For the past 14 years, Helen Squillace has dedicated herself to students with special needs and their families. As the director of East Greenbush Central School District’s Pupil Personnel Services department, she was responsible for delivering special education at each of the district’s seven schools.
During that time, innovative programs have addressed the needs of those students, including the creation of CTAEP (Center for Academic and Educational Excellence Program), Achieving Individual Milestones, Jump Start, Instructional Support Program, Curriculum Equivalent classes, Job Coaching at local businesses and an Extended School Year Program during the summer.
In recognition of Mrs. Squillace’s contributions, she has been named the Mary P. Van Derzee Special Educator of the Year by the group Parent Support for Students with Disabilities, and was honored at the Board of Education meeting last week.
“I feel so honored to receive this award!,” said Mrs. Squillace, who is the new principal of Red Mill Elementary School. “The recognition is especially meaningful to me because it comes from the parents. To know that the work that I enjoy so much has also had an impact for their child or family means the world to me.”
The results of Mrs. Squillace’s leadership are obvious, but it is the personal connections she makes that set her apart.
In one of the letters nominating Mrs. Squillace for this award, Kelly Sheehan, a parent of a student with Autism, wrote: “Her dedication is so incredibly apparent from our very first meeting with her. She has been so supportive to our son and our family. Families with special needs children can be overwhelmed with fears and anxieties of what the future holds for their child. Knowing we had someone with the experience and knowledge necessary to get our child the support he needed for his education was amazing.”
Along with students’ parents, Mrs. Squillace’s colleagues know how much of an impact she has had on the special education program.
“Mrs. Squillace has done more to advance the needs of students with disabilities than any person I have ever known or worked with,” said Bill Coyle, the PPS assistant director. “Mrs. Squillace has excellent interpersonal skills and ability to perceive teacher candidates that will provide the high quality education that we want in East Greenbush. Her choices in hiring new special education teachers, related service providers and support staff over the years has shaped the special education program into the strong, high achieving program that it is today.”
Mary P. Van Derzee Special Educator of the Year Recipients
- Helen Squillace – 2018-19
- Jean Patrick – 2017-18
- Megan Lopez – 2016-17
- Cheri Walsh and Jacqui Perry – 2015-16
- Paula Sobol – 2014-15
- Audra DiBacco – 2013-14
- Karen Anderson-Green – 2012-13
- Lalena DiMarco – 2011-12
- Vincenzina Farry – 2010-11
- 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