— From the pages of FLL Issue #28 • Photos by Bianca Cordova[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” — Ignacio Estrada[/pullquote]
To make this quote a possibility, a teacher must be tuned into the child well enough to decipher his or her learning style, which requires time and personal attention.
The above quote, found on The Janus School Facebook page, sums up the school in one sentence. Located in Mount Joy, the Janus School is a K-12 school for children with learning differences. These differences are vast and include dyslexia, non-verbal learning disability, Asperger’s syndrome, and AD(H)D, and the students with these differences range from average to highly-gifted in terms of intelligence.
Prior to The Janus School, children with learning differences in Central Pennsylvania may have had to commute each day to a school outside of Philadelphia. In its inaugural year, 1991, the Janus School opened its doors in East Petersburg, where it stayed until it moved to Mount Joy in 1997. Children from thirteen different counties around Central PA have been served by Janus.
While interviewing Jan Gillespie, Head of School, along with Robin Payne, Director of Admission and Outreach, and Nicholas Chapman, Director of Development, it was apparent to me that they, along with the rest of the staff and faculty, are proud of and passionate about what they provide at Janus. They emphasized teaching based on individual need coupled with a hands-on approach. Both staff and faculty journey with each student to help them discover how they learn so they can be empowered to recognize how they process information and what they need to be able to reach their highest potential in life. Small class sizes and one-to-one tutorials allow the teachers and staff to build relationships and to educate not only the students about this, but their families as well.
One of the most unique facets of The Janus School is that they account for socialization and communication skills when grouping students. Instead of traditional grade levels, students are grouped by ability level, which really allows each teacher, tutor, and staff member to focus on their individual needs. With an average of four to six students per class, students reap full benefits of individualized attention—no one blends into the background. All children are noticed and given full support and encouragement to take risks, which are crucial to progress.
A child may have come to The Janus School from other educational programs, styles or philosophies that did not work for them, and along with those styles came acquired coping strategies. Janus gently strips those coping behaviors away by addressing them head-on, giving opportunities for students to safely take risks, and encouraging the child to move forward.
Another unique characteristic of the Janus School is their focus on the neurodevelopmental model through the All Kinds of Minds – Schools Attuned Program. Instead of traditional report cards, they have an intensive cycle of conferences and reports which provide a collaborative and comprehensive review of each student’s neurodevelopmental profile. Each October, conferences are held that allow parents, teachers, and often times the older students to sit down and thoroughly discuss goals for the student. Goals are finely attuned to that student’s neurodevelopmental constructs: memory, attention, neuromotorfunction, language, temporal sequencing, social cognition and higher order cognition. Together, everyone hones in on the individual areas that they want to focus on for the student. Follow-up conferences are held in February and again at the end of the school year, that give detailed responses to the goals that were set.
Since The Janus School has students coming from various areas of Central Pennsylvania, Janus offers events that involve brothers, sisters, grandparents, and other family members so the student can experience a sense of community. Each year the school holds fine arts fairs, social studies or science events, and puts on an all-school production to promote bringing the school’s families together. Also, Janus strives to be a resource to the larger community so the public can become more aware of learning differences.
The passion for the school extends beyond its staff and students. The Board, parents, and even alumni remain actively involved with Janus. In fact, this private, nonprofit school relies on parents’, friends’ and grandparents’ support to help with financial aid so more children can benefit from its exceptional model of education.
The Janus School
205 Lefever Road, Mount Joy PA