Conference Day Informs and Educates

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Mary Cariola Children’s Center School hosted 225 of our Mary Cariola Educators and Clinicians who attended their annual Conference Day last month.

A dozen sessions included a variety of topics from Poverty to Epilepsy, to Wellness and Kindness. Local and national speakers were featured at the annual day of learning which was held at the RIT Inn& Conference Center.

Mary Cariola’s School Leadership team worked for months to prepare for the event. It began with gathering ideas from staff to determine topics of interest and then finding experts to present.

Superintendent of Schools, Christine Sheffer said that guest speakers come highly recommended from staff or have extensive experience in Special Needs Education.


“The main reason to create and hold this very specialized conference day is that our students are very unique. Their needs are specialized,” explained Christine. “Training for the staff who works with them must be equally specialized. All of us have attended conferences hosted by others and left thinking it was interesting but did not apply to our students. When staff makes suggestions for speakers, we all end up learning from people who understand our students.”

Speech Language Pathologist Laura Bell hit the jackpot with her sessions.

“I chose sessions that spoke to most of the students on my caseload,” she said. I chose the phonetics/literacy course because I strongly believe that literacy should be accessible to everyone. I enjoyed the Jolly Phonics presentation because it could be implemented immediately and included good therapeutic activities. I learned how to teach phonics- using lower case letters, high frequency sounds… not ABC order. I had never heard phonics presented like that.”

For Special Education Teacher Teresa Corleto the Opening Session, “What does Poverty Really Look Like” had a significant impact on her personally and professionally. About 50 percent of Mary Cariola students live in poverty.The session was presented by Dr. Bethanie Hamlett Tucker, a professor of education at Averett University in Danville, Virginia.

“The poverty session was particularly impactful due to the nature of the work that we do,” Teresa said. “The detailed social, economic and moral ideas presented influence our society as a whole and we all have some kind of contribution to the impact of this multifaceted concept.”

For all attendees, the conference day offered the opportunity to learn something new that can be applied in the classroom or therapy sessions.

“All school staff needs ongoing professional development, explained School Superintendent Christine Sheffer. “Sometimes they need to meet State standards for continuing education but that is secondary to the importance of being life-long learners who are constantly striving to increase the excellence of the work that they do with students and families.”

Feedback forms from each session are currently being reviewed to help plan the 2020 Conference.