Paul VI Options Program is bigger and brighter

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While the Options Program is not new to Paul VI Catholic High School, the program has undergone a number of changes to better serve the needs of students and teachers alike. Four new students joined Options this year, which brings a total of 16 students to the program. In addition, the Options classroom was renovated over the summer, separating the room into three different areas. The new configuration will allow several teachers to better work with Options students at the same time.

Two new teachers joined the Options faculty this year. Ellen Bower (Paul VI '06) teaches Options math. She has a master's in special education, with a concentration in applied behavioral analysis. In addition, Megan Battle (Paul VI '03) teaches the peer mentor classes, as well as trains and coordinates those students who volunteer as mentors during their study hall. Before coming to Paul VI, she was the director of special education at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, and also has worked with individuals with disabilities through Fairfax County's therapeutic recreation program.

Last year, a semester-long peer mentor course was added to the list of elective courses at Paul VI. The class allows students to work with those in the Options program by assisting them in their classes. The class provides students "with an overview of knowledge on individuals with disabilities while simultaneously emphasizing the innate beauty and dignity of all human persons," said Battle.

Junior Abby Thibodeau is enrolled in the Peer Mentor course and attends yearbook class every day with her Options buddy.

"Peer mentoring Meredith is such a great experience," said Thibodeau. "Last year, I peer mentored a group of students in Options, but this year, it is just one-on-one. Working with someone one-on-one allows you to get to know and understand the person better."

Senior Erin Cassella also is enrolled in the peer mentor course and works with two Options students. "I've really enjoyed working with both Allie and Elizabeth this semester," said Cassella. "Getting to know them on a more personal note in an educational environment is fantastic. This class has opened my eyes and given me a new perspective on special education. … Because of this course and other activities I am involved with, I've decided to pursue a career in special education."

With new students as well as teachers, a renovated classroom and a one-on-one elective course for peer mentors, the Options Program at Paul VI is looking bigger and brighter than ever.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014