The New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) today announced Mary Faella has been selected as its next President.
Faella, a Mountainside resident, brings a long history of advocacy for her profession and a passion for working with the community of speech pathologists and audiologists to bring out the best ideas in service to patients and students.
Faella, currently in private practice, knew from a young age that she wanted to be a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). As one of eight siblings, three of whom were born with sensory neural hearing loss, she accompanied her older sister to her appointments at the speech clinic at Kean University in Union Township and saw first hand how speech-language professionals make a difference.
After graduating from Kean in 1982, where she was fortunate to study with the first president of NJSHA, Dr. George Gens, Faella worked with students in the Newark Public School System for more than 30 years.
During her school career, Faella saw a dramatic shift in the work of speech-language professionals (SLPs) and special education in general. She became involved in advisory boards and committees, advocating for her colleagues and students and shaping new innovative initiatives. In 2005 Faella petitioned her union to add an SLP representative, and she became the first person to serve in that role, representing her fellow SLPs to the district administration.
Prior to Faella’s retirement from the school district and entering private practice in 2009, she realized she still wanted to continue in advocacy. Faella took more of an active role in 2012, when NJSHA asked her to join the School Affairs Committee, becoming chair the following year. Next, she was selected by the president of NJSHA and named the American Speech Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) State Education Advocacy Leader (SEAL) for New Jersey in 2013, where she interacted with SEALs from other states and gained a better understanding of how other state associations and advocacy networks function.
“Now that I’m immersed in the organization, I see the passion, time and talent that so many volunteers give so freely,” she said. “People don’t necessarily see the value that NJSHA brings to the field. The legislation that gets passed, the articles written and the connections made are all contributions made by volunteer leaders who are working collaboratively to benefit our colleagues, students, clients and patients.”
Faella has a two-year term as president. She has an ambitious agenda, building on the work of her predecessor, Dr. Gerard Caracciolo, professor emeritus of Montclair State University.
Faella’s agenda is guided by the need to look to the future and work across disciplines and generations to lead to a stronger NJSHA. “Nationally, NJSHA is admired among other state associations for our leadership as an active, vibrant state association and a model of interprofessional collaboration” she said.
At last year’s ASHA convention in Philadelphia, Faella, along with Dr. Caraciolo and other NJSHA leaders, presented a workshop in Interprofessional Collaboration. The success of this workshop led to it being presented at the Council of State Speech-Language-Hearing Association Presidents on May 20 in Louisville.
Faella aims to bring the best of past and current generations together, as well as varying disciplines, to nurture future speech-language-hearing professionals.
In collaboration with the members of NJSHA’s higher education and membership committee, Faella is advocating for the association to take a lead role in mentoring, guiding and supporting students as they embark on their careers, along with being a source of information and best practices.
“I see the opportunity to incorporate our students into of NJSHA’s mission,” she said.
In addition, Faella sees opportunity in the strong cooperative relationships NJSHA enjoys with New Jersey’s legislators and Office of Special Education and many other interdisciplinary associations.
“We have a unique and strong connection with the NJ-OSE, which has led to representation on several NJ DOE committees,” she said. “ Legislators also consider NJSHA a partner, and appreciate that we work closely with them to provide good data and develop ideas together.”
Faella is mindful of the hundreds of constituents she will represent, both SLPs and audiologists, working in public schools and private practice.
“I am impressed with the passion that so many outstanding volunteers bring to the work of NJSHA,” Faella said. “Together we will continue to evaluate where our profession is going as we strive to be a sentinel for our members and colleagues. No one person can lead an organization; it is accomplished through the efforts of many professionals at all phases of their careers that help us to view our roles from different perspectives.”