After 27 years of loyal service to Kalamazoo RESA, Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Administrator Dr. Carmen Jonaitis will retire on December 31, 2016.
Jonaitis's passion for improving the lives of students with special needs has driven her long success at KRESA, where she started out as a volunteer during high school.
Jonaitis began her college education at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and eventually went on to earn her master’s degree and doctorate from Western Michigan University.
Jonaitis realized her passion for teaching while she was living in Houston, Texas. “I was dreaming about the children that I had taught while I was volunteering and I just knew that I had to come back,” said Jonaitis. Shortly after, she decided to move back home to Michigan in order to pursue her degree.
At an early age, Jonaitis knew that she wanted to contribute to society in a meaningful way. She explained that while most young girls wanted to play with dolls, she desired notebooks and pencils.
Dr. Jonaitis’s devotion to special education, wasn’t recognized until a little later in life. While in grade school, she knew a young boy who was ridiculed for having a disability. She later learned that he had above-average intelligence and eventually went on to serve in public office.
To Jonaitis, the realization that a disability does not have to be debilitating, was a moment of personal enlightenment. “And Just like that, the seed was planted,” she said.
After volunteering at what was then Croyden Avenue School, Jonaitis went on to become a part-time aide while she was in college, before eventually becoming a full-time aide. From there, she became a special education teacher, and in 2014, she was named the ECSE program administrator.
While Jonaitis is looking forward to the free time of retirement, she expects to miss the first-hand experiences of the important work in ECSE.
“I will certainly miss seeing the growth of the children, the growth of the staff I’ve been able to work with, the growth of Kalamazoo RESA as an organization and in its programs, as well as personal growth opportunities I’ve had,” said Jonaitis.
When asked about her plans for retirement, Jonaitis said that she is looking forward to everyday being a snow day.
Thank you, Jonaitis, for the many wonderful years you've devoted to Kalamazoo RESA and those we serve. There is no way to measure the enormous impact you've had on so many!