The Learning Specialist position at Franklin Academy requires a combination of administrative, managerial, and direct service skills. First and foremost, the Learning Specialist is responsible for oversight of a specific teaching team. The Learning Specialist provides supervision for a small team of teachers and up to twenty-four students. This includes the development and coordination of students’ service plans, professional development for faculty, and compliance with Franklin Academy administrative policies such as lesson plans, progress reports, and accommodation plans. We are looking for candidates who have a strong understanding of skills-based models, outcome measures, pedagogical methodology, and diagnostic/assessment knowledge.
The successful candidate will be expected to learn Franklin Academy’s competency-based strategy for teaching students. The goal is to develop and implement specialized teaching strategies that will help our students become effective learners by focusing on improving their academic skills while also addressing each student’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning. Learning Specialists are also expected to maintain weekly contacts with parents and coordinate as well as outside professionals associated with the students on the team. This position requires complete participation in the program including functioning as a team member. Specific team based roles include:
Teaching assigned courses
Performing assigned dormitory duties
Coaching/assisting in life sports and running extracurricular activities
Chaperoning off-campus trips
Serving on Franklin committees
Participating in the school’s professional development and teacher certification program
A master’s degree in special education is required and a learning specialist at Franklin Academy must have strong diagnostic and formal testing skills. All teachersmust begin the Franklin Academy Teacher Certification process upon their start at Franklin Academy. These requirements may exceed those required by state departments of education.
Additional Salary Information: •Salary established according to Leadership Pay Scale, based on education and experience
•Access to participation in health benefits, dental plan, and life insurance
•Participation in matched retirement fund (TIAA-CREF)
•Use of school facilities, including dining services when available
About Franklin Academy
Franklin Academy offers a college preparatory program designed for students with Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NLD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). We serve boarding and day students in grades nine through twelve, and postgraduates. Ninety-five percent of students live on campus, and they come to us from across the country and around the world. The school’s approach to education is non-traditional, and the innovative interdisciplinary curriculum has a primary focus on skill development and the mastery of competencies that enables our students to be successful in college and beyond.
Franklin Academy is located in East Haddam, Connecticut along the beautiful and scenic Connecticut River. Our 75-acre rural campus is situated next to the 700-acre Chapman Pond Preserve, which runs along the river. We are located halfway between Old Saybrook on the Long Island shoreline and Middletown, which is the home of Wesleyan University. We are 40 minutes to Hartford and New Haven and 90 minutes to New York City and Boston.
Teachers are the “heart and soul” of Franklin Academy, and we look for teaching professio...nals who are eager to serve students with special needs. Our students are dedicated to learning, but they learn differently than typical students; most are auditory learners who struggle with visual/spatial and visual/motor demands. Given the needs of our students and the round-the-clock responsibilities of a boarding school, we acknowledge that Franklin Academy is not the right school for every educator. However, for aspiring educators who want to learn how to teach, for veterans who want to learn new teaching strategies, and for every teacher who wants to make a positive difference in their students’ lives, Franklin Academy is a great place to live and work.
As we are in our second decade of serving students with NLD, ASD, and AS, we have clearly identified personality traits that help our teachers thrive in this setting. First and foremost, abundant energy and a good sense of humor are vital. The ability to work collaboratively with colleagues is essential as we constantly engage in team teaching and interdisciplinary planning. To prepare teachers for working with our population, a personal willingness to participate in our comprehensive professional development program is a requirement of the job. Finally, strong organizational and communication skills are essential.
Franklin Academy teachers are expected to participate in our entire program, functioning as a fully invested team member and embracing these specific responsibilities:
• Teaching assigned courses
• Performing assigned dorm duties
• Coaching/assisting in life sports
• Running extracurricular activities
• Serving on Franklin committees
• Participating in professional development
• Fulfilling additional duties as required
• Being a positive steward of Franklin Academy
New faculty attend a weeklong summer orientation program, which is followed by the practical experience of working with our students during the second session of Summer Sojourn. They also participate in professional development seminars during the school year. All teachers must also begin the NEASC approved teacher certification program upon their start at Franklin Academy. These requirements may exceed those required by state departments of education. The goal is to develop and implement specialized teaching strategies that will help our students become effective learners by focusing on improving their academic skills while also addressing each student’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning.
