Testimonials – Cotting School’s Impact

Barbara Hardaway

Barbara Hardaway, Class of 1968

Currently retired and living her dream as an artist in Guatemala, Barbara “Barby” Hardaway recalls her days in Boston. “I contracted polio at age 3 in 1955, and I was lucky enough, as an African American child, to go to Cotting School where the Superintendent, Bill Carmichael, gave everyone an equal opportunity and did not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind. That was certainly not the case in every Boston school or even throughout the U.S.A. at the time.

“My education at Cotting gave me the confidence and self-esteem to graduate from college and eventually to get a PhD. For twenty-eight years, I taught English at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. using American Sign Language, while simultaneously developing my interest in the theater and visual arts.

“I retired here to be near Guatemalan friends who consider me part of their family. I have always appreciated alone time and anonymity, and here I have both. But living in Guatemala has changed me. I am more aware of how wasteful a culture the United States is. People in the U.S. don’t think about the cost of their wastefulness and what happens to what they discard so freely. People in Guatemala live with less and they live on less. They do the best they can with what they have, and family is valued above all else.

“With the time retirement has afforded me, I have been able to develop my mixed medium collages and assemblages, experimenting with design elements, computer technology, and adhesive applications.

“Now that it’s been decades since I went to Cotting, I look back and realize, if I hadn’t gone to Cotting School, if that hadn’t happened, where would I be? What kind of life would I have had?

Cotting School provided an educational foundation that inspired me to take risks, celebrate my independence, and challenge social boundaries. Times have changed, but our right to excel in this world is the legacy of Cotting School.

“I received a great deal of support there and am forever grateful. I know my debt will never be paid in full because so much more was given that contributed to the quality of my life, time and time again. To say thank you, I have made plans to leave my estate to Cotting School to give future students the same opportunity I had.”

Barbara Hardaway

Cotting has made a world of difference for our entire family

We are so grateful for everything Cotting School has done for our granddaughter, Rachel.  We cannot say enough about the dedicated staff, adapted curriculum, and supplemental services that have enabled her to thrive.  Cotting has made a world of difference not only for Rachel, but for our entire family.

Rachel’s public-school system was wonderful, but her needs were simply not being met.  She would remain in one classroom all day, excluded from many activities.  Cotting is just the opposite; Rachel is among her peers here and is included in just about everything from dances, to sports, to industrial arts.  In her classroom, she has better access to her curriculum because the faculty encourage her to use her augmentative communication device.  Not only is her experience in the classroom more inclusive, she has her therapeutic and medical needs met all in one place.

Cotting’s positive impact is felt at home, too.  Her mother has noticed that Rachel communicates more with her iPad at home and has shown improved focus since enrolling at Cotting.  Now that she is more independent, Rachel is showing improvement in following directions and routines.  Perhaps most importantly, we are all less worried knowing the Rachel is happy, and that the Cotting staff is supporting us right along the way.

Tuition does not fully cover the cost of a Cotting education.  Please join us in making a gift today to ensure that Cotting can provide excellent instruction, cutting edge technology, and supplemental services for all students.

Paula and Michael Aschettino

Ensuring Creativity in the Arts

You might know Bill Ironfield as the new Performing Arts teacher at Cotting School, but then again, you might not. You might have heard him on the guitar, performing with one of several local bands over the years. Perhaps you received a package from him during his bicycle messenger days, or better yet, enjoyed a Charles River tour while he worked as a gondolier. Of course, you might have crossed paths with Bill more recently as a farmer, or this past year as a Program Assistant at Cotting School.

“I wanted to do everything else before I searched for what I really wanted, and that was teaching art or music,” explains Ironfield. Special education wasn’t on his radar until he spent some time in a local afterschool program with children in grades K-5. It was his girlfriend, Annemarie, who suggested he consider working in special education because of his temperament and personality. Ironfield is ready to pair his passion for music and performing arts with his desire to teach.

Ironfield’s calm, collected, and thoughtful manner is a great fit for the Cotting community. He has an exciting outlook for his curriculum:   “My vision for the Cotting Performing Arts classes looks like a variety TV show because everyone is involved in some way. For some it’s audiovisual, for others, video, or performing, or singing. I want to ensure that everyone finds a place here.”

A gift to our annual fund ensures that Cotting students are able to learn about the performing arts from passionate teachers like Bill Ironfield, and explore, create, and find their own place in the world.  Click here to make your gift.

Bill Ironfield

Promoting Proper Nutrition

In her 19th year at Cotting School, Tina feels right at home in the Cotting School kitchen. “The students are amazing. They make me smile. And watching them grow up is awesome.”

Tina has done it all in the Cotting kitchen. She began her food services career here in food prep, then moved to cook, and now Director. Her experience in each role has undoubtedly prepared her to run our lunch operation.

Tina has a lot to consider in her role. Our students’ nutrition is one of many priorities during the school day. Providing a healthy variety of options that cater to students’ interests and their dietary needs is not an easy task, but one that Tina takes seriously. “We have to pay close attention to our orders to check them for allergens, and our kitchen has to be very careful with gluten-free options.”

