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Special Education Liaison Presented with Annie Sullivan Award

The Boyertown Area School District is proud to announce that Mrs. Barbara VanBuskirk, special education liaison and 20-year employee with the District, was presented with the 2017 Annie Sullivan Award during a ceremony at the Berks County Intermediate Unit.

The award is given annually to an individual who has worked to encourage the understanding and promotion of students with disabilities in his or her school or community. The award is named after Annie Sullivan, the renowned teacher of Helen Keller.  Mrs. VanBuskirk was nominated by Mrs. Marybeth Torchia and Mrs. Kalyn Bartman, Secondary and Elementary Directors of Special Education.

In their nomination form, Mrs. Torchia and Mrs. Bartman wrote, “In working with Mrs. VanBuskirk we can honestly say that we have never worked with someone with as much passion, knowledge, and true understanding of students with disabilities. With each meeting one of us attends with her, we find her to be one of the most valuable assets for our District, its students, and the families for whom she works.”

Mrs. VanBuskirk has worked in special education for more than 30 years. She began her career in 1975 as a special education teacher in Loudon County, Virginia, and for the past 20 years she has worked in the Boyertown Area School District. As the Transition Coordinator and Special Education Liaison for secondary students and schools, she works with students in grades 7 through 12, as well as students age 18 through 21. Prior to her current position, she worked as a life-skills aide, learning-support teacher, and secondary life-skills teacher.

As a life-skills teacher, Mrs. VanBuskirk led the way for community-based learning and job skills within the Boyertown Area School District. She advocated for her students to participate with the general education students to attend dances, go to prom, and participate in the senior class trip.  
As the Transition Coordinator and Special Education Liaison, she advocates for her students and works collaboratively with families to develop plans for their children as they prepare for life after high school. While transition responsibilities alone are a full-time responsibility, she also serves as a special education liaison, where she is responsible for assisting students who are struggling in their current programs and finding programs outside of the District that can meet their needs and ensuring that supports are in place to guarantee that they become Boyertown Area Senior High graduates.  

“Mrs. VanBuskirk is a genuine advocate for students with special needs.  Her dedication and caring attitude toward not only the students but their families as well has always been apparent,” Ms. Helen Conroy, Emotional Support Teacher at Boyertown Junior High East, wrote in support of Mrs. VanBuskirk’s nomination. “She has a gift for seeing the strengths and needs of each student and has worked tirelessly to ensure they get all of the services that will help them to be successful members of our community.”

“Mrs. VanBuskirk is a shining example of a selfless educator,” comments Dr. Richard Faidley, Boyertown Area School District Superintendent. “She is respected by her peers, loved by the students she advocates on behalf of, and valued by the parents and the community. I admire the way she works with each student in such a caring and compassionate manner, every day, and I congratulate her on this honor.”