There is nothing like hands-on learning, and for a lucky group of future therapists and school professionals, that hands-on learning happens at Hawkswood School.
42 years ago, Hawkswood School began as a university-based program on the campus of Monmouth University.
Since then, it has partnered with colleges and universities to sponsor fieldwork for students in the areas of nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech/language therapy.
School principal, Andrew Orefice believes it is essential for Hawkswood School to maintain and foster university/student relationships because it allows future professionals to experience real-world, real-student challenges and successes. “Many field placement students learn to become proficient by infusing mobility equipment, therapies, communication devices, and orthotics into their therapy sessions. Most universities do not have the range of therapeutic equipment and experiences that we have here at Hawkswood,” Mr. Orefice said. “There is a mutual benefit in that our staff also learn from our new university students. They bring the latest in innovative, research-based approaches, often garnered in their university experience,” he added.
“I quickly learned how important the collaborative interdisciplinary approach is for student success. Hawkswood was unique from my other placements in that the school community functioned much more like a family.” – Nicole Panzarino, OTR
As part of their semester-long field experience at Hawkswood School, these future professionals work a regular school day, five days a week. Students work directly with an assigned, certified cooperating professional, beginning by learning the school culture, mission and guiding principles as they “shadow” their cooperating sponsor. “They are exposed to all facets of a staff member’s day including I.E.P. writing, meeting attendance, parent conferences, staff development workshops and faculty meetings in order to experience the real life of a professional,” concluded Mr. Orefice.
Joyce Wright, Ph.D., RN, CNL is an Associate Professor at the Wall Township site of New Jersey City University (NJCU), where she oversees their RN to BSN Program. She said the teamwork her nursing students experience while at Hawkswood School “is beyond imagination,” and that students get “an eye-opening and positive experience.” “Students say it is the best and most powerful clinical experience ever – they don’t get anything like this exposure or training otherwise,” said Dr. Wright.
There is another benefit to Hawkswood School: future staff. Many times Hawkswood School has hired university students who gain field work experience there. “They can hit the ground running because they have an intricate understanding of our culture and mission,” Mr. Orefice said.
One of those people is Nicole Panzarino, OTR, an occupational therapist. She was introduced to Hawkswood School when she was a student therapist from Springfield College. She believes that Hawkswood’s approach to special education, which includes equipment clinics, feeding clinics, and assistive technology clinics, added to her experience. “Other schools are just not able to provide this,” she said.
Reflecting on her experiences as a field placement student, Nicole said, “I quickly learned how important the collaborative interdisciplinary approach is for student success. Hawkswood was unique from my other placements in that the school community functioned much more like a family.”