Monthly Archives: September 2018

Welcome back! A note from Sunrise’s director

It is my goal to provide the best early education and care program for our children and parents. A place where children learn and play in a safe and encouraging environment. A place where we can make a difference, serving each child at their individual level. A place where a love of learning is instilled, and the foundational building blocks are formulated for a successful transition into an elementary school. A place where we begin to develop the little of minds of our future . . . moral, ethical, responsible, loving, caring, motivated, eager productive citizens.

The skies cleared and on Friday, September 28th, Sunrise held its first Fall Festival and Chili Cook-Off for students, families, and staff. It was a wonderful afternoon filled with carnival games, fellowship among parents, and delicious food. Many thanks to our Chili Cook-Off participants for making some outstandingly great chili.

Congratulations to the 2018 Chili Champions:

  • First place – Team Baker
  • Second place – Team Terlizzi
  • Third place – Hill’s Chili
  • Fourth place – Ms. Michelle

We also wish to thank our wonderful judges:

  • Sarah, our Sunrise assistant director;
  • Roger Blais, our Sunrise maintenance company;
  • Jen Wagaman, Sunrise alumni parent;
  • Bryan Comtois; Sunrise alumni parent.

Of course, we could never have held this event without the support and participation by our Sunrise families, our Sunrise staff, and various local businesses who offered donations. We hope everyone had a wonderful time and are looking forward to our next great event – the Halloween Trunk or Treat.

Sunrise has lots of fun-filled activities and events planned for the months of October and November. We want our parents to be informed. Sunrise has a parent board along the hallway to Wing 2 which posts our events for the month of October. We will also post notices on the front counter for parents to review at drop off and pick up. Our staff is working on using our BrightWheel programs to also offer program updates. We encourage our families to visit the RSEC Facebook page and website for our calendar and updates.

A peek inside RSEC’s fall trip: Letters from parents

2018 New York Fall Trip

We received this note from a parent after her RSEC Academy student returned from their annual fall trip to NYC where they enjoyed dinner at Hard Rock Cafe New York and experienced Come From Away on Broadway. The two-day annual fall trip also included a visit to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. The students visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum and explored the city in all directions to add to the millions of stories already told about New York City. We’re so happy to hear about the victories – large and small – that happen every day with RSEC students. Thank you to this parent (names withheld for privacy) for sharing! And thank you to the teachers and staff who worked so hard to plan for this fall trip to make it educational and meaningful for everyone.

Dear Mrs. Reed:

Who was this kid that came home today?? My student could not stop talking about his experiences in New York. He talked the entire way home sharing every detail. Including how long it took the girls to do all their make-up and hair and how that this trip was stressful to the teachers as they had to make sure no one got lost.

He absolutely loved the musical!! (the one thing I thought he might like the least). He said that when he saw the Statue of Liberty he got emotional. He shared the story behind the soldier on a horse at the 9/11 Memorial. This too was an emotional experience for him. He took everything in and had a fantastic experience. He did not have one negative thing to say.

The experiences were summed up in this statement…” this trip was good for someone like me and for the kids at the school, it made us get out of our comfort zone and try and see new things”

Needless to say, he has been in bed since 7:30. When I asked him about doing the activity that is tomorrow night till Sunday–he said after this trip I can get through anything. If he can make it through all this too after the week he has already had, I will be at a loss for words.

Thank you for all the effort and hard work that went into this “Amazing” experience for our kids!!!

-A RSEC Academy parent

RSEC Academy featured as stop on U.S. Department of Education 2018 Back to School Tour

US Department of Education visit

Special visit on September 11 featured a tour and roundtable discussions with teachers and students focused on “rethinking school”

Today, teachers, students, administrators and alumni from The RSEC Academy in Amherst welcomed senior officials from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. DOE) in Washington, D.C. The RSEC Academy was one of two schools in New Hampshire selected as stops on the agency’s 2018 Back to School Tour because of its best practices and successful models for delivering special education services.

Johnny Collett, Assistant Secretary and Kimberly Richey, Deputy Assistant Secretary for U.S. DOE’s Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), toured The RSEC Academy’s Amherst, New Hampshire, campus and met with teachers, students, and alumni to discuss the unique and creative individualized approaches to education that are in place at RSEC and its five affiliated programs.

Collett, a former Kentucky state special education director and high school special education teacher, leads OSERS in its mission to improve early childhood, educational, and employment outcomes and raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities, and the nation. Richey serves as advisor to the U.S. secretary of education on matters related to the education of children and youth with disabilities, as well as employment and community living for youth and adults with disabilities.

New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, Andrew Corey, Superintendent of Schools for SAU #41 and chairperson of RSEC’s Board of Directors, and Santina Thibideau, Administrator for the Bureau of Special Education, also participated in the event, which shared how teachers and students work together to overcome learning challenges and be successful.

“RSEC Academy was honored to be selected as one of only two Granite State schools to showcase best practices to national special education officials,” said Janet Reed, director at The RSEC Academy, a not-for-profit high school designed for students with learning challenges who were unsuccessful in traditional academic settings. “Our goal was to shine the light on our amazing teachers and students, and the importance of one-on-one instruction and flexibility in meeting students where they are academically and socially to build trusting relationships.”

The tour included visits to The RSEC Academy High School’s AP History classroom, reading center, science lab, and its affiliated middle school program. Along the way, Assistant Secretary Collett and Deputy Assistant Secretary Richey had discussions with teachers, students, and former students about what types of special education services worked best for them, and the unique stories and experiences that brought them to The RSEC Academy. A roundtable of teachers discussed the importance of understanding students as people first, helping them navigate not only challenges at school, but in their communities as well. RSEC’s approach integrates social thinking and personalized curriculum to help students earn their diplomas and be prepared for what comes next.

