Spectrum360 is one of 145 organizational members of ASAH, an organization of private special education schools and agencies in New Jersey. Each year ASAH holds a competition for Educator of the Year, Allied Service Provider of the Year and Paraprofessional of the Year. The competition for these awards is stiff. Nominees compete at a regional level and the winners of those competitions then compete on a statewide level.
This year, Spectrum360’s nominees were: Educator of the Year – Sally Curci, Allied Service Provider of the Year – Cynthia Antunes, and Paraprofessional of the Year – Cindie Newmark. While all three nominees are exceptional staff members, Sally was chosen by ASAH as their Regional I Finalist for Educator of the Year. Here is the nomination that was submitted for Sally who is a Physical Education and Health teacher at Academy360 Upper School. Read it and you’ll see why Sally was a winner!
Academy360 Upper School (A360 US), serving students from 10th grade to age 21, is one of Spectrum360’s five programs. It serves students with autism, behavioral and related disabilities.
Seven years ago, A360 US had the good fortune of hiring Sally Curci as a Physical Education and Health teacher. While she only formally began working in special education when we hired her, she had been intimately involved in the special needs arena for fifteen years, starting with her son’s diagnosis. She was happy to take all the experience and knowledge she had collected personally and be able to use it to help students professionally. Her passion for her work and her students became immediately evident; Sally provides daily instruction in Health Education and well as instructing Physical Education classes with such zest and zeal that it is contagious!
When you walk into Sally’s classes, you see a teacher with such fervor and energy that you can’t help but become engaged in what she is teaching. That is only confirmed when you see the students actively engaged and not wanting to leave class while another group eagerly waits in the hallway for their Health class to begin.
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Sally initiated the development of a comprehensive Health curriculum to address the diverse learning needs of our population.
As dedicated to her content area and curriculum she is, she is equally dedicated to the principles of promoting health and well-being for the entire A360 US community. She is a co-chair of the Health and Fitness Committee which is responsible for planning various health and fitness initiatives throughout the year. These initiatives include the organization and running of our annual Health and Fitness Fair during which students and families come together to learn about healthy eating, exercise, and mental well-being.
Sally also implemented “Tracktime 60,” a fitness program to encourage staff and students to get up and move each and every day by incorporating fitness breaks into the school day. Sally has also incorporated fitness and fun activities that support students not only during the day but in afterschool activities as well. She has taught line dancing to students in preparation for school dances and the Prom, and using both class time and her prep periods, she has taught Irish Step Dancing to students for our annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration. She also choreographs and teaches students the dance numbers for all our musical play productions, giving up her prep periods for months at a time to do so. Sally has also led a number of after-school programs for students including Zumba and Yoga. In addition, she established a Coaching Clinic where our basketball team, the Cougars, play against the Cranford Cougars, thereby promoting community integration. Seeing the importance of wellness for everyone, Sally has also coordinated and taught Zumba and Yoga programs for staff during our Wellness days.
Unprompted and on her own time, on a monthly basis, Sally participates in online webinars and workshops to keep herself current on information related to teaching special needs students. The ultimate team player, Sally participates in Spectrum360’s annual Walk for a Lifetime fundraiser, the A360 US Prom, and our musical play productions. Sally is willing to do anything for the betterment of the students and staff, and therefore, for the organization.
As a mother of two special needs children, Sally has been involved in many special needs organizations outside of Spectrum360 in the hopes of broadening the scope and horizons of not only her own children but all people with special needs. She developed the “Young Athlete Program” in her hometown of Cranford, a weekly program which introduces and cultivates skills for future Special Olympians. Sally also founded the Shining Stars Network, a non-profit group, which shines a spotlight on the special needs community. This organization hosts an annual talent show, a summer theatre camp which promotes self-confidence through the performing arts, and supports dances at local high schools to promote inclusions within the community. The Network also recently initiated the Shining Stars Ambassador program, where the members play basketball against local police departments; the goal of which is to increase special needs awareness, understanding, and camaraderie within local communities.
As if this were not enough Sally coaches soccer, basketball, and tennis for the Special Olympics of New Jersey. She has also written and recorded a song, “What’s on Your Mind, Let Me Inside” devoted to families raising a child with autism, with all proceeds donated to autism research. Sally has been a committee member of Autism Speaks for many years as well as the founder, top fundraiser, and captain of the community team “Cranford Cares for Our Kids” and the National Down’s Syndrome Buddy Walk of South Plainfield. Sally has received many honors and much recognition for her efforts over the years including The Cranford Chamber of Commerce – Community Service Award (2016), The Union County Women of Excellence Award – 2017 and The ARC of New Jersey – Community Service Award (2017).