Nancy Emanuel taught only briefly before becoming a Russian linguist for the U.S. Navy. So she was surprised when her children’s school offered her a position as a long-term substitute special needs teacher. The temporary position changed the trajectory of her career.
“I absolutely loved what I was doing,” she said. Today, Emanuel works as the first coordinator of special needs for the Diocese of Arlington.
For years, programs for students with special needs have cropped up in diocesan Catholic schools, starting with Paul VI Catholic High School’s Options program in 1999. However, in her new role, Emanuel works on the parish level to see that people with special needs receive religious education and the sacraments, and participate fully in the life of the church.
“I’d like to think of myself as the clearinghouse for anything having to do with people with disabilities,” she said. “We have the pieces, but right now they’re just scattered throughout different diocesan offices and programs.”