All posts by Jean Hennessey


Students at CCCBSD know art class to be a fun space. Though some students may find art more challenging than others, Sylvia Nolan, CCCBSD’s art teacher, is proud to say that she sees a lot of progress, success, and growth in her students, especially since she has been the consistent art teacher for them for years. When Sylvia became the art teacher three years ago, she says many of the students were not enthusiastic about art, but today she cannot think of a single individual who does not enjoy the class. Many students simply did not like art because of how difficult it can be for them. Through practice, help from teachers, and accessibility tools, every student can learn to love some aspect of art. 

Art class is an opportunity to work on fine motor and communication skills. Sylvia says she does everything she can to make her classes fun and accessible for all students. Often, this involves lots of prep work. She decides what skills she wants the unit to entail, and designs the materials and instructions accordingly. For example, if the goal of the project is to have students practice making choices, Sylvia will pre-cut materials so students are not overwhelmed and can focus on more important objectives. Sylvia also anticipates the needs of every single student in order to assure each class runs as smoothly as possible.

Though many students at CCCBSD have mobility and fine motor challenges, Sylvia has accumulated numerous tools to make art as accessible for everyone as possible. One piece of equipment that has made a huge difference in her classroom is switch-operated scissors. This tool allows students who may struggle with traditional scissors to cut more evenly. These scissors have opened up some student’s eyes to how fun art can be, and motivated them to try new things. 

The art room is a comfortable and creative space. Students work hard in class, but also find that expressing themselves through art is exciting. With so many fun choices available, like play doh or the bean table, it is hard not to have a great time in art class.

The Star Student Cafe

The Star Student Cafe is an annual event in May giving CCCBSD students of all grades the chance to showcase their talents and hardwork. Teachers displayed a variety of work from students, creatively representing the theme in ways unique to each classroom.

This year, the theme of the Star Student Cafe was Helping Hand in Hand, chosen to compliment the school-wide theme of the third quarter, Helping in Our Community. Parents had a great time exploring the variety of class presentations, and students were encouraged to share their work with their families. Food was available for sale in the Student Activities Center, including pizza, popcorn, desserts, and drinks. Face painting was available for free, and various gift baskets were raffled off.

In Cate Lortie’s class, part of their regular schedule includes one student being chosen each week as an outing leader who chooses where they will visit. At SSC, she showed the presentations students gave to their classmates about the various outings, what they did, and what roles their peers played. Cate enthused, “My hope is that my students feel pride in sharing what they’ve worked on with their families and the rest of the school community.”

In Christina Arroyo’s preschool class, Helping Hand in Hand was represented through the study of various plants. Students learned all about growing seeds and even planted their own, documenting their progress along the way. Christina was thrilled to display her students hard work at the SSC, and explains, “It is my favorite event of the school year, and I love how much it brings our school community together as one unit.”

A third class, Ashleigh O’Brien’s, adapted the theme to “When in doubt, help out.” Her students participated in picking up trash, making and donating bread, recycling cans and bottles, and more. Students loved helping out their community, and said “Recycling is cool!” Ashleigh is proud of the work her students completed this year, and was excited to help them share that work with their parents during the SSC.

This year was another enjoyable and successful Star Student Cafe, and we look forward to 2020.

Teacher Feature – Kelly Surette

Music teacher, Kelly Surette, has done some amazing things for the CCCBSD music program since she joined the team in September 2017. Enthusiastic, passionate, and kind, Kelly connects with her students through her love for children and teaching. Before CCCBSD, Kelly worked for a company that focused on special needs music programming across the state of Massachusetts. Though she has always wanted to pursue a career involving music, she only discovered her true passion for special needs music through her grad school thesis where she created an entire special needs music program. She studied Music Business during her graduate years at Northeastern University, but found her thesis inspiration from a childhood friend. Kelly grew up with a best friend who had Williams Syndrome, and they were in plays together, “She was always in the back row, and I saw that if there was an opportunity for students to have access to music on their level then she would have been the star.” Now at CCCBSD, Kelly makes sure that each and every student has the opportunity to become a star in their own individual way.

