While she was in high school, Jade spent the summer in Philadelphia with her aunt and her cousin. Jade’s cousin has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with autism find social communication challenging and may have difficulty interacting with the sensory aspects of their environment. During family visits, Jade accompanied her cousin to occupational and speech therapy and observed the therapists at work. Back at her aunt’s home, Jade would practice the strategies she had observed with her cousin. During this time, Jade realized she wanted to work with children, especially those with disabilities.
Jade came to St. Thomas Aquinas College to fulfill that goal. After succeeding academically, Jade was invited to be part of the Dual Degree program. She graduated with a BSEd. in Childhood Education in 2017 and an MSEd. Special Education in 2018. During her freshman year at STAC, Jade was part of the dance team and performed during home games.
When Jade was about to graduate, a St. Thomas Aquinas College alum invited her to visit the Pharos Academy Charter School in the South Bronx, where she worked. Not knowing what to expect, Jade brought her resume for the principal to review. During that visit, Jade was asked to interview for a position at the school, and before she knew it, she was offered a job. Jade worked as a Special Education Teacher Support Service (SETSS) teacher at the Pharos Academy Charter School for three years. She was responsible for providing instructional support to students in grades 3-6 and writing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Working alongside a fellow STAC alum was reassuring as it helped to have a familiar person to turn to during her first year of teaching.
Jade currently works as a 5th Grade General Education Teacher in North Rockland Central School District. Jade and her partner teacher work with over 40 students. Jade teaches the students English Language Arts and Social Studies, while her partner assumes responsibility for Mathematics and Science. Jade finds that group size is one of the biggest differences between general and special education. She commented, “It was an adjustment to have a large class and give all the students attention.”
Jade was teaching a unit on “Grit and Perseverance,” incorporating texts in which characters go through a difficult time. Her students particularly enjoyed a book by Susan Hood titled Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, which tells the true story of a young girl, Ada Rios, whose music teacher made his students instruments from trash so they could fulfill their dreams to play music. Like the inspirational teacher in the story, Jade also aspires to energize her students: “I enjoy the impact that I am able to leave on my students,” she states. “Many of my former students still reach out to me, and it makes me feel proud as an educator that I have been able to provide a positive learning experience for them.”
Jade’s story was recently featured in the School of Education Spring 2023 newsletter. Please check out the newsletter designed by Stephen Campanella (MST ’24) here.