Building a bridge of inclusion for special needs children through passionately raising disability awareness.

After many years of working in private special education schools, Jenn came to work at the Lynch Elementary School in 2005 as the lead teacher in the Specialized Learning Center grades 3-5. The program is a district wide one, which supports students with significant specials needs from across the town. Important to Jenn is utilizing her role as a special educator at Lynch to help support classroom teachers and students as well as accessing any opportunities for inclusion. Raising disability awareness for students and faculty has become her passion. Jenn has helped to facilitate Lynch’s participation in National Inclusion week observed every December, as well as working within the community on several projects that tackle issues such as Bullying and Empowerment.

In 2014, Jenn approached the Multicultural Network with an idea to “Light it Up Blue,” to raise awareness for Autism. Light it up Blue is a global initiative, with cities across the country and around the world participating by lighting up monuments and major buildings for the month of April. It seemed an amazing way to have Winchester become a part of this amazing celebration and opportunity to raise Autism awareness. Working with Sahar Ahmed from the Brio Integrated Theater as well as Anne Kostos with the support of the Disability Access Commission (DAC) and the Multicultural Network, an annual event was born. Each year this event has grown to include a bigger crowd turnout, participation from the schools, and support from local area businesses. Two years ago, she was able to convince her hometown of Burlington to participation as well. It started with the Common becoming blue for the month of April the last two years. This year Burlington will also hold its first community event.

Interview with Jennifer Flaherty

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What called you to this work?

I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher. I started out as a camp counselor and babysitter then pursued a Bachelor’s Degree and became certified in Elementary Education. I worked in a few different roles as a teacher—in public school as a teaching assistant and as an English  teacher for the Department of Youth Services program in the Plymouth County House of Corrections working with juvenile offenders. I ended up at the May Institute working with children with Traumatic Brain Injuries. Through this opportunity I was able to work on a clinical Masters degree and became certified in Severe Special Education. The job at the May was hard, sometimes even scary, but I loved it and knew I had found my calling. After my son was born I began working at Lynch Elementary School. The Lynch school community is an amazing place to work and I am proud to teach here!

What did you see as the need in our community that you might fill?
Tell us how you see this calling of yours enriching our common life.
When one teaches, two learn is a known adage. What have been the highlights of your experience so far?
Since this is the month honoring women, who is one woman who has inspired you and why?
Any advice to share?