WARREN, NJ - Calling the last eight years “the best years of my whole career,” Esther Canell bade a reluctant farewell to Watchung Hills Regional High School at the end of the school year. A member of the Special Services Department since November, 2006, Canell came to the position of school psychologist with a rich background of experience. She had served on the Child Study Team in the Plainfield system for 17 years, and previous to that, had taught kindergarten in New York City for17 years.
Hers was “a fairly new job,” she states, when she arrived at Watchung Hills. The supportive atmosphere and the encouragement of the top administration allowed many positive changes in curriculum and programming to take place over the years. Over the years, Watchung Hills has developed a program of significance for its disabled students and for students who have special needs in a specific area of learning, she said.
Thus, many special students will be prepared for the world of work; others will go forward with their studies or pursue further vocational training However, many students with special needs or disabilities will be “mainstreamed,” joining classmates in a setting with two instructors, one of whom will be attuned to their special needs. This practice has been found to be of benefit to everyone. “The atmosphere of helping has generated feelings of kindness, understanding and support from among ‘regular’ classmates,” Canell believes. Special needs students will often be involved in activities of the Peer Leaders group as well, planning and taking part in after-school events.
“These have been the best years of my whole career,” says Canell. “I’ll miss the warm atmosphere, the kids, the teachers. As is the case with most retirees, she has travel plans; closer to home, she’ll concentrate on hobbies such as knitting and crocheting.
“I’m very lucky to have spent the last part of my career at Watchung Hills,” she said.