LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Chantal Songo

Position: Special Education Teacher
School: P.S. 372 The Children's School
School District: New York City Department of Education, District 15
City, State: Brooklyn, NY

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Chantal Songo was nominated by her colleague, Ann Bay.

Ms. Songo is an exemplary teacher at P372K in Brooklyn. She makes such a positive difference in the lives of her students by showing such an excellence in her teaching. She is very well educated and well read, and she has been teaching children with autism for over 15 years in NYC. Ms. Songo will research resources through a colleague or a professor to aid her curriculum outline and develop her lessons. She'll modify this outline for her Middle School children with autism so they can better understand according to their cognitive level. She has a positive influence, and it is evident when she assesses the students and when they respond to her lessons.

Ms. Songo has developed a rapport with both her verbal and non-verbal students. She also has developed a good rapport with the parents, so in turn, that transition of learning from school to home is positive, with an open communication for the development of the child, whether it be toileting, behavior, or academics. She goes to great lengths for each child's growth. Ms. Songo tries to engage parents as partners within the learning process of their child's needs.

She is always supportive of finding ways to help students discover their hidden talents and to bring out the best in them. She taught the class how to write a poem and encouraged one of her students to write a poem. Ms. Songo spent hours rehearsing the lines with him, and he delivered it so eloquently on stage for the school's first Middle School graduation since its inception. He tackled insecurity through perseverance, and it showed when the audience clapped.

"Chantal also became aware that this child had artistic talent and relayed that to me," said Bay. "As the art teacher, I began to look, and I entered him in a contest where he drew with colored pencils and named it “Stinger Bumblebee Prime.” He won, and his drawing was shown at the Brooklyn Borough Arts Festival 2017 Visual Arts Exhibition. That was a great accomplishment for a child with autism."

Ms. Songo's leadership efforts are to nurture her students to best prepare them for the challenges they will be facing in their world. She demonstrates strength in her leadership by showing respect for her students to gain respect in return. She has a heart and deeply cares for her students. Ms. Songo has learned how to communicate with her students with autism who are non-verbal through PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). Her new leadership project is to rearranging the classroom with a model store so her students can learn “Life Skills." Her aim is to enable students to become more independent and be a leader in advocating for themselves by understanding money, how to buy food, what food to make a sandwich, etc.

Comments (14)

Helen Docket Posted over a year ago

Ms. Songo is significantly more than just a teacher. She has been a counselor and a friend. Ms. S has been so diligent in conducting ABA services for my daughter, Kennedy, who has Autism since she was 18mo. Ms. S worked so closely with her until she turned 3. Kennedy not only excels academically, she is also more confident and social because of the tools and goals that Ms. S put in place. She worked with me so that I may reinforce what Kennedy was learning at home. Ms. S is a wonderful person and I credit my daughter’s achievement to her. We are so appreciative of everything she had done for my family as a whole. She deserves all the praise in the world!

Rosa PL Posted over a year ago

There are those that come to work because they have to... and then there is Ms. Chantal! Teaching is a passion for this educator. She believes with every fiber of her being that each and every student before her has the potential to meet and exceed their goals. There is no such thing as, "I can't!" in Ms. Chantal's classroom. When I have had the pleasure of observing this teacher, I know that I will walk away edified by her design of instruction, her delivery of instruction and mostly her engagement and genuine interaction with students. Ms. Chantal knows her students and her students know her! There is no dog and pony show when you visit her classroom; what you see is what takes place each and every day. On the rare occasion when next steps or constructive feedback is suggested, Ms. Chantal is able to reflect on her practice and approach the instructional feedback with optimism and humility. She embodies the definition of Life Long Learner. This is a teacher/educator who checks her personal stuff at the door of the school and walks in with in intent and purpose for the day. From breakfast with students, to school productions to bus arrival and dismissal-she is on the go-serving students in her care. It is an honor, a pleasure to work alongside her and support this nomination.

