In The Words of Our Staff
“If I didn’t actually do this work and see the changes in children, I would never believe it,” says Debby Sroka, administrative teacher supervisor and, for the past six years, a head teacher at New York Center’s preschool for children with special needs. “They start to open up and you can see their progress. I love working here because this school enables me to do a lot for the children. I can get them on the right road at a very early age and help their parents. I can make them feel loved, needed and successful and give them confidence and self-esteem, in spite of their special needs. Basically, I can change the path they are heading down.”
Debby displays the kind of dedication and professionalism that defines those working at New York Center’s preschool.
“I’m always thinking about the children, how to make something interesting to them and hold their attention. It’s a passion,” she says – and it shows.
“I spend the first few weeks of the school year trying to understand each child and what his or her needs are,” Debby continues. “Based on that, I design a curriculum geared to the children individually and collectively as a class. I focus a lot on social-emotional skills, because if you don’t go up the ladder of development emotionally, it interferes with your learning intellectually. I choose and change the curriculum to reflect the changing needs of particular children and groups.”
Debby works hard to involve parents in the process.
“We have an open door policy in our school so parents do come in to visit,” she explains. “We’re also in constant contact by phone. I send home weekly letters explaining everything we did that week: what we talked about, what new songs we sang with the words so parents can sing with them, what books we read. I urge parents, as much as possible, to interact with their children at home as we do at school and to call me with any questions or problems.”
New York Center is not only a place of enormous growth for children. An important part of its mission is to foster the development of professionals.
“We’re always expanding our knowledge,” Debby says. “We have distinguished experts coming in to do seminars and trainings three or four times a year. Our senior staff keeps growing and they’re able to give us more information and strategies to use in the classroom. We’re all supportive of each other and work as a team. Teachers are very involved with therapists and any other related service providers that work with the children. We’re always talking to each other, not only in meetings, but when we pass in the halls.”
Debby’s final service to her children is to make sure they are properly placed when they leave New York Center.
“A big part of each teacher’s job is getting the children the right placements and services, sometimes, fighting for what they need. I observe different schools before making a recommendation and go with parents to all meetings. This is a very productive place. Our percentages of children who are mainstreamed or mainstreamed with related services are growing.”
“It’s always very special when students come back to visit and their moms tell me how successful they are in their new classes because of what we gave them here, how they’re speaking and making friends and, thanks to us, how positively their lives have changed.”
- Debby Sroka, Head Teacher