K-12 Health Education Team
Dr. Jenny Withycombe
Dr. Jenny Lind Withycombe, Assistant Director for Health and Adapted/Physical Education in Portland Public Schools (PPS), has over 25 years of experience within the field of health, physical education, and PK-12 instruction.
Dr. Withycombe is responsible for ensuring quality, inclusive, Health and Adapted/Physical Education implementation in a safe and supportive environment for all 50,000 PPS students PK-12. She has brought over $5.5 million in grants between 2017-2021 to support health and physical education in PPS.
• Kaiser Thriving Schools Integrated Assessment 2021-2024
• Centers for Disease Control, Mental Health – COVID Response Grant 2021-2023
• Adolescent’s and Communities Together 2.0 (ACT) 2020-2023
• Campbell’s Soup Grant (Healthy Active Schools) 2020-2021
• ISC – Professional Development Task Force 2020-2021
• Centers for Disease Control, Mental Health – COVID Response Grant 2020-2021
• Oregon Health Authority, HEALTH for K-5 Grant 2019-2021
• Centers for Disease Control, SAY Wellness Sexual Health Grant 2018-2024
• Advocates for Youth and the CDC Sex Education Grant 2017-2021
• Presidential Youth Fitness Program Grant 2017-2018
• Erg Ed Grant, George Pocock Rowing Foundation 2016-2020
• Adolescent’s and Communities Together 1.0 (ACT) 2016-2020
• USRowing Grievance Panel, 2022-Present
• Health Content Panel Advisory, Oregon Department of Education, 2022-Present
• PE Content Panel Advisory, Oregon Department of Education, 2022-Present
• SHAPE America Conference Reviewer, 2021-Present
• SHAPE America Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, 2020-Present
• USRowing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, 2020-Present
• School Health Advisory Council Planning Team, 2019-Present
• Urban Wellness Coalition, Action for Healthy Kids, 2016-Present
• Adolescents and Communities Together, Educational Subgroup, 2016-Present
• Family Violence Coordinating Council, Prevention Subgroup, 2016-Present
• Wellness Advisory Council, Coordinator, 2016-Present
• Health and PE Curriculum Analysis Group, Oregon Department of Education, 2017
• Health Curriculum Evaluation Development, Oregon Department of Education, 2016
• Health Content Panel Advisory, Oregon Department of Education, 2016-2019
• PE Content Panel Advisory, Oregon Department of Education, 2016-2019
• Erg Ed District Coordinator, George Pocock Rowing Foundation, 2016-2019
• Editorial Board, Women’s Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 2012-Present
Dr. Withycombe is a competitive Master’s Rower and Women’s Team Captain for Willamette Rowing Club. She has over 100 medals earned throughout her 20+ years of rowing. Her most special gold came from stroking the 2013 Head of the Charles Mixed Quad. Dr. Withycombe lives in Portland, OR with her husband, two daughters, boxers, cat, and bearded dragons.
Vanessa Peña-La Torre
Vanessa Peña-La Torre, MPH, CHES® (she/they) is a Program Manager at Portland Public Schools, overseeing 5th-12th grade sexuality education programming, training, evaluation, and parent engagement under the Adolescents and Communities Together (ACT) grant.
Vanessa is a bilingual, first-generation Peruvian-American with a diverse multicultural background, and a lifelong interest in cross-cultural communication, cultural-responsiveness, and equity and inclusion. Combining her interest with her family traditions and practices around health promotion, Vanessa found her way to the field of public health.
With over 20 years’ experience as a sexuality educator, Vanessa centers her work in providing education that is inclusive of diverse cultural experiences, including the diversity within and intersectionality across cultural groups. This includes ensuring that learners receive LGBTQ+ inclusive, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed (or healing-centered) educational instruction that is developmentally and age-appropriate. Her experience ranges from providing workshops and training to youth, families and educators in diverse multicultural communities, such as LGBTQ+ and Latina(e/o) communities, to participating on state and national health advisory panels.
Vanessa holds a Master of Public Health from Portland State University, and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. In 2019, she was recognized as a Queer Hero by GLAPN (Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest). When not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time being a happy wanderer and exploring the beauty of the PNW.
Rachel Toback (she/her) works in the H-A/PE department overseeing the Mental Health Supplement for the Schools Advancing Youth (SAY) Wellness Grant Program funded by the CDC. This work focuses on all grades with the goals of increasing student and family access to mental health services, increasing staff capacity, comfort and knowledge regarding mental health topics such as suicide prevention and cultivating safer and supportive environments for all students at PPS. Rachel holds a Masters degree in Teaching which she has used for the past four years at PPS as a High School Health and PE teacher (Go Riders!). When she is not reading the ODE Health Standards (again) you can find her baking cakes for her friends, taking a long walk through Forest Park, riding her bike to the river or gym or reading a memoir while snuggling with her grumpy cat.
