By Briana Florez
Over the summer, in preparation for this school year, the Paul VI Options Program underwent additions: Four new students joined Options this year, which brings a total of 16 students to the program. In addition, the Options classroom was renovated over the summer to better fit all the needs of the expanded program. The classroom was separated into three different areas, based on teachers, subjects and students. For instance, Ms. Ellen Bower ‘06 teaches math in one section of the newly configured Options classroom. Bower, who joined the faculty this school year, has a master’s degree in Special Education, with a concentration in Applied Behavioral Analysis.
Ms. Megan Battle ‘03 is another new faculty member. She teaches the school’s Peer Mentor classes, as well as trains and coordinates those students who volunteer as mentors during their study hall. Before coming to Paul VI, she was the director of a special education program, at St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School. She also trained young adults to work with individuals with disabilities through the County of Fairfax Therapeutic Recreation program.
Last year, a “Peer Mentor” course was added to the list of elective courses here at Paul VI. The class is a semester long, and it allows students to work with those in the Options program by assisting them in their classes. The main purpose of the class is “to provide students with an overview of knowledge on individuals with disabilities while simultaneously emphasizing the innate beauty and dignity of all human persons,” said Ms. Battle.
Abby Thibodeau ‘16 is enrolled in the Peer Mentor course for this fall. She attends Yearbook class every day with Meredith ‘15. “Peer mentoring Meredith is such a great experience. Meredith is constantly improving on her yearbook skills every day,” said Thibodeau. “Last year, I peer mentored a group of students in Options, but this year, it is just one on one. Working with someone one on one allows you to get to know and understand the person better.”
Erin Cassella ‘15 also is enrolled in the Peer Mentor course this semester; this is her first time acting as a Peer Mentor. She alternates from working with Elizabeth in Creative Writing and working with Allie in English 11. “I’ve really enjoyed working with both Allie and Elizabeth this semester thus far,” said Cassella. “Getting to know them on a more personal note in an educational environment is fantastic. This class has opened my eyes and given me a new perspective on special education and just how amazing the Options program is here at P VI. Because of this course and other activities I am involved with, I’ve decided to pursue a career in special education, specifically Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy.”