#MNPSVoices: Tyler Lisowski, Community Based Transition Program Teacher

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Tyler Lisowski teaches for Metro Nashville Public Schools but not in a conventional classroom. Instead, he leads a class on Vanderbilt University’s campus in one of seven Community Based Transition Program locations. The Community Based Transition Program is for students ages 18-22 with varying levels of disabilities. They learn job and social skills, independent life skills and much more. These students are not sitting sedentary in their classrooms, they are working together on activities, taking field trips, doing exercises and working at job sites.

“We try to remain focused not on what they can’t do, but what they CAN do,” Lisowski said. “These students are punctual, motivated and have attention to detail. They have great skills to offer the community.”

The classroom is located in the heart of midtown, a hub for business. From 9 a.m. – noon, students are out working at places like Kroger, Panera, Holiday Inn and MNPS’ Wellness Center. While many of these positions are unpaid, they can lead to paid positions if the job is a good fit. One of Lisowski’s students recently spent time with the Panera team and submitted an application. The student has been recognized for her lightheartedness and work ethic by fellow coworkers.

“I am seeing people realize how they are valued members of the workforce,” Lisowski said. “I hope that we are changing perceptions about individuals with disabilities in the community.”

Lisowski moved to Nashville in 2010 from Maryland where he worked at Best Buddies, an organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since moving he also earned a master’s degree in special education from Lipscomb University. Recently, Lisowski’s dedication as an advocate for people with disabilities was recognized with Arc Tennessee’s Exemplary Education Award.

“It is an honor to receive this award. I think it shows that we are making a difference,” Lisowski said. “It has always been on my heart to serve people with disabilities and it means a lot to be recognized.”

His students focus a lot on career and independent life-readiness, but they also take time for light- hearted creativity and fun. Students are wrapping up the year writing a song with the help of Lisowski, a guitar player and teacher of music theory, during the summer months. Some song topics have been about having the “Find a Job Blues” or about inclusion—topics that could relate to anyone. More reminders of all that they can do.

“My students over the years have taught me so many things,” Lisowski said. “By watching them I learn patience, perseverance and so much more. It is inspiring to me to see how far they come during the year.”

If you are interested in helping the Community Based Transitions Program make more connections with the business community, reach out to Gerry.Alteri@mnps.org to find out how to partner with the program.