215 Ferris Avenue, East Providence, RI 02916 | 401-432-9940

A Look Back At 25 Years!

From left to right: Lise Faulise, Rosy Granoff, and Maureen Kelly

After 25 years, you’re probably familiar with how The Wolf School began. After one family became determined to find the right educational fit for their son, soon an idea was born, and, in 1999, The Wolf School opened its doors. Those parents, Andy Wallerstein and Mary Sloane, saw their son, Otto, struggling and knew more could be done for him and other students like him. So they turned to 3 experts in their fields – Lise Faulise, Rosy Granoff, and Maureen Kelly to help make their dream a reality. As 3 of our Founders, we chatted with Lise, Rosy, and Maureen to look back at the past 25 years and get their hopes for the next 25.

1. Can you share the beginnings of how the Wolf School started? 

Lise: I had the distinct pleasure of working with Otto and the Wallerstein-Sloane family while he was at Gordon School. That is where Rosy and I worked closely together with Maureen, as the Early Childhood Head. As Otto’s family attempted to navigate the medical and educational world, they quickly realized that the existing programs did not offer what he needed. This left them wondering if creating a program for Otto was their best option. I recall Andy asking “If we create a school for Otto, would more children benefit from this type of program?”. The answer was a resounding “Yes!”.

Rosy: I recall getting a call from Carol Frankenberger, a well-established psychoeducator from Connecticut and she introduced me to Otto and his parents. Carol recommended that Otto participate in a Language Evaluation to further assess his skills and challenges as related to academic expectations. I was working at Gordon School at the time, working closely with Maureen, and then I was introduced to Lise. After all evaluations were completed we chatted with Mary and Andy about how we could collectively help Otto at school. After providing individual therapeutic interventions at school, we all met as a team, whereby we discussed how to best design an educational plan. From that discussion, Mary and Andy questioned whether Lise and I had other students like Otto on our respective caseloads and then they proposed starting a school to serve capable students who needed a different kind of educational environment. It was exhilarating to work with Maureen and Lise to design an educational model that addressed social, emotional, and academic skills through a therapeutically guided curriculum and for Mary and Andy to help facilitate it.

Maureen Kelly (Left) with founding parent, Mary Sloane (Right)

Maureen:  I met Andy and Mary when they enrolled Otto in our Early Childhood program at the Gordon School.  We quickly realized that our work was going to be to untangle Otto’s needs and provide him with the support he needed.  Andy and Mary and Otto’s teachers met often as we tried to navigate what kinds of support Otto needed.  He presented as a very complex learner and we all knew that underneath all those challenges he had so much hidden potential.  As we built a support team around Otto, we began our work with Rosy Granoff to focus on his expressive and receptive language needs and Lise Faulise to focus on Otto’s sensory and motor planning needs.  To this day I believe that Otto had the best professional team possible as our partnership with Rosy and Lise benefitted from their exceptional expertise.  

Even with all the support Otto had been receiving he was challenged by navigating this school environment.  As a team and prompted by Andy and Mary’s willingness to do whatever it would take to create a learning environment that Otto could succeed in, we took on the challenge of creating a different kind of school environment and we knew that other children needed the same kind of learning environment that we envisioned.  Our vision was to have Otto’s learning challenges guide us in developing this special school for complex learning and through this process the Wolf School Immersion Model© was created.

2. What do you remember most about those first few years?

Lise (pictured right) in the early years

Lise: I remember the incredible energy and excitement of starting something that you knew would eventually be life-changing. The conceptual model of intensifying the sensory integrative treatment delivery was utilized in my esteemed colleague, Pat Wilbarger’s Camp Avanti and in occupational therapy clinics across the country, but never in a school. One of our first programs was The Move to Learn (PE) program which was timed specifically before curricular activities to prepare students’ nervous systems “for optimal arousal/focus”.  It was also a lot of hard work, but with a visionary Founding Board, the Immersion Model© was created.  We were developing something that was so highly individualized, yet also held fidelity to a model of intervention that needed to be replicated by other team members. Training, developing, testing, and “living” the Immersion Model© was what I remember the most. I also recall being so surprised and humbled by the incredible support from the community, at so many levels.

