Benedictine’s Slama is educator of the year
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.”
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.