A mother’s passion, a history of progress

Brehm Preparatory School was founded in 1982 by Carol Brehm and a small group of professionals in the learning disability field. Mrs. Brehm was the mother of Tyson Brehm, a high-school student with learning disabilities whose unique needs were not addressed by the public school system or by traditional boarding schools.

Tyson’s mother dreamt of school where her son and other students with learning disabilities could get the kind of specialized help they needed. The honorary shovel broke ground on the nine-acre campus in April of 1982.

By late August, four humble dorms and two modest academic buildings were built at 1245 East Grand Avenue, in Carbondale, Illinois, a location selected for its proximity to Southern Illinois University. The school doors opened that fall for 19 students being taught and supervised by 17 full- and part-time staff.

(Above) This is some of our staff from our first year, along with 2 of the school’s Founders. (Front, left to right) Susan Nutter, Todd Linville, John Miner. (Back, left to right) Char Minor, Greg Douglas, Barbara Cordoni (Founder), Marc Beiligmann, Diann Gordon, Lynn Rocklage (Founder), Nancy Linville.

(Above) This is some of our staff from our first year, along with 2 of the school’s Founders. (Front, left to right) Susan Nutter, Todd Linville, John Miner. (Back, left to right) Char Minor, Greg Douglas, Barbara Cordoni (Founder), Marc Beiligmann, Diann Gordon, Lynn Rocklage (Founder), Nancy Linville. 

Honoring Individual Learning Experiences

The small staff, like the founder, had big dreams. Emerging pedagogical practices were grounded in the premise that every child could learn and that each child learned differently. The approach focused on using a combination of learning modalities: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Tactile — commonly referred to as VAKT.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), which would later be revamped as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was in its infancy. But Brehm, even in its early years, pioneered remarkable advances in how best to recognize individual differences and provide a holistic learning environment that fostered student success.

A previous Brehm graduate and current Brehm Board member, Matthew Marosek, is a great example of how Brehm changes the lives of our students and their families! “Brehm worked for me,” Matthew said. “I believe that joining the Board of Trustees is a great opportunity for me to give back to an organization that has helped me and hopefully provide insight from a different perspective as an alumnus.” Matthew received his master’s of science in civil engineering from Kansas State University. Success stories like his have been repeated over and over since the doors of learning first opened at Brehm.

A major expansion

Brehm visionaries continued to dream of better facilities and programs for more students. From 1996 to 2006, Brehm underwent major expansions, led by a strategic planning process open to all stakeholders. The plan resulted in the addition of two new academic buildings, a new girls’ dorm, a therapeutic and administrative building, and the expansion of existing dorms and academic buildings, and a new multi-purpose building with a dining hall, gym, cyber café, and stage.

Through it all, the school’s mission and vision have remained constant and true to Carol Brehm’s dream — the empowerment of bright students who learn differently. Her passion and spirit continue to be a motivating presence, guiding leadership and stakeholders on a daily basis and in long-range strategic planning focused on keeping Brehm at the forefront of special education.

(Above) This is some of our staff from our first year, along with 2 of the school’s Founders. (Front, left to right) Susan Nutter, Todd Linville, John Miner. (Back, left to right) Char Minor, Greg Douglas, Barbara Cordoni (Founder), Marc Beiligmann, Diann Gordon, Lynn Rocklage (Founder), Nancy Linville.

(Above) Brehm founders and pioneers at Brehm’s 1982 groundbreaking ceremony. From left: Robert Stoneburner, Lynne Rocklage, Barbara Cordoni, James Teska, and Carol Brehm.