Pawsitism Leadership

Rebekah Hintzman

President

Rebekah Hintzman started her career watching dogs at her family home in the summer. That started her passion for dogs and encouraged her mind for small business. She started as a kennel manager at a local shepherd breeding facility in her home town which she gained her love for German Shepherds and training. Then went on to apprentice under a local dog groomer her senior year where she eventually started her own dog grooming business.

She worked at a local shelter as an adoption counselor where she acquired her first white German Shepherd Sam! Through the years of many different ventures, her passion for dogs and business continued on. She worked at other kennels and eventually started leaning towards training where she has worked for several corporations teaching dog training, receiving accreditation’s and mentoring others on how to train. She also volunteered at the local humane society in Sheboygan where she and a team of trainers helped save lives, learn more about stressed and manic behaviors among shelter dogs and build her impact in the community. She currently runs RUFF Academy Real Life Dog Training, a dog obedience school along with in-home private training in Sheboygan, WI. Working with families through classes, led to building a dog training mentorship program through North High School(RUFF Mentorship Program,) with Deb Trcka, a reading program at Cooper Elementary School where children read to Certified Pet Therapy Dogs(Relax With Rover,) and now to a non-profit to train service dogs for children with autism(Pawsitism Inc.)! After peeking into the world of service dogs, she was hooked. She liked being able to see the impact that dogs can make with families and especially children. Her top passion has always been training dogs in public so that people can be educated and see how well dogs can be! She came up with the idea of training service dogs in this area for children with autism as there is a need for it and autism is something that her company can stand behind. With the different organizations that she has started in the community and what her main focus has been about, it just made sense to add this as another project. She then collaborated with a couple other visionaries to then make it what it is today! Rebekah has many connections within the community and dog world, so working together with people is not uncommon. Putting together her love for the community, strength through networking, passion for dog training and business and adding a noble cause, it has now created an amazing organization that is in its first year of development has grown quickly! Pawsitism Inc. has been blessed with dogs donated to the program, local businesses and organizations joining forces and Rebekah’s vision in training to help the dogs work toward successful Autism Assistance Service Dogs for a child in need! She is donating her training services for the first 18 months to help these dogs set the bar for others coming up! Just to give you an idea on time and cost, she trains each dog over 18 months. That equates to 800 personal training hours and $40,000 in training costs! Service dog training not only takes time, but dedication to the cause. Rebekah stays true to the overall goal, helping provide a child with autism with a professionally trained service dog! She currently lives in Sheboygan with her two Weimaraners, Romeo & Juliet. In her spare time, she likes to do pet therapy with Juliet, go hiking with Romeo, travel to new places meeting new people and continue her dog training education. She is currently certified in Pet Psychology and Behavior, an AKC CGC Evaluator, ADPT Member, and an Accredited Dog Trainer. She also carries Dog Is Good Apparel and Products through RUFF Academy! She is a passionate dog enthusiast and loves to help the community!
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Jennifer Marsh-Bartling

Director- Special Needs/Education

Teaching is the art of…Assisting Discovery! 

Jennifer works at Sheridan Elementary School as a Special Education Teacher. 

I am currently working in the Sheboygan Area School District as a K-5 Cross-Categorical Special Education Teacher but from an early age, I had a love of helping others and volunteering. I have been volunteering for Special Olympics events since I was in middle school. My love for teaching, learning, and being a cheerleader for those who need additional encouragement continued to grow as I interacted with many children and adults with disabilities.

I received my Bachelors of Science for Elementary Education and Special Education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I have a Masters Degree in Differentiated Instruction for At-Risk Learners that I received from Marian University and a Masters Degree in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education that I received from Regis University. I have been teaching for fifteen years with nine of those years as a special educator. I have had the privilege of working on a parent advocacy board in Boulder, Colorado where a group of various professionals met monthly to help any parent who attended find resources, offer suggestions, create visuals for home, or set up individual home visits to evaluate the child’s behaviors. This experience not only challenged me to be a better communicator with my own students’ families but it allowed me to see the vital importance of similar, structured, and consistent interventions between school and home. I have a passion for trying to help each student find success in otherwise difficult situations and find strategies that can help families generalize those successes at home. I have always felt people have many misconceptions about children with autism or other disabilities. I enjoy educating others about the inequities that my students face because of factors they can’t control through Sensitivity Trainings. Seeing a student or family find success is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I will utilize my knowledge and strategies to help move Pawsitism, Inc. forward so we can offer additional options and support for those children who would benefit from a Pawsitism Support Dog.

Being new to the area, I didn’t even know about Pawsitism, Inc. until a good friend shared her experience. Once she told me a little bit about the organization, I reflected back on two of my former students who had Autism Support dogs as well as attended horse therapy multiple times a week. Seeing my students’ confidence grow in social and over stimulating situations as well as their ability to calm down in escalated states, I knew I wanted to be a part of an organization that would benefit others like my former students.

