by Janet Schultz
The Lewiston-Porter Board of Education recognized Ashli Dreher Tuesday for being named the 2014 New York State Teacher of the Year. Dreher is a special education teacher at Lew-Port, and the first special education teacher to receive the state designation.
Dreher, who was honored by the State Board of Regents in September, has spoken to numerous educational groups in the state, sharing her classroom ideas and thoughts on the educational process in special education. She was also named to the Commissioner of Education's Advisory Committee, which includes giving input on Common Core standards.
Dreher is a graduate of the Ken-Ton school system and earned her advanced degrees at Canisius, D'Youville and the University of Buffalo. She is now a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester.
"I had special needs growing up and the teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists helped me be active in my school community, so they had a lot to do with me wanting to give back and recognize that all students have a great deal of potential," she explained of her career choice.
"I had an adaptive teacher that helped me reach my potential, and I became a three-sport athlete in college, which you would not have expected from a child in an adaptive physical education class," said the rower, synchronized swimmer and speed swimmer.
Dreher's biggest teaching challenge is the alternative assessment that is aligned with Common Core.
Her students function at the 24-month to fourth-grade level, and she sees them as having a difficult time being able to understand and complete alternative assessment testing.
Working with the parents and students is the most gratifying part of her job.
"I think that I have a special bond with the students because I have them for a number of years," she explained. "I think God gives students with special needs to parents who will love them the most and take good care of them and help them reach their full potential."
"I also have a wonderful support team in my teacher aides," she continued. "I'm also fortunate to work with some wonderful families."
In introducing Dreher, Superintendent Christopher Roser said that having a teacher chosen for this honor is quite an accomplishment, and it shows her dedication to the classroom and the level she pushes students to reach their potential.
"These students were going to BOCES programs," explained Roser. "It takes a very special teacher with the level of need these students have to be able to give them the quality of education she does.
"She has gotten kids to read when people thought they wouldn't have been able to," said Roser. "It takes a special person to bring this all together and Ashli has taken it to another level. We are very proud to have her at Lew-Port."
Dreher will be speaking at the Smarter Schools Conference at Niagara County Community College in January, at SUNY Cortland in March and Niagara University in April. She also will be traveling to the White House to be recognized by President Barack Obama and for the naming of the National Teacher of the Year.
Dreher explained that the selection process for the Teacher of the Year honor includes an application, recommendation letters from administrators, parents, co-workers and members of the community; a committee talking to parents, students, administrators and classroom observation. Five finalists are selected and they spent the day in Albany for interviews. All State Teachers of the Year recipients will join Dreher in Washington for the national announcement.
The Grand Island resident is the mother of two daughters and is in her 16th year of teaching at Lewiston-Porter.
In other BOE news:
•Eight district teachers were awarded mini-grants from the Lewiston-Porter Alumni Association that will enhance their classroom studies.
The Alumni Association provided funding to Amy Ferrari, Carol Matthews and Sue Frances for therapeutic iPads for physical and occupational therapy for students; Rebecca Orsi and the Multiage Teams for "math module mania" software; Maryann Parker for the purchase of a document camera for literacy instruction; Sandra Rauber, a therapeutic iPad for the speech and language program; Tina Rodriguez for iPads to enrich and educate a child for the 21st century; Mike Antonelli for his program on Safe Dates and Christine Fike for a laser printer and cartridges for the self-contained special education classroom.
Alumni Association President Doug Dietz and member Nancy Orsi presented the mini-grants, totaling more than $3,900, to the teachers.
Dietz noted that the Alumni Association, formed in 2007, gave their first scholarships to Lew-Port students in 2008 and then took a look at how they could assist teachers in their job as educators. That was the beginning of the mini-grant program.
•The board approved field trips for the varsity cheerleaders to Ocean City, Md., for competition; and International Studies students for trips to Compiegne, France, and to Germany, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic.
They also accepted the June 2015 retirements of Bonnie Allen, Patricia Vanone, Maureen Schug and Jeffrey Sedlak.
The BOE went into executive session at 8:15 p.m. to discuss action against the board by a former teacher in the district.
The next Board of Education meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.