Mrs. Karen Hooper wins Governor’s Educational Services Professional of the Year Award

Recognizing her dedication to shaping students within the FLIP program to reach their full potential

Mya Collins, Assistant News Editor

Mrs. Karen Hooper was selected as the Education Specialist of the year on December 6 for her notable work as a paraprofessional within the Functional Life Skills Integrated Learning Program (FLIP). 

Beginning her career at RV in 2005, Hooper began working in the FLIP program a year after its establishment and quickly started running the Bru Crew Coffee Shop, an integral resource in the program for incorporating life skills into the learning environment. 

“The idea is to have the students come into our program and go out as functioning in life with as many skills as they can acquire while they’re here,” Hooper said. 

At the Bru Crew Coffee Shop, students learn valuable skills such as counting money, answering phone calls and even going out on deliveries. By applying these skills to a natural environment, students are better equipped for Community-Based Learning (CIB), which further allows them to grow as members of society. 

“Every afternoon the students leave the main campus…and then they get some kind of function life-skills instruction,” Director of Special Services Mrs. Scapalleto said. “Every Wednesday they go on that Community-Based Instruction, so they may go to Shop-Rite, they may go to Lowes…and again it goes back to taking those skills in that structured setting and working real-life skills in the setting of the classroom but then applying them to a natural environment.”

Throughout the coffee shop learning environment and CIB, Hooper supports the teachers in ensuring that students are reaching their full potential and receiving the instruction they need in and out of the classroom. 

 “Mrs. Hooper works specifically with Mrs. Bruchansky within the FLIP program, and I think I can easily speak for Mrs. Bruchansky when I say that Mrs. Hooper is like her right-hand man, she’s like an extension of her,” Scapalleto said. “She knows how to encourage students to step outside of their comfort zone, [and] she allows students the leverage to be able to take on responsibility within the [coffee] shop.”

As much as Hooper has been able to help her students grow and become better-equipped with life skills, she has learned a lot from her job and values the takeaways from working so closely within the FLIP program. 

“It’s really broadened my scope,” Hooper said. “Just seeing how other people learn [as] we all learn so differently…It’s been a learning experience [for me] from the get-go.

By nature, all 2,100 students are not exposed to the FLIP program or the staff members involved, so recognizing Hooper holds the utmost importance in spreading her remarkable work throughout RV.

“It’s important to know [that] Mrs. Hooper is such a huge part of the RV environment, and not many people realize that because she’s really just in this one area…,” Scapalleto said. “… [Since] Mrs. Hooper is the face of the Bru Crew, [she] has single-handedly opened up what the FLIP program is to the school, and that’s huge.”