Pleasant Grove, Utah – Liz Banner, a mother to a 14-year-old boy with autism, is as passionate about her work as Spectrum Academy principal as she is in taking care of her son.
“Obviously I love Spectrum Academy; I’m kind of giving my whole life to Spectrum Academy,”
Liz said laughingly.
Spectrum Academy is a school dedicated to providing its students the personalized attention that they need in learning– through individualized education.
Most of the students in the academy are under Individualized Education Programs (IEP). Every student under the IEP have goals specifically set for them according to their rate of progress.
Each class is made up of no more than 12 students, and is taught and supervised by a teacher and a paraprofessional.
But Liz’s son did not have the privilege to be taught that way at first.
When her son, Jackson, was diagnosed with autism, they had initially put him in a public school. Although Jackson’s teachers were very dedicated, according to Liz, the huge numbers of students in their classes overwhelmed them and could not attend to Jackson in the way that he needed.
It was then that Liz decided to switch careers. She went back to school to get a degree in special education.
As Jackson got accepted at the Spectrum Academy, Liz was also hired at the school as a paraprofessional. She later on became a teacher in the academy.
Soon after, she decided to get a degree in administration, and was eventually hired as Spectrum Academy’s North Salt Lake campus principal. Today she is the school principal for the newly opened Spectrum Academy in Pleasant Grove.
But Liz says it wasn’t always an easy road. She said,
“It was a long process for my whole family and for my older kids and everybody. They had to really step it up and do a lot of things so I could go back and get my degrees.”
Liz said that having a child on the spectrum made her better equipped in running a school like Spectrum Academy. She said:
“It just gives you an experience that I don’t think anyone can have that doesn’t do that every day. It also gives me, I think, a perspective on the parent’s side, that understanding of how they’re feeling and what they’re going through and that anxiety. … I’ve gone through all those different emotions.”
Spectrum Academy is currently serving more than 400 children with autism. Its North Salt Lake campus has about 560 kids in the waiting list, while the Pleasant Grove campus has about 50 children waiting.
More information about Spectrum Academy can be found on their website.
Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta