Sara Faro is an exceptional education teacher in Brevard County, Florida. She began her teaching career in 2010 and since then has taught grades K-6th and 9th-12th. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and will complete her master’s degree from UCF in August 2016. Her background includes instruction in the brick and mortar setting as well as the virtual setting.
In her current position as the ESE contact, MTSS/data teams coordinator, and a 6th grade teacher at Brevard Virtual Schools, she works with all students with disabilities in grades K-12th. Mrs. Faro also works collaboratively with a team of ESE teachers to ensure that the needs of all students are met.
“The iCAN project was so appealing to me because I saw an opportunity to work with a population of students that I had never worked with before. I was interested to not only in assisting these young people in becoming better students but also in learning from them and their capacity to learn and develop.”
Celestial Wills-Jackson graduated from SUNY College at Old Westbury in December, 2011. She majored in Childhood Special Education and earned her Bachelor of Science in Education. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Science in this field she was awarded a scholarly fellowship at CUNY Queens College in 2012. While at Queens College, Celestial majored in Early Childhood Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis receiving a Master of Science in Education.
Celestial taught as a 5th special education teacher in New York City’s public school system for three years. Additionally, she was a K-12 substitute teacher for one year and a 4th grade paraprofessional for three years. Currently, she is enrolled at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Celestial was again awarded a scholarly fellowship at UCF where she is earning her Ph.D. in Exceptional Education. As a doctoral student at UCF, Celestial is a Graduate Research Associate researching social skills deficits of adolescent children diagnosed with emotional behavioral disorders transitioning from elementary to middle school. Additionally, Celestial works with a research support team that meets the needs of traditionally marginalized populations (e.g., undergraduates with disabilities) who struggle with the extensive academic content, large class size, and introductory STEM courses. She is also lead coordinator in the College and Career Readiness Program. This is a college awareness program for young adults with intellectual disabilities sponsored by the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida. Celestial’s anticipated date of graduation is 2018.
Angelica is a doctoral student and a LEAD scholar in the Ph.D. program in Exceptional Education at the University of Central Florida. She began teaching as a 2011 Teach for America corps member in Miami Dade, at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, where she taught in an inclusive setting. Angelica moved to Orange County, where she continued to teach in an inclusive setting at Mollie Ray Elementary School. Angelica is a student with a learning disability in reading and writing, and she is diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. Her research interests include using mindfulness based practices in TeachLivE to prepare teachers working with students with learning disabilities in urban education.
Angelica became interested in the iCAN program due to her own lived experiences as a college student with disabilities. She wants to help support and coach individuals through sharing feedback and recommendations that have proven to be successful during her educational journey.
Rebecca Hopkins is a doctoral student in the Exceptional Education PhD program at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. She is a Project Lead scholar and a Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute Fellow. Rebecca has a master’s degree in Special Education from Fairfield University in Connecticut and a bachelor’s degree in English from Douglass College at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. As a special educator and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, she has been working with children with varying exceptionalities for twenty years. Rebecca’s research interests include working with students diagnosed with significant developmental and/or intellectual disabilities who have communication deficits and behavioral challenges. As a behavior analyst, she has worked in public schools in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Florida providing direct services, professional development, and coaching to support the needs of students and teachers. Rebecca has focused on conducting functional behavior assessments and developing positive behavior interventions to support the success of student learning in the classroom. In addition, she is a provider of professional development to teachers, parents, paraprofessionals and others involved in enhancing the lives of students with special abilities.
“I am interested in the iCAN program because all students deserve quality opportunities to succeed in higher education. A STEM major can lead to a productive and rewarding career for students with exceptionalities. I believe peer coaching is a promising method to support and enhance the successful outcomes for students with exceptionalities in higher education STEM fields.”
Gina Walker is currently enrolled in UCF’s Exceptional Education Master’s in Education program with a special focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders through project ASD. She is a veteran teacher with twenty years’ experience working in both general and exceptional student education in middle and high school. She has certifications in English 6-12 and both Elementary and Exceptional Education and is endorsed in Reading and ESOL K-12. Gina is also a Safe and Civil Schools CHAMPS trainer for the Volusia County Schools.
Gina appreciates the iCAN Project because it helps students to bring out the best in themselves. By the time students reach college age, thousands of hours have been invested in their education, by both the students and their teachers. Rather than watch these bright individuals struggle and possibly give up, iCAN coaches give academic and emotional support to help them continue to grow. The result is happier, more confident and more productive citizens, which in her opinion, is a “win-win- win” situation for the students, the college and the community.