How does Le Sallay Academy work with children with diverse learning needs?
In this Q&A with Yulia Sorokina, M.Ed., Coordinator of Diverse Learning Needs at Le Sallay we addressed the most common questions parents ask us about our approach.
How does Le Sallay define diverse learning needs?
Some students come to our school with previous diagnoses (autism, ADHD, gifted, dyslexia, etc.,) qualifying them for diverse learning needs services at Le Sallay. Other students come to Le Sallay without a formal diagnosis, but since our school is based on individualized learning goals, each student receives individualized attention regardless of an existing diagnosis or IEP (Individualized Education Plan.) We ensure that each child meets with their teachers prior to classes starting, and goes through a series of formal and informal tests and interviews, which help teachers determine educational goals and appropriately group students based on areas of growth and strength.
Does Le Sallay have a specific program in place for students that need a different style of learning?
Le Sallay is based on a model of inclusion, so each student regardless of their style of learning will be supported within their classrooms. Many of our classes are co-taught (2 teachers per classroom,) which further allows teachers to provide individualized learning through differentiation for each student. We use a variety of co-teaching models based on the work of Dr. Marilyn Friend. Using these evidence-based models allows us to provide students with engaging and individualized instruction. Through co-teaching, students can learn the same content but on a variety of different levels simultaneously. This unique approach allows students to work at their own pace, and to receive instruction that is appropriately suited for their learning goals.
What are the qualifications required to work with children with diverse learning needs?
As the Coordinator of Diverse Learning Needs, I hold an M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. I have extensive experience in working in a variety of settings with diverse learners- as a general education teacher, special education teacher in inclusion, RTI, and self-contained settings. Our teachers bring a variety of wonderful backgrounds and teaching philosophies and have experience in supporting students that require an individualized approach. My job is to support teachers by providing teaching models and tools that can be used in the classroom to best support diverse learners. I also co-teach with general education teachers, so I am actively involved in the classroom process by providing parallel instruction, small group instruction, accommodations, and modifications.
What kind of socio-emotional support is available to Le Sallay students with diverse learning needs?
Our school has a wonderful and collaborative socio-emotional support team, including our school psychologist, counselors, advisors, and teachers. Each counselor works as an advisor for a set of students, and students are able to at any time ask for support from their assigned advisors or school psychologist. Advisors keep in close communication with students and their families and serve as an integral part of the child's support team. They are in frequent communication with teachers and address any questions or concerns students may have on a daily ongoing basis.
What is the parents' role in supporting their students who have diverse learning needs?
Parents are in frequent communication with advisors, who provide constant feedback and updates to translate learning from the online classroom setting to the home. We make sure that parents are well informed, and are able to support their kids with the tools that we provide.
How does Le Sallay handle varied levels of readiness among students?
Le Sallay is based on inclusion, so all students regardless of previous educational history are welcomed at Le Sallay. To best approach teaching students with varying backgrounds, we conduct a series of interviews and formal/informal tests at the beginning of the learning process. These tests and interviews help us best determine which approach to take when teaching students, and which groups to add students in for each subject. Students are placed in flexible learning groups, which can change throughout the year. We do not use the formal approach of grade levels based on age, and instead, group students based on their learning goals for each subject. So for each subject, students can have classmates of all different ages living in countries all over the world.
What do you personally enjoy (find rewarding) in working with students with diverse learning needs?
I enjoy helping students realize their full potential and overcome obstacles that they have previously faced in their schooling experiences. My goal is to engage the disengaged student, and when I am able to achieve this, I feel successful as a teacher. I greatly enjoy the small class sizes at Le Sallay, which allows me to accomplish a great deal more with students who have been previously overlooked in large classroom settings at public and other private schools. Watching student growth and progress over time is the most rewarding aspect of my job.