Transitioning from her previous job to CCCBSD proved to be challenging initially for Kelly. At first, she tried to search for other Massachusetts music teachers of the deaf to collaborate with and share ideas, but she could not find a single one. Kelly believes music is absolutely essential for any person, no matter who they are, where they come from, what they deal with day-to-day, or even how they hear music. She believes that it is an integral part of being human, and goes beyond what most people experience with their ears. She says, “Working here has changed my relationship with music; I went to the Boston Conservatory and studied musical theater and everything was about the auditory experience of music. Now, music has become about how I access the vibrations when I’m listening to music.” In fact, Kelly says that the physical components to music might be even more important than the auditory. For students at CCCBSD, Kelly explains, “It’s not about being able to proficiently play the cello; it’s about feeling the music and having that be a part of your heart and soul.”

Despite the challenges that Kelly’s line of work often has, she loves and is proud of what she does. At the end of the day, she goes home exhausted, having given all of herself to her work and her students, but she describes it as a “good tired.” She loves watching her students come out of their shells and make huge strides. Kelly looks positively towards the future and wants people to understand how vital music is for every single person. As technology advances and time goes on, she hopes to gather more accessibility tools to further her students musical education. Overall, Kelly believes she gets as much from her students as they do from her: “I think that the best part is the blessing of having them in my life, just being able to know them and watch them grow. I love seeing the changes in the students who wouldn’t even come into the music room, and now they’re fully singing songs through many modes of communication. It’s been a gift to be able to watch them grow and have them in my life.”

21st Annual Spring Soiree Benefit Auction

Each year, The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf hosts the Spring Soiree Benefit Auction. This event, now in its 21st year, is a time to bring friends, families, donors, and potential donors together to learn more about the school and raise funds to benefit the programs at our school. Many people who attend have not had the chance to visit the school themselves, so the Soiree is a unique opportunity for people to get a glimpse of what goes on at CCCBSD every day. Jane McNally, Director of Development, coordinates the Soiree and describes the event as “a way to raise funds for the school, to tell the story of the school, and to give people a chance to have some social time.” Throughout the years, the number of guests has steadily grown. Last year, over two hundred attended, and Jane hopes that this year will bring in even more.

This year’s theme is “Transitions,” inspired by our transition program for students 14 years and older. When asked about CCCBSD’s transition students, Jane enthused, “We’re excited to highlight the transition students this year! They are going on incredible field trips, becoming more independent, and really getting out there.  I am just in awe of what a great job they’re doing to show that there are no barriers, and I’m so proud of them!” As many of the school’s students in the transition program are learning new skills, working in off-campus jobs, and growing, the 2019 Soiree focuses on their accomplishments and hard work.

In 2018, the theme of the Soiree was “Family Stories.” Families were asked to come forward and share their personal experiences. The stories were recorded podcast-style as audio clips and then overlaid on a collage of photos of the families. The goal was to honor the hard work of many CCCBSD families and showcase their lives. To watch these Family Stories, please click here.

Anyone who plans to attend the 2019 Annual Soiree Benefit Auction should expect an amazing night. After check in, guests will enter a large room where they can socialize, relax, and browse through the silent auction items, participate in the raffle, or purchase note cards. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be available during this time. Once the silent auction portion of the night is finished, everyone will enter the dining room where CCCBSD’s Executive Director, Dr. Mark Carlson, will introduce the live auctioneer and begin the live auction. Dinner will be served, videos shown, The Joanie Vaughan Ingraham award will be presented, and a final fundraising opportunity for the school’s Parent Infant/Toddler Program will close the night.

The CCCBSD community is looking forward to another successful Annual Spring Soiree Benefit Auction. Individuals who have been associated with CCCBSD for years, as well as newer supporters, will walk away having learned something new about the school. For more information about the Soiree, to become a sponsor or advertiser, or to purchase tickets, please visit:

3D Printed ASL Cookie Cutters


As a Valentine’s Day surprise for CCCBSD faculty, Janice Coughlin, Assistive Technology Specialist, and Joe Sharamitaro, IT Specialist, began using the 3D printer to to create cookie cutters of the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for “I love you.” 