Elena Beeck (they/them) is the new Business Operations Specialist for the Health and Adapted/Physical Education department. They are a graduate of the University of Portland’s School of Social Work, and have been working for Portland Public Schools since the 2020-21 school year. They supported the initial launch of Summer Acceleration Academy, and have worked closely with the TAG/AVID team throughout their time at PPS. Elena lives in Portland, OR with their two cats, Goose and Raven; most evenings they can be found reading a sci-fi or fantasy novel.
K-12 Adapted Physical Education Team
Alana is one of seven K-12 Adapted Physical Education teachers in Portland Public Schools. She serves over 10 schools on her caseload in North Portland. She provides specially designed instruction for students with disabilities who require adaptations and modifications to participate safely and successfully in physical education. This specially designed instruction includes a continuum of services ranging from direct service to consultation. Adapted physical education includes teaching fundamental gross motor skills, static balance, participation, and the knowledge and understanding of various lifelong activities to students with disabilities.
Alana graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Kinesiology and Physical Education Teacher Preparation and a Specialization in Adapted Physical Education. She also has a Masters degree of Science in Recreation Administration and a Specialization in Outdoor Pursuits Administration. She has been teaching Physical Education/Adapted Physical Education since she graduated from Wisconsin in 2004. Alana was also a division one varsity rower on the crew team at the University of Wisconsin. The Pacific Northwest is Alana’s true utopia as she loves to snowboard, kiteboard, wakeboard, wake surf, play golf and tennis with her partner, and adventure kitty Ocho. She truly loves all sports and inspiring students of all abilities to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Lonzo is one of eight K-12 Adapted Physical Education (APE) teachers within Portland Public Schools (PPS). He's a Chicano bilingual speaker, born and raised in El Paso, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Physical Education from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. He grew up in a baseball and softball loving family and played three years at his HBCU. He then graduated with his Master of Science in Physical Education with an emphasis in Adapted Physical Education and Adventure Education from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2016. He has been teaching APE with PPS since then and currently serves students enrolled in the Online Learning Academy and multiple schools in the SouthWest clusters. He provides a continuum of APE services ranging from direct to consultation for students in grades K-12 who are found to be eligible under the Special Education process.
He strives toward helping create opportunities for students to access the general physical education curriculum, create positive learning experiences, boost student self-esteem, and foster healthy and active lifestyles for students of all abilities. Lonzo has also been on the PPS Inclusive Play Spaces Guiding Coalition since 2021. Life with his wife and family in the Pacific Northwest introduced him to one of his new favorite hobbies.............snowboarding! When he's not on the mountain, he likes to spend his time at the driving range, batting cages, kayaking, hiking, and wave watching on the Oregon coast. He loves working with people of all abilities and sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for physical activities and sports to encourage lifelong movement for all learners.
Amanda Torres is an Adapted Physical Education teacher in the Portland Public Schools. She serves multiple schools in SE and NE Portland. She provides specially designed instruction for students with disabilities who require additional support to participate successfully in PE. Supports may include adaptations, modification, accommodations, adaptive equipment, direct support, and consultation. APE focuses on the fundamental gross motor skills, individual and team games, social skills, student engagement, and developing lifelong skills that encourage physical and mental wellness.
Torres began her teaching career in 2011 as a special educator in focus classrooms. After involving students in Unified Sports, she made the jump to Adapted Physical Education in 2018. She holds a Master’s degree in Adapted Physical Education from Western Michigan University, a Special Education Endorsement from Lewis & Clark College, and a B.A. in Liberal Studies from Westmont College where she played collegiate soccer. Before entering the teaching profession, she spent time in various Latin American countries participating in community development projects.
When she is not teaching, Amanda spends most of her time with her husband and two energetic boys exploring the PNW, drinking too much coffee, and reading a good book. She is perpetually grateful to work as an APE teacher which combines her love of sports with her desire to advocate for people with disabilities.
Casey Bartlett has taught Adapted Physical Education for three years for PPS. He has taught and ran physical activities for almost 20 years with a wide range of ages and abilities. He has worked in schools, gyms, a cruise ship, and a variety of camps.
Casey was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He is a husband and father of two kids. They love spending time outdoors, playing basketball, swimming, and going to the beach. He has a passion for helping all students be active and supporting their fitness goals.