TWO ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS SHARE ONE JOB, ONE MISSION: OPTIMIZING THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF YOUNG PEOPLE WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

News

Nov

22

TWO ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS SHARE ONE JOB, ONE MISSION: OPTIMIZING THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF YOUNG PEOPLE WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 23, 2016
Contact: Phillippa Ewing, Ashworth Creative
E-mail: phillippa@ashworthcreative.com
Phone: 845-877-0410 ext. 107
Client Web: www.andersoncenterforautism.org

TWO ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS SHARE ONE JOB, ONE MISSION: OPTIMIZING THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF YOUNG PEOPLE WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

Andrew Dease and Jayson “Jay” Pistritto share their days and challenging job with good
humor and a positive attitude. They work at Anderson Center for Autism’s Education
program. The job they share, Assistant Principal, involves operating the administrative
program of a school serving children at elementary, middle school and high school age
diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, some non-speaking, who are among the most
challenging students any teacher can face.
Talking to Andrew and Jay you can see the reasons they work so well together. Both see
their position less as a job and more as a vocation. Andrew said he knew he wanted to be
a teacher from 8th grade. “Teaching is not a job where you get paid the most, but you will
get the most out of it.” He says, “You have a job to make a living, but you have to do
something that pays your soul a bit. This is the job for that.”

Jason Pistritto, aged 31, has worked at Anderson Center for Autism since 2006. Armed
with Bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University at Albany, he was working in a
lumberyard when he saw Anderson’s ad for a Teaching Assistant. He applied and worked
for a year in the classroom. He appreciated Anderson’s flexibility and the fact that he was
able to transition from Teaching Assistant to different work roles in an Anderson
Residence, which he did for nearly five years. He was meanwhile, in his own time,
acquiring a Bachelor’s and Masters degrees in education. An opportunity opened up at
Anderson for him to teach in a Tier III classroom, working with older individuals. Since
the majority of the students are residents as well, it has been an advantage for Jason to be
able to have perspective on both sides of a student’s life.

Andrew Dease, aged 29, has worked at Anderson Center for Autism for 7 years, also
beginning as a Teaching Assistant. He saw it as an opportunity to see if special education
with Anderson was for him. “I fell in love with Anderson and became aware that this
population keeps you on your toes.”

As both Andrew and Jason started at the bottom and worked their way up within
Anderson, their emerging leadership qualities were noticed. They were both invited to
continue their education by taking dual certification in School Building Leadership and
School District Leadership.

Both men see their job as a “calling.” Andrew says, “The job keeps you thinking, keeps you
involved.” Jayson describes the role as a combination of “a professional, parental and care
giving role. You have to be aware of the whole scope.”

What makes teaching at Anderson different is that the teacher has to have exceptional
flexibility. Jayson Pistritto says, “When you come into this field you have to learn to work
with staff. You are always working with a team of up to six adults in a classroom, along
with your students. You need to be able to supervise, collaborate, give directions and
bring everyone onto the same page.” At the same time, Andrew Dease comments, “you can
come into the classroom, prepped to the gills and be ready to drop it all, to let go of your
plans because your students need something else.”

Just under two years ago, Anderson Center for Autism began working on a new mission,
“optimizing the quality of life for individuals with autism.” Both Andrew and Jayson
welcomed the new perspective. “We saw it is a chance to become more creative, to
explore ideas that we’ve wanted to do, seeing education through our students’ eyes, and
their parents’ eyes,” says Pistritto. For Dease, it involves responding to the challenges of
the “unforeseen day. We have to provide proactive supports for students and teachers,
know the plans, get out in front, educate and keep it safe.” Their administrative style is
directed towards backing up teaching processes with evidence and outcomes.
A key part of enhancing a student’s quality of life is helping them to understand and
realize goals. Both men see quality of life as an individual concept. They want their
students to succeed. They would encourage employers in the community to think
differently about job opportunities for individuals with autism. Jayson says, “If need be,
adapt the task and the standard of jobs. If one of our individuals cannot stack shelves, they
may be able to match colors and differentiate between items. It’s on us to help them
succeed.”

Two days of each student’s life stand out to Dease and Pistritto. The hardest is student
admission day. Dease describes it: “The parents are so upset, fearful of separation and
they say it is ‘the hardest thing I have ever done’.” Pistritto responds that at the other end
of the spectrum is Anderson graduation day. “Every day is what you make it. But on
graduation day you have the rare opportunity to see what we’ve accomplished.” For
parents, that is a memorable day. When the hardest decision they ever made is shown to
be the right choice, for their child and their family. Andrew Dease puts the satisfaction
this way, “I don’t want an easy job, I want a job that challenges me mentally.” Or as he
said, “one that pays your soul.”

About Anderson Center for Autism
Anderson Center for Autism is New York’s premier autism treatment and care center. It is a
not-for-profit organization located in picturesque Staatsburg, N.Y., dedicated to providing the
highest quality programs possible for both children and adults with autism. It employs 800
specialists who are expertly trained to diagnose, treat, and care for adults and children on the
autism spectrum. For more information, visit andersoncenterforautism.org