At the same time, she embraces the challenges with grace and a smile. “We know what they like to eat, and want to them be happy, but we also want to make sure we’re offering well-balanced options.”

We look forward to the day when our full lunch will be available, as we continue to slowly reopen our facility after closing due to COVID-19.  A gift to our annual fund ensures that Tina and her team are able to provide a healthy lunch for a wide range of students’ dietary needs.  Lunch at Cotting is more than just eating– it is an opportunity for students to practice social skills and make healthy food choices.  Click here to make your gift.

Tina, picture left, between Liz and Maria, her fellow kitchen staff members.

Tina Sousa

Enabling Quality Instruction

Hannah’s special education journey has come a long way since her Charter School days in Austin, TX.  Preparing to move east three years ago, she searched for schools in Massachusetts that would best suit her background and interests. “When I read about Cotting online, I got the impression that professional development would be supported, and I would grow as a teacher.”

Now in her 2nd year teaching in the Middle School, Hannah celebrates the faculty’s collaborative nature.  “In previous jobs, I felt like I was on an island with my students. At Cotting, there are so many like-minded teachers who know my students like I do.”

Hannah remembers some of her early impressions of the Cotting way: “At Cotting, I quickly understood and appreciated that we hold students to the highest of expectations.  We don’t make excuses, and instead ask ‘What do we need to do make something possible for this student?’

Hannah celebrates her students’ accomplishments, particularly around literacy.  “Someone may look at one of my students and assume he or she cannot read.  Our literacy curriculum may look a little different, but with a team of teachers and Communication Therapists, we make reading fun and engaging.  There are some really beautiful moments!”

A gift to our annual fund ensures that quality instruction, from talented teachers like Hannah, will continue and improve with each school year.  Click here to make your gift.

Hannah Cruz, Teacher
Jenel posing next to Cotting Student Art

Cotting has provided me the foundation I needed

When I started at Cotting School I was eight years old, medically fragile and had challenges with learning. I had struggled with math and reading, but from the beginning I felt that Cotting was going to give me the support I needed.

Today my reading and math are pretty strong. I spent a lot of time preparing for MCAS testing, and I am proud to say I passed on my first try! I’ve taken English classes at Middlesex Community College while enrolled at Cotting. This is part of the dual enrollment option. I’ve also taken an online Math class which taught me how to work independently and push myself. I am challenged, but it is a good challenge.

Cotting School has taught me so much. I have received strong academic support and the tools to advocate for myself. As a person in a wheelchair, it is difficult to navigate outside of my home and Cotting. Attending classes at Middlesex has given me the chance to use my skills. I am still learning but Cotting has provided me the foundation I needed. My next step? I would like to attend a transitional program where I can attend college, while working on advocating and life skills.

If you’ve been kind enough to give to Cotting in the past, please consider making a donation now. You’re making a difference in my life, and in the lives of my fellow students. Thank you for your consideration.

Peter working in the Cotting library

Preparing students for the next step in their life

"What I like most about Cotting is how the students and teachers are extremely kind and friendly.” - Peter G.

Peter is a happier, more confident and more capable person as a result of his time at Cotting School. He has a social life that he didn't have before. He has friends to talk to and hang out with. Going to the prom, the three-day ski trips, and playing basketball with his ‘Falcon’ teammates, have been as important to him, and to us, as what he's learning in the classroom. We've also seen the academic progress that Peter has made, and the pride he feels, because the work is all his own. Our biggest regret was not finding Cotting sooner.

Peter's also really blossomed as a result of Cotting's community work program. He's developed such good work habits and wonderful relationships with his supervisors and co-workers at a local library.  We feel that everything he has learned at Cotting is preparing him for the best possible launch into his adult life.

Peter has since graduated from Cotting, moving from Cotting student, to Cotting graduate, to intern, to employee!  Because of his participation in Cotting’s Project Bridges work program, the inclusive open-mindedness of the library’s director and staff, and Peter’s continuing efforts to do his best, Peter is currently an employee at the library.

Opportunities in life matter, and we are grateful that Peter has benefitted from the academic, social, and work opportunities that the Cotting School provides to all its students.

Garron Signature

Joan and Doug Garron
Patrick celebrates with his teammates Cotting basketball team

A sense of community, belonging, and comfort

As Patrick’s grandparents, we are tremendously thankful for the social and academic progress we have witnessed in him, a kind of growth that had not been taking place for him within his previous school setting.

Patrick has formed associations that are meaningful to him. As a result of the warmth, caring, and personalized approach of administrators, teachers, and staff, Patrick no longer feels anxious about attending school, but rather, a joy and healthy anticipation. It is heartwarming for us and other family members to hear Patrick describing new friendships and being part of various school groups. Cotting has afforded Patrick a sense of community, belonging, and comfort. Importantly, he has gained a greater self-confidence and esteem.

We are both impressed and most appreciative of the expertise and devotion that the Cotting community displays, giving Patrick and each student the opportunity to “achieve their highest learning potential and level of independence.”

As a way of showing our appreciation and support to Cotting, we recently sent a donation. We hope you will consider doing the same.

Diane DeRose and Roland DeRosa signature

Diane and Richard DeRosa