Lessons in Learning: A Journey Toward Self-Discovery
Girl Scout Gold Award recipient Cherilyn Conner learned that in teaching others, she learned more about herself.
For her senior year Girl Scout project, Cherilyn Conner chose to do something that would encourage the pre-K students at Inner Bridge Crossing, a school housed within Berkley Elementary School that provides services for children on the autistic spectrum from pre-K through second grade.
For her project, Conner created puzzles from the pictures she took of the children's faces. Puzzles to be used not only as a learning tool for color recognition and counting purposes, but as a way to help develop their fine motor skills. Conner said that the feeling she got watching the children's faces "light up like they did" as they recognized that it was their face staring back at them upon completion of the puzzle was "incredible."
"Seeing their faces made all the difficulty of creating each unique puzzle and cutting the pieces into shapes that would fit together worth it," Conner said.
Conner expected that the children would enjoy the project that she created for them. What she never expected was that in the process she would discover where she wanted to take her future.
"I never expected to connect with these children the way that I did through this project," she said.
Conner received the Gold Award for her puzzle project--the highest award the Girl Scout Organization gives out.
Conner, who will begin her freshman year at William Paterson University in September, is focusing her studies on mathematics and secondary education with a concentration in teaching students with disabilities, particularly autism.
"After working with the students at Inner Bridge Crossing, I really want to pursue getting certified in A.B.A. (Applied Behavioral Analysis) and working with children on the autistic spectrum after I graduate," Conner said.
It was early in her senior year at New Milford High School that Conner decided to focus her Girl Scout project on something that would be of value to children on the autistic spectrum.
Conner was a member of NMHS's "Tomorrow's Teachers" elective studies program. This program is designed to prepare participants for a future in education by providing them with opportunities to learn about teaching strategies, educational materials and managing student behavior. Integral to the program are firsthand experiences working with students in district. Choosing which classroom she wanted to be a part of was a no-brainer for Conner. She chose Inner Bridge Crossing.
Conner began by observing the children and the way that the teachers and aides worked with them to encourage learning through creative projects. Conner was even given the opportunity to teach a lesson--helping the children to identify pictures, color and paste them.
The level of excitement on the preschoolers faces convinced Conner that she wanted to work with children on the spectrum.
As Conner looks toward her future she acknowledges the important lessons she learned as a Girl Scout; lessons that will serve her no matter where life takes her.
"As a Girl Scout I learned to always push myself forward to excel," Conner said. "Pursuing the Gold Award helped me to meet the kids at Inner Bridge and, through them, I discovered myself and my future."
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