Inclusive Schools Week: Alumni recall time as students

The Newtonite

by Jacob Schwartz

Four  alumni special education teachers with learning disabilities discussed their experiences as high school students, as a part of a presentation in the auditorium C-Block yesterday.

At the beginning of the presentation, the teachers were introduced. Then, all of the panelists described their experiences in the Newton Public Schools. Dianne Lochhead ’82 said she remembers spending time in the art room in junior high school and at this school.

However, Lochhead also recalled academic struggles from as early as first grade. “In first grade I wrote backwards a lot. Lines of reading would merge together,” she said.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD. In high school, “I drifted in and out class,” she said. “Every subject was difficult for me.”

Beth Busa ’95, now a teaching assistant in Academic Support, was a cheerleader at this school, as well as a member of Concert Choir. In second grade, Busa was diagnosed with dyslexia and transferred to Franklinby Jacob Schwartz

As part of Inclusive Schools Week, four Special Education teachers with learning disabilities, who graduated from this school, formed a panel, and discussed their school experiences with students, during C-Block Monday.

The panel began by introducing each member. Then, all of the panelists described their experiences in the Newton Public Schools. Dianne Lochhead ’82 said she remembered spending time in the art room in junior high school and at this school.

However, Lochhead also recalled academic struggles from as early as first grade. “In first grade I wrote backwards a lot. Lines of reading would merge together,” she said.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD. In high school, “I drifted in and out class,” she said. “Every subject was difficult for me.”

Beth Busa ’95, now a teaching assistant in the Academic Support program, was a cheerleader at this school, as well as a member of Concert Choir. In second grade, Busa was diagnosed with dyslexia and transferred to Franklin Elementary School, where she received services.

Before her freshman year, Busa and her family met with the department head of Academic Support. “I don’t quite remember the meeting, but according to my mom, the department head said, ‘I don’t care how cute she is or how smart she is, I just care about how she learns best.’”

Busa said, “Newton North really helped me get all the resources I needed.”

Tracy Mucci ’91 chose to return to become a teacher at this school even though she “hated school.”

Spending time in the Resource Room at Cabot Elementary School was common practice for Mucci, who often went there in search of extra help. However, she said she stopped attending extra help sessions at the Resource Room, after one of her classmates mouthed the word “moron” at her.

While Mucci did have dyslexia throughout her pre-college career, she did not know it and did not receive support for it until college, she said.

“Sports kept me out of a lot of trouble,” said special education teacher John MacNamara ’05, who was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“At first, I was just coasting through school,” MacNamara said. “I made the football team, and I was pretty happy about that.”

However, MacNamara said that the person who had the most affect on him was graphics teacher Tom Donnellan.

When he had his teachers fill out an academic report that was necessary for the sport in which McNamara participated, it did not reflect strong effort, MacNamara said.

“Tom put it up on the wall. He thought that was what it was going to take to wake me up, and it definitely did. It was what I needed.”

Towards the end of the block, an audience member asked the panelists why they decided to return to this school, in light of their difficult experiences here.

Lochhead responded, saying that she became a Special Education teacher at this school because, “It was important to me not to let other people’s children slip through the cracks at school like I did.”