Employee Spotlight: Jennie Moriarty

How long have you been working at Grafton?

15 years

Can you please give a brief summary of your career path at Grafton?

I started out as the Itinerant Teacher where my main role was supporting the other classroom teachers and the admin in whatever way possible. I made materials, researched new curriculum, covered classrooms when the teacher was out, and helped with assessments, among other things. Then, I moved into a classroom and maintained my own room for several years. During this time, I started the horticulture program and organized the gardens and beds around campus, and my students grew and sold produce around the school. After being in my own classroom for a while, I moved back into the Itinerant Teacher role where my main focus returned to being a support to my fellow teachers and working closely with the Principal. I was in this role briefly before Covid hit, then moved back into a classroom teacher role during and post-Covid.

What inspired you to get into this field?

I always loved playing teacher and had always wanted to be a teacher. My little brother struggled with ADHD, learning disabilities, and emotional dysregulation when he was going to school; I remember watching him and my parents struggle throughout his whole school career. This was my first sort of feeling that I might like to pursue a field in Special Education. Then, while in college during my undergrad education courses, I took the requisite “behavior management” course and thought it was fascinating; it seemed much more interesting than your run of the mill “early childhood education” courses. I just remember being so interested in brain disorders and development and how no one is really “typical”. And “typical” is boring!

What are you most excited to accomplish as the new Assistant Principal of RBC?

I love supporting the teachers and helping them, whether it’s with something big or small. I love feeling like I can make something better or easier for them or give them a new way to think about a particularly difficult problem. I’m most excited to get to try all of the ideas that our Principal, Crystal, and I have been brainstorming about for the past few years!

How would you describe your leadership style?

I would like to consider my leadership style to be “coaching”. When I was in the classroom, I loved being able to teach my Instructional Assistants new techniques, help them see their strengths and use them to their advantage, and encourage them when they were feeling frustrated or stagnant.

What makes Grafton a special place to work?

Definitely the people who work here and the kids!

What makes Grafton’s person-centered approach unique?

It’s unique in that it takes into account the needs, thoughts, and feelings of the individual, rather than just considering the thoughts and assessment of the professional.

What would you tell someone who is considering working at Grafton?

I would say it is challenging in a way that a lot of jobs are not, but it is also rewarding, fun, and never boring. 

Teamwork is so important at Grafton. Can you please share with us what your team means to you?

My team is everything and really what makes everything possible here. My immediate team of teachers are the leaders of their classrooms, and I think it’s important to help them feel as confident and supported as possible. 

How has Grafton leadership supported you during your time at Grafton?

I am not one to shy away from asking for help when needed, and I have always felt supported when I have gone to any of my supervisors with a problem or issue. Over the years, I have received guidance from leadership and through that, I have been able to grow within Grafton. Sometimes people are scared to ask for help, or think that they won’t receive the guidance that they need, but I have found that the leadership I have had here has always been more than willing to guide me and provide me with advice, or just be a sounding board. 

How has Grafton helped you reach your goals?

They have provided support for me to take classes, approached me about learning and growth opportunities within Grafton, and have sought my professional input for specific classroom and student issues. 

What skills have you learned since working at Grafton?

I have learned how to listen, be more patient, ask for help when needed, how to manage my time and how to delegate tasks to individuals with specific strengths. I’ve also learned not to sweat the small stuff and that things could always be worse! 

What does Ukeru’s philosophy of Comfort vs Control mean to you?

Comfort vs. Control means individualizing care by looking at each student as an individual and learning what works best for them. This includes learning what they like and dislike, how they respond to different situations, what pace they work best at, what accommodations and modifications they may need, and constantly reassessing their growth and progress.

Can you share with us the importance of using a trauma-informed approach and explain how it has influenced your work?

Having been here for so long, I feel like it becomes ingrained in you that all of our kids have some sort of trauma. I think being comfortable with yourself goes a long way to helping our kids feel comfortable, and it can be as much about working on your own confidence and strength as it is in helping them. 

What would you tell a parent who is considering sending their child to Grafton?

For any parent considering sending their child here, I would tell them that they will be treated and loved like they are a member of a large family. As a parent, it is incredibly hard to give up that control, but in the end it becomes therapeutic and positive for the child and the whole family because everyone is getting the treatment they need.

Can you share a favorite story that you have from working at Grafton?

My favorite stories are the little ones that you get to see every day. The small moments of progress that feel really big in the end. For example, when a student goes from not being able to transition to school without plopping and engaging in aggression or disruption- to being able to walk into the building, hang their stuff up, go to the bathroom independently, and sit down, all without engaging in any target behaviors.