Our teaching community is very stable with a low turnover rate. Our staff includes credentialed special education teachers, instructional aides, licensed clinical social workers, and a speech therapist. Credentials vary from Learning Handicapped Specialist, Clear Level-II Education Specialist, and Preliminary Level-I Education Specialist. Staff members share the teaching philosophy that all children and troubled teens, regardless of their mental illness and learning disability, can learn in the appropriate setting. Our teachers are continually finding new ways to adapt the special education curriculum to relate to a student’s background, interests, and needs.
Amy Cousineau, Ph.D., Division Chief, Campus-Based Services
Amy Cousineau is Hillsides’ Division Chief, Campus-Based Services. In this position she oversees the Hillsides Education Center, the Residential Treatment Services program, nursing, and Therapeutic Behavioral Services. She is also in charge of steering the residential program through foster care reform as mandated by the recent state law AB 403, the Continuum of Care Reform. Most previously to this position, she served as Hillsides director of programs and strategic initiatives.
Amy began her career at Hillsides in 2008, starting out as a psychologist and assessment program manager. She was then promoted to Hillsides training program manager and then to the director of Hillsides Family Resource Center in Echo Park, Calif., which offers the community a wide range of programs and services such as mental health support and parenting classes. While supervising the Echo Park location, she also served for eight months as the interim director of Youth Moving On, Hillsides program for transition-aged youth 16 – 25.
While working at Hillsides, Amy concurrently worked as a psychologist in private practice in Glendale, Calif., for about five years. She also worked as a therapist at the VIP Community Health Center in Los Angeles, as a psychological assistant at the Learning Disabilities Testing Center in Redondo Beach, Calif., and as a staff therapist at the Biola Counseling Center in La Mirada, Calif., among other jobs.
Amy received a bachelor’s degree from Biola University with a double major in psychology and music and a master’s and doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University.
Puja Chhabra, LCSW, RYT-200
Puja Chhabra is the clinical director of Hillsides Education Center. In this position, she oversees the implementation of clinical services provided to students and families of the school and contracts services with various school districts She also develops interventions to help students and families achieve both emotional and academic success, and provides clinical supervision and training for staff.
Puja began her career at Hillsides 12 years ago as a residential clinical social worker at Canyon Cottage. Since then, she has held positions as a school-based clinical supervisor, a clinical supervisor for the Full Service Partnership program at Hillsides Family Resource Center in Echo Park, and most recently, a clinical supervisor with Hillsides Education Support Services. Previously she worked as a psychiatric social worker at Steinway Child & Family Services, Inc. in Long Island City, New York.
Besides her duties at Hillsides, Puja provides individual, group and couples’ therapy at the Rowan Center for Behavioral Medicine in Burbank, specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic and mindfulness approaches. She is also the owner of Puja Therapy and Yoga, offering yoga and therapy as a way for clients to cope with depression, anxiety and trauma. Puja received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and political studies from Pitzer College in Claremont and a master’s degree in social work from New York University. She became a licensed clinical social worker in 2007 and a registered yoga teacher in 2014, specializing in trauma informed practices both in yoga and therapy.
Jimmy Fernandez, J.D.
Jimmy started out as a classroom assistant and then returned to school to receive an education specialist credential. He has taught fifth through 10th grade at HEC, and worked as a lead teacher, running his own program that focused on individualized instruction to a small group of students. Jimmy holds a law degree and worked in the legal field for many years before making a career change to education.
Robyn Wehrly, M.A.
Robyn has taught special education for 14 years, 12 of them at Hillsides Education Center. In addition to her role as a teacher, she is the guidance counselor at the school. She creates the master schedule for all the high school students, maintains transcripts, and completes credit and graduation checks for each high school student. Robyn received a bachelor's degree in English and psychology from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in special education from George Washington University.
Other support staff includes:
- Credentialed teachers
- Physical education teacher
- Music teacher
- Teaching assistants
- Behavioral specialist team
- Social workers
- Speech and language therapist
- Office manager/billing manager