Nicole Ford a dedicated NJSHA member and recognized leader has been a strong advocate for school related issues since joining NJSHA in 2009. Nicole earned an undergraduate degree from West Virginia University in 1999 with a degree in speech-language pathology and audiology, and a master’s degree from Seton Hall University in 2005. With a tremendous passion for teaching, Nicole also earned certificates from Montclair State University in both elementary education and educational administration.
Nicole has worked diligently to accomplish many goals throughout her career the most recent rising to a supervisory level in a large urban public school district in October 2022. Nicole works as a Supervisor of Related Services within the Office of Special Education. She worked as a SLP with the school district for 11 years, having provided direct services to children who exhibit a range of challenges associated with speech and language deficits, literacy and a range of issues associated with craniofacial disorders, dysphagia and medical fragility. In addition to her work in the public-school Nicole provides services per diem at a medical center, as well as offers early intervention services to clients. Prior being promoted to her current supervisory position she said her greatest accomplishments have been achieved through NJSHA. She considers the statewide organization to be her “foundation,” helping her grow personally and professionally since she first became an SLP.
Nicole has served as chair of the NJSHA School Affairs Committee from (2020-2022, 2016-2019) and vice chair in 2015. She has worked to advocate for students and school-based speech language pathologists through active engagement with both our membership and the NJ State Department of Education. She has resided on the Board of Directors since 2015 and was treasurer of the Political Action Committee from 2018-2021. Nicole also serves in an advisory role to Rutgers University. Nicole is excited and honored to be in the SLP profession, providing therapy, teaching a clinical fellow, answering NJSHA member questions, providing needed testimony and advocating for the profession through NJSHA as School Affairs Committee (SAC) Chair and as a Board of Directors member.
Why did you join NJSHA?
“I quickly realized the wealth of knowledge and vast resources NJSHA had to offer due to the work of its dedicated members. When I was first starting out, I realized this was an organization I needed to be a part of if I wanted to stay current in my field. It was also a reliable resource for all the questions I had as a new SLP. Little did I know there was so much more than continuing education that an SLP should know about. NJSHA introduced me to the world of advocacy not only for the clients and families served, but for the profession itself.
I personally feel it is everyone’s professional responsibility to remain current within the field. NJSHA is a great way to network – it’s fun, and has helped me to develop my career. I owe much of my success to the volunteers that make up NJSHA. Many have become life-long friends, as well.
Who is your “NJSHA Hero” and why?
“I have a NJSHA Superhero Bunch! That includes Sue Goldman, Robin Kanis, Mary Faella and Maria Rodriguez.”
Sue opened the NJSHA door and welcomed me in. For several years I traveled to her home to sit at the School Affairs Committee meetings in awe of the knowledge held by those sitting around her dining room table, Robin Kanis being one of them. I was like a sponge and just took it all in. Robin and Sue are the dynamic duo. Together they are just amazing with the knowledge they share, and their willingness to help teach, coach, and advocate is altruistic. The two of them have become NJSHA moms to me.
Mary Faella was my first SLP mentor out of school. Years later, we joined forces and became SAC chair and co-chair together. Mary was always a big advocate for her students and for the profession even before joining SAC. When I first started working, Mary gave me a Codebook, a highlighter and stickies; I should have known that was the beginning of something bigger.
Maria Rodriguez and I worked together and then reconnected again through NJSHA. She is now my partner in crime as we navigate through our careers in the schools, as chair and co-chair of SAC, and members of the Board of Directors.
My greatest NJSHA moments are the ones shared with all members. It’s just so nice to be able to pick up the phone and ask a question, discuss a topic, and share a resource with someone I can truly call a friend.”
What is the next challenge you would like to undertake, both professionally and with NJSHA? Why?
My next profession challenge is well underway, now that I am supervisor of related services in such a large public-school district. This was a proud accomplishment as many supervisors are not SLPs and often have a difficult time relating to and understanding the role of SLPs in the school setting.
Additionally, there are not a lot of SLPs in supervisory roles within school settings. One of my personal goals is to create a network of school-based supervisors so we can share ideas and resources. Within NJSHA’s Schools Affairs Committee (SAC), Maria Rodriguez and I are working together to bring in new members and build future leaders to keep NJSHA active and strong.
With the current outlook of the public-school setting and many SLPs retiring, it is imperative for SAC to educate and empower NJSHA members and new professionals to become leaders within their schools.
What is something surprising or unexpected you have learned through your work?
The relationships I have built throughout my career have truly been the most unexpected surprise. This includes NJSHA, work colleagues, clients and families. I’ve learned how to support other disciplines such as OT and PT, teaching has helped me to understand how to connect with them as an SLP to support students, NJSHA has taught me about advocacy, leadership, and the importance educating other professionals. Interactions with clients and families always remind me why I got into this field, not to mention many have also encouraged and help me to practice learning Spanish.
Our field is so vast; I knew there would always be more to learn. However, I didn’t quite understand how important it was to advocate and educate others to keep them abreast of all the changes that are occurring. One of the ways we keep the public updated is via social media. A post is written and posted every Saturday during the school year. The post is called “Saturdays with SAC.”
The unexpected part was uncovering all NJSHA has to offer. If there was one piece of advice I would offer to speech-language pathologists and audiologist out there, it would be to get involved. There are so many ways to open this door. Volunteer for a project, help out at a booth during convention, join a committee meeting, peruse the website and read some of the VOICE’S articles, submit an idea, talk to an active member. We are all very approachable! If nothing else you will gain a friend, isn’t that alone worth it?