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DuPage County school leader honored for innovation
Glendale Heights – During 26 years in the special education field, Lisa Grigsby has seen it all. Early in her teaching career, a student set off a smoke bomb in her classroom; fortunately, the room didn’t catch fire. Yet instead of deterring her, such experiences only increased Grigsby’s commitment to a population of young people who are neglected, abused, socially awkward and misunderstood.

As the director of Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School, Grigsby is recognized by her colleagues and staff as an innovator and leader who is dedicated to helping children reach their full potential. She was one of five leaders to receive the organization’s third quarter pillar award Oct. 14 at Adventist Midwest Health’s leadership development institute, held at the Abbington Distinctive Banquets in Glen Ellyn.

“Many of us believe that Lisa’s work at the Therapeutic Day School, which serves so many children in the Chicago area, has prevented the occurrence of a Columbine High School-type school shooting in our community,” said Brinsley Lewis, chief executive officer of Adventist GlenOaks Hospital.

Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School is a fully accredited, completely self-contained school that aids students with severe learning, social or emotional disorders. Among the conditions treated are Asperger’s syndrome, psychiatric disorders, severe depression and severe anxiety.

“Our population includes students with severe emotional disorders, students who might have been abused and students who might have secondary issues such as substance abuse addictions,” Grigsby said. “They should be in a place where they can feel comfortable while they receive the extra attention they need.”

Grigsby created Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School’s program to give elementary through high school students the opportunity to earn normal academic credits while attending individual and group therapy sessions. It is staffed by teachers, nurses, social workers, therapists, clinical psychologists and a psychiatrist.

Since opening in 1995 with just three teachers and 10 students, Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School has grown to 73 staff members and nearly 200 students at three campuses: a main campus in Glendale Heights, a west campus in North Aurora and a south campus in Glen Ellyn. Earlier this year, the school launched the Transitions program, which is aimed at helping students (age 17 to 21) transition into life after high school by teaching them the life skills they need to become independent adults.

Assistant Principal Mike Carter said Grigsby always had a vision for Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School’s future.

“Lisa is without question the strongest woman I have ever met in my life,” said Carter. “She built these schools into something wonderful.”

Grigsby has been employed by Adventist Midwest Health since 1986, when she started working as a teacher in Adventist GlenOaks Hospital’s adolescent psychiatric unit. Grigsby and the other teachers taught 20 students reading and math during a class that lasted two hours and 30 minutes. When the unit continued to grow and the number of students increased, Grigsby became the director of the Adventist GlenOaks Day Hospital and inpatient care unit. She supervised teachers, worked on case management and helped students transition to their local schools. But Grigsby noticed these fragile students quickly relapsed after they were sent back to their local public schools. She then created the therapeutic day school to provide longer-term therapy to students with emotional and social needs.

Outside of her work at the Therapeutic Day School, Grigsby teaches Sunday school and co-founded the Parents Day Out program at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Wheaton. The program allows parents to spend a few hours running errands, doing housework or relaxing while volunteers watch their children. She and her husband, Rick, have two children, Lauren and Ian. The family lives in DuPage County.

Pillar award nominations were solicited from Adventist Midwest Health’s senior leadership team. To be eligible for an award, leaders must demonstrate their commitment to the organization’s standards of behavior: sense, help, acknowledge, respect and explain. They must also demonstrate measurable results on the quarterly goals set for their departments. These goals are organized under the seven categories, or pillars, of spiritual life, people, clinical, service, community, growth, and stewardship.

One pillar award winner is chosen from each of the organization’s four suburban hospitals and a fifth winner is chosen from among the organization’s non-hospital programs and shared services support departments. Pillar awards will be presented at the organization’s quarterly leadership development institutes, held in January, April, July and October.