I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. Starting in the fourth grade, I began staying after school to help teachers do odd jobs in their classrooms. Little did I know that this would help shape my future career.
In college, I quickly discovered that as much as I enjoyed the education classes, I wanted more of a connection with students. I was drawn to Special Education and have been passionate about serving exceptional students ever since.
My path lead me to developing programs for students that did not “fit” the traditional school model. The first stop on my journey was at an elementary school where I spent five years developing and implementing a thriving resource program that was often used as a model for other parochial schools.
I left that school after the birth of my first child and spent the next 10 years raising my children and hanging out at their school every chance I could get! I served as the president of the Parent Teacher Organization, and served on the Board of Education and the Marketing Committee. All these experiences kept me connected and involved in developing quality programs for students.
When I chose to re-enter the workforce, I went back as a middle school language arts teacher at another parochial school where I spent two years preparing students for high school, though not all of them were quite ready. Those students needed more interventions at the primary and intermediate levels, and I took on the challenge by creating a resource program that provided pullout and class within a class services. I later developed an enrichment program to meet the needs of the gifted learners.
After years of developing programs for exceptional and twice exceptional students in private schools, I found my forever home at Miriam Academy! When I heard the news early in the spring of 2016 that Miriam was going to open a new high school, I knew that I had to be a part of this groundbreaking endeavor. I had spent my career working with families who just wanted to get their kids through school. That was never enough for me–I knew that school should be so much more for ALL kids.
Being a part of the founding faculty at Miriam who share a passion for working with students who learn differently is a dream come true. Building programs that focus on student’s strengths and treating deficits as opportunities for growth as well as nurturing each student’s social-emotional growth, is what Miriam Academy is all about. I am so fortunate to call it home.
-Submitted by Kathy Puettmann
Our sweet son Jacob was diagnosed with global apraxia at the age of three. He had speech, occupational, developmental and physical delays. By second grade the staff at his school realized Jacob needed more than they could give him. It was now time to find the best school for our son.
On the advice of a client, my husband and I toured Miriam School and were very impressed with what we saw. Soon we set a date for Jacob to shadow. I didn’t tell him until the night before because I didn’t want him to argue or get nervous. When I dropped him off that morning he was quiet and it was the longest day of my life. When we picked him up, Jacob was all smiles and asked if he could go to school there. He started a week later and he has been at Miriam ever since!
The teachers and therapists at Miriam School were more than I could have hoped for. When Jacob couldn’t grasp the days of the week, his teacher Miss Candi took his love of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and correlated the dwarves to each day and it clicked in Jacob’s brain. That is just one of the many instances where the staff figured out what worked best to teach my child. They also incorporated therapy into the classroom which made a world of difference for him. Jacob was happy and successful!
When Jacob graduated from Miriam’s elementary and middle school, he moved on to the new high school Miriam Academy. I didn’t know how the Academy would have a staff as wonderful as the one at the School, but they did! Jacob had a great freshman year and achieved things academically I didn’t think were possible for him. The teachers figured out how his brain works and are truly unlocking his potential. Now a sophomore at the Academy, I can’t wait to see all the progress he will make this year.
What Jacob likes most about school is that his friends are like him and the teachers understand him. What my husband and I like about Miriam is that our son is getting what he needs academically and socially in a safe, caring environment. We know Miriam Academy is preparing him for a successful life.
-Submitted by Lisa Wiley
Our son Zander is a charming young man, complete with a bright smile that lights up a room. Now a sophomore at Miriam Academy, he is an eager learner and loves to share his knowledge with all around him. He is a true little professor, often a classic trait of his Aspergers.
Since Zander was eight years old, he has dealt with the challenges of a high IQ, coupled with executive function disorder that lends itself to the inability to organize things or thoughts. Zander had always attended public school, but as he got older he had a harder time fitting in with his peers despite desperately wanting to be accepted.
By middle school he had little social life and spent lunch in the library playing video games. His difficulty working in groups frustrated those assigned to work with him. His frustration or disappointment was not age-appropriate, further setting him apart from his peers.
After Zander’s IEP (individualized education plan) meeting for public high school, we left feeling extremely worried about his ability to adapt. The next day I bumped into an acquaintance who happened to be a mother with a student at Miriam School. She listened to our worries and mentioned that Miriam was beginning its own high school. We attended the first meeting about the Academy and left feeling very hopeful.
When Zander visited Miriam Academy for the first time, his reaction was without a doubt positive. We watched him being accepted by both peers and teachers. We knew this was the answer for Zander’s next four academic years.
This inaugural year at Miriam has been positive for our whole family. No more fighting to complete homework or lengthy assignments. For the first time in his life, homework requires little to no parental guidance! His amazing teachers continue to engage and help him overcome his challenges. Zander has become an integral part of student life, which extends to his social life at school and beyond.
A perfect example of how the students and staff came together is the creation of the school baseball team. In the past, Zander was cut from three baseball teams and we never expected him to be a part of an organized sport again. But the magic of Miriam made it possible for him to be on a team and he has loved every minute!
All of Zander’s gifts and deficits have been embraced during his first year at Miriam. The staff sees the whole package he has to offer and are enthusiastic about his future. They see Zander’s potential and have set him on the path that makes attending a four-year college an option. As parents, our outlook changed from just getting Zander by to a belief in a bright and successful future. We will forever be thankful that a place like Miriam Academy exists.
-Submitted by Kerri Alper