When Rachel Barstow, CCC Assistant Program Director, approached Janice to talk about ideas for what she could do for a project based on a book she was going to read aloud for her son’s classroom at a different school, Janice suggested utilizing the cookie cutters to make clay ornaments. Rachel did just that and she and her son shared the clay ornaments with the class, using them to teach the students about ASL. She then worked with her family to utilize the cutters to bake some sugar cookies that she shared with CCCBSD staff.  Upon posting her baking adventure on Facebook, many people were interested to know where she got such unique and fun cookie cutters. Though the plan is still to distribute the creations to teachers, Joe and Janice now have a greater endeavor!

Typically, each cutter takes around an hour to print. Joe programs the machine to produce multiple at the same time, maximizing efficiency. He will leave the printer running overnight, and come back in the morning to multiple completed cookie cutters. After cleaning them up a bit, they are ready to go. In total, the larger cookie cutters cost a few cents over a dollar to make. Smaller ones cost only seventy-five cents.

At CCCBSD, the cookie cutters have many uses. Students can use them as cookie cutters when baking as well as incorporate them into sensory activities. They can be used on salt dough to paint and decorate, with play doh to create shapes, or anything else that our creative teachers can think of. Going forward, Janice hopes to give students the opportunity to pick the color of their cutters, assist with the printing process, and ultimately use them and perhaps bring them home to share with their families.

Though the project is still in the early stages, Janice and Joe are enthusiastic about different ways the cookie cutters can be utilized throughout the school. For more information about this exciting project, contact


Accommodating Students in APE Class

At CCCBSD, many students have mobility challenges and require the assistance of wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility devices. When students step into the gym, Caitlyn Clair, APE (Adaptive Physical Education) teacher, makes sure that everyone is included and participating however they can. If a student uses a power wheelchair and is learning how to operate it themselves, she may have them focus on practicing their driving. For students who have wheelchairs they cannot maneuver on their own, she may tell the individual pushing them how to do so in a way that reflects a greater activity. For example, when playing kickball, one of the most exciting parts for students is the feeling of running fast from base to base. While keeping safety as a top priority, Caitlyn will encourage the person pushing the wheelchair to move quickly so the student can feel the wind on their face and have fun. Students who have walkers or gait trainers often focus on strengthening their skills with those devices, and she creates games where they can practice without feeling like they are doing work One way she accomplished this was with a scavenger hunt for the students around the school. In order to find all of the hidden items, students had to practice their walking or maneuvering, but did not feel like they were really working out because the activity was fun.

Caitlyn believes that APE is all about finding what works for each student, and encouraging them to push themselves. For some students, their task might be moving a ball off of their lap. For other students, it may be a game of catch. Each unit is tailored to the individual classes. For younger classes, it is not possible or practical to teach them every rule of every sport. Instead, Caitlyn evaluates the abilities of each class, and introduces rules that most benefit that class. Often, the improvements that can be seen in students are not just in terms of athletic skills, but also their independence. Where at the beginning of the year they may have been looking to Caitlyn for guidance, by the end they know what they are expected to do and what role they play in the sport and they go for it. The whole goal of APE is to build students’ independence in motor skills, while having fun!

Teacher Feature – Christine Majeskey

Having worked at CCCBSD for 34 years, Christine Majesky has seen firsthand how much the school has changed. Christine maintains lots of enthusiasm for her work and students, and says that watching her students grow and learn is the most rewarding part of her job. When Christine first started, she was the only deaf faculty member on campus. Though the other teachers used sign language to communicate with the students, they spoke only English to each other, especially at lunch. When Dr. Mark Carlson, CCCBSD’s executive director, came to the school 14 years ago, he transitioned the school from signed exact English to ASL and hired more deaf and hard of hearing staff. With more signing around the school, Christine felt that CCCBSD’s accessibility had improved immensely.

