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Carolyn Berry works for the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program. She teaches students with intellectual disabilities.

 

I have been working with students who have physical and intellectual disabilities since I was a young child. My first "job" was to organize backyard fairs to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I volunteered at summer camps and enjoyed knowing my best friend's younger sister. I started college intending to be a speech-language pathologist, but changed my mind and pursued a degree in journalism.

After college, I worked in marketing and public relations for health care organizations. After many years, I changed directions and devoted my professional life to writing and editing. I wrote about everything from commercial real estate and economic development to community leaders and medical breakthroughs. I reveled in helping people tell their life stories and helping corporations celebrate their successes in written corporate histories. For a decade I edited a magazine about residential construction. I loved it! Every day was a new adventure, and best of all - I worked from home!

I'm a self-starter and a strategic thinker. I like to empower those around me to achieve goals they never dreamed they could reach. As changes took place in my personal life, I took a dose of my own medicine and again charted a new course.

I began teaching at Mathews High School and entered the master's of special education program at Old Dominion University. In 2006 I began teaching for the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program at Rappahannock High School in Warsaw, VA. My students have intellectual disabilities, emotional disabilities, and physical disabilities. The best part? I love my students and my job! Teaching gives me the opportunity to blend and utilize all the skills I've developed over the years. It's the best job ever - plus, my summers are free to write!

The frustrating part of teaching in a rural area is the limited number of opportunities my students have as they transition from high school to adulthood. As the economy nose dives, community-based instructional funds dry up and job-training opportunities for students dwindle.

My solution to those challenges was to launch a school-based business. Which business? How do I start? How do I convince administrators to approve my plan? 

I couldn't find a how-to manual, so I networked and attended conferences and workshops that focused on transition and teaching students vocational skills. I learned about interesting, successful businesses teachers and students were operating. Some businesses are for students who haven't graduated, but need to learn job skills; other businesses are for post-graduate students who need more job-training skills and the opportunity to equate good work behaviors with earning paychecks (stipends). Although the teachers are generous with sharing their knowledge at the workshops and later answering questions via telephone and e-mails, I needed a how-to book to hold in my hands. Seeking to fill the void, I have decided to write that book. The book has become the ideal way to blend two of my passions: my love of writing and my love for my students!

The Ghostwriter LLC
Carolyn Berry
1457 Pilkington Road
Hustle, VA 22476
vaspedteacher@theschoolbasedbusiness.com
www.theschoolbasedbusiness.com
(804) 443-6622