Rest in peace, Larry. We miss you.

Message from the President of Matheny:

From time to time we have giants in the midst of our Matheny community.  These giants are not always the loudest, tallest, or demand the most attention, but quietly move behind the scenes steering through others.

Larry Thornton was one of those giants.  We feel privileged to have known Larry, who always seemed to push us and others to do more work on behalf of the students and patients that we serve.  Thanks to Larry we have LAR (The Learning Accessibility Robot), The Lowe’s Community Garden, a repaved nature trail, Home Depot planting boxes, a hydroponics station, and much more.  Larry developed and fostered a relationship between Matheny and Rutgers bio-engineering school which will develop new forms of assistive technology to help people worldwide.  Larry also brought in different Knights of Columbus Councils to Matheny to assist in fundraising.  Until recent health concerns prevented his participation Larry kept a regiment of volunteering three times a week in the school and also served on both the Matheny School Board Committee and the Board of Trustees.  Larry loved the children, the staff, and the spirit of Matheny.

Returning to a “special” place

Karen Deland started her teaching career at The Matheny School in 1979. She left a year later to teach in the Quakertown, N.J., public school system, then went to law school and then raised a family. But two years ago, feeling that she missed working with “special students,” she came back to Matheny. And she’s the first to say, she’s a better teacher for it all.

Deland, who was named the 2010 Educator of the Year at Matheny, says “flexibility and patience” are the keys to working with special needs children. Though her students’ medical conditions are more complex now than when she first taught here, she attributes Matheny’s technological innovations as critical for succeeding with these complicated teaching requirements.

Matheny is “top-of-the line technology-wise for the students,” she says. “Everybody’s treatment is different and individualized. Without the technology, we would be doing textbook learning, which isn’t really appropriate for our population.”

Deland, show above with student Daniel Gaudreau, was recently featured in her hometown newspaper, the Berkeley Heights Patch. You can read her story here.