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From high-stakes fashion to a special education class

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Former New York fashion designer Celia Ayenesazan helps kids with disabilities build confidence in the classroom

Celia Ayenesazan, middle, along with peers from Louise Radloff Middle School, chose Georgia Southern’s Master of Education program to become a certified special education teacher.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Celia Ayenesazan graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology nearly 30 years ago and has spent more than two decades working for Federated Department Stores, Inc., one of America’s largest retail operators. major retail chains, including Macys and Bloomingdales. But nothing brings her more joy than leading her own special education class.

This week, Ayenesazan is graduating through the graduating stage at Georgia Southern University to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and a second chance at a fulfilling career.

At the height of her career, she bought clothes for Ann Taylor, Express and Liz Claiborne, but put her career on hold after the birth of her daughter to become a stay-at-home mom.

I haven’t worked in an office for eight years, she explained. I have long been removed from the fast-paced fashion industry. I wasn’t sure if my skills had become stale. A friend suggested I apply for a job at the local preschool because she saw the level of engagement I had with young children. I was hesitant, but it was the best thing I ever did because it led me to a new career.

In 2016, Ayenesazan and her family moved south to metro Atlanta to join her extended family where she got a paraprofessional job at an elementary school.

In no time, Ayenesazan was encouraged by her peers and administrators to become certified and lead her own class. She chose Georgia Southern University’s fully online MAT program to become a Certified Special Education Teacher.

I worked as a paraprofessional in a self-contained special education classroom and since then have had a connection with students with disabilities, Ayenesazan said. The reward for this work is immense and the impact can be seen almost every day.

Today, Ayenesazan is in her second year at Radloff Middle School in Duluth, Georgia, a Title I school with 98% minority enrollment and 83% economically disadvantaged students.

Since joining the school, she has received several grants and completed several DonorsChoose projects, totaling over $55,000 in donations and grants to support new and innovative efforts to integrate students with disabilities into the school population. ‘General Education.

Because I teach in a self-contained class [where students with similar disabilities are taught in one classroom], our students are often not with the population of general education, she explained. I want my students to gain confidence in their abilities and push them out of the nest, so to speak. Social support is so important in this process.

This is why Ayenesazan has focused much of its grant seeking efforts on enabling students with disabilities to participate in unique, hands-on learning opportunities with students from the general population. Since Ayenesazan started at Radloff Middle, she has created an outdoor learning environment and gardening space, in addition to Tower Gardens, an aeroponic indoor growing system, to extend the learning experience by growing vegetables in class, all year round. The students grow the vegetables and take them home to cook. She created the first LEGO robotics team for students with disabilities that participated in a regional competition. Most recently, Ayenesazan received a $20,000 grant to create a new multi-sensory room that will be complete with alternating lighting, fiber optics, vibrating chairs, bubble tubes, bean bag chairs, swings and activities. hustle.

The multi-sensory room can provide a comfortable space for students with disabilities to engage with their peers in general education and special education institutions, Ayenesazan said. It will provide an alternative to a classroom space for students to socialize and collaborate. The ultimate goal is to provide all students with an inclusive learning environment.

In the near future, Ayenesazan plans to start a sewing club so that students can learn basic sewing skills and create costumes for school theater performances. She also coordinated with several teachers the creation of the school’s first gardening club. Another passion she has is teaching students to recognize the power of their vocal advocacy skills.

I love thinking outside the box and finding innovative ways to empower all students, Ayenesazan said. When you love what you do, you are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of all students.



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