In The Words of Our Staff
Dr. Judy Lesch, EdD, became involved with New York Center for Child Development’s preschool for children with special needs while she was still Program Director for the Early Childhood Special Education program at Bank Street College of Education. When she came to observe the student teachers she assigned to New York Center, she was struck by “the level of civility and kindness of all the interactions with the children here,” she recalls, “how they are undertaken with such thoughtfulness and understanding of each child’s unique learning style, developmental level and the need to keep that child’s ego as solid and strong as possible. The entire staff here – teachers, teacher’s aides, therapists, psychologist, social workers – is trained in good relationship-building,” Dr. Lesch explains, “and that extends across the board. Relationships are considered central – between the teacher and child, between the teacher and parents, between staff members and between children themselves, who are helped to understand the value of their peers and friends. This is a place that respects children and families and seeks to help each child reach his or her full potential.”
Dr. Lesch joined the staff of New York Center in 200? as the Teacher Supervisor working directly with classroom teachers regarding how and what they teach. Her mission is to ensure that the educational component of New York Center’s preschool is as enriching as the environment is caring and therapeutic.
“For preschoolers that means being involved in hands-on, interesting, real-life activities and having opportunities to interact with different materials so they can acquire the understanding, concepts and physical abilities that allow their brains to develop. It also means giving them a chance to discover how their bodies work. They need to run, jump and climb, as well as to use materials to create new things and enhance their ability to play. Play is the way children learn to think,” Dr. Lesch says. “It is their first and most profound symbolic experience.”
“At New York Center, we have a strong, organized curriculum that provides materials and content that address the variety of children’s needs. Our job as teachers and what is unique about this school is that we are constantly assessing where each child is in all areas of his or her development. Once a week, there is a team meeting in every classroom where teachers, therapists, psychologists and social workers focus on one child. They look at that child’s current level of functioning and set goals so that everyone understands what they’re working on with that individual. We spend a lot of time getting to know each child’s strengths and areas that require further growth so that we’re always working at what is called ‘the point of need’. We are at the cutting edge of current thinking about the variety of strategies to be used with children with disabilities and adapting them in sensitive, sensible ways.”
- Dr. Judy Lesch