Teacher of preschoolers with autism wins 2014 Teacher of the Year for NJ

Hoboken, NJ – Wallace Elementary School’s special education teacher Mark Mautone was recently named 2014’s Teacher of the Year for NJ. The 41-year-old was chosen over 21 county teachers-of-the-year picks and plans to use his new status to talk about autism.

Taking a quick look at Mautone’s classroom it’s easy to see why he won. Instead of being saddled with a large number of kids, he has about four or five on different learning levels-with about the same amount of aids working with each student one-on-one. Instead of being uneasy about the new teacher tenure laws that required mounds of data on each student, he rolled with the changes, noting that the learning system he uses, ABA, already asks teachers to keep loads of data on their students. NJ Spotlight met with Mautone who had this to say about the changes:

“It’s a little easier for us, as we have always been so data-based. I can understand the difficulties it can be for general education teachers, but here we know all about data analysis, how to use it, how to adjust instruction to it.”

ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, is a learning system in which students with autism focus on learning one step to a task at a time. For instance, while most students might jump right in to learning how to count 1-10, students on the spectrum might first learn to match the names of the numbers to it’s picture. While ABA has it’s drawbacks, it has successfully gotten students from Mautone’s classroom into mainstream classes by kindergarden, with some student assistance of course.

In his 19 years of teaching he has seen three-ring binders get replaced by iPads, changing the classic cliche to “an Apple for the student,” something Mautone recognizes as a good thing.

“It’s not for everyone, I know that,” Mautone told NJ Spotlight; “But I remember when I was first in the classroom, I didn’t even know all the resources we had access to.”

In January the Teacher of the Year will take his double decade experience on the road, showing other teacher’s how best to teach students with autism. The six month tour will be paid for by Ewing’s Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union. He hopes his talks will unify New Jersey’s teaching practices for it’s students on the spectrum.

The original article by  John Mooney on the the NJ Spotlight  website can be found here

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead

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