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.