A Voice for the Voiceless: students with disabilities thrive thanks to one TAHS teacher’s efforts

Mr. Zupon’s special education class is something everyone in the TAHS community should know about

Mr. Zupon’s Curriculum Based Instruction Students. (L-R) Jordan Bonsell, Hunter McGarvey, Ethan Naylor, Kara Weyandt, Amos Burkett, Brittney Scairrillo, Dustin Farabaugh, Mr. Joshua Zupon

Historically those with mental and physical disabilities have been discriminated against for their differences. Many of them have been unfairly conditioned to think that they cannot achieve their dreams.

Fortunately times have changed at Tyrone Area High School.  Thanks to the Curriculum Community Based Instruction model employed by TAHS and special education teacher Josh Zupon, these students are not scolded, but praised and developed.

Students in Zupon’s classes are often dealing with multiple disabilities ranging from autism to language and speech disabilities.  Years ago, some of the students in Zupon’s class probably would not have had the opportunity to attend public school at all.

Mr. Zupon is really kind and welcoming. I love having him as a teacher. I wouldn’t want anyone else teaching me!”

— Elijah Hartman

“The name of the program is Curriculum-Community Based Instruction,” said special education teacher Mr. Joshua Zupon, “the program is widely used across the state. We started using it around 2009 when I first started here.”

Community Based Instruction allows Zupon’s students to go out into the community and practice various real world social skills. These are everyday interactions that the majority of people take for granted like waiting in line or ordering food from a restaurant.

Zupon and his students often take educational field trips to places such as Sam’s Club or the Jaffa Shrine circus.  The teachers use these real world interactions to improve the student’s social skills, help them learn how to manage and budget money and also help them to explore future career opportunities.

“The best aspect of this program is that it allows the students to look into their futures, to prepare for life after they leave Tyrone High,” said Zupon.

“Kaitilyn is thriving in Mr. Zupon’s room,” said parent Melissa Kisamore, “Mr. Zupon has changed our daughter’s life and made such a positive impact on her, and all the students. He is always there for Kaitilyn and helping her to learn. She is improving each and every day. She loves school for the first time.”

According to Kisamore, their daughter is flourishing in the Curriculum Based Instructions classroom. She has learned money management and the proper skills to be prepared for everyday life. The trips have their daughter more independent and fully functional in everyday life.

“We have seen a ton of growth at home.  She has gained so much valuable information and skills this year,” said Kisamore.

This highly involved program is doing wonders for the students in the special education classes at TAHS, but does not speak enough volumes toward their teacher whom the students greatly admire.

Mr. Zupon has changed our daughter’s life and made such a positive impact on her, and all the students. He is always there for Kaitilyn and helping her learn. She is improving each and every day. She loves school for the first time”

— Parent Melissa Kisamore

“I like the program because it teaches us to work hard and do good for others,” said seventh grader Elijah Hartman, one of Mr. Zupon’s aspiring young students. “Now I know how cook and clean, which will help me later in life.”

Hartman and the other students in the class were unrelenting in their admiration for Zupon.

“Mr. Zupon is really kind and welcoming. I love having him as a teacher. I wouldn’t want anyone else teaching me!” added Hartman.

“I was the guy who always stood up for kids who got picked on in school, teaching and helping the children was something I felt I needed to do,” said Zupon. “I always saw myself as a voice for the voiceless, offering help to those who need it.”

Providing that voice is clearly not an easy task, but through people like Zupon and programs like Community Based Instruction the students can be heard.

And that’s something that every human being deserves – a voice.