Rosy (Left Center) and Lise (Back Right) during the early years of Wolf

Rosy: We were so energized to meet at least weekly for dinner planning meetings to flesh out how to develop a school for children who learn differently. We worked tirelessly to design the administrative, academic, and day-to-day model for the school, deciding whether it would be better as a Charter School or a Private School. With the amazing financial support of a few community members and terrific advisors from other educational institutions and many community doctors and therapists, we began to form the Immersion Model©, which was the greatest accomplishment. This embraced all aspects of learning without pulling students out of the classrooms. It was a natural learning environment that invisibly blended the therapies into the academic goals and it was both unique as well as efficient for an individual learning plan, while meeting the academic standards and requirements of the DOE in RI and then MA. Those early years yielded success with the handful of students while we continuously modified schedules, and added gym, swimming, and use of the outside space to our daily program at the JCC of RI. We eventually outgrew the space, slowly adding one classroom a year, and then landed at 215 Ferris Avenue, our home for the future.  

Maureen:  I do not think I could add any more to the reflections that Lise and Rosy provided.  We were energized, passionate, driven, and committed to making this happen for Otto and all the children we knew who were struggling in the same ways that Otto did.

3. Do you have a favorite memory or a favorite tradition from Wolf?

Lise: There are so many! Graduation and the 8th-grade movie might be my favorite in addition to the art show. They are definitely in the top 10! 

Rosy: The tradition of weekly community meetings and students becoming comfortable sharing with the whole school community was a highlight, which included, art, science, class projects, or newly learned musical pieces. These exemplified all different kinds of learners. Other favorite traditions such as Founders’ Day, recognizing staff and community members; closing ceremony, and graduation were also fabulous!

Maureen:  There are so many great Wolf School moments but I have to say I love graduation.  It just highlights the impact of the Wolf School has had on the students.  It showcases how far the students have come and all the potential that their future holds.  

I also love just walking into the school and feeling this sense of calmness and joyfulness and watching children being engaged with their classmates and teachers.  You just feel the love and respect for each other.

4. As 3 of the Founders of Wolf, what has made you the most proud over the past 25 years?

From left to right: Maureen Kelly, Rosy Granoff, and Lise Faulise

Lise: I think the Wolf School’s ability to change the trajectory of so many students/family’s lives is what I am most proud of. Many other aspects of the Immersion Model© that I am proud of include seeing the direct impact that therapeutic practices can have on a student’s growth academically, physically, and emotionally. And, to be a part of the professional growth of so many therapists and teachers over the years is also a wonderful gift.

Rosy: Watching the school grow exponentially and developing a national reputation through presentations and awards has been fabulous. Our legacy is that we are changing families’ lives, educating faculty in many areas, guiding children’s trajectories to reach their potential, and knowing that our work has tremendous merit. It has been the most wonderful part of my very long career.  

Maureen: I think watching the school grow and prosper in every way.  It is hard to imagine that it has been 25 years since it started as 1 classroom to where it is today.  To know that this school has impacted so many children and their families over the years is what I am most proud of.  I echo what Lise and Rosy have written in their reflections.  

5. Now in our 25th year, what does it feel like for you to look back at how much Wolf has grown?

Lise: This was a dream come true! It feels incredibly fulfilling and humbling to be a part of something so life-changing. I feel so grateful to all of the people who have been a part of our growth along this amazing journey!

Rosy: So much of our initial thoughts and plans have been actualized. I think about how fortunate we were to participate in this special project with an incredible founding team. How lucky we are to observe Wolf grow into this important and wonderful school. It has been a great joy and professionally very fulfilling.

Maureen: This truly is a dream come true.  We had the opportunity to meet so many professionals who supported us and our vision while offering us advice and expertise along the way.  I will be forever grateful to work closely with such amazing people who helped make this dream a reality.

6. What do you hope for the next 25 years?

Lise: I hope that the Wolf School continues to grow and remain a leader in the special education community, influencing the direction of special education service delivery and student outcomes across New England and beyond!

Rosy: I wish that the next twenty-five years continue to yield more and more students who excel at learning differently and then they, in turn, can maximize their potential in whatever they pursue.

Maureen:  I hope that the Wolf School continues to be on the leading edge for a learning environment where Complex Learners can be successful academically and socially.  I think the Wolf School continues to be a hidden gem and I hope during the next 25 years we can become a beacon of hope for special education programs around the country.

I am also hopeful that the Wolf School building will flourish and that the school spaces will represent what our students deserve.

Without the vision and hard work of our Founders – Andy Wallerstein, Mary Sloane, Lise Faulise, Rosy Granoff, and Maureen Kelly – the Wolf School not only wouldn’t have opened its doors in 1999 but none of us would be here celebrating 25 years of success and growth!

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