I hope to learn as much as I can so I can be an advocate for Pawsitism, Inc. in the community and in the schools. I look forward to connecting with the families, providing guidance or support when needed, and bringing new perspectives and ideas. I would love Pawistism, Inc. to continue growing so more children with autism and their families can benefit from our Pawsitism Service Dogs.

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Cassie Cole

Director - Special Needs/Child Development

I have been actively involved in the disability community for as long as I can remember. My brother has multiple diagnoses, including autism. Watching his struggles and perseverance firsthand inspired my career choices. I worked as a camp counselor at Camp Evergreen, a local respite camp. I also have worked as a residential and respite caregiver for Individual Growth Services, Paragon Community Services, and Sheboygan County Health and Human Services. I have been a special education teacher since 2015, and most recently, I earned my Masters degree and Director of Special Education and Pupil Services.

I am continuously looking for more ways to actively advocate for increased support, awareness, and equitable experiences for people with disabilities and their families in our community. That being said, I was immediately impressed with Pawsitism’s mission. I remember volunteering at one of the organization’s earlier events and saying to Rebekah, “I wish there had been something like this when my brother was younger!” It has been amazing to watch the positive impacts Pawsitism is making,  both directly through providing support to the families that are receiving service dogs, and indirectly through the network that is being created by connecting those families and the dogs with each other and with the community. It would be an understatement to say I was excited to be presented with the opportunity to actively contribute to those positive impacts moving forward. 

I want to see the community outreach continue to grow, which would lead to two changes. The first change would be a wider network of support and comraderie for families of people with disabilities, including but not limited to autism. The second change would be a wider range of community awareness, acceptance, and inclusion. Our community is taking positive steps towards making events more equitable and accessible for people with disabilities, but we still have a long way to go, and Pawsitism and its members can be powerful advocates and change agents.

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Leslie Laster

Director - Child Counselor/Development

Working with Pawsitism is a family approach.  My background is in counseling and education so I am enjoying working directly with the children and offering any advice I can or support to parents.

I love animals but especially dogs and I also have a huge heart for helping others.  This opportunity allows me to educate myself more about dog training and the amazing things these dogs can do to support the families, but also to educate the community and help families.

My hope is that we will become a household name, educating the community about service dogs, children with autism and all the things parents and the children need to be supported.  Personally in my role helping the families, I hope to gain a stronger knowledge of the needs of the children we are helping and how to best support both the children and the families.​

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Tamara Pool

Treasurer

Tamara Pool was born and raised in Sheboygan. She attended James Madison Elementary School until 4th grade because her parents wanted an immersive educational experience that focused on the inclusion of special needs children. As a result, Tamara grew up knowing that people with disabilities could do anything with the right tools.

She has been involved in theatre her entire life and has always found joy in entertaining people. Other joys include spending time with her family and animals. Tamara has been a dog trainer for 13 years and worked as a job developer for people with disabilities through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. It was only natural that these two sides of her life should collide in the most wonderful way. Pawsitism is the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and cultivation with her best friend, Rebekah Hintzman, and she is overjoyed to see it taking flight.
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Tina Becker

Secretary

Tina is a Cross-Categorial Special Education Teacher at Sheboygan Area School District and a Book Keeper at Transpo Mini Storage.
My first passion was music which led me to earn my first Bachelors Degree in Vocal Music Performance from University of Wisconsin- Platteville.  Since I had a love for working with children, I decided to get my Associates Degree in Child Care and Development.  After years of holding positions as a Lead Teacher, I became the Center Director where I was able to work with the families to find resources they needed to make their children successful.

That experience brought me to the realization that I wanted to go back to school for my Elementary Education Bachelors Degree which I earned from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.  I worked as an Educational Assistant in the Sheboygan Area School district for six years.  I was able to develop many relationships with the students and in the community.  I designed interventions, lessons, and activities to help the students get excited about challenging work.  I celebrated the small victories with the students and made sure they knew I was there to help them with whatever they needed.  While subbing in the special education classroom, I became passionate about creating fair and successful learning experiences for all the students with a disability.  I learned the power of visuals, social skills, and the need for structure and routine.  From this passion, I was able to earn a slot in the RITE Program where I earned my Special Education Teacher licensure.  I currently work as a Cross-Categorical Special Education Teacher which allows me to work with many students and families with varying needs. As a Special Education Teacher, I have a strong desire to always do more for the students and families that I work with. I enjoy the challenges and “aha” moments that happen in my daily life as a Special Education Teacher. 

I love any opportunity to help others. As a dog-mom, I love the concept that dogs can be trained to help children and families who deal with the daily trials that autism brings to a family dynamic. This opportunity will also be one of education where I get to learn more about the needs of the families and how I can help make tasks more doable in their lives.
My hope is to help one child at a time. Helping children accomplish daily tasks, that many take for granted, is important to me. I want all children to be able to try new things with the confidence and support they need to be successful.

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