Labor Day used to signal the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Today’s school calendars have been modified to accommodate all sorts of scheduling issues and many schools now start before Labor Day. One of the things I liked about Labor Day being associated with the beginning of school is that it reminded me of a group of people who are not necessarily associated with the traditional “workers” that Labor Day celebrates, teachers.
The demands placed on a typical classroom room teacher seem inordinate. Aside from being principally educators, teachers are called upon to be counselors, case managers, even sleuths in a complex teaching environment. The test of good teachers is how energized they are by the multiple tasks and how capable they are at maneuvering the path that leads to unlocking learning for their students.
Hillsides Education Center (HEC) is fortunate to have an extraordinary cadre of experienced, capable, and talented teachers who embrace the challenge of educating a wide variety of students who struggle with learning challenges and have experienced traumas that only complicate the learning process. These educators persevere, and each year, I am edified by their resilience, resourcefulness, and renewed commitment to their students.
Recently, our most senior teacher, Debi Szilagi-Johnson, was acknowledged by the mother of one of our day students. As the parent of a child with learning challenges, this mom dreaded the start of the school year. Previous experiences in other schools had left her wary of an education system that she perceived to be judgmental and poorly oriented to serve students with special needs. As she accompanied her child to the first day of school at HEC she was struck by the welcoming environment and the personalized attention both she and her son received. This marked difference from previous experiences made the first day of school memorable for her and, more importantly, affirming for her son.
Schools can easily become highly structured places driven by compliance to a myriad of statutes and regulations and therefore poorly equipped to be child driven let alone family friendly. HEC is not one of those facilities but rather a welcoming and nurturing place, sensitive to the needs of students with challenges and ready to engage them with the goal of making a lasting impact on all aspects of their lives not just on their education.
Labor Day is a great celebration of all the hardworking people that make the United States a great nation. On this day, let us recognize the indispensable contribution that is made to the well-being of our communities by the dedicated teachers who labor tirelessly to educate our children. We are so proud of the teaching staff at HEC and grateful for the role they play in helping our students and residents achieve success.