Kianah Smith Posted over a year ago

It is with great honor to write on behalf of Chantal Songo. I met Chantal in the beginning of my career at The Children's School several years ago. As a substitute teacher, I spent my preparatory periods observing her teach. She welcomed me to learn best practices for children with Autism. Her teaching style has always been driven by her desire to develop their independence, functional communication and academic skills. Chantal’s passion is evident in her work ethic. Often times we the drive of senior teachers deteriorate over the course of their career. That has never been that case for Chantal, she gives her students one hundred and ten percent each year. She even eats with her students during her lunch break to work on their appropriate eating skills and table manners. I admire Chantal’s dedication and resilience, because these two qualities have positively impacted the growth of her students. Chantal will brainstorm, collaborate with colleagues and research to find new strategies for instruction. Her non-verbal, verbal and cognitively delayed students are held to high individualized standards. Chantal uses her visuals to manage behaviors and a combinations of visuals and real objects to bring concepts to life. The progress I’ve seen in her students over the years will forever change the trajectory of their lives. Many students that entered her class without being potty trained, speaking or reading exited her class demonstrating those skills. She establishes a strong partnership with families based on support and honesty. Chantal strongly believes that when families are on board they help their child to generalize skills in both settings, because the expectations remain the same. Chantal’s teaching career has changed lives in ways that may have seemed impossible for students with Autism. I support this nomination and I strongly believe that Chantal should be rewarded for her life changing contribution to education.

Connie Fruente Posted over a year ago

I have known Ms Chantal Songo for over 10 years and she sees no limits to what a student is capable of. She has gone out of the box plenty of times to try to get to a particular student that she is trying to help. She is the kind of teacher that most of us wish we had when were in school .I am very proud of her for this nomination and it is well deserved. Chantal is a caring and loving teacher with compassion She never gives up on her students She is a perfect candidate and is well deserving of this award.

Shari Zisman Posted over a year ago

Chantal Songo is an exceptional colleague and teacher to students of autism. I am the ENL teacher at The Children's School and have worked with Ms. Songo for over eight years. In this time, we have collaborated on lessons and projects that focus on theme based instruction with an emphasis on building literacy. Ms. Songo's creativity and desire to find motivational entry points for her students with autism is unique. Once she gets an idea, there is no stopping her. She will find the most brilliant and ingenious ways of presenting curricula and engaging students. She creates dramatic plays, role-play dialogs, writes original books and adapts books to work for her students. Most recently she established a "Target Store" in her class where students practice occupational and life skills. Her classroom provides a supportive and vibrant environment. She builds deep bonds with her students and with her colleagues. Ms. Songo is loved and respected by staff, administrators and students at our school. Ms. Songo is a leader in education for children on the autism spectrum and I am honored to support her nomination for Life Changer of the Year.

Subrina Alveranga Posted over a year ago

I've had the pleasure of working with Ms.Songo for 10 years. During that 10yr period I worked with her for 3 years as a Teacher Assistant. I admire her dedication, love and passion for the job she does. As an educator, Ms.Songo has touched so many lives in a positive way. In her eyes there is no limit to what a child can do. She is patient and understands that if there is consistency when working with her students they can accomplish way more than what we believe they can do. She works collaboratively with her colleagues and can be seen as a teacher leader for her expertise in literacy, classroom management and even behaviors. One thing I know for sure is when you've worked with Ms.Songo, you leave with a bit more knowledge and insight than when you first entered her classroom. I have witnessed so many students that she has worked closely with make progress in Reading, Writing and ADL skills. She has impacted so many lives and with that being said, I believe that she is an amazing candidate and should be recognized for her extraordinary hard work.

Alyssa Tyson Posted over a year ago

My name is Alyssa Tyson and I am a speech pathologist who has worked with Ms. S for 4 years at PS 372k. She is teacher who is fiercely dedicated to her students and providing them with the life skills and opportunities in and out of the classroom in order to succeed! She is a teacher who thinks out of the box on how to really connect the curriculum material to the level of understanding for each of her students. Ms. S is a role model not only to her colleagues but to her students as well. We have worked collaboratively throughout the years and I have learned so much from her. She is constantly researching learning opportunities to enhance her students education by entering the D75 social studies fair, the Women's History project, a trip to Gracie Mansion, and now the leadership project for her "Life Skills" unit. It has been a pleasure working with her and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with her in the future!

Cassandra Baptiste Posted over a year ago

It is an absolute honor to learn of Ms. Chantal Songo’s nomination for the Life Changer Award! Ms. Songo and I worked closely together over the course of two years. As the Instructional Coach at The Children’s School, I can provide a testimony to her heartfelt teaching practices, community building efforts, and work around advocacy for Special Education. As a founding member of the school’s program for Students with Autism, Ms. Songo has mentored countless staff to create initiatives that affirm the identities of children, particularly students of color, and from marginalized backgrounds. I am most proud to speak of Ms. Songo’s work with the annual District 75 Social Studies Fair. Alongside a team of dedicated teachers, parents, and other support staff, she implemented culturally responsive best practices for literacy and history. Her students offered a presenation where they taught other students of different abilities during the fair. Many of her students were non-verbal and so she created interactive activities and incorporated technology so that all students could participate. This is just one example that speaks to Ms. Songo’s ability to educate the hearts and minds of all students. Ms. Songo is a phenomenal organizer, leader, humanitarian and educator. Anyone who is fortunate to work with her, will find that she makes the world a much better place. She is truly deserving of this award!

