Highlights of 2012

GroupCrop7827BAs the curtain closes on the year, I want to take a moment to reflect on the exciting events and achievements of the Barber National Institute (BNI) and the Elizabeth Lee Black School (ELBS) and extend my gratitude to the community, parents and faculty for their support.  Here are some of my favorite highlights of 2012.

The vital role technology played

Tap-it, a learning station that enables students of varying abilities to interact with an electric screen, was implemented into two more classrooms, now totaling four.  Additionally, our students were featured in the SmartEd services video demonstrating how they are using the Tap-it.

Through the generous support of our community as well as grants, we expanded our iPad library from two to 30 with the anticipation of another 10 within the first quarter of 2013.  Every classroom as well as therapists now have an iPad.

Collaborations with nationally renowned universities and organizations

Joshua Diehl, PhD, from Notre Dame and the Institute announced a collaboration in May. Our research study explores the use of robotics with children on the autism spectrum.

Seema Patel, CEO of Interbots along with Carnegie Melon University joined forces with BNI to explore the development of the robot Popchilla to help children with autism.

The Young People’s Chorus of Erie and the students of the ELBS teamed up to celebrate the beauty of music.

Wonderful Parent Support

Marci Smith and the parent group showered our students with such wonderful support.  This year they sponsored the sale of the Angels in the Kitchen cookbook, which was one of the top 10 finalists in the Morris Press publishing cookbook contest.  Because of the generosity of Amy and Damien Derlink, the signed Steelers footballs as well as game tickets for raffles were a great success.  What a fun year it’s been with Jingle Bell Hop, Valentines Dance and Santa’s Christmas gifts which were made possible from the proceeds of these fundraisers.

A Year of Fabulous Events

The Ladies Only Luncheon, a concept brought to us by a parent, Amy Borden, has become one of the most successful fundraisers for our school. We marked our 10th anniversary in 2012 by celebrating today, honoring the past and looking to the future.

1,200 guests joined Bill and Patty Gleokler, chair couple for the 49th annual Christmas Ball, as we Set Sail for Christmas at the Bayfront Convention Center.

Over 400 artists participated in the 5th annual Dr. and Mrs. Robert Guelcher Art Show, “Celebrating the Possibilities.”  This event unites the community in a celebration of the artistic achievements of all persons.

Entering the World of Social Media

In March I began All About Autism, a blog, that reaches out to parents and educators, sharing the knowledge I’ve gained the past 17 years since Ryan was first diagnosed with ASD.  Never did I imagine it would be read by people in 44 countries around the world. I have enjoyed all of your feedback and comments. This year I also started using twitter!

Fantastic Faculty             

I often hear “You’ve got a great school” and I always respond “We’ve got a great staff!” I immediately think of the parents who have shared with me how their children who were nonverbal are now communicating or those who were utilizing a device to assist them in walking are now more independent.  Their growth is a direct result of the outstanding teamwork of the dedicated staff working towards the same goal: to help every child reach his/her fullest potential.

2013 promises to be an exciting year.  April is Autism Awareness month; June is ELB senior graduation and coming in September is the Beast on the Bay, an endurance competition on Presque Isle.

I’m looking forward to 2013 and working to “make dreams come true” for children and adults with disabilities.

Happy New Year!

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