Special Report
Special Education

After Eight Years at Lab School, Pa. Student Seeks Culinary Arts Career

By Christina A. Samuels — May 29, 2015 3 min read
Christopher Lineman mixes ingredients as he bakes a cake during a culinary class at a nearby vocational school. Educators at Centennial School in Bethlehem, Pa., the school Christopher regularly attends, say the 19-year-old has made great progress since arriving in 2007 as a rising 5th grader. He graduates in 2017.

Christopher Lineman, a senior at Centennial School in this eastern Pennsylvania town, says he has loved cooking since he was 3 years old.

Throughout challenging times in his life, he has kept that love alive. Now 19, Christopher is on track to graduate from high school in 2017. After that, he wants to attend community college, work a stint in a restaurant kitchen, and maybe one day own a restaurant himself. He’s already getting experience in food preparation, splitting his day between Centennial and a nearby vocational program that offers culinary training.

Thinking about graduation and life on his own, Christopher allows that he is “a little nervous.” But, he added: “I’m also excited. Because I know I want to learn new things. There’s not a day that I would not want to learn something new. I love to learn. I love going to school.”

That mindset is far from what it was when he first arrived at Centennial as a rising 5th grader in 2007, brimming with anger.

Centennial, a lab school governed by Lehigh University’s College of Education, is tucked away in an industrial office park, less than a mile from Lehigh Valley International Airport. The school enrolls students with emotional disturbances or with autism who are placed there by one of 40 surrounding school districts.

Intensive Support

Before class one school morning, some students gathered in Centennial’s cafeteria area for a snack of cinnamon toast, which they can buy with points earned for good behavior in class. The school’s philosophy is that appropriate behavior needs to be explicitly taught, and Centennial relies on positive-behavior supports rather than techniques such as seclusion or restraint.

The program is intensive. Enrollment is limited to no more than about 100 students, and districts pay nearly $18,000 of the school’s $44,000 annual tuition for the students they send. (The state picks up the rest.) The calm and structure of the average school day disguises the fact that Centennial does not get easy cases, says school director Michael George.

Christopher, for one, was no easy case. Physically and verbally aggressive toward teachers as well as family members, he struggled to cope with frustration, said Julie Fogt, the school’s psychologist.

Student Profiles

We take a look at how six students with disabilities are planning their transition to college and the workforce:

  • Md. Senior Opts to Study With Other Hearing-Impaired Students
  • After Eight Years at Lab School, Pa. Student Seeks Culinary Arts Career
  • Ga. Student With Dyslexia Battles Her Way to College
  • Special Ed. Student Aims for College, Political Career
  • Va. Twin Brothers Find a Place in the Work World

But he also opened himself up quickly to Centennial’s methods, Ms. Fogt said, and seemed to thrive with the structure. “He was a student who seemed to get on board faster than others,” she said.

The emotional volatility is what makes transition from school to the community particularly challenging for students with emotional disturbances, says Katie M. Herczeg, the career-development teacher at Centennial. “Emotional disturbance” exists as a disability category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but not in the world outside of school.

“A lot of our students can present like typical adolescents, so you might not know they have a disability,” Ms. Herczeg said. “Their disability doesn’t surface until they are angry or frustrated, or having trouble dealing with a lot of different variables.”

And that’s when they end up losing jobs, or worse. Students with emotional disturbances are more likely than other students with disabilities to have had run-ins with the law, for example.

Data: By the Numbers: Students With Specific Disabilities

Teaching self-advocacy skills to this group of students is particularly important, Ms. Herczeg said. When Centennial students graduate, they have to be able to navigate education systems, job requirements, or social-service agencies all on their own.

By all accounts, Christopher is demonstrating that he’s ready to make that transition.

“He’s super enthusiastic,” said Shane Killeen, his culinary-arts instructor at the Career Institute of Technology, the vocational school he attends during half his school day. “Every day, he’s actively engaged with his teammates, and that’s nice to see.”

Christopher said he’s not ready to leave the protective embrace of Centennial quite yet.

“I strongly believe that I actually do need a little bit more practice,” he said. “But when I start getting the hang of everything, then I’ll be ready to actually go on to college and continue my education.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Opinion Five Teacher-Recommended Strategies to Support Students With Learning Differences
Four educators share strategies for supporting students with learning differences, including utilizing "wait time" and relationship building.
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education The Pandemic Made It Harder to Spot Students With Disabilities. Now Schools Must Catch Up
After more than a year of disruption for all students, the pressure's on to find those in need of special education and provide services.
13 min read
Aikin listens to her eight-year-old son, Carter, as he reads in the family’s home in Katy, TX, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Carter has dyslexia and Aikin could not help but smile at the improvement in his fluency as he read out loud.
Kanisha Aikin listens to her 8-year-old son, Carter, who has dyslexia, as he reads aloud in the family’s home in Katy, Texas.
Annie Mulligan for Education Week
Special Education What Employers Can Teach Schools About Neurodiversity
The benefits of neurodiversity have gained traction in business, but college and career support for students with disabilities falls short.
8 min read
Special Education The Challenge of Teaching Students With Visual Disabilities From Afar
Teachers of students with visual disabilities struggle to provide 3-D instruction in a two-dimensional remote learning environment.
Katie Livingstone
5 min read
Neal McKenzie
Neal McKenzie, an assistive technology specialist, works with a student who has a visual impairment in Sonoma County, Calif.<br/>
Courtesy Photo