It is always curious why certain people enter the field of special education. In many ways, this subuniverse of teaching can be the most demanding. Teachers must try new approaches, almost daily, to reach and encourage their students, most of whom have been diagnosed with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or executive functioning challenges.
Teaching these young people requires a full complement of patience, empathy, confidence, and, most importantly, creativity to successfully engage and prepare students for their adult lives. To be fair, many of these characteristics can be found with all teachers, but not with the same abundance as those in special education.
Given all that, the Spy was interested in talking to the new Head of the Wye River Upper School, Stephanie Folarin, about her own decision to pursue a career working with students with special needs. With an impressive background, including degrees from Bates College and Johns Hopkins, with additional work at the London School of Economics, Spillman College, and a management certificate from Harvard, it’s pretty clear that the Folarin could have entered any profession with a high degree of certainty for success.
Stephanie’s response was a relatively simple one; her mother’s example planned that seed. Watching as her mother would seek out those in her classes requiring special assistance in the Connecticut public schools, and also the satisfaction that came from investing that extra time with those students, Folarin resolved to follow in her mother’s footsteps, which led to her working in Washington DC’s Sheraton School, Maret School, and Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys, before accepting her position at Wye last summer.
In her Spy interview, Stephanie talks about the unique challenges parents face with children who require a different approach to secondary education. She also talks about how Wye River Upper School can work with those students to fully prepare them for college or other vocational choices they may choose to pursue.
Folarin also makes it clear that one of her primary goals in her new position will be to ensure that a Wye River education is affordable. While she freely admits this objective may take years to achieve for the Centreville school, which will be celebrating 20 years of existence this year, there is little doubt that this conviction to make her school free for all will be a driving force during her tenure.
This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Wye River Upper School please go here