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.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

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

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
Special Education Whitepaper
When is it Dyslexia? Assessing Early Indicators.
Download your copy of this white paper to learn how early assessments can help improve student outcomes.
Content provided by Voyager Sopris Learning
Special Education Florida Changed Rules for Special Education Students. Why Many Say It’s Wrong
The new rule contains a more specific definition of what it means to have a “most significant cognitive disability.”
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
7 min read
Richard Corcoran, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education sits next to Florida Department of Education Board Chair Andy Tuck as they listen to speakers during Thursday morning's Florida Department of Education meeting. The board members of the Florida Department of Education met Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Florida State College at Jacksonville's Advanced Technology Center in Jacksonville, Fla. to take care of routine business but then held public comments before a vote to remove critical race theory from Florida classrooms.
Richard Corcoran, Florida’s education commissioner, and Andy Tuck, the chair of the state’s board of education, listen to speakers at a meeting  in June.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP
Special Education 6 Ways to Communicate Better With Parents of Students With Learning Differences
For students who learn or think differently, a strong network of support is key. Here are 6 tips for bridging the communication gap between families and schools.
Marina Whiteleather
3 min read
network of quote bubbles
cagkansayin/iStock/Getty
Special Education New York City Will Phase Out Controversial Gifted and Talented Program
The massive change is aimed at addressing racial disparities in the biggest school system in the country.
Michael Elsen-Rooney, New York Daily News
4 min read
Students write and draw positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in The Bronx borough of New York on Aug. 17, 2021. New York City will phase out its program for gifted and talented students that critics say favors whites and Asian American students, while enrolling disproportionately few Black and Latino children, in the nation's largest and arguably most segregated school system.
Students write and draw positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in The Bronx borough of New York on Aug. 17, 2021. New York City will phase out its program for gifted and talented students that critics say favors whites and Asian American students, while enrolling disproportionately few Black and Latino children, in the nation's largest and arguably most segregated school system.
Brittainy Newman/AP