Lynan Cerruti brings over 20 years of teaching experience to her new role as Program Director at the Mount Tom Academy. She also has a background in elementary, middle and high school levels as an inclusion teacher, and had been working for several years as an Education Team Leader (ETL).
Lynan began the new role in January, and spoke about why she’s excited to transition to Mount Tom Academy: “In my last couple of years, I was working at the high school level and it was really sad to see kids who didn’t finish. I was intrigued to see Mount Tom giving kids a different way of doing things to reach their diploma.”
Lynan found that each student comes to Mount Tom with a different learning experience and needs, and familiarizing herself with students and reviewing their individual work has been a big focus in her first weeks “Typically as a teacher you walk into the classroom and that’s it, but this is a slower start than a standard classroom situation, a new experience of settling in. It takes time to get settled, and it helps to have Allyson [Mazzuchi] and Carole [Jackewich] as part of the team.”
Recent weeks have seen the development of two new elective courses for Mount Tom students. For the Humanities and Arts elective, students can design their own projects based on their perspective and interests. Two students spoke about developing work around music, so Lynan worked with them to build their project – comparing lyrics from different albums. As the students began to deeply dissect the individual songs, they were soon looking for metaphors and other literary devices. Their focus has been on Hip-Hop/rap pieces, noted Lynan.
A Personal Wellness Elective has also been created, which connects in-class learning with utilizing both the trails around the Holyoke Community College (HCC), and the HCC gym, as part of a push towards self understanding and connection between physical and mental health.
In meetings with students, Lynan says that discussions have started around transitions and their future. One student said it was “nothing I’ve ever thought about before,” and another agreed. In the past, their focus had been simply on getting through each day. But now, deciding whether they want to attend college or learn a trade are things they think about in addition to their work, because these are part of the conversations they have at school.
“These kids are so bright – they just don’t fit that traditional mold,” Lynan said. There will be continued focus on things that interest them, including bringing in more activities every month. “We’ve started reviewing and updating routines and enhancing the experience for the students, setting a routine for certain things they do every day and certain things they do once once a month,” which helps them plan ahead and have things to look forward to.
As the year progresses, some students will be working on their capstones. One student’s work revolves around concussion health issues, based on personal experience, and she is navigating resources with an eye to sharing what she has learned with other schools. Currently she wants to study nursing.
Mount Tom is back on the HCC campus after a year in Northampton, and for Lynan, it is a return to a familiar place as well. She attended HCC for two years before moving on to Mount Holyoke. “It’s pretty cool to come back. I was one of the first in my family to go to college, and it was a big deal to be on campus then as well”.
Mount Tom Academy is a student centered, individualized pathway to high school graduation and beyond, matched to each student’s own learning style, in a small classroom setting. To learn more, please visit the CES website.