Darren Greene-Wynter Posted over a year ago

A teacher like you deserves the highest reward in this world. You know exactly how to shape a tender mind full of positivity. As an educator, I always feel thankful for what you have done for our children! In every school, there should be one teacher like you. Our future generation will be better, wiser and smarter if they have teachers like you to guide them. Thank you for being a good mentor to these kids. Thank you for sharing your invaluable wisdom with these kids. It makes me happy knowing that their future is secured in the right hands. Thank you for the time you spend on them.

Afrora Qoku Posted over a year ago

I have worked with Ms. S for close to three years now and I cannot think of a person more worthy of receiving this nomination. Her work and dedication to her class, her colleagues, and parents of students (past and present) is tremendous. I have personally witnessed students in her class excel thanks to the hard work she puts in. I know of very few people that can wake up at 3am to prepare for their day and to make certain that her students will be challenged for growth. Only Ms. S can do so and continues to do so. She strives to make certain that her students learn all that they can and learn to apply their knowledge to the real world. She does all that she can to have her students become involved in programs, projects, and fairs, so that they may become exposed to all aspects of academia. Ms. S is creative, thoughtful, and always thinking outside of the box. Her most recent endeavor includes setting up a section of her classroom to mirror the store "Target," where her students can practice occupational skills. She constantly looks for the best of things for her students. Parents of past students are in touch with her and she willingly devotes her time, attention, and knowledge to them. She truly is one of a kind. She is the most deserving educator for the win of "LifeChanger of the Year," bravo Ms. S!

Marissa Aponte Posted over a year ago

My name is Marissa Aponte. I have known Ms. Songo since 2008. She is a model teacher. Ms Songo is wiling to work with any student. She is creative, nurturing and devoted. She is a leader, strong manager, works well with families, caregivers, administrators, students and her classroom staff. She also had a good relationship with related service providers. She is dedicated to her career and students, she is responsible and organized. I learned a lot from Ms. Songo, she played an active role in helping me in my early years of teaching. We planned and organized materials for instruction and assessment. She is knowledgeable about her career and discipline. I truly think Ms. Songo deserves this award.

Marissa Aponte Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Chantal for your wonderful nomination. You are truly devoted and dedicated to your work and students. You work your best with all students regardless of their level of communication and their behaviors. You are a team player and a role model. It’s a pleasure to work with you for 11 years. I look forward to working with you many more years. Ann thank you for taking time to nominate Ms Songo. I really enjoy the love, kindness, creativity and dedication you have with our students. You are patient, caring and nuturing. The work you do with them is amazing.

Hannah Hershman Posted over a year ago

I have worked with Ms. S for five years as a colleague at PS372. Her dedication and passion for teaching is truly inspiring - she is always striving to push the individuals in her class, challenging them to grow towards and achieve their goals. The progress in her students each year is apparent and amazing to see. She is the teacher that focuses on her stueents’ abilities, not their disabilities. Ms. S’s passion, compassion, creativity, patience, and dedication deserve to be acknowledged and awarded :)

Julie Posted over a year ago

My name is Julie Blumer. I have worked with Ms. Songo for 8 years at PS 372 as her colleague. She has demonstrated leadership, dedication, and commitment to her students, parents, and colleagues. Chantal is very compassionate and passionate about teaching. She holds high expectations of her students. As a way to teach her students, she participates in role-playing activities. She entered her students in the social studies fair. She has taught her students about Ruby Bridges. She provides her students with experience to assist them in meeting their full potential. As a Classroom Studio, she has been teaching studios " life skills" such as folding clothes, washing dishes. Her goal is to give students as much skills as possible to be independent and advocate for themselves. She is a school leader. She is Teacher Trainer in Thinking Maps. She trains the school with a few other colleagues on implementing thinking maps within the classroom. Thinking Maps are brainstormed ideas that the children create with the teacher using a multi-sensory approach to learning. Ms. Songo visits classrooms and provides constructive feedback to improve our practice and make learning fun.