Clarissa Wright, Special Education Coordinator July 29, 2020 By wpengine Students are growing tremendously in amazing ways that I couldn’t have imagined. What was your journey to your current position? I went off to teach in Hawaii right after college. That was definitely a great adventure. I was there for two and a half years before returning to the east coast and becoming a teacher in Baltimore, which was also an amazing experience. After that, I said to myself, “Well, let me try teaching in DC.” I started at Center City, where I taught for two years and became a teacher leader. Eventually, a special education coordinator position opened up at Friendship Blow Pierce and I thought I’d be a good fit for it. I’ve been here for six years and haven’t looked back. The leadership here has allowed me to take the special education department under my wing and mold it to what best suits our students and community. That trust and flexibility has allowed me to make a greater impact. Are there any strategies you would recommend? As a special education coordinator, it is very helpful to have started out as a special education teacher. I was both an inclusion and resource teacher, and I learned early on that it was important to have a solid team. I have two leads with whom I communicate day in and day out. The same trust the leadership team has given me, I extend to them. I allow them the autonomy to run their classrooms as they see fit, so long as their strategies are effective. Team effort is crucial to ensuring our students receive the most effective support. I also get to know the kids on a deeper level. I meet their families, I make sure they know me, and I tell them that I have an open-door policy. They can come to me at any time. What do you like about what you do? I love seeing my students grow academically, behaviorally, and improve their ability to express themselves. I see their growth and they see it, too. Students are growing tremendously in amazing ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I love seeing our MAPP scores improve. We work to ensure our students grow by 1.5 to 2 years of every year. Students who previously had difficulty expressing their thoughts verbally are now expressing themselves by writing and speaking full, eloquent sentences. There is growth in all areas – academic, behavioral, emotional, and social. We help parents become invested and active participants in ensuring that their scholars succeed, which is crucial. Parents are our partners. Sometimes when students arrive here, you can see that the world has given up on them. Their families and communities have even given up on them. At Friendship we don’t give up on any of our scholars, and because of that they don’t give up on themselves. You see students who, for the first time, want to go to college and have a successful career. At Friendship Blow Pierce, it’s all hands on deck. If a student in middle school is struggling, a PreK teacher might get involved to support her because he has a good relationship with that family. Is there a fun fact you’d like to share? I’m a military brat. I was actually born in Wiesbaden, Germany, and I lived there for eight years. We left right after the Berlin Wall came down.