2016-12-07 / Home

New teacher, equipment at Beth El help children with special needs


Teacher Lisa Theilman works both in classrooms and one-on-one with kids in the new Beth El ECC therapy room. Teacher Lisa Theilman works both in classrooms and one-on-one with kids in the new Beth El ECC therapy room. There is no such thing as a typical day for Lisa Theilman, Cong. Beth El Early Childhood Center’s new special needs teacher.

As the staff specialist in the preschool serving 125 children ages six months to six years, she is always on the go—sometimes rolling on the carpeted floor of the new Therapy Room along with the preschoolers or digging her hands in the sensory sandbox, encouraging the children to find hidden treasures. Just as often, she is floating in and out of other classrooms, where she may be helping specific kids, collaborating with their teachers or observing day-to-day interactions.

A veteran educator who has spent most of her career assigned to older children, Theilman said she relishes the opportunity to be with the youngest learners at the start of their academic careers. This is the time to strike, when early interventions go a long way to nipping issues before they become too pronounced, she said.

“This age group is my true love; this is where I need to be,” said Theilman, dual certified in deaf and special education.

Early Childhood Center Director Dina Eliezer said the teacher is the answer to her prayers. For several of the students who already receive special services from county or municipal agencies, Theilman is able to reinforce the work of those specialists. But for other young children who are either too young to qualify for the services or have been rejected but nonetheless need extra help, she is there for them. She works with both students who have learning or developmental deficits and those who are academically gifted and in need of more challenging work.

Eliezer, who has been director since last year, said having diverse children in the classroom has had wonderful benefits. She noted how the children in a classroom with an autistic child last year were very protective of the child and made sure he was included in all activities. All the same, Eliezer said not only did some children require extra help, but also that teachers needed more support.

Besides hiring Theilman this year, the school was granted $3,000 from the Jewish Community Foundation, Inc., an agency of the Jewish Federation, to build up the new therapy room. The grant paid for much of the equipment, including sensory tables, area rugs and plasma balls.

Theilman, who works part-time, is assigned directly with nine children but can and does help any kid or teacher who needs it. Teachers say that having her on staff has been an asset.

“Lisa’s help has been a very positive thing,” said Gwen Soler, who teaches three-year-olds. “Whatever the issues are, she either works one-on-one with the children or gives us pointers to help us.”

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