Cultivating Futures

Cultivating Futures
Posted on 05/03/2021
Mr. Schoen and student with guitar

Senior Career Academy 8:1:1* classroom (Ages 14-21)

Teacher, Mr. Stephen Schoen / Teaching Assistant, Mrs. Emma Ward

 When you walk into the Senior Career Academy (SCA) classroom, you immediately feel a calmness come of over you. SCA is not just another classroom, but a space designed for individuals with emotional support needs.  The environment has an ambience of reduced lighting, calming music and even a variety of plants that the students have taken care of and have named. It feels like home. Senior Career Academy Teacher, Stephen Schoen and his Teaching Assistant Emma Ward work with students with mild to severe emotional disabilities (8:1:1) by tailoring programs and activities with the students’ needs in mind.

“Our classroom is a unique blend of Regents curriculum and career driven learning. It is designed for students to make real world/career links to their academics. Our young learners benefit from period-by period check-ins for emotional well-being, opportunities to move and utilize coping strategies, and rewards for academic and positive behaviors,” said Schoen.

Most of the students attend CTE for Career Exploration or VTP (Vocational Training Program), and they have the opportunity to push-in to content specific classes, such as Living Environment and Algebra. Any additional subjects are covered in the classroom. “While we do cover Regents material, we also allow students to drive their learning with what interests them,” said Ward.

“We strive to create unique learning opportunities and felt that where we learn is as important as what we are learning,” said Schoen. Teachers pay close attention to the atmosphere within the classroom, reducing the number of bright lights and playing calm music in the background, and strive to create a space that encourages students to explore the world around them. They partnered with several staff members to “foster” their plants during the year. Students have named many of the plants and are in charge of keeping them happy and healthy. “As weather improves, we will be planting mini vegetable gardens that students maintain and will be able to take home,” said Ward.

Teachers started having focused lunch periods based on student interests. Each day has a specific topic that students are allowed to explore independently with staff guidance as needed.

Maker Mondays: Independent art/craft hobbies (many of our students have been working on cleaning and repairing several classroom guitars).

Book and Movie Club Tuesday and Thursday: Students have been interested in reading books that have been made into movies. (Students unanimously chose to start the Lord of the Rings. Staff read the book aloud and students are encouraged to discuss throughout the reading).

Wednesday World of Music: Staff provide instruments and students can independently explore them. Staff are available to review sheet music, teach guitar/piano. Often, we find live concerts to play in the background.

Future Fridays: Our classroom partners with the social worker to discuss careers and what happens after high school. Students are encouraged to ask questions and make suggestions about skills they are interested in learning.

Students are also involved in community outreach activities. Some of these include bottle/can drive, Socktober Sock Drive for the Rome Rescue Mission, the Greenlight a Vet fundraiser for the Veteran’s Outreach Center in Utica, a Christmas Ornament Fundraiser, and the Spring Donation Drive for Wanderers’ Rest in Canastota.

Sarah Sydoriw, MOBOCES Community Outreach Specialist (for the TRI Academy) is responsible for the coordination of community outreach activities with staff and students that enhance student understanding of responsibility, compassion, empathy, and dedication and allows them to make connections within the community.  The Community Outreach Club has also sponsored a couple of elementary holiday events that were put together by the Youth Leadership team. 

Counseling with John Theobald (the kids call him Mr. T.) is provided as part of program (1 individual session & 1 group session) and is integrated within the classroom or provided as a pullout service.

*8:1:1 classroom (8 students, 1 teacher, and 1 teaching assistant) for students with mild to severe emotional disabilities. 

teacher and student



community outreach

gym class
gym class