Shari Gelman – Founding Director Met Unmet Needs

From her first experience in a classroom as a substitute teacher, Shari Gelman recognized that students with disabilities and their families had very few options for education. That insight led her to take on the role of founding director of Ivymount School in 1961 and over the next 36 years, evolve the programs in response to needs.

“If there was a group that didn’t have their needs being met, that is where we could really be of service,” said Shari in describing Ivymount’s foundational philosophy. During her remarkable three-decade tenure, the school grew from one child, one teacher, and one therapist housed at Christ Church in Bethesda, Maryland, to five sites in the 1970s, and finally to the consolidation of all the classes at Ivymount’s current location in Rockville.

Shari developed an innovative program that eventually included interdisciplinary teams of special educators and therapists to meet the individual learning challenges of children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Although she led the school through its formative years, and built the foundation that remains in place today, she attributes the school’s success to the commitment and quality of the Ivymount team. “When you ask about the success of Ivymount, the answer always lies in the distinction of the staff – teachers, therapists, and administrators,” said Shari. “They do the hard work every day to create extraordinary results with patience, humor, dedication, and skill.”

Read more about Ivymount’s unique leadership history by viewing the Six Decades Timeline – Maintaining the Vision Through Leadership.

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