CCCBSD launches school-wide effort to support Australia

At CCCBSD, students, faculty and staff have been profoundly impacted by the tragedy of the Australian wildfires. As a community, we have engaged in a  school-wide series of actions to raise awareness and promote fundraising to support the Australian people and animals. Across CCCBSD, efforts have been made to teach our students about this current event, instill a greater understanding of the unique culture and ecosystems of Australia, and to raise compassion for those impacted most directly by the fires. 

The Australian project has been successful because of the contributions of so many caring faculty who ‘stepped up.’ Across our classrooms and corridors, teaching staff focused on raising awareness of Australia in ways that are appropriate for the students. We wish to thank everyone who participated.

The project was initiated by Dr. Amy Szarkowski, Director of The Institute at CCCBSD, with the extensive support of Cailyn Bennetts, Speech Therapist in the Communication Department, who was tasked with collecting information and photographs about all the events taking place. Curriculum Coordinators, Kate Corrigan and Rachel Benjamin developed a PowerPoint used in classes to learn about Australia. Sylvia Nolan, art teacher at CCCBSD, engaged students in creating art projects involving animals found in Australia – koala, platypus, quokka, and kangaroo! Music teacher Kelly Surette worked with the transition-age classrooms to generate a song (click here to enjoy)–  of hope, healing, and care – to friends in Australia. Some students signed the song, while others sang it. APE teacher, Kellie Ruggles, incorporated games from Australia in her classes, including teaching BSD preschool students to play cricket, a traditionally Australian sport.

After learning about the devastating bushfires in Australia, transition students from Miss Ashleigh and Miss Mackenzie’s classes wanted to help raise funds. The students created handmade bracelets using a switch accessible loom, created with the help from Suzanne Jobski and Danielle Petrides, from the Occupational Therapy Department. To date, $1,217 has been raised and 234 bracelets have been ordered! Proceeds from the bracelet sales will be donated to Wildlife Victoria, an organization whose mission is to provide care to sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife in Australia.




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.

The Miracle League of the North Shore

“I cannot wait for the baseball game tomorrow,” says Allie, a student at The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD). Allie has been playing ball for many years with the Miracle League of the North Shore and she looks forward to each game during the spring and fall seasons. 

The last game of the fall is played this Saturday, October 26th, followed by the ASL Sports sponsored Halloween Spooktacular!  This annual spooktacular event invites children to wear Halloween costumes, play ghoulish games, and enjoy a variety of treats. The good times begin after the game and will take place in the Burnham Gymnasium at CCCBSD. 

 “Miracle League is a great opportunity for children of all abilities to work together, feel part of a team while having a blast!” says Kellie Ruggles, Miracle League Coordinator. “As an extra bonus, the Halloween Spooktacular will be right after.”

The Miracle League is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that gives children with disabilities a chance to play baseball as part of a team at no cost to their families. This is accomplished through adaptive rules including every player bats once per inning, all players are safe on the bases, and every player scores a run before the inning is over. In addition, community volunteers serve as ‘buddies’ to assist players, and all players experience the excitement of a game win.

Allie, the CCCBSD community and ASL Sports hope to see many friends at the CCCBSD Douglas Marino Community Baseball Field this Saturday, October 26th! For more information, visit


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