Principal at Lake Hills School
- Born in Tampa, lives in Wildwood.
- South Sumter High School graduate.
- Husband David is supervisor of employee relations for Lake County Schools.
- Holds A.A. degree from Lake-Sumter Community College; B.A. in English from University of South Florida; master’s in educational leadership from St. Leo University; and doctoral in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
What type of students does Lake Hills serve? Lake Hills (in Howey-in-the-Hills) is the Exceptional Student Education Center School for the Lake County School District. Lake Hills serves 220 students with significant cognitive disabilities ages 3 to 22.
What’s the biggest challenge? Over nearly the past decade, instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities has been changing at a rapid pace to address curricular elements mandated by the state’s directive to transition from teaching functional skills to teaching academic skills. This transition was a challenging endeavor because all of the classrooms at Lake Hills School are self-contained, meaning the classes are multi-grade level and multi-ability level. Further, our students communicate at an emergent level where nearly 80 percent of our students are non-verbal and the remaining 20 percent have a limited ability to understand and use language.
Teachers are responsible to provide instruction in each student’s primary mode of communication that includes eye gazing, gestures, pictures with or without voice output, and communication software on devices such as iPad or communication switches, Dynavox. Fortunately, we had the foresight to prepare for the changes and developed a long-term plan to satisfy the state’s Access Points directives. Elements of the plan included the development of an intensive school-based training program for the school’s teachers and teacher assistants. The training was specific to the instruction of Lake Hills’ student population and was accomplished through the research and delivery of proven teaching strategies for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The result of our efforts is a highly trained staff adept at instruction and behavior modification for this special group of students.
What’s the greatest reward? Our students do not have expressive language in the traditional sense, and it is our goal to provide them with a means to communicate. Every person has the given right to communicate and it is our job to make that happen. The greatest reward is seeing our students use their own specialized mode of communication so they can interact in their school, home, and community environments.
Three words that best describe you? Tenacious, creative, positive.
Favorite film about teaching? “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and “The Dead Poets Society.”
Biggest pet peeve? People who choose not to find intrinsic motivation.