It is very likely that most experienced classroom teachers have met one of our students. The difference is that in other schools there might be one or two students with NLD, ASD, or AS who have difficulty with social interaction and exist at the fringes of social groups. At Franklin Academy all of our students belong to this population, sharing with one another the common experience of having been ostracized or bullied before coming to our school. What follows is an intellectual profile of our students, as well as typical learning strengths and challenges:
Intellectual Ranges (based on WISC-IV scoring)
• Verbal Comprehension = High Average to Superior Range
• Perceptual Reasoning = Low Average to High Average Range
• Working Memory = Average to Superior Range
• Processing Speed = Deficient to Low Average Range
• Auditory learning
• Strong rote memory
• Wealth of isolated factual knowledge
• Tolerance of individual diversity (accepting of others)
• Visual spatial/visual-motor weaknesses
• Fine & gross motor skills
• Visual processing speed
• Social perception/interaction
• Emotional regulation
• Executive functioning
A healthy, positive community is the bedrock of Franklin Academy. A psychologically and physically safe environment is crucial for our students. It is through this community lens that all is taught, especially tolerance and respect, the freedom to make mistakes, self-advocacy, and continual learning. On a more conceptual level, we have developed a “Code of Conduct” which provides the philosophical framework for our community, a guideline for our work, and a statement of principles that helps us negotiate and make decisions about how we live together at school and in the world.
High School Program
One of the foundations of the high school program is our “team approach.” Teachers from different disciplines (science, humanities, and mathematics) are grouped together under the direction of a learning specialist, a residential dean, and a counselor. Each team serves between eighteen and twenty-four students. Together team members design and implement a comprehensive program for their students. This allows teams to determine the structure of classes based on the unique aspects of each group of students, enabling more direct instruction of skills across disciplines and more integrated curricular activities. Consequently, students are exposed to concepts and practices that challenge them such as generalization, synthesis of ideas, and part-to-whole thinking. Teams are self-contained, allowing more freedom to develop high interest enrichment activities that augment the general curriculum. Within a team, students are assigned to sections with each section composed of four to nine students who are homogenously grouped according to developmental and cognitive processing abilities.
Franklin Learning Institute (FLI)
For seniors and post-graduate students, the Franklin Learning Institute (FLI) provides a program resembling a typical college experience to prepare students for post-secondary education. Using the motto, “Preparation through Practice,” FLI is designed to replicate college life experiences. This includes weekly and semester class schedules, lectures and research projects, on-line learning, dormitory living in residential suites, academic and non-academic support services, and an advisor system to help our students manage and navigate the college environment. While Franklin Academy’s program for underclassmen focuses on skill development in the classroom, FLI courses focus more on content. FLI support services are available to teach students the skills they need to succeed in their classes and to manage residential life as independent young adults.
Finally, whether an underclassman, a senior, or a postgraduate, our curriculum is designed to help students succeed in life. We do not implement a traditional academic curriculum that is heavy on content assimilation. Instead, we focus on skill development with the content areas of each course serving as a vehicle for teaching and learning competencies that are essential for a successful life. Competencies focus on reading, writing, math/data analysis, research and problem solving, study skills, conceptual thinking, executive functioning, emotional regulation, self-care, and social perception. It is not good enough to be smart, and it really does not matter how much information a student has assimilated. Rather, what can a student do? This focus on the mastery of competencies provides essential training for a successful adult life.
Our students present a unique set of neurological and behavioral characteristics that make success unlikely in a traditionally structured school environment. Franklin Academy’s task has been to develop a program that allows our students to thrive. Since our program does not fit neatly into a traditional boarding school paradigm, a language-based learning disabilities program, or a more therapeutically structured setting, we have borrowed elements and best practices from all three types of programs, molding useful components into a thoughtfully integrated structure to produce a program that is “gestalt based.” We do not compartmentalize components, differentiating the academic and residential programs; rather, we embrace a holistic philosophy to address each student’s social, emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning, identifying what a student needs to learn in order to be successful in college and life.
Our interview process is designed to ascertain the degree of “fit” between teaching candidates and the school. Interested candidates should send a cover letter, resumé, and college/graduate school transcripts. We will respond with an email to set up an initial phone call. A phone interview with a program administrator or department chair may follow. The strongest candidates will be invited to visit campus for a comprehensive interview over one and half days with members of the administration, team leadership personnel, department chair, teachers, and a small panel of students. Franklin Academy will provide lodging and cover 50% of your transportation costs.
If you would like more information about the school, please feel free to visit our website at www.fa-ct.org. Thank you very much for your interest in Franklin Academy. We look forward to hearing from you.