Leadership Students Get a Unique Look Inside a Local School

During the trip, the group learned about the leadership needed to manage a school that provides special education for children, who are classified as preschool disabled, multiply disabled and autistic.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rider Education and Psychology majors interested in working with students with disabilities had the opportunity to visit the Joseph F. Cappello School of the Mercer County Special Services School District on February 18.

The Cappello School provides developmentally appropriate learning experiences for children, between the ages of 3 and 7, who are classified as preschool disabled, multiply disabled and autistic. Speech-language, occupational and physical therapies are integrated with classroom instruction to provide a comprehensive program of services.

During the Leadership Trip, sponsored by Rider’s Center for the Development of Leadership Skills, the students toured the school facilities, met Principal Christine Sevilla, who received a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from Rider in 2003, and observed classes.

“The trip was organized to help interested students understand the type of leadership skills needed to successfully run a school for students with special needs and how to be a leader in the classroom,” explained Laura Seplaki, associate director of the Center for the Development of Leadership Skills.  “The insight shared by Principal Sevilla combined with the classroom observations provided the students with valuable information about how they can best prepare themselves to lead effectively and provide a first-rate experience for their future students.

Kelly A. Hilghman, a freshman Psychology major, who is interested in working with children with special needs, said the trip was a great learning experience.

“I learned that there are endless amounts of skills and lessons you can teach children with special needs in order to help them develop to the best of their abilities,” Hilghman said. I saw that it takes so much more effort and patience than I had anticipated to work with the children in their development and social skills, but the reward of seeing and working with the children for the short time that I did was more than I could have ever wished for.”

Though Margaret K. Maiello, a freshman Elementary Education and Integrated Sciences and Math dual major, does not plan to teach special education, she said the experience was still rewarding because she may have some special-needs students in her classes in the future. Maiello said it was interesting to learn from Sevilla how the teachers and aides strive to have their students achieve on a higher level in order to be integrated into the public schools.

“Since I had sat in on a preschool autistic class, I saw first-hand what the teacher and aides do,” she said. “They really interact with the kids, and know them so personally. Their best interests are definitely the students.”

The rest of the student participants included Arianna R. Mattera, a freshman Elementary Education and Psychology dual major; Sharnaya Robinson, a student in the Graduate Level Elementary Education certification program; Ashley Smith, a student in the Graduate Level Elementary Education certification program; Alexis L Ryan, a student in the Graduate Level Elementary Education certification program; Laura Pantin, a sophomore Elementary Education and Integrated Sciences and Math dual major; and  Sarah Sell, a sophomore Elementary Education and Integrated Sciences and Math dual major.

Launched in the fall of 2004, Rider University’s Center for the Development of Leadership Skills complements and expands upon Rider’s tradition of producing tomorrow’s innovative leaders and confident professionals by providing effective leadership training and quality programming.

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