Learn More About Our Academic & Learning Support Specialists

Positions still new at the School, the Academic & Learning Support Specialists Alison Ruff (Upper School) and Sydney Wicks '10 (Learning Village) help students and faculty with academic and curricular support. Hear from each of them below as they reflect on their first years in their respective roles.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me includes meetings with individual and groups of students, check-ins with teachers, and considerations of curriculum accessibility for all students. My focus with students is largely in the areas of executive functioning and student habits. We target organization, time management, goal setting, skill building, study skills, and self-advocacy. With a lens of Universal Design for Learning, I encourage students to know the goal of assignments so they may approach the content and demonstrate understandings in multiple ways. I also work with the Student Study Team to discuss formal and informal accommodations based on a student's learning profile.

SW: A typical day for me includes meeting and working with students, ranging from Kindergarten to eighth grade, and providing support in both the classroom setting and in small group or one-on-one sessions. I work with students towards specific academic goals, as well as in the area of executive functioning, focusing on skills such as time management, organization, study skills, and goal setting. Another major part of a typical day involves working and collaborating with faculty to develop support plans for specific students.

Q: What is your favorite part of being an academic and learning support specialist?
My favorite part of being an academic and learning support specialist is the close working relationships that I can develop with each student. Fortunately, in my role, I am able to work with any and all students in the Upper School. I enjoy talking through personal learning profiles with students so they may better understand their strengths and also the areas where they need to devote additional attention. Self-understanding will help them to advocate for what they need both inside and outside the classroom.

SW: My favorite part of being an academic and learning support specialist is being able to establish close connections with the students I work with. Being able to work with these students and provide them with support as they learn more about themselves as learners is such a gift.

Q: What kind of impact do you think you have had on the School community so far?
I believe my biggest impact thus far has been my connection with students. Knowing students well allows me to build trusting and supportive relationships with them. With trust, our conversations can be candid and also feel encouraging.

SW: In thinking of my time at St. Anne's-Belfield School so far, I believe my biggest impact has been in establishing close working relationships with students. These connections, which are built on trust and support, build a foundation which helps them feel comfortable pushing themselves to new limits, both in the classroom and beyond.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in years to come?
In years to come, I hope to continue working closely with faculty to ensure our learning environments are challenging and engaging for all learners. We recently created a Wellness and Learning Team to coordinate our social-emotional and academic learning in both the Upper School and Learning Village. Sydney and I collaborate to build a consistent program of support as students transition from one campus to the other. As a faculty, we see a need for more explicit instruction in executive functioning and student habits. At this time, we are considering how to reach all ninth grade students in partnership with the Life Skills program.

SW: Collaboration and consistency are two areas that I hope to continue developing in the years to come. In order to best meet the needs of all students in the Learning Village, whether they be academic or social-emotional needs, I plan on creating moments for conversation and collaboration with the faculty. I hope to continue finding ways to challenge all students, as well as support them as they begin the process of understanding themselves as learners. It is my hope that committees, such as the Wellness and Learning Team and SEL Team, create a space for collaboration which will allow for consistency in the supports that are provided to students, especially as they transition from the Learning Village to the Upper School.