Recognition
Chatham Teacher Named 'Educator of the Year'

Dan Erhardt and studentsLike a happy emoji, Technology Teacher Dan Erhardt is always smiling.
Dan Erhardt, the Chatham school's technology teacher, must have a clone. He seems to be everywhere at the same time. Whether it is teaching a class in the computer lab, playing music as a DJ at an event or cheering on students at a game.

Erhardt is a natural cheerleader and a tech expert who can talk gigabits and hard drives all day. He has a warm heart and compassionate touch with the students. "He is passionate and innovative, and the staff, students and families love to work with him," said Principal Diane Gagliardi. "Dan is always looking for ways to help keep ECLC's technology on the cutting edge."

Erhardt joined ECLC as a paraprofessional seven years ago and moved into the technology role the following September. He is a stalwart advocate for the use of technology as a teaching tool to help students become excited about learning. He coordinates the use of 100 iPads, a mobile computer lab and runs the classroom computer lab. He prepares slideshows for concerts and graduation, serves as an in-house DJ and has organized a team for the Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge at the Shore for several years. He returns to his alma mater, Montclair State University, each year for a Special Friends Day, when more than 100 children with special needs enjoy a day of recreation.

For all his good works, both in the school and outside, Erhardt has been named the "Educator of the Year" for Region II by ASAH, the umbrella organization for special-needs schools and agencies in New Jersey. He moves onto the statewide competition in the fall. Congratulations to Dan Erhardt!

Learn more about how ECLC uses technology at both our schools.

Ho-Ho-Kus Staffers Win Regional Recognition in 2016

Elaina Cassara and Heidi RitzelHo-Ho-Kus paraprofessional Elaina Cassara and teacher Heidi Ritzel were honored for their exceptional dedication, creativity and kindness.
We are so proud of Elaina Cassera and Heidi Ritzel for winning awards from ASAH, the umbrella organization for special-needs schools and agencies!

Cassera was named the "Paraprofessional of the Year," and Ritzel was recognized as the "Educator of the Year" within ASAH's Region I. They will vie for statewide recognition at ASAH's annual conference next fall.

Going Above and Beyond
Since starting at ECLC, Cassara has worked with some of our most involved students as a paraprofessional, floater aide, substitute teacher and job coach. She has a gift for making students feel good about themselves and excels at motivating them. For example, she devised a picture system to go along with the reading program, so that a student with selective mutism could communicate her answers and demonstrate progress. She also created Touch Math number aids for students to keep at home and use to complete their homework assignments. Outside the classroom, she has served as the co-chair for the Ho-Ho-Kus gala dinner the past four years, participates in Autism Speaks walks, cheers on students at Special Olympics competitions and much more.

Ritzel is a multi-talented teacher. She manages all state-required testing for the entire schools, ensuring everything meets regulations, and teaches language arts enrichment, a program she designed that blends language arts with art. The interweaving of these two disciplines comes naturally to Ritzel, who is a lifelong writer and crafter in her spare time. Another example of her creativity is the yearbook. She created a new design, doubled the size of the book, added beautiful full-color pages and began offering a DVD version. She also creates amazing backdrops for shows and graduations, snaps pictures at nearly every school event, and she coordinated students to create friendship placemats, mobiles and wall hangings for patients at Englewood Hospital on Valentine's Day.

Bell Choir Rings in Success

The ability to stay together in time is hard enough for "typical" performers but is especially challenging for students with special needs. At our Ho-Ho-Kus campus, however, music/technology teacher Steven Palmieri cleverly combined old-fashioned hand chimes with new computer technology to help the students play together.

After experimenting with different approaches, Palmieri decided to try PowerPoint to cue students to play their chimes. The result was nearly miraculous! Students who typically have difficulty focusing their attention for even short periods of time were able to concentrate with laser-like focus on the task of responding at the appropriate moment. Some of these students are non-verbal and have never experienced the joy of singing in any meaningful way.

In 2015, Palmieri and the bell choir won a prestigious Innovations Award, given annually by the New Jersey School Boards Association and ASAH, the umbrella organization representing schools and agencies offering programs for people with special needs.

Enjoy a student performance.

Ho-Ho-Kus School Occupational Therapist is Named 2014 "Related Services Provider of the Year"

Brandy SpringerBrandy Springer seems to do it all. As an occupational therapist at ECLC of New Jersey's school for children with special needs, Springer provides individualized therapy sessions for a large caseload of students every day. She created and teaches an afterschool yoga program and incorporates yoga into the classroom and therapy. She manages special sensory diets for dozens of students. She is a regular speaker at education conferences around the state, and she provides workshops for ECLC parents, covering topics, such as sensory integration, stress reduction and feeding and nutrition.

In addition to her many professional achievements, Springer embodies her sunny name. Like the season following winter, Springer lights up the room with her radiant smile and her warm personality can thaw the frostiest of hearts.

Those professional and personal qualities, coupled with her dedication and hard work, have brought Springer to the top of her profession as a school occupational therapist. She has been named New Jersey's "Related Services Provider of the Year" by ASAH, a nonprofit that represents 135 private, special education schools and agencies serving students with disabilities across the state. Each year, the honor goes to an outstanding occupational therapist, physical therapist, social worker, nurse, speech therapist, counselor or psychologist at one of ASAH's member schools or agencies. Winners were chosen at the regional level, and then an overall state winner was selected during the ASAH conference in Atlantic City on Nov. 15. See the press release on Springer's achievement.

Winning Streak Continues!

