|Lee Ann VanBenten calls her classroom the Academic Success Center, where she helps students with individual education plans who might need alternate approaches for learning. "We call it Learning Differences because these students learn in a different way. They are as smart as everyone else."”
Each month the Teacher Spotlight highlights one of Scecina's staff members who inspire our students every day.
By Beth Murphy
Here’s how Lee Ann Van Benten, director of the Learning Differences department, describes her work at Scecina:
“We call it Learning Differences because these students learn in a different way,” she explained. “They are as smart as everyone else. We have students who are on honor roll, top 10, who take AP (Advanced Placement) classes, and everyone is always surprised by that.”
She helps students who come to Scecina with individual education plans (IEPs), or those whose friends, teacher or parents have alerted her. “Teachers, especially in a school this size, have the ability to know their students as individuals and because of that, they know their learning styles,” said Van Benten, who calls her classroom the Academic Success Center.
While some schools charge extra for such programs, Scecina’s Learning Differences services are included in the regular cost of tuition.
Ms. Van Benten has a degree in Communications Arts, division of public relations, from the University of Dayton, where she minored in marketing and English. She received her master’s coursework in Special Education Transition to Teaching from Indiana University Bloomington and is licensed in special education and English.
She wanted to become a special education teacher because of her childhood friend Julie, who had cerebral palsy. “It began as a babysitting job and ended as a close friendship,” she said. “I learned that while Julie had a different way of communicating, she did communicate and was just like the rest of the girls in the neighborhood.”
The best thing about teaching, for her, are the “a-ha!” moments. “When a student can’t grasp a concept, we work, try a few ways to attack it and then the light bulb goes off. I enjoy the moments when students gain the confidence of realizing they are capable. It’s OK to fail as long as you keep trying.”
The students sometimes have to work harder, but they don’t give up, she said.
People need to be accepted for who they are and where they are, Ms. Van Benten believes. “Learning Differences is that simple,” she said. “Students come from a variety of backgrounds with challenges such as emotional issues, autism spectrum, specific learning issues such as reading or math, orthopedic, hearing, sight, speech issues,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean they are less; that means they need to be given a different approach."
Ms. Van Benten is busy outside of school with her children, both Scecina graduates, and her grandchildren. Daughter Lauren ’03 is married to Nick. They have a 4-year-old-son and a 9-month-old daughter. Her son John ’07 and his wife, Kayla, have a daughter, 2, and a son due in June.
Posted on Fri, February 12, 2016
by Beth Murphy filed under