Category Archives: Teacher Feature

Meet Ms. Arroyo, Preschool Teacher at CCCBSD

If you ever get the chance to spend time in Christina Arroyo’s classroom, not only will you be ambushed by a group of phenomenal preschoolers, but you will be impressed by her ‘hands on’ style of teaching.

Mrs. Arroyo teaches preschool-age students in the Beverly School for the Deaf program at CCCBSD.  She always makes sure that she goes beyond the lesson plan! For example, her class learned about Nepal and the Holi Festival, which celebrates bringing people together in unity through colors. Christina brought her students outside where they covered themselves in powdered paint as they do in the festival. Students were thrilled to have the chance to throw paint all over each other and their teachers. Originally the colors used during the Holi Festival came from herbs and flowers. Over the years they have become synthetic and use colors that spread happiness.

In a more recent STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Music) activity, students were tasked with making a fence out of various materials. The goal was to create a strong fence that could stop a rolling pumpkin. Prior to the challenge, Mrs. Arroyo’s class filled plastic bottles with a variety of materials to figure out which were strong enough to stop the pumpkins. Students were excited to learn that filling a plastic bottle with leaves, is not as strong as filling it with rocks or other heavier materials.  

These preschoolers are constantly engaged in a variety of learning experiences through Mrs. Arroyo’s creative teaching techniques. Stay tuned in the upcoming months to see what she’s up to next.


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.

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


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.”

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.