“The mission of The RSEC Academy is to help students become self-confident, independent, lifelong learners and critical thinkers with the necessary skills to be caring, productive citizens of a global society,” said Judy Koch, executive director for RSEC, an educational collaborative and partner to school districts across the state comprised of five specialized programs for students with learning challenges.

For more information about RSEC and its affiliated programs for students with learning challenges, visit rsec.org.

 

Vista Learning Center receives accreditation for high school students with learning challenges

Photo of Vista Building, an academic program for students with autism

Both middle school and high school programs approved to help students with Specific Learning Disabilities

Vista Learning Center has been accredited by the New Hampshire Department of Education Bureau of Special Education for grades 9 to 12 in addition to its existing program for students in middle school grades 5 to 8. Vista was also recently approved to accept students with Specific Learning Disabilities, including perceptual disabilities such as brain injury, and developmental aphasia. Vista’s unique approach focuses on real-time instruction integrated with social thinking skills, and has shown positive results since its founding in 2017.

“At Vista, we try to establish a mindset for growth – both academic and social – that will help students overcome learning challenges as well as any other challenges that may be interfering with their ability to learn and be successful at school,” said Amanda Reed, Vista’s director, who was also a middle school special education teacher at Vista’s affiliated RSEC Academy middle school for nearly five years.

At Vista, students gain confidence by strengthening their self-esteem, communication, cooperation, problem solving, trust, and leadership skills. Teachers lead small classes in group academic instruction and small group adventure-based counseling, which often includes opportunities to apply those concepts in real-world situations. The program helps students connect with their community beyond the classroom with a dedicated external community coordinator. Vista is also different from other programs for students with learning disabilities because it requires regular involvement with parents and others involved in a student’s home life to create pathways for everyday experiences to become personalized learning experiences.

“By course correcting negative behavior and emotional issues in real time, our educators and staff can explore the social and environmental factors in context and can offer immediate feedback about why and how a student is struggling or acting out,” Reed said. “Working closely with parents and other family members helps us build curriculum and support plans that blend social skills with academics and real-world applications.”

When Vista launched in 2017, it provided a resource for students who have not been successful in traditional middle school learning environments. Recognizing that the need extended to students of all ages, the administrative team at Vista and its parent organization, Regional Services and Education Center (RSEC) sought to open the program for high school-level students and expand its competencies to also serve students with a Specific Learning Disability, as defined by the New Hampshire Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities.

Specific Learning Disability refers to a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, and developmental aphasia. This approval is in addition to its current program that serves students with autism, speech language impairment, emotional disturbance, and other health impaired students, including those with anxiety, ADHD, or school phobia.

Vista Learning Center is open to students in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and does have limited openings available for the 2018-19 school year. Vista currently works with the following school districts and school administrative units (SAUs): Amherst; Merrimack; Epping; Raymond; Exeter; Nashua; Manchester; Hooksett; Pembroke; Hudson; Derry; Londonderry; Goffstown; Pittsfield; Concord; Chester; Hampstead; Fremont; Rye; Salem; Windham; Hampton; Northwood; Barrington; Bow; and Deerfield.

RSEC Academy teacher Bridgette Howell and students selected to present at TEDxKeene on Thursday, October 4

Members of RSEC’s Positive Approaches to Learning Disabilities student group to share strategies for making the world more accepting of disability

Bridgette Howell, a history teacher at The RSEC Academy High School, has been selected to present at TEDxKeene on Thursday, October 4 at The Colonial Theatre in Keene. She and a group of students from the school’s Positive Approaches to Learning Disabilities (PALD) outreach program will discuss ways everyone can make the world more accepting of students with different types of learning styles. The RSEC Academy High School is a public, not-for-profit diploma-granting high school for students in school districts across New Hampshire and Massachusetts who required an alternative path to traditional learning environments. The RSEC Academy is one of five programs administered by Regional Services and Education Centers (RSEC) for students with learning challenges.

“We are incredibly appreciative of Bridgette and her students who continue to pursue outstanding avenues that promote the amazing students we serve and the great work done by RSEC teachers and the programs in which they work,” said Judy Koch, RSEC’s director. “An important part of our curriculum is teaching students to become engaged within their communities, and presenting at TEDxKeene is a meaningful way to share the unique approaches that are making an impactful difference in the lives of our students and their families.”

TEDx is a local, self-organized event comprised of several short “TED Talks” that bring people together to share a meaningful and informative experience. An annual event, this year’s theme of “Upside Down” will open new ideas by challenging participants’ perspectives of the world around us.

In addition to speaking opportunities such as TEDxKeene, Howell and the PALD group offer regular professional development workshops to teachers where they simulate what it is like to experience a learning challenge.

“Perhaps the greatest connection occurs when students get to share their own experiences,” said Howell, who was a finalist for New Hampshire Teacher of the Year in 2016. “The audience begins to understand how deeply it scars a student when an adult calls them stupid; how the pressure mounts when signing in or out of school and you can’t convert the time on the clock to digital notation; how much you want to learn; how hard you struggle; or how much extra time your homework takes – and still someone calls you lazy.”

Howell also leads the school’s theatre program, which she says helps students build confidence through public speaking and provides additional opportunities to connect to others in their community and beyond, while raising awareness about the many ways people can learn.

For more information about TEDxKeene or to purchase tickets to the October 4 event, visit tedxkeene.com.