Dr. Bruce Ettinger, CEO/Superintendent of The Children’s Institute, has announced the promotion of Gina Catania of Verona to principal.
“Mrs. Catania has shown great leadership qualities and, as former assistant principal and teacher, she has been a wonderful role model and positive influence for her staff; and directly impacts the students’ curriculum and ability to for them to learn and succeed,” said Dr. Ettinger.
Catania is a graduate of Marist College, where she earned degrees in Elementary Education, Special Education and Psychology. In addition, she earned a supervisor of instruction certificate, a masters in administration and a masters in reading, all from Montclair State University. She will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the preschool, elementary, middle and high school programs; with a staff of 120 teachers and paraprofessionals and approximately 160 students.
“TCI is a family of dedicated and talented staff members, supportive Child Study Team and Board members, caring parents and incredible students,” said Catania. “I recognize how fortunate I am to go to work every day in an environment where everyone values an educational program that promotes the growth and success of every child’s future.”
Catania began her career at The Children’s Institute in September 1989 as a teacher, and was promoted to supervisor in 2000 and to assistant principal in 2007. She was the creator of TCI’s original behavior management program; shaping students’ behaviors through positive reinforcement and individualized token systems. As a teacher and supervisor, she also held the title of social skills coordinator; developing and training on a curriculum designed to increase appropriate social skills in the school, home and community. For more than ten years Mrs. Catania has cross-trained educators in this curriculum at The Children’s Institute, other private and public schools as well as the annual ASAH conference.
“One of my initiatives is the Life Skills and Career Education curriculum for students in 6th grade through 8th grade,” said Catania. “The curriculum focuses on building skill sets in the areas of cooking, cleaning, consumerism and personal hygiene. It is essential to provide step-by-step instruction so that skills such as using a microwave, appropriately interacting with a cashier, and dining at a restaurant can be carried out with independence.”
“Our goal is to address the needs of the whole child, to enable them to become independent, contributing members of the community,” she added. “We aim to provide our students with research-based curriculum and all of the social and extra-curricular experiences they would have in a typical school setting. For our older students we implement career-readiness and community service programs so they are prepared to meet the rigors of pursuing an active, rewarding adult life.” In addition, the curriculum stresses health and fitness, as Catania is a passionate proponent of establishing good eating habits, and healthy lifestyles as a means to success in the classroom.
The upcoming school year will feature more parent and educator workshops on topics that will support individuals who work or live with students with autism. “The goal is to outreach and educate members of wide-spread communities in New Jersey and provide them with research-based strategies that have been proven effective,” said Catania.
Catania resides in Verona with her husband, Ron and two high school children, Luke and Mario. In addition to her professional membership in Autism NJ, ASA (Autism Society of America) and ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Develpment) she is an active volunteer for various charity and school organizations.
The Children’s Institute (TCI) is a private, non-profit school approved by the New Jersey State Board of Education, serving children facing learning, language and social challenges, ages 3-21. Originating in Newark, New Jersey as an orphanage and sheltering home in 1890, TCI has evolved into a school that has been a pioneer in special education since 1963. Today, TCI serves children from northern New Jersey, including Essex, Union, Morris, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic, Bergen and adjoining counties. For more information about the school or to schedule a tour, contact Dr. Ettinger at 973-509-3050 or visit the school’s Web site.