Little talking but lots of communication in this class

Little talking but lots of communication in this class
Joelle Rossi (second from left, holding book), who was named 2015 National Educator of the Year by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC), is pictured with her students, assistants and a nurse at Archbishop Damiano School in Westville Grove.

Joelle Rossi (second from left, holding book), who was named 2015 National Educator of the Year by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC), is pictured with her students, assistants and a nurse at Archbishop Damiano School in Westville Grove.

This is how Joelle Rossi describes her students: “They might be non-verbal, but the emotion and love they show is unconditional and inspiring,”

Rossi teaches students aged 18-21 with severe and profound disabilities at Archbishop Damiano School (ADS) at St. John of God Community Services, Westville Grove.

In her class this year, Rossi had seven students.

As she teaches, Rossi rarely sits. She is in constant motion, circling around the classroom. After reading a page in a book, she pauses to ask the students a question, to make a joke, or try to get them to smile.

Using their iPads, the students select commands that let her know they are following along and want her to continue.

“With non-verbal students, technology is very important for communication. My students use augmentative communication switches for choice making and relaying messages. iPads are used for communication and for relaying messages and commands. The SMART board is used for visual stimulation during instruction for bright colors, larger screen and sound.”

In November 2015 Rossi was named National Educator of the Year by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC).

Lisa Powell, one the classroom assistants said, “Joelle is very good with these kids, and she is in tune to their wants and needs.”

Powell added that Rossi knows how to present lessons to her students so they can understand what is going on and so that the students meet their goals.

“We also have a lot of fun because Joelle is creative in her lessons and what we do. We do some small lessons, but sometimes we do lessons on the floor. We’ve done bowling, themed puzzles and Scrabble,” she said.

Rossi, of Washington Township, graduated from Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, in 1990 and from Cabrini College, Radnor, Pa., in 1994 with a dual certification in special education and elementary education. She began working in the Diocese of Camden in the Special Education department under Kate Flynn, who is now the principal of ADS. Rossi also taught at Saint Luke School in Stratford for just under a decade.

She married her high school sweetheart, Marc, and they have three children, Kristina, 16, Dominic, 13, JD, 12 and a rescue puppy named Kozmo.

Rossi said that when she received her National Educators Award, she had the opportunity to attend many workshops at the conference and she received certification from the National Commission for the Accreditation of Special Education Services (NCASES), which is an organization that verifies and promotes special education services.

“I have the training and eligibility to be a member of an accreditation team to evaluate private special needs schools and I hope to get some assignments next year,” she said.

She added: “I have always taught special needs and can’t imagine anything else better than this. I love my job.”

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