Principal Ryan Varga of Burlington County Special Services School District talks about the importance of appreciating special educators for the steadfast support and dedication they give to their students on a daily basis.
By Anna Wolfe
Principal Ryan Varga understands how much hard work and personalized attention special educators give to their students year-round. In the classroom and beyond, the special services teachers at Ryan’s school provide their students with the support, clarity, and consistency they need to transition successfully into the working world and succeed in life. Last month, we celebrated Six Flags’ Autism Day with Ryan and one of our superstar students, Aiden. Between rollercoaster rides, we sat down with Ryan and chatted about the importance of celebrating special educators and the countless feats they achieve on a daily basis.
Tell us about your teachers at BCSSD and what they face on a day-to-day basis?
A lot of the challenges our teachers face extend outside the classroom, like helping with functional tasks that happen in day-to-day life. We have some teachers who go above and beyond their call of duty and may meet a student or a parent at say, a dentist’s office, because they feel more comfortable with that teacher.
In a lot of cases, our teachers see students more than their parents do because the students are with us for seven hours a day! …So we definitely appreciate how much teachers put on a counseling hat, a teacher hat, parental hat, coach’s hat, or any other hat that is necessary in their role. I would really like to do a better job of showing appreciation for everything our teachers do on a daily basis!
How has ONEder helped your teachers in and out of the classroom?
Right now, I would say that ONEder has been a big success within our transition building, which caters to students aged 18 to 21 who have met their graduation requirements for high school. Within our transition building, we’re working on direct IP goals for transitioning and functioning effectively into the workforce.
Within ONEder, a teacher can go search and open the file on a student, and then if a new teacher or support staff member were to open that file next, it would show the same continuous education program within the ONEder platform. Then if a parent wants to utilize the program in ONEder at home—so it stays consistent with school—they also have that ability as well.
…I would say that my favorite ONEder success story would be the implementation of the functional task analysis, where we can create a folder for a student that basically portfolios his or her entire year. If a lesson works really well for that student—knowing that ‘the same shoe may not fit every person’—the lesson can be shared within a library. So, for example, what works for Aiden might not work for Steve, but what works for Steve could work for Christopher. The ability to share [lessons] has saved time for our teachers… and moving forward it will be a huge help!
How can administrators and other teachers support one another and celebrate their successes?
To me it means reflecting on and appreciating our teachers’ accomplishments and everything they do all throughout the year; this is especially true within special services because our students have such unique challenges.
We really need to do it on a daily basis! At BCSSD we like to put teachers in the spotlight… We do a Campus Connection every other week (on the 15th and 30th) where a staff member—it could be a custodian, teacher, parent volunteer, or an administrator—is recognized for their accomplishments. Even at that, we can only do this twice a month, so it’s still tough to recognize everybody as much as they deserve for all they do!
At BCSSD, we try to show our appreciation to our teachers by supporting them in everything that they want to do, trusting them, and valuing their professionalism and their specialty in working with students with disabilities.
Check out a short clip of our day at Six Flags’ Autism Day. Thanks to Aiden, Jennifer, Brady, and Ryan for joining us!
Video from six flags:
How do you celebrate your special educators? Share your ideas in the comments section below!