A Part of the Progress: Being an Educational Technician III in a Therapeutic Preschool
By Meaghan Ayer

Melissa Chrusicel has been an Educational Technician III at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center for nearly eight years. She began her career there after her son attended the center almost 10 years ago. “I felt obligated to help kids the same way they helped my son,” Melissa said. Seeing how the program changed her son and the impact it had was so moving she wanted to give that same opportunity and guidance to other children.

As an Educational Technician, Melissa is responsible for the supervision of children assigned to her within one or more Special Education classrooms. Additionally, it is her job to introduce new learning strategies based on the student’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) while working directly with the Special Education Teacher.

Melissa didn’t originally start off as an Ed Tech III, or even an Ed Tech for that matter. She came to Waban with a degree in Accounting which gave her enough college credit hours to get an Ed Tech II certification. After working with the students year after year and attending Waban’s trainings, Melissa had earned enough teaching hours to qualify her for an Ed Tech III certification. “I got my Ed Tech III around the fall of 2015. I wanted to take a more leadership role in the classroom while sharing my knowledge with new staff,” said Melissa.

The day we spoke Melissa had a wonderful experience with one of the students who she doesn’t normally work with. “He started singing along with the song on his iPad.” She continued, “Everyone turned around to watch him and the room just went quiet.” What made this moment so special is that the child had only recently started at the Center and came to Fraser-Ford almost non-verbal. “Seeing them making strides – it’s the little things,” she said smiling.

In terms of progress, each child is different. They have different diagnoses, behaviors, abilities, and personalities. When I asked Melissa what the quickest progress she’s seen a child make while attending the Center she began describing how one student learned “requesting”. A young girl she had been working with wasn’t able to fully verbalize her wants and needs in a way that was positive nor could be understood. This is a common behavioral trait that is hard to break in young children with special needs, but Melissa and the other staff worked closely with the student and were able to help her learn other ways of demonstrating her wants both verbally and non-verbally. Within a few months the student’s behavior improved and she was able to articulate her wants in a positive way which helped to decrease behavioral outbursts and frustrations. Melissa added that she’s even able to ask for things out of sight now, which is a big step forward.

Of course each day isn’t like the last and each day isn’t always filled with successes and progress. Some days come with tantrums and tears; it’s not anything you yourself didn’t do as a child, but for the students at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center it’s different. The behaviors happen when they are triggered. Sometimes it’s just simply out of frustration, other times it’s because the child doesn’t know how to express the way he or she is feeling. “Our job is very difficult, but not all days are like that,” said Melissa. She never dwells on what happened and tries to remember that they’re just kids, “It’s not their fault, you need to have patience.”

Melissa’s biggest piece of advice for those thinking of becoming an Ed Tech III is to give the kids time and understand that once you’re able to pin-point the behaviors and understand why they happen, then you’re able to work with the student, address the root cause of the issue, and then work to alter the results. Being able to help a child express their feelings in a positive way and still get the same outcome as before is a major achievement. Having worked with nearly 70 children over the course of her time at the child development center, she’s seen just about everything, but the most rewarding part is the bonds the staff and students create. Building relationships with students is important in this line of work. “When kids feel safe they build that bond and I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” she said. “You know what they’re capable of, so you know when to push them and when to pull back.”

Melissa has built that special bond with a student named Natalie. She’s worked with Natalie for two years now and knowing that she’s graduating this year really hits home for Melissa. She’s seen the progress Natalie’s made over the past few years and how hard she’s worked in refining her skills and can’t help but feel a little emotional. Spending almost 40 hours a week with the same child allowed Melissa to watch her grow into a smarter and more confident individual while still remaining a happy little kid. What more could you ask for?

Becoming a part of a child’s success, progress, and knowing that what you do every day is a positive step forward in their education and overall well-being is what makes being an Ed Tech III so rewarding. Natalie is just one of the many students who have touched Melissa’s life, but the admiration she has for her is one that she will never forget. “I like knowing I was a part of her progress. I’m going to miss her so much.”

*For more information about the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center please contact Sarah Mehlhorn at (207) 324-7955 ext. 641 or visit waban.org.
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