Joelle Rossi of Archbishop Damiano School (ADS) at St. John of God Community Services, Westville Grove, was recently acknowledged by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC) as National Educator of the Year.
“It is with great pride for our school community that we acknowledge this tremendous honor for Joelle to be the recipient of this prestige award for her commitment, dedication and service to our students, whom we serve each and every day on the campus of St. John of God Community Services,” ADS principal Kate Flynn said.
Rossi, who currently teaches students from ages 18-21 with severe and profound disabilities, has been at Archbishop Damiano School for 11 years. She has been on the cutting edge of technological integration in the classroom through the use of SMART boards and iPads.
She is also currently viewing webinars and training in the Tobii PCEye Go, which provides students with limited mobility the option of accessing instructional apps and software through eye gaze technology.
Alongside the school’s occupational therapist, Rossi has found ways to incorporate Skype into the classroom, including connecting with the author of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…,” Laura Numeroff.
Rossi also serves as the editor-in-chief of a quarterly school newspaper called “The Lucky Star Gazette,” the student council moderator and the chair of ADS’s professional development committee, coordinating mini-workshops with her team throughout the year for teachers and therapists.
“As Helen Keller once said, ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much,’” Rossi said. “I work with a family. My students, their parents, my colleagues, the assistants, all the therapists, administration, secretaries, maintenance, IT, and the whole staff are a family. We are a team, a team that I am truly thankful for.”
Recently, Rossi also played a key role in raising money for a new, professional quality greenhouse for the school’s horticulture program. Even though her own students cannot participate in the program, due to the significance of their cognitive and physical disabilities, Rossi strongly advocated for the greenhouse for three years.
Outside of St. John of God Community Services, Rossi served as the president of the Washington Township Parks and Recreation Softball League for four years and currently heads up the travel program there. She is also involved in running a “Walk-n-Roll” to raise funds and awareness for CDKL5, a rare genetic disorder responsible for early onset seizures and severe neuro-development impairment, for the school in memory of two ADS students.