Melissa Dirzius, Special Education Teacher & Art Teacher

Why did you choose this specific field?

I began volunteering with special needs students in my High School Child Development Center.  I had considered several other fields as I continued my education — psychology, Social Work, BCBA but found they did not quite provide me what I needed.  In the end, I found that the combination of the creativity of programming and assessing our students, along with the personal time spent educating each one individually, allowed me to see their little victories were exactly what I wanted.

What's a day like for you at BEST Academy?

There is no way to describe a  single workday because every single one is different. There is a constant need to be flexible, alert and creative to face the many situations that can arise at any moment. As students show progress or develop with a new interest, it must be acknowledged and accessed immediately to ensure it blossoms. If a student exhibits a difficulty, it must be assessed and addressed immediately to ensure emotional and physical safety.

What do you enjoy most about coming to school every day?

Seeing the kids! It is a constant surprise to see what they will do. Constantly identifying the positives, no matter how small, to allow them to be recognized and shared with staff so they can continue to be motivated and recognize their role in each child’s education.

Can you give an example of a ‘Little Victory’ you’ve seen a student achieve at BEST Academy?

We have a room, called “activities of Daily Living” in our school that is set up like a small apartment.  Each student has a rotation daily in that room so they can gain skills of independence and the confidence that comes along with the ability to care for themselves.

A student joined us with some difficult behaviors and when he entered that room, he would jump on the bed, knock items off of tables etc.  Now, he is a champ at hanging shirts and putting them where they belong.  This is an activity he enjoys, looks forward to and carried over to home.

Can you describe something special about your team and the school?

The amount of hard work and planning time that goes into the school day by each and every staff member really make this place special. Programs need to be planned, materials made and organized, data analyzed, behavior plans discussed etc. It is a lot like the stage production of a performance and our staff are like the stage crew. They may not be appreciated and their many small efforts may go unseen, but they are truly what make our school special. They often deal with complex behaviors, but address them all with compassion, professionalism and constant positivity.