By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, Director, Whole Community Inclusion

“We wish we could get the same training that our TAP teens receive!” This is feedback that I’ve heard over the years from the teachers and education directors who have teens participating in Jewish Learning Venture’s Reta Emerson Fellowship/Teen Assistant Program (TAP). The TAP training includes an intensive week in the summer before school starts and ongoing professional development during the year focused on disability awareness and working with children who have both learning and more complex cognitive disabilities.

Wanting to respond to that feedback, we invited teachers and education directors to join us for last Thursday’s TAP session, featuring Faye Benshetler, an experienced special educator and behavior analyst who has “retired” from the public school system and now supports special education at Congregation Beth Or and on staff at Torah Academy. Faye’s talk on “Positive Behavior Practices” emphasized the ways that teachers can motivate students using positive rather than negative reinforcement, by being empathetic, offering choices and making sure that students have clear structure and understand classroom rules. “I like you too much to argue,” she said, showing teens and adults an example of how humor and kindness can diffuse a moment in the classroom that could become a power struggle.

Following Faye’s interactive presentation, school teams met to brainstorm ways to apply what they learned to the students in their classrooms.

Want to know more about the Reta Emerson Fellowship/Teen Assistant Program? Check out our TAP blog for really insightful posts from the teens.