Wisniewski, Anne

April 1, 2004, midnight | By Pria Anand | 19 years, 8 months ago

Name: Anne Wisniewski
Title: User Support Specialist
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University. AI also had the
rather singular distinction of attending school with Bill Clinton.@
Years at Blair: 1989-1995. 2000-present.
Previous Jobs: Nurse at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Staff at Belt Middle
School, Julius West Middle School, Cresthaven Elementary.
Hobbies: Gardening. Computers. Sewing. A low-carb cookbook. Dogs.

A young man arrived at a naval hospital in Bethesda during the Vietnam War, comatose after driving a truck into a brick wall. His prognosis was grim: doctors had little hope of recovery. Enter Anne Wisniewski and her fellow nurses. They walked him up and down his ward everyday, two propelling his legs and a third supporting him from behind. After a year, he could walk and talk independently.

Wisniewski believes that their capacity to work together made all the difference. "It was an incredible sense of camaraderie," she says of the experience. "Nobody thought it would do any good, but they had the ambition and caring and they supported each other tremendously."

Wisniewski recalls deciding to become a nurse partially because of the limited career opportunities for women when she was growing up. "When I was a kid, you could either be a nurse or you could be a teacher," she recalls. "I always liked the teachers who were well-read, who had lots of different experiences to draw on. I just didn't think I was interesting enough to be a good teacher." Now a user support specialist at Blair, Wisniewski has garnered a multitude of experiences.

After ten years of working "only in the volunteer capacity" and a year of working with emotionally disturbed students at Cresthaven Elementary School, Wisniewski joined the staff of a program for mentally handicapped students during its final year at Belt Middle School. "In that year, I learned more about human nature than at any other time in my life," asserts Wisniewski. "Each and every one of them was different. I had a student who could read beautifully, who would read to the entire class; she didn't have a clue what she was reading. Then I had students who couldn't read at all, but they could understand what she was reading."

It was in this program that Wisniewski began working with computers. The computer programs used to reinforce lessons were not tailored to the specific needs of each student, so Wisniewski began rewriting the software to aid students on different levels. "We were using 'drill and practice programs.' If the students were working on spelling, the program would use a list of standard words. We would go in and change it so that each student would have a different combination of words, then let them save their work to their own disk," she explains.

When she first joined Blair, Wisniewski was part of the magnet department, working in the magnet computer science lab for six years before moving to Julius West Middle School. "It just wasn't Blair," says Wisniewski of her time at Julius West. When she returned to Blair in 2000 to continue working with the school's computers, Wisniewski decided to take advantage of the resources offered at Blair by starting a program to give away computers. The program began with thirty computers and basic user training for students in Blair's Special Alternative Reading Classes and has grown steadily since its conception. Wisniewski now hopes to be able to provide free internet service to recipients of the program.

"Anything you want, you can make it happen here. It's such a fertile ground," explains Wisniewski."Blair is the kind of place that just consumes you."

Pria Anand. Pria is a senior. She loves Silver Chips, movies and, most likely, you. More »

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