Carol Burlinski, principal at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School, has been on a mission since she joined the school in July 2014. She has consistently looked for ways to provide more for the school and parish families. In 2016, she opened a preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, giving early education opportunities to Hinsdale area families. And this fall, she will usher in another enhancement to St. Isaac Jogues School with the introduction of the Exceptional Learners Center.
The idea came three years ago when Burlinski was introduced to a program called All Are Welcome during a graduate program at Loyola University. The goal of the program is to assist Catholic schools in offering services and opportunities to all learners at all academic levels within their schools. It is often that students require extra support in areas such as speech, occupational therapy, and social and emotional development. In addition, many students crave additional challenges that can augment classroom learning. The new Exceptional Learners Center at the school will provide every student the opportunity to find the extra support and enrichment they need.
“I’m excited, because this new program will allow us to educate and service students within our school that need extra support and enrichment. This would not have been possible four years ago,” Burlinski says. “We are keeping families together.”
Katey Wagner, who has been a teacher for seven years including five at St. Isaac Jogues, will be the director of the Exceptional Learners Center. She has been instrumental in the planning and development of the center’s approach, mission, and execution. Wagner, who’s completing her master’s degree in special education, will also be one of three special education teachers providing instruction and administering interventions within this new program. There will also be an occupational therapist, speech therapist, social worker, and two clinical psychologists available to students for the variety of needs.
“I’m excited because the extra opportunities we will be offering to the students will foster the development of their different talents and interests,” Wagner says.
The program is especially meaningful for Wagner, who attended St. Isaac Jogues when she was a child. She has grown up in the school and in the parish, and she is eager to experience the success of the Exceptional Learners Center.
Enrichment programs will include Mandarin classes, gifted education through problem-based learning, and a partnership with TinkrWorks which will offer robotics and 3-D printing classes. Many of these enrichment programs will be offered at the end of the day during the school’s WIN time. WIN stands for “What I Need.” The 30-minute period at the end of day will provide students with time to take advantage of the programs offered through the Exceptional Learners Center. Students will have the chance to turn WIN time into a more focused period for development and enrichment.
Additional services will include early dyslexia intervention and speech intervention in early childhood, as well as emotional and social development services with the social worker and clinical psychologists. The school is partnering with Kids Matters Counseling in Hinsdale to offer some of these additional supports and services. “We’re planning on working together to run some small groups—one on executive functioning, for example,” Wagner says, explaining that executive functioning helps children organize and get work completed on time.
For some students, it comes naturally. For others, it’s much more difficult.
“We are so excited. The preschool has been a huge success, and kindergarten enrollment is the highest it’s ever been. Most importantly, when kids can connect learning to something that’s real, they get excited about it. With the Exceptional Learners Center, we will be connecting learning to real-life experiences,” says Burlinski. “Through the donations and generosity of our families, we were given the green light to fulfill our vision. The sky is the limit!”
St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School is located at 421 S. Clay Street in Hinsdale, 708-529-8341, sijschool.org.