Lane McIntyre, Head of School
The Early Years...
I don’t really have any memories from before Oakwood was founded. It has basically always existed in my mind. The year was 1971, and I was six years old when my parents, Bob and Mary McIntyre, founded what we now know as Oakwood School.
They saw a need for a school to educate students who learn differently and who were being lost in the current educational environment. Families were being told their children ‘could not learn’ or ‘were not trying hard enough’. Oakwood was founded to change that.
This year we will celebrate 50 years of teaching students with learning differences to succeed in school and life. Where other schools have failed, we succeed. Every year we do what was once thought to be impossible.
Oakwood has always been a constant for me, my family, and its students. The mission of the school was ingrained in me during my early childhood and remains a part of me to this day. I am blessed to have a role in leading the school into the future. Oakwood gives so much to families and students that it must continue on into the next generation. I can’t really imagine a future world without Oakwood. And I don’t want to.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my brother, mother, and I driving around between the three rented campuses of what was then called Children’s Achievement Center (CAC). As a relatively new school, CAC was forced to take affordable space where they could find it. That often meant school took place in church basements and community rooms. Oftentimes, materials had to be packed up at the end of the day or the weekend to accommodate the other users of the space. Yes, logistics were challenging because we were managing three sites and sharing space, but the founders knew the work they were doing was changing the course of life for their students and their families.
While what seemed to me an endless process of shuttling and carrying materials from building to building, eventually developed into a way to keep track of inventory. It was during this time that I recall listening to a lot of chatter at each campus. Discussions regarding teachers, students, and materials dominate my early memories. Even today I can recall those familiar conversations with teachers about their families. What I fondly recall are those conversations that are always of interest to a child, conversations about their pets and other topics that I was interested in are still embedded in my memory.
Even today, many of those early names are as fresh to me as they were during the time when they were at Oakwood... some students, and a lot of staff. In fact, frankly the list of “Oakwood Trailblazers” is like a prodding of the memory cells of my brain, each one not only recognized but with some specific memories attached. Memories of a kind smile, a hearty laugh, or a helping hand. Not necessarily academic memories; but memories of their existence at Oakwood and the role they played in the Oakwood community.
As a child…
· I remember having rubber band wars with Dr. George Goldman (Oakwood psychologist). Dr. Goldman came to work everyday on a huge Harley Davidson. The motorcycle was impressive to me, but the man even more so.
· I remember sitting on a hot roof, in the heat of the summer, learning from Greg Shelton (Oakwood Program Director for 35 years) how to plumb a line and nail shingles on a roof. Hot, painstaking work except when done with the amazing Mr. Shelton who made even the most mundane task fun.
· I remember Barb Zukowski (Oakwood Academic Supervisor) picking spoiled lettuce out of my salad (several days old, of course) so I wouldn’t experience indigestion. Mrs. Zukowski, constantly in motion, had laser focus that made me feel like the most important person in the room.
While these are clearly not academic memories, they are my memories of the quality of human beings that have always worked at Oakwood. The quality people who have blazed the trail. These were great people with great hearts, and they genuinely wanted to help others including me, as a child, to grow and learn and succeed (and not get indigestion). It is that quality of character that has made Oakwood so special. It is that quality of character, found in our teachers and staff, that has enabled Oakwood to change lives for 50 years.
The “Oakwood Heart”
Those three Trailblazers, and many more amazing staff members were my earliest exposure to people with, what I now call, “the Oakwood Heart.”
The impression those adults made on me has carried into my adulthood. In my role as Head of School, I am tasked with continuing this great tradition of employing exceptional individuals. When hiring staff, I not only look at their educational qualifications, but I also seek out individuals with that “Oakwood Heart.” Individuals who care deeply for others and are committed to our mission of changing the lives of our students.
Very early on, I learned how quality people change lives. As an adult, I now see how quality people paired with educational expertise can change generations.
Please join us as we celebrate Oakwood’s 50th year. Follow us on social media, our website, and our monthly newsletter to stay informed of special events and recognitions happening all year long. Oakwood is a community and we want all of you to be a part of this special celebration
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