ECLC has been on a winning streak with ASAH state awards for many years. Back in 2006, Sandy Wechsler, won for "Related Services Provider of the Year," and that same year, Neal Watson (who is now the director of the Bergen P.R.I.D.E. program) won for "Paraprofessional of the Year"! In 2008, Anita Bluestone was named the state's "Related Services Provider of the Year," and in 2010, Diane Haderthauer received the "Educator of the Year" award. The following year, in 2011, Jamie Willard nabbed top honors as the state's "Educator of the Year." Finally, in 2012, Sharon Luberto was recognized as the "Related Services Provider of the Year." Congratulations to all our winners!

Chatham Teacher Recognized as the National "Teacher of the Year!

One of our veteran Chatham school teachers, Judy McGrath, has been named the nation's "Teacher of the Year" by the National Association of Special Education Centers (NAPSEC)! This recognition follows her award at the end of 2013 as New Jersey's "Educator of the Year," by ASAH, a New Jersey nonprofit that represents 135 private, special education schools and agencies serving students with disabilities across the state.

To those who know of McGrath's amazing track record of success, the accolades are no surprise. McGrath, joined ECLC’s Chatham school in 1989, and in the subsequent 24 years has made an enormous difference in the lives of so many. She teaches a class of graduating students and focuses on ensuring they will be ready for the adult world by incorporating the latest technology tools; popular novels; current events, and business skills into her daily lessons. She empowers students to raise money by organizing fundraisers, which over the years, have raised an estimated $200,000 for the school and various other worthy charities.

Beyond those practical lessons, McGrath instills old-fashioned values of generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness to her charges. And, she has created programs to benefit the entire school, including the yearbook, prom and weekend respite program that allows students to stay overnight at the school and enjoy a social activity—movies, bowling, shopping, dinner and/or breakfast out—with their friends.

Physical Therapist Wins State Award

Sharon Luberto, the physical therapist at ECLC’s school in Ho-Ho-Kus, was named the state's 2012 “Related Services Provider of the Year” by ASAH, a nonprofit organization of more than 125 private schools and agencies in New Jersey that provide education and services to people with special needs. For the past 15 years, Luberto has been helping ECLC’s students do everything from improving their balance and coordination to better visually tracking words on a page to navigating the school’s stairs to get to class. She was singled out for using creative thinking and approaches in working with her students and looks to many different sources for inspiration, from the school's facility, dog, Patrina, to high-tech toys, like the Wii. She started a morning Zumba class to help students transition from sitting during long bus rides to activities of the school day. Listening to the music and moving to the fast rhythms makes students become more alert, awake and ready for class.

ECLC Executive Director Honored for Lifetime Achievement

ECLC’s Executive Director, Bruce Litinger, was given the 2012 ASAH President’s Award for a lifetime of advocacy on behalf of people with special needs, starting from the beginning of his career as a special education teacher through to his leadership role today. ASAH is a non-profit organization of more than 125 private schools and agencies serving students with disabilities. “Bruce has given outstanding service to ASAH as a long-standing member as well as serving on the executive board,” said Gerry Thiers, ASAH executive director. “His leadership and advocacy on behalf of the private special education schools and the families they serve is invaluable.

Student with Autism Wins State Award

Ho-Ho-Kus student Eric Perkins, who has autism, is usually a young man of few words, but when he picks up a guitar or sits down at the piano, he finds his voice. Perkins possesses a gift for singing and playing music that has been delighting senior citizens at two Bergen County assisted living facilities and in 2012 won him a N.J. Governor’s Jefferson Award. The award is part of the youth program of the NJ Governor’s Jefferson Awards for Public Service, recognizing the achievement of goals supporting outstanding service by students of all ages. Perkins won in the Health & Wellness category among 27 projects selected from all over the state.

Pairing Up for Success

In 2008, a program at the Chatham campus won innovation honors. In that program, students from Millburn High School come to ECLC's campus each week in the evening to conduct enrichment workshops for ECLC's special-needs students. The workshops range from basketball, arts and crafts and games to just plain "hanging out."

The PAIRS (Partners in Afterschool Inclusive Recreation for Special Needs) program began in 2005 and benefits both the Milburn high school and ECLC youngsters, expanding the social opportunities for the special needs students, while raising awareness for their peers about people with disabilities.


 

Michael Nowicki, guitarist and singer
In 2016, Chatham student Michael Nowicki, a guitarist and singer, won a VSA New Jersey Student Art Excellence Award in Vocal Music and a Governor's Award.

Victoria Johnson and Faith Sanders
For hitting all the right notes in the classroom, teachers Victoria Johnson from our Ho-Ho-Kus school, and Faith Sanders from Chatham, were recognized at the 2015 WDHA "Teachers Who Rock" awards dinner, along with 22 other honorees from schools across the state!

Judy McGrath with her class
Judy McGrath, a teacher at our Chatham school, celebrated being named the nation's 2014 "Teacher of the Year" by the National Association of Special Education Centers! This amazing recognition followed McGrath's award at the end of 2013 as ASAH"s New Jersey "Educator of the Year."

Sharon Luberto Wins ASAH Award
Our Ho-Ho-Kus school physical therapist Sharon Luberto, with colleagues, Sandy Wechsler and Russ Bargiel, accepts her 2012 “Related Services Provider of the Year” Award.

Bruce Litinger Accepts Award
Executive Director, Bruce Litinger (center), accepts the 2012 ASAH “President’s Award” from ASAH President, Dr. Dorothy Van Horn, and ASAH Executive Director, Gerard Thiers.

Eric Perkins wins award
Eric Perkins, a student at ECLC’s school in Ho-Ho-Kus, celebrated the award with (left to right) his Homeroom Teacher Nancy Collins; grandmother, Carol Perkins; SKIL Teacher, Russ Bargiel; and Principal Vicki Lindorff.