Growing up hard of hearing, Christine always felt like it was easier to communicate with children than adults. She knew that, one day, she wanted to work with kids. After volunteering to read with children, she discovered that she might love teaching deaf students. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Special Education/Elementary Education, and from Gallaudet University with a degree in School Counseling of the Deaf. She began at CCCBSD as a counselor, but eventually transitioned to become a teacher. Now, she remains a teacher for middle and high school age students, as well as adults who take community ASL classes at CCCBSD.

Originally, Christine, she only intended to stay for about five years. Lucky for CCCBSD, she has stayed much longer and made an enormous impact on other faculty, parents, community, and, of course, students. Christine Majeskey is an integral part of the CCCBSD family, and it would be hard to imagine the school without her.

Amy Szarkowski

This summer, The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD) was excited to have Dr. Amy Szarkowski join the team as the new Clinical Director. Amy’s main role is supervising and supporting the school’s clinical team. With her extensive background in Deaf education, she has spent the beginning of her tenure at CCCBSD, exploring the best ways to utilize her abilities to support the staff, the students, and the school.

For the past eleven years, Amy has worked for Boston Children’s Hospital as a psychologist and a Fellow in Psychology in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. This experience, she believes, has prepared her greatly for working with the population of students at CCCBSD. At Boston Children’s Hospital, she saw children with lots of different and unique needs, especially with reduced hearing and medical complexities. Currently, she maintains a position in the hospital’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program (LEND), which is a federally funded program for individuals who want to learn more about working with children with disabilities and other special health care needs and their families.

Amy is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry, and teaches online at Gallaudet University in a program called Infants, Toddlers, and Families. This program educates those who want to become early-interventionists or work as early-childhood educators with Deaf or Hard of Hearing children.  Professionally, Amy wears many hats, but she loves her work and is very passionate about what she does.

Though Amy is hearing, she has established herself as a strong ally for the Deaf community. Her advocacy started when she was an undergrad in college, when she had a friend who began to lose his hearing. Wanting to support him, Amy began taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes, and inevitably fell in love with the language and Deaf culture. As a psychology student, she found it fascinating to learn how the brain works in the context of not having access to hearing. As her love of the Deaf language and culture grew, Amy began to develop an understanding of what the needs might be in their community, and how she could help.

After receiving  her undergraduate degree, Amy attended Gallaudet University, a private school primarily for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. As part of the hearing minority at this time, Amy truly immersed herself in the culture.  She recalls experiencing many anti-cochlear implant protests on campus. When she returned years later, Amy noticed enormous changes, such as a large portion of the students now have cochlear implants.

Today, as a hearing person who writes about, advocates for, and works with the Deaf community, she emphasizes the importance of knowing your limits and acknowledging your role whenever you are working with, for, or on behalf of others. She says that she has not experienced a lot of resistance because she thinks that there is a very strong need for allies in the Deaf community.

By the time Amy completed her educational endeavors, she acquired a B.S. in Psychology from Southern Oregon University, a B.S. in Health Promotion and Fitness Management from Southern Oregon University, a M.S. in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University, a Post-graduate Certificate for Providing Mental Health Services to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons from Eastern Kentucky University, a M.A. in Administration and Supervision from Gallaudet University, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Gallaudet University.

After she completed her Ph.D, Amy wanted to travel the world. She applied only to jobs abroad and took a position in Japan, teaching psychology to Japanese students in English. This gave her the opportunity to look critically at what she had learned, and to determine how much of what she had been taught was culturally framed, contextualized, or taught from a Western perspective. Amy admits that this was a life-altering experience.

For a time, she says, Deaf education focused mainly on individuals who did not have access to hearing. Now, educators are beginning to recognize how important individualized learning is, and that there are many different types of learners. This is something she believes CCCBSD does well, considering how much individualized support students receive. She notes that an important characteristic of the school is that it is evolving, and, therefore, willing to make changes. With a staff full of passionate, dedicated individuals, CCCBSD strives to find new ways to better suit the unique needs of the students. We are very lucky and grateful to have someone as knowledgeable and experienced as Amy to help us meet those needs.

