Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thank you, Duncan Tingle, for a decade of distinguished service on Laraway's Board

     Duncan Tingle stepped down from Laraway's Board of Trustees followed a decade of distinguished service.  As a retired special educator and school administrator, Duncan brought valuable insights and expertise to Board discussions.
     Duncan served as President of Laraway's Board during our capital campaign, providing solid support and guidance through periods of research and discernment.  He was on board and active when it became evident that the best choice for Laraway was to move to and renovate a Johnson Farmstead.  Today, Laraway's 39-acre campus supports educational and therapeutic services in a pastoral landscape.
     "I could always count on Duncan to attend a donor event and lend a hand wherever needed," said Katherine Stamper, Laraway's Development Director.  "He's also a historian and lover of literature and I could also count on Duncan for a great conversation on good reads."
     Thank you, Duncan, for all of your fine work on behalf of the children and families we serve.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Laraway Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a Day of Service

        Martin Luther King, Jr, the slain civil rights leader, once said:  “Life’s most persistent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
     Laraway Youth & Family Services’ staff embraced this question, marking the federal holiday with a day of service at the Johnson-based nonprofit.  Blankets were crafted for children in shelters. Cards were written and games were created for seniors in assisted living.  Bowls were designed for a hunger awareness project.  Toys were made for dogs living in shelters, waiting to be adopted.  These and other offerings of goodwill honor the legacy of Dr. King.
     “Our day of service helps us to look beyond our agency, supporting the work of other folks doing fine work in the community,” said Katherine Stamper, Laraway’s Development Director.
     Laraway Youth & Family Services is a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and building on the strengths of children and youth with emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges, through alternative education, therapeutic foster care and public school based behavioral intervention supports.  For more information, visit or email 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Teaching at Laraway, solving a puzzle

     "I enjoy teaching this population and figuring our how to best help
 them to learn.  It's like solving a puzzle." 
~Laraway Teacher

     How might teaching a child experiencing special needs be similar to figuring out a puzzle?  This is a question I've pondered since visiting with a group of Laraway teachers.  They settled into the conference room following a day of engaging students in hands on learning in math, science and literacy.
     Basic advice on solving a puzzle often includes the following steps:  Flip pieces upwards.  Find the edge pieces.  Sort by like pieces.  Sort out any "special" pieces with distinguishing characteristics (lettering, etc.).  Work on small sections at a time.  Don't give up.
     Students who come to Laraway typically have struggled in traditional school settings.  What's a teacher to do when a student arrives, ready (or sometimes, hesitant) to learn?
     The teaching equivalent of "flipping a piece" upward might be getting to know a student, really  taking taking time to learn what he or she cares about and how he or she is most comfortable as a learner.  "Finding the edge pieces" might relate to creating a safe environment where students are willing to take risks in their learning to see how far they can actually go.  "Sort by like pieces" might be about allowing students to gather with others----in a school club or classroom activity---with others who share their interests.  This builds community.  This helps young people forge friendships tied to common interests.  "Work on small sections at a time" recognizes that---precious few learners experience Eureka moments of instantaneous, full and complete learning.  Most learners require small bites of information that, collectively, form a body of knowledge.  Finally, "Don't give up" reminds us that it takes time for children to heal from past hurts so they are ready and open to learning.  Even then, it can take time to find the best best way---the missing puzzle piece---to help a student grasp a mathematical concept or complete an assignment.
     Laraway's strength is in meeting youth where they are at, creating individualized programs to address their unique needs while helping them realize their full potential. 

Submitted by Katherine Stamper, Laraway Development Director