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Special Education Collaborative

Boise State College of Education and the Lee Pesky Learning Center established a collaborative partnership in 2011 by creating a dual role for Dr. Evelyn Johnson. At the time, Dr. Johnson was a faculty member in the Early and Special Education department, and assumed the responsibility executive director role at Lee Pesky Learning Center.

Since then, the relationship between the College of Education and Lee Pesky Learning Center has grown and developed into three important areas: research, training and service.

Special Education Collaborative Vision

Create a national research, training, and service center dedicated to the 1 in 5 students with learning and attention challenges.

Collaborative Research

The research agenda at Lee Pesky Learning Center is focused on 3 main areas: 1) early detection of learning disabilities, 2) self-regulated learning, and 3) building teacher capacity to implement evidence-based practices.

This work has been featured in 9 academic journals, more than 15 national conferences and has led to partnerships with national organizations such as American Institutes for Research (AIR), the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), the National Center to Improve Literacy (NCIL), and Understood for Educators. 

A ‘Lab’ for Learning

Lee Pesky Learning Center serves as a ‘lab’ – what is learned about learning disabilities, assessments and interventions in the 1:1 setting inform potential approaches within the school setting that guide PK-12 school teams and inform best practices in the classroom.

Graduate Assistantships

Research initiatives and associated funding has involved 9 Boise State faculty, and more than 20 graduate students from Boise State College of Education, School of Social Work, College of Business and Economics, and the College of Engineering.

Funded Professorship

The partnership between Boise State College of Education and Lee Pesky Learning Center and the vision to develop a national center was instrumental in securing the college’s first named professorship, funded by Alan and Wendy Pesky.

Collaborative Training

Lee Pesky Learning Center is comprised of a 31-person staff that includes clinical and school psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and special education teachers. Lee Pesky Learning Center trains special education teacher candidates, and works with Idaho State University and the University of Oregon to offer internships for school psychologists.

Addressing Critical Shortages

School psychologists, counselors, and special educators are all critical shortage fields. In Idaho, many school districts hire school psychologists who have not completed rigorous programs and hire special education teachers who are not certified or who have obtained certification through an alternate route like ABCTE. Lee Pesky Learning Center helps meet the demand by providing internships for candidates in these high-need areas.


Lee Pesky Learning Center has supported 12 special education interns, and 1 counselor education intern from the College of Education. The internship programs in the College of Education has helped secure over $100,000 in scholarship funding.

Evidence Based Practices

Lee Pesky Learning Center trainers work across Idaho to build PK-3rd grade teacher capacity to implement evidence based practices in reading. Lee Pesky Learning Center’s network and connections across Idaho school districts has also led to opportunities for Boise State faculty to engage in training and to be connected.

Collaborative Service

As a non-profit organization, Lee Pesky Learning Center is connected and engaged with the broader community, and this facilitates connections for Boise State and beyond.

Treasure Valley Community

In addition to Boise State College of Education, Lee Pesky Learning Center has active partnerships with Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, the Treasure Valley YMCA, and the Andrus Center for Public Policy.

High-Quality Early Learning

Lee Pesky Learning Center working with other organizations to bring high-quality early learning opportunities to Idaho. The work is funded by the WK Kellogg foundation and a host of other regional and local organizations to train preschool teachers who work in economically diverse areas to implement evidence-based practices in early literacy, early numeracy and self-regulation.

Learning Pathways for Everyone

Lee Pesky Learning Center’s goal is to create a pathway to learning for everyone – there are multiple opportunities for College of Education faculty and the Boise State community to get involved in this mission and to enrich our community by creating high quality learning experiences for all children.

Lee Pesky Learning Center Background

Lee Pesky Learning Center was founded in 1997 by Alan and Wendy Pesky to honor their son Lee who struggled as a student with dysgraphia. Once they found a neuropsychologist who understood Lee’s challenges, he was able to get access to the type of instruction he needed. He graduated from Lafayette College and had his own business in Sun Valley, Id. In 1995, at the age of 30, Lee passed away from an inoperable brain tumor. Alan and Wendy founded the center to serve as a beacon for children and families struggling with learning and attention challenges.

The core of Lee Pesky Learning Center’s activities are its 1:1 services – the center provides psychoeducational evaluations, academic and counseling intervention and coaching to students who learn differently. Because students spend most of their time in school, Lee Pesky Learning Center also has a professional development team that works across Idaho and regionally to train teachers to implement evidence-based practices in the classroom – with a specific focus on reading and writing and self-regulation.

With the College of Education, Alan and Wendy Pesky also founded the Pesky Award for Inspirational Teaching in 2011. Ardent supporters of improved education the Peskys created the award because they wanted to recognize those extraordinary teachers who ignite a fire in their students at some point to become a teacher themselves, and then light a similar fire in the lives of the children they teach.

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