Dr. Mark Carlson, CCCBSD President/Executive Director  says, “Dr. Szarkowski brings a world of Deaf education knowledge and expertise to the CCCBSD students, faculty, and greater community that we have not had in the past.  We look forward to having more amazing tools at CCCBSD as we continually adapt our supports and services.”

A Brief History The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf: Changing the Name

The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD) was founded in 1876 as the New England Industrial School for Deaf Mutes.  Not uncommon for the time period, the curriculum revolved around trades such as farming, carpentry, chair-caning, and homemaking in a residential setting. Students grew most of the school’s food, reducing costs, and did many repairs themselves. The recommended method of education for deaf children at this time was the oral method along with speech and lip reading.

In 1922, the school’s name was changed to Beverly School for the Deaf to reflect a decreased focus from an industrial/trade school to a more academic setting, as well as the recognition that students could develop oral language skills. The school also became one of the first organizations in the state to register as a non-profit when that designation was created by the government that same year.

In the 1970s, the school expanded its mission from serving deaf, hard of hearing and communication-challenged children to also accepting hearing and deaf children with learning and developmental disabilities.

In 2004, the school began an expansion of its services to students with Autism, Developmental delays and other disabilities under the umbrella of communication challenges. In 2007, after nearly 15 years, the use of Signed Exact English (SEEII) was switched to American Sign Language (ASL) in supporting the visual communication needs of students. In 2008, the organization changed its name to The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD) to include students with a wide variety of special needs and communication challenges.

The school continues to grow and expand its services. CCCBSD offers consulting, ASL classes for babies through adults, as well as the Parent-Infant/Toddler program. To learn more about the history of the school, or arrange a tour, contact us at

Accessibility Services in CCCBSD’s Music Program


CCCBSD is one of the few deaf/hard of hearing schools that offers music classes, and the music classroom itself is equipped with numerous unique and advanced accessibility services to give all students a chance to fully enjoy music. One of the challenges that Kelly Surette, CCCBSD’s music teacher, has continuously faced in her work is finding more ways to make music accessible and enjoyable for students who cannot hear. She has come up with solutions through her own creativity, and greatly utilized different available technologies.

When you first walk into the music room, one of the most noticeable things is the wooden dance floor that covers around half of the space. This dance floor is unique because it is set up to produce vibrations in line with the bass of songs, thereby allowing deaf students to feel the music whenever they are standing on it. At the front of the dance floor, a large TV hangs on the wall. Kelly often utilizes it to play ASL videos for the students, particularly YouTube videos of people signing to popular songs. On either side of the TV, there are two tall light boxes that flash with the music. For deeper sounds, the colors fall in the red and orange range. For higher sounds, the colors might be more green and yellow, with the location of the colors on the light reflecting the pitch as well: lower sounds at the bottom and higher sounds at the top.

After discovering that wood is an excellent material for transmitting vibrations, Kelly began making use of it in her classroom. She has placed a long board underneath the lid of the piano for students to touch and feel as she plays. For students who sit in wheelchairs, Kelly has discovered that she can use pieces of wood to branch the distance between a students lap and a speaker. As the speaker vibrates, the student can feel the vibrations from their end of the piece of wood. At one point, Kelly had access to some chairs that vibrate in the same manner that the cochlea in the ear processes sound. She also has a few pillows that do something similar. These tools allow students to feel and hear music in their own unique way.

Through these accessibility technologies, Kelly’s students have been able to truly experience and enjoy music in a way that they might otherwise not be able to. She believes that music is as essential to a child’s education as any other class or subject. In the future, she hopes to utilize more technologies that would allow her students to feel higher frequencies, like her own voice. Some students, she says, will come up to her and place a hand on her throat to experience the feeling of her singing. One day she hopes to be able to do something like that on a bigger scale. No matter what, Kelly is working her hardest to give her students the best music education she possibly can. If there is a way for her to do something more efficiently or more effectively, she will work hard until she can find it.


