Kara Flanagan, a day coordinator for The New England Center for Children’s Parker Road residence, has been with NECC for seven years. A colleague nominated Flanagan because she is “an exceptional educator. Her passion for her students is inspirational and she consistently goes above and beyond to do anything she can to help. You can clearly see the joy she gets from working with students and she is a delight to work with.”
How long have you worked for NECC?
I have worked at NECC for seven years. I have been a Behavioral Health Technician (Parker Road), Core Shift Manager (Francine Road), Residential Coordinator (Saddle Hill), Education Coordinator (West Hill), and now a Day Coordinator (Parker Road). I also was in the Abu Dhabi program for a of couple years!
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job is working with my students and their families and seeing progress in my students every single day. I have learned over the years that it is the little things that count, which in turn really make the biggest differences in our students’ lives. Another favorite part of my job is mentoring and working beside our hardworking teachers. I love to see their growth and to watch them turn into great educators and clinicians.
Why did you choose a career in helping children with autism?
After I graduated college, I was unsure of what I wanted to do. However, I knew I was interested in working with young adults and children. I specifically enjoyed being able to advocate for others and teaching others how to advocate for themselves.
I found NECC while researching jobs after college. I was interested in the field of special education. I interviewed, started that summer, and never looked back! Once I was here, I also became very interested in the graduate programs and wanted to work towards that.
Have you taken advantage of any of the grad programs or teacher training at NECC?
Yes, I graduated from Simmons University in 2019 and then went on to complete the Western New England University specialization program to get my BCBA. I would highly recommend both programs!
What is something about you that your colleagues might be surprised to learn?
I make “busy boards” on the side and do mini pop-up events where I sell them. They are wooden boards with different fidgets secured onto them.
How and why did you get involved in making busy boards, two of which you donated to the recent NECC Art Show?
I started making the busy boards for one of my students on the residential program. We were looking for activities the student could complete and things the student could “fidget” with. I then began to start posting photos of the boards and just having fun with it! It turns out, a lot of people were looking for something like this! I make the busy boards with common board I purchase. I then use a drill or glue to fasten the items to the board. I’m always looking for new fidgets and ways to make the boards more functional and fun! Currently, they come in mini, medium, and large sizes.
Who is someone you look up to?
In my personal life, my mother. My mother is the ultimate superwoman. She is kind, caring, funny, and always puts others first. At work, I look up to a variety of people who have taught me so much. I think it is important to take a little something from each supervisor and mentor you have in your career to develop your own unique leadership and supervisory style. However, it takes an entire community of people to provide the best care for our students. For that reason, I am grateful and look up to the staff who maintain our school, who make meals for our students, and the teachers, clinicians, and administrators who educate and serve our students. I look up to our entire NECC family because we can’t do it without each other!
What is your life philosophy or a motto you like to live by?
There is no right or wrong path, there is only staying comfortable or challenging yourself.