Meet the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Posted: May 25, 2023 | Written By: Drew Delligatti | Category:
Heather Doyle is the new Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for New Story Schools – Pennsylvania. As she strives to make our students successful, we invite you to learn more about Heather and her role.
Q: What brings you to working for New Story Schools? Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I started my career as a school psychologist. I went to Bethany College in West Virginia for my Bachelors of Science in psychology and minor in visual arts. At the time, I had aspirations to be an art therapist, but when I learned about school psychology, I felt that was the best way for me to make the greatest amount of difference. So, I went to grad school at Kent State University for school psychology. I worked as a school psychologist for several years and then I finished my PhD in School Psychology.
Afterwards, I taught at Ashland University and Kent State University while working as a school psychologist. I then went into administration as Assistant Coordinator of Special Services in Medina City Schools and during that time I got my administrative license and my superintendent’s letter. Eventually, I got a position as Director of Pupil Services at Copley-Fairlawn City Schools. I wanted to move closer to my family, so I took a job as the Director of Special Education at Mount Lebanon School District in Pittsburgh. I was in that role for about five years and then Melissa Nelson, who was the Senior Vice President of Academic Programs at New Story Schools, introduced me to this role at New Story.
What interested me in New Story Schools was the opportunity to work with students with unique and intensive disabilities and the opportunity to work with likeminded colleagues who share my interest in working with these amazing students. I have my superintendent’s letter and I thought that was the direction I wanted to go, but my passion lies with working with students who have disabilities, especially those who are underserved in public schools and don’t get the help they need. That’s always been what I wanted to focus my time on, so when this opportunity came along, it seemed like the perfect fit for me.
Q: What do you love about working in Special Education?
I love the gains that you see with our students. What may seem like an insignificant gain to a neurotypical student could be huge for a student with a disability. Things like having a student graduate, learn how to read, or maintaining a job after school. When you see where they start and where they end up, it is really wonderful to see that growth. I also enjoy working in teams with teachers, support staff, families, and even outside service providers. That’s required for our students to make progress, so being a part of those multidisciplinary teams is something that I have learned a lot from. It’s great to see everyone aligned for the best interest of the student.
Q: What does your new role entail?
I will be focusing on ensuring that we are meeting the academic needs of our students. We have strong clinicians and experts when it comes to our clinical programming. For many of our students, if we aren’t appropriately handling their behavior, then learning is impossible. From what I see, we have a really strong hold on that. With the academic piece, we want to ensure that our students are getting the academic instruction they need, as well as independent living and vocational skills. I will be spending a lot of time researching different curricular resources, making sure that our buildings and teachers have what they need. I will also be putting together committees to review our curriculum in the academic areas and then providing professional development to teachers and support staff on evidence-based instructional strategies.
Q: What is something you look to accomplish in your first year as Director of Curriculum for New Story Schools - Pennsylvania?
We recently had our first committee meeting on reviewing our online curricular resources because we have a list of about 30 different subscriptions that we have for various online academic resources. A lot of this started during the COVID-19 pandemic because people were given free accounts for a semester or year. After that time expired, we had all those subscriptions to maintain. We want to fine tune our online resources so that we have more programs that serve multiple purposes such as providing intervention in reading and math as well as data collection. We are also going to start reviewing our curriculum and begin developing it in an academic area, either English language arts or math. We will have a committee that works on each particular area, which will probably take a year to start the process. The hope is that as time goes on, we’ll be able to focus on all of the content areas. I’ll also be looking at our student data collection tools and the teacher observation and evaluation system so that we are able to provide more useful feedback to our teachers on instruction and use it as a vehicle for professional teacher development.
Q: How will you help students grow and develop?
For most of my career, I have been on the “front lines” in a sense, either as a school psychologist or participating in Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings, working with families, and working with teachers. This role is more behind the scenes. I am responsible for ensuring that the resources we are using are evidence- based. Part of my job will be providing professional development to our administrators, teachers, and support staff. I will be putting into place the systems that will allow our educators to make the greatest and most positive impact possible on our students.
Q: Is there any advice you can give someone who is looking to pursue or advance a career in Special Education?
For individuals who are pre-service teachers or who are at that level, I think spending time in schools working with different populations helps you learn about the different roles. Because, yes, we certainly have a need for special education teachers, but I know there’s a need for school psychologists, speech language pathologists, and occupational therapists. There’s a lot of roles available. If you spend time observing and learning from teachers who are already in the profession as well as asking them questions, it makes a huge difference in terms of determining what specifically you want to do in special education.
A lot of people shy away from special education because they think it is going to be too much to handle. But if you love the students and you genuinely care about them, that’s really all you need to start. That passion isn’t something that can be taught. I never thought I would be working in special education. I always thought I would be working more as a clinician instead. But if you want to make an impact, that’s the field to be in. As my career has progressed, instead of going to a more general, neurotypical population, I have become more focused on this population of students because of the needs there. As time goes on, we’re seeing greater and greater needs. For people thinking about going into the profession, just having an open mind and realizing that you are going to have a huge impact on these students and their lives. It’s such a rewarding job to have.
Q: What is something not many people know about you?
I’m really into Jim Henson and The Muppets and all of his creations. I follow his work closely. I was really happy when they had Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show on Apple and Disney. I feel silly because I’m an adult, but it’s something that made a huge impact on me as a child, and it is still something that I love.
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