What appears to be play time for a few elementary students is actually challenging work. Students who use walkers get down on a mat in the gym and roll their bodies like a log toward bowling pins and knock them over. Physical Therapist Assistant Jean Patrick leans over the student, and supports him as he rolls across the mat.
“I just want to make it fun for them so they look at it as a good thing,” Mrs. Patrick said.
During the class, Mrs. Patrick and the other staff assist students at different obstacle course stations. All the while, students are working towards specific goals to improve their strength and balance.
Mrs. Patrick works in five schools – Bell Top, Donald P. Sutherland, Genet, Red Mill and Columbia. It is clear that she creates a fun and engaging atmosphere for students. There are high-fives, smiles and laughter even when doing strenuous work.
“I just love playing with the kids. It’s my favorite thing,” she said smiling.
Mrs. Patrick was recently named the Mary P. Van Derzee Special Educator of the Year by the East Greenbush Special Needs Parent Support Group. The annual award goes to a District employee who goes above and beyond for students with special needs.
A former student and her parent nominated Mrs. Patrick for the award, noting her “warm and cheerful attitude, exemplary patience, sensitivity and creativity.”
Each school has a space where Mrs. Patrick and students do push-ups, sit-ups and other activities alongside each other.
“If I’m asking them to do it then I should be able to do it,” Mrs. Patrick said. “Because when they say they’re tired, I say ‘So am I! Come on, keep going,’” she said laughing.
There are 23 students in the district who receive physical therapy services, and Mrs. Patrick works with all of them.
Each student is evaluated by a physical therapist, given a treatment plan with associated goals and then works with Mrs. Patrick to achieve those goals.
“Jean always has a smile on her face and her enthusiasm for her work is evident every day!” said Director of Special Education Helen Squillace. “She easily connects with students, building trust and rapport through her genuine kindness and encouragement. Students thrive and gain great benefit from her skills. Jean is also equally admired by her colleagues.”
Mrs. Patrick chose physical therapy as a career because she wanted to help people. More than 30 years later (14 of those years in East Greenbush), she still loves it.
“This is what I wanted to do,” she said, “work with kids like this.”
Mary P. Van Derzee Special Educator of the Year Recipients
- Jean Patrick – 2018-19
- Megan Lopez – 2017-18
- Cheri Walsh and Jacqui Perry – 2016-17
- Paula Sobol – 2015-16
- Audra DiBacco – 2014-15
- Karen Anderson-Green – 2013-14
- Lalena DiMarco – 2012-13
- Vincenzina Farry – 2011-12
- Jennifer Cavotta-Riley – 2010-11
- John Rivera – 2009-10
- Barbara Neiman – 2008-09
- Tammy Kirwin – 2007-08
- Kathy Rutherford – 2006-07
- Joanne Smith – 2005-06
- Laurie Mendrysa – 2004-05
- James McHugh – 2003-04
- Deborah Rubenstein – 2002-03