Meet our Program Assistants!
Our Early Education Program Assistants work a lot of magic at CTC, preparing educational materials and assisting with group and classroom activities at all three of our centers. They all have experience in early learning and child-care, and share a strong passion for helping children with special needs and their families reach their full potential.
Meza Gandy became a program assistant after spending several years working in a preschool. She was inspired by her nephew, who received physical therapy following his premature birth. “Seeing his progress, I realized I wanted to work in a therapy setting,” she says.
Meza assists in two to three classes a day including Playtime Pals and Tumble Tots. When not in the classroom, she’s preparing educational materials, art projects and sensory projects. Meza also runs the childcare group for parents enrolled in speech-language classes designed to improve their ability to communicate with their children.
“What I love about CTC is the collaboration,” she says. “I get to work on projects with providers from all disciplines. There are so many wonderful people who work here. That supportive and caring feeling runs strong everywhere you go at CTC.”
Favorite Success Story:
“There’s a little boy who joined my childcare class while his mother was attending one of our parent classes. He was having a very difficult time separating from his mom and spent the first few classes crying, which was tough on his mother. She and I worked hard on that transition and now he’s become very comfortable. He works the room, interacting with all the kids and volunteers! His mom has gained confidence, and seeing her so empowered is awesome. When she picks him up after class, he’s happy and wants to show her all the things he accomplished. Their progress together has been rewarding to watch.”
Jenna became a preschool teacher after getting an undergraduate degree in speech therapy and special education. “I’ve always had a passion for working with people with delays or special needs,” she says. “While I loved working in a preschool, I knew I really wanted to work with kids who had greater needs and in a community with more diversity. That’s how I ended up at CTC.”
In addition to her classroom involvement, she loves any project that allows her to get messy with the kids. “We’re doing a project this fall that involves chia seeds soaked in water! It’s a great way for kids to explore some of their senses and get used to touching different textures. We’re also tasting lots of flavors – lemons, limes, jams – and playing with a lot of toys that make a variety of sounds.”
Although Jenna has worked with both older and younger children, “there’s something about the little ones,” she says. “It’s such a crucial time in their learning. I love to have a role in their life at such a critical point.”
She also loves working with the provider teams and the parents. “Working here improves my life. I know the families feel that way, too. It’s a scary time for them. I love to be able to give them positive associations from the start. When they move on from our Early Intervention program, they know they can do it on their own. I love seeing that confidence.”
Favorite Success Story
“We had a little guy come in to our preschool transitions class who spent the first two months either screaming or hiding. His parents were so discouraged that they were considering taking him out of class. Now, his communication skills have improved so much that he’s become a class leader! He knows the routine better than we do. I know he’ll be just fine as he heads off to preschool this fall. Together with his parents, we set him up for success.”
Kathy has been a program assistant at CTC for 10 years. “When I was hired, I was the only program assistant – now there are four of us! The position offered me more variety than what I’d been doing yet still allowed me to bond with kids and families which was important to me. I love all the people I work with and what we do every day. CTC is a really special place, that’s why I’ve been here for as long as I have.”
Favorite Success Story
“There are so many! But the first one that comes to mind is a little guy we had in the classroom who really didn’t like to have anything on his hands. It was extremely upsetting to him and obviously created lots of limitations for him. His mom had been constantly trying to work with him on it. One day we were in the classroom doing a painting project. I remember specifically that we were using red paint. I was sitting with him as he painted on the paper, then all of a sudden he started painting on my hand. We both giggled and then he handed the paintbrush to me. I started painting red paint all over his hand and he just kept laughing and laughing. He didn’t panic or cry. His mom was there and she could hardly contain herself she was so excited. From there on out, he continued to make big progress in that area. It was a big win for him, and so fun to be a part of!”
Cydney got her start in special education in a preschool setting before joining CTC last January. “I love creating a bond with families and seeing them learning new things,” she says. “I have my own little guy at home who just turned two, so I get the benefit of learning from everyone around me as well.”
She enjoys spending the majority of her time interacting directly with kids and their families in Play & Learn, Playtime Pals, and Kids Connections groups. She also brought a curriculum component to the Play & Learn group that hadn’t existed before. “It gets parents excited to keep coming back to the group,” she says. “We have different themes for each week, so I try to create curriculum for both the classroom and then carry-over activities that the families can take home. I also help create the art projects. In September had an art in an apple theme. We’ll do pumpkins in October, along with a little monster decorating project that goes along with one of the books we’re reading.”
Favorite Success Story
“I was working with a little boy who wasn’t saying many words. In class one day, we were having popcorn as a snack. We’d been practicing using our words, and he mouthed the word ‘popcorn’ to me, and then made an audible ‘puh’ sound. His dad was so excited! It was really special.”