Special Ed Job Coach Mrs. Gail Landes retires

Landes+with+a+student+at+GreenWorks+Farm%2C+a+site+she+takes+students+to+as+a+job+coach.
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Special Ed Job Coach Mrs. Gail Landes retires

Landes with a student at GreenWorks Farm, a site she takes students to as a job coach.

Landes with a student at GreenWorks Farm, a site she takes students to as a job coach.

Submitted Photo

Landes with a student at GreenWorks Farm, a site she takes students to as a job coach.

Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

Landes with a student at GreenWorks Farm, a site she takes students to as a job coach.

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TOWAMENCIN- Educators are most often associated with teachers in classrooms encouraging and tutoring students. However, Gail Landes has inspired and helped students in a different way as a Special Education Job Coach, a career she will be retiring from this year.

Before coming to North Penn, Landes worked in Merck’s Research Drug Metabolism Dept. as an administrative assistant. After working there for 17 years and the birth of her third child in 1989, she left and stayed home for 13 years.

During her time at home, Landes volunteered a lot in the Souderton School District. When her daughter was a sixth grader, she was ready to go back to work but struggled with finding a right fit.  

“I knew that I was not going to go back to the corporate world.  I knew that I couldn’t handle sitting at a desk, dealing with the phone, all the FDA and medical journal deadlines and extra hours needed to get my work finished. As much as I loved my position, I needed to make a change for me and my family. One of my daughter’s teachers’ suggested that I apply to North Penn School District.”

Landes sent in a resume in July of 2002.  During an interview in September she was told of three openings: Penndale, the district’s alternative school and the high school Life Skills classroom.  

“I asked what Life Skills was because I had no clue what that was. And when she explained what it would be like, I said I would love that,” Landes remembered.

Life Skills is a class where students spend their days performing tasks connected with basic academic content areas while incorporating training of practical skills such as dressing, cooking, and housekeeping, among others.

The change from the world of research to the world of education was one that Landes welcomed with open arms.

“I thanked god every day that year for that job. I loved it so much. It was so different than working in research at Merck and the corporate world. It wasn’t a business, it was helping students to be educated and do the best that they can.”

Landes worked in Life Skills for eight years before being assigned as a special education post-twelve job coach.

“With this job, I’m assigned students from post-twelve, autistic support, and life skills class with varying abilities. The rewarding part about job coaching is when you see a student master tasks that seemed too difficult at first and for some students, doing the job at an employable level. I’m on a bus four times a day. The day can go really fast. I’m responsible for their output on the work and I also try to get to know the students and help them to improve their social skills. It’s important that we work together in harmony.”  

In the past, Landes job coached students in the school cafeteria teaching food prep, Living Branches Dock Woods personal care dining and their daycare center. This is her fourth year at GreenWorks Farm, where students work in a hydroponic setting plant seeds, transplant seedlings, pollinate tomatoes and harvest lettuce, basil and tomatoes and cleaning.  For the last nine school years, Landes has coached students at Care & Share Thrift Shoppes, Souderton. There are five different shoppes the students work in that include many different work tasks.

As she looks toward retirement, Landes is excited to embark on adventures and travel with her husband. Her husband and her are both cancer survivors which has had an effect on their lives today. Landes was diagnosed with the earliest stage of uterine cancer in 2007 and her husband was diagnosed with genetic prostate cancer in 2012.

“That was a big shake up. We were involved in a study at Fox Chase and also at Johns Hopkins three years prior and two years after his surgery. Every October, we would go for [my husband’s] checkups and then we would go to Fox Chase, and then the next day to Johns Hopkins and then we would take a few days and go somewhere to let it go. We’re one of the fortunate couples. It really changes things, it changes your daily life. But when you work full time, and you’re really busy you just plug on,” Landes recounted.

Although the fear of boredom is a common one for many entering retirement, for Landes, that’s not a worry.

“People ask what I’m going to do – I don’t have to worry about that. There are so many things I want to do. We’re gonna travel. My husband and I love the beautiful nature of this country and together have hiked over 30 national parks,” Landes said.

Although Landes will miss her coworkers, students, and career as a Life Skills Class assistant and Career, Work Study job coach, she is excited for what’s to come.

“I’m now ready for the next stage in my life,” declared Landes.

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