now. I am humbled and thrilled to join Suzanne in bringing her vision to life. I now create content for the SDES program I stumbled upon nearly by chance months ago. 

Finally, I get to be part of the solution, helping bridge the gap between exceptional educators and the tools they need to transform young lives.

My sincere hope is that every student with moderate to severe disabilities, no matter where they live, has access to this programming and its consistency as they transition grades. 

I am deeply committed to this work, not just as a career move, but as a calling. Because I have looked into the eyes of students who so desperately need our support.

So if you’re an educator feeling exhausted and in need of better solutions, take heart. There are those of us – like Suzanne and myself – who understand your frustrations and want to help lighten your load. 

Keep advocating for your students. Seek out resources rooted in real classroom experience. And know there are more connections to be made, more Daniels waiting to share their dreams. Your tireless efforts are so worth it.

Suzanne and I feel privileged to support you on this journey. Stay encouraged, my friends. Help is on the way. Our kids are counting on us.  Remember, you are NOT alone.  Stay tuned for more content to assist you along your own journey!

Stay strong, Champions!

Barb Beck

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SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create a simple and affordable solution for special educators to use during this critical time.

The Virtual Teaching Materials are a separate supplemental purchase that will greatly enhance the Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics ​or can be used on its own.

Virtual Teaching Materials Pricing 1st year: $1000 non-recurring configuration fee plus 12 x monthly charge.

Per Month
Per Year*


































Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.

Scheduling Tip

Find a student in your classroom who can read and understand your master schedule. Assign them a job in the morning to help set up individual student schedules. See the video of Megan setting up the schedule.
Play Video
Suzanne’s student Megan was her Teacher’s Assistant first period during her junior and senior year. One of her jobs, among other clerical tasks, was to set up individual student schedules. It saved Suzanne prep time in the morning and was a great vocational experience for Megan.

SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create the full Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics in the cloud. *The Styer-Fitzgerald Program in the Cloud Start-Up Fee: a $6000 non-recurring start-up fee will be added to the first year subscription only.

Cloud Pricing

Per Month
Per Year*
Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.