Danbury native, DHS grad appointed Assistant Director of Particular Training
Working for 20 years at Danbury Public Schools isn’t the only thing Crystal Taft has to celebrate. Taft, a graduate of Danbury High School, was recently named associate director of special education for the district.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Language and a Master of Arts in Learning Disabilities from Northwestern University, the Danbury native began working as a special education teacher at the Great Plain School in a stand-alone program for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. She was then promoted to Special Services Facilitator, where she oversaw PPTs and coaching staff before moving up to Special Education Supervisor for the district’s middle schools. Her responsibilities in her most recent role include assisting the director with district oversight of the department.
“In this role, I can support administration, staff and students at all levels in doing what is in the best interests of our students,” she said.
For Taft, who also earned administrative certification from Sacred Heart University, special education is defined as specially designed instruction that meets the unique learning needs of students with disabilities and enables them to reach their full potential. Around 15 percent of students have special needs.
“Our enrollment for children with special needs has grown significantly over the past four years, as has the complexity of their needs,” said Taft. “These needs include, among other things, significant cognitive, physical and medical impairments. Danbury has done a really good job of offering bespoke programs to meet the needs of a range of disabilities and abilities. We have a continuum of services implemented in our most restrictive, self-contained programs for our least restrictive environment that serve students from the general educated population for most of their day. “
Taft said the role of educators since the 2020 pandemic has been to focus on student engagement, a particular challenge for students with special needs. Each school’s special education teams work together to solve problems and develop strategies that support student engagement and learning.
“Even though we’re back in full-time five days a week, we’re still putting students in an environment they haven’t been in for 18 months,” said Taft. “We care deeply about meeting the social and emotional needs of our students, and by stabilizing this component, students will become more engaged and more available to study. Our employees are committed to supporting this work, whereby the well-being of the students is always in the foreground. “