CCCBSD’s Garden

About a year ago, Sam Snow-Cronin started as a paraprofessional at CCCBSD. This summer, after noticing an unused raised garden bed outside the school, he thought that students could benefit from learning to garden. After getting permission to begin the project, Sam was faced with the challenge of creating something that would be accessible for all students, and provide them with the valuable experience of taking care of something and watching it grow.

With the summer session in full swing, gardening has been a perfect activity for students to continue their learning in a non-classroom environment. So far, students have helped with weeding, watering, scheduling, and purchasing seeds and plants. Earlier this year, some students even had the opportunity to visit Kane’s Flower World in Danvers to learn about gardening and purchase plants for the garden.

Though some students have physical challenges, they are by no means exempt from the gardening experience. Recently, Sam Snow-Cronin was able to acquire a specialized watering can that operates with a button. For individuals with fine-motor difficulties, this watering can allows control of how much water is poured, and lets them focus more on aiming. The garden provides a different and highly interactive opportunity to practice their various motor skills. Most of all, students are able to see how their hard work pays off as the plants grow and flourish.

Though only one flower bed is currently available now, Sam hopes to add more in the future. Still, with the small space he has been able to grow cherry tomatoes, basil, lavender, rosemary, lamb’s ear, bush beans, and nasturtiums, an edible flower. These plants in particular are not only edible, but can provide a natural sensory experience for students. Plants like lamb’s ear are soft to the touch, while lavender, rosemary, and basil smell nice. In the future, Sam would like to have a separate section of the garden to be dedicated to sensory plants. He has also been in contact with the cafeteria staff to discuss the future possibility incorporating some of the garden’s produce into student’s meals.

The CCCBSD garden may still be new, but it has been very successful so far. Students are having fun learning new skills and watching their work blossom. Sam is grateful for all of the help and support he has received from teachers and faculty, and hopes to see the project continue to grow and evolve. He is very open to new ideas, and enjoys the collaborative aspects of the garden.

Teacher Feature – Caitlyn Clair

Adaptive Physical Education (APE) teacher, Caitlyn Clair has been teaching APE at CCCBSD for a year but has already made a lifelong impact. Before coming to Beverly, Caitlyn graduated from Grand Valley State University on the western side of Michigan. She studied exercise science, health fitness, and instruction. After graduating, Caitlyn worked for the Special Olympics and discovered how her love of occupational therapy could go hand in hand with special needs. Growing up with a school psychologist mother, Caitlyn was always exposed to ways to help children. Her passion for fitness and helping people feel good about themselves, coupled with her desire to make an impact on kids in the school system, particularly those with cognitive or developmental disabilities, led her to her current path.

Through her own love of sports, Caitlyn wants to encourage students to have the confidence they need to participate in physical activities and games. It is most important that the kids are moving, having fun, and becoming more confident in their movements. Caitlyn finds it most rewarding when she sees students advance in their social connections. One of the biggest parts of sports is the teamwork and Caitlyn always likes to watch students work and have fun together, “I more than anything want for our kids to engage in sport, not just to engage in the physical fitness aspect of it, but to feel fulfilled socially as well.”

So far, Caitlyn’s favorite unit has been the creation of a video where students danced and signed along to the song “Cupid’s Shuffle.”  The video was then uploaded to YouTube. This video was an opportunity for students to create something, memorize some simple dance moves, and have fun while staying active. When Caitlyn was in school, like at many other schools, she participated in a dance unit where she learned the square dance. Though the square dance could certainly be done at CCCBSD, she wanted to choose a dance that was more versatile and upbeat. On top of all of the benefits of this video for the students, it was also a fun greeting to parents for Valentine’s Day.

Another unit that Caitlyn really enjoyed was the March Madness basketball tournament. The students had the opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination, work as a team, and learn the rules of basketball. The games drew a big crowd of students, faculty, staff, and parents. The players were able to experience the feeling of being cheered on by a crowd, and being proud of their hard work. Caitlyn’s goal was to make the students feel like they are capable of anything and to establish confidence, and she thinks that was definitely accomplished.