Bene­dic­tine’s Slama is ed­u­ca­tor of the year

Times-Record - - Front Page - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com

RIDGELY — The Na­tional Com­mis­sion for the Ac­cred­i­ta­tion of Special Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vices re­cently named Bene­dic­tine School teacher Lor­raine Slama the 2018 Ed­u­ca­tor of the Year.

Slama was hon­ored at the an­nual NAPSEC Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence. She has worked as a special ed­u­ca­tor at the Bene­dic­tine School for 29 years. She is cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a re­cre­ation ther­a­pist with skills in sen­sory knowl­edge and aca­demics. She teaches stu­dents rang­ing from 16 to 21 years old.

“She brings her knowl­edge from each of these

ar­eas into our school pro­gram,” said Bene­dic­tine School Ed­u­ca­tion Di­rec­tor Julie Hickey. “She has de­vel­oped re­lax­ation pro­grams such as Tai Chi in­struc­tion, the use of nat­u­ral oils and in­di­vid­u­al­ized sen­sory pro­grams. Re­cre­ation pro­grams im­ple­mented in her class­room have in­cluded pho­tog­ra­phy, jug­gling and per­form­ing arts.

“She read­ily shares these skills with every­one — even those out­side of her class­room,” she said. “In her years as a teacher, she has vol­un­teered her time in the com­mu­nity by shar­ing her knowl­edge at lo­cal col­leges and other pro­fes­sional groups. She has main­tained con­tact with stu­dents post-grad­u­a­tion, of­fer­ing guid­ance and men­tor­ship on her own time. Lor­raine’s pas­sion is to ben­e­fit stu­dents and adults with special needs, and she works tire­lessly to do it.”

Slama went to Salisbury Univer­sity and be­gan her ca­reer at the Holly Cen­ter in Salisbury, which is state-op­er­ated, 24-hour res­i­den­tial train­ing fa­cil­ity for in­di­vid­u­als with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

From there, Slama re­ceived a job of­fer from the Bene­dic­tine School and joined the fac­ulty. Her back­ground in leisure stud­ies made her an ap­peal­ing teacher.

“I’m hon­ored and grate­ful to the school for rec­om­mend­ing me,” Slama said. “There have been a lot of neat suc­cesses. It is nice to know I’ve touched some­one’s life in a pos­i­tive way.

“Here they let me do leisure skills,” she said. “I started a jug­gling pro­gram. I have kids jug­gling dur­ing their free time. There is re­search that shows when you jug­gle you scan back and forth, and ac­tu­ally im­proves read­ing scores.

“It was a neat way for these kids to have a leisure skill that was go­ing to be life­long,” she said. “The Bene­dic­tine School has al­ways been re­ally sup­port­ive be­cause I’ve al­ways had ideas I wanted to do.”

Slama also cre­ated the Healthy Way Café – a café of­fer­ing lunch and snack op­tions pre­pared by stu­dents for pur­chase by both staff and stu­dents. The aca­demic and vo­ca­tional pro­gram was started through a small grant as a sum­mer pro­gram.

“It pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to work on food prepa­ra­tion and food ser­vice while ad­dress­ing aca­demic skills such as money math and read­ing of in­for­ma­tional texts and vo­ca­tional goals and ob­jec­tives such as fol­low­ing work di­rec­tions and re­main­ing on task,” Hickey said. “It was so suc­cess­ful in its first sum­mer build­ing on stu­dent skills in both ar­eas that it has con­tin­ued for 15 years.

“Another area of in­no­va­tion in pro­gram­ming is her cre­ation of a Pho­tog­ra­phy Club, giving stu­dents with sig­nif­i­cant dis­abil­i­ties an ap­pro­pri­ate cre­ative out­let,” she said. “That pro­gram in­volved an an­nual art show at a lo­cal art gallery and led to one stu­dent tak­ing pho­tog­ra­phy classes at the lo­cal com­mu­nity col­lege — an im­pres­sive ac­com­plish­ment for our cer­tifi­cate-track stu­dents.”

Slama said she re­ceives joy watch­ing her stu­dents suc­ceed, and reg­u­larly stays in touch with them once they grad­u­ate.

“I like be­ing able to teach kids some­thing new,” she said. “When you see that lit­tle light bulb go off, that is a great feel­ing. We are teach­ing the aca­demics but also get­ting the leisure com­po­nent in that is worth-wild for the stu­dents in their lives.

“I re­ally en­joy work­ing at the Bene­dic­tine School,” she said. “It is a fam­ily at­mos­phere. There is a lot of car­ing. It is warm and wel­com­ing.”

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO BY ROBERT ZIMBERHOFF

Lor­raine Slama, who was re­cently named teacher of the year by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Pri­vate Special Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ters, helps Christina Kaisler pre­pare a fresh meal in the Healthy Way Café at the Bene­dic­tine School in Ridgely.

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