Meeting special needs through art

Pamela McLoughlin
Early in her career teaching special education, Beverly Levett Gerber once had an unusual mix of students; some had behavior problems, others developmental disabilities and some were gifted.
It was quite the challenge, but she knew how to achieve harmony.
“There were few things we could do together, but we could do the art work together at their rate and level,” Gerber said. “When you reach them at their level, they succeed.”
Gerber, a professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University who still teaches a course each semester, is a nationally recognized star in the fields of both art education and special education, most noted for combining the two seemingly divergent fields. Gerber taught at her alma mater, Southern, for 33 years before retiring from full-time work in 2003.
“Because of the uniqueness of the two fields coming together, I call myself a matchmaker,” Gerber, of Milford said with a twinkle in her eye.
Gerber’s commitment to the notion that art is a vehicle for special needs students to learn other subjects, to express themselves emotionally and show their level, has led to such groundbreaking progress in the field that colleagues from the National Art Education Association established The Beverly Levett Gerber Lifetime Achievement award to go each year to an outstanding art educator who works with special needs children.