Allison Bergenholtz, PhD, BCBA, LABA, currently serves as The New England Center for Children’s (NECC) director of Professional Development, but she began her career at NECC as a teacher 16 years ago. She was nominated by her colleagues because she not only has been “an outstanding collaborator” and an “excellent advocate for teachers” enrolled in the graduate programs, but “her vision for the department has directly and significantly impacted the direction of the agency. She has spearheaded multiple initiatives, including agency-wide team communication training, and a complete reinvigoration of our in-person supervisor training series at all levels. Additionally, she has worked in collaboration with the DEI director to transform our perspective on what leadership truly means and ensure all supervisors get inclusive leadership training. Allison’s person-center approach to these goals has resulted in an effective and impactful training series.”
How long have you worked for NECC?
I’ve worked at NECC for 16 years. I started working on the West 2 residential team, where I was a level 2 teacher and a residential and day coordinator. I then moved to the role of program specialist on West Hill Road and spent six years as the program director on the Ursla, New Castle, and Salem End Road residential teams. This is my second year acting as the director of Professional Development.
What is your favorite part of your job?
It’s hard to choose my favorite. Interacting with the staff and helping each one of them grow as a professional is incredibly impactful. I’ve enjoyed meeting many of the teachers and supervisors over the last year. Learning how my department can better support their needs and experience, and helping roll those initiatives out has been a really fun process. And we’ve just scratched the surface!
Why did you choose a career in helping children with autism?
A college professor recommended a class where we spent time in a local school consulting with the special education program. Seeing the impact that the graduate student consultants had on the clients made me want to pursue further training and experiences.
Initially, I chose NECC because of the graduate training. I was a graduate assistant, and having free tuition, housing, and hands-on experience with leaders in the field was so valuable. Now, I continue to choose NECC because of the opportunity to help drive our mission and vision. I want to help staff, at all levels, to be active participants in their professional experience while working here.
Have you taken advantage of any of the grad programs or teacher training at NECC? If so, how has it affected your teaching style?
Yes! I completed the master’s degree program in ABA when it was through Northeastern University. A year after completing that program, I felt I had more learning and growing to do so I applied to the PhD program with Western New England University. Although it was challenging, the programs taught me how to be a well-rounded clinician, and the PhD program specifically helped me have a more confident understanding in the underpinnings of the science of ABA. I continue to seek out opportunities to learn and refine my skill set. I don’t think we’re ever done learning, nor do we ever fully master a skill.
What is something about you that your colleagues might be surprised to learn?
I try to read one book a month that is unrelated to work or scholarship. I just finished Lessons In Chemistry and am currently looking for my October read. Most of my time outside of work is spent hiking or exploring outdoor activities with my husband, dog, and two young daughters.
Who is someone you look up to?
There are so many people that it’s hard to choose one! I’ve been lucky to work alongside an amazing group of people, all of whom have helped influence pieces of my journey. I find Brene Brown’s books and podcasts are things I continue to lean on over and over. One of my biggest ABA mentors, and someone I still look up to (even from afar!) is Sarah Lechago, who was a role model for me during my undergrad at Western Michigan University, and I still look up to her today! I wouldn’t be in this field if it wasn’t for her, and her work is always inspiring.
What is your life philosophy or motto you like to live by?
At a graduation party for a former student at NECC, one of the parents gave all of the teachers some artwork with one of her favorite quotes. I’ve had it on my desk, within my line of vision, since. It says: “I am because we are” (which is an Ubuntu Proverb). She shared that this quote was impactful and something that was relevant to all of us (the staff) because without the support and contributions of the community, her son may not have had the experiences or opportunities that he did. This parent sharing this story, and this quote, is always with me when I am collaborating, working, or training others.