We have a true passion
for fostering kindness & empathy.
LARAINE GAUNT, CREATOR & DIRECTOR, IT'S OK TO BE DIFFERENT
Laraine Gaunt, a special education teacher for over 30 years, has taught at the Katzenbach School for the Deaf in Trenton, NJ, in the Speech and Hearing Department at Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, NJ, at Navesink Elementary School in Middletown, NJ and at Tower Hill School in Red Bank, NJ.
Mrs. Gaunt first developed It's OK to be Different to help students respect individual differences - specifically disabilities. Understanding Disabilities was the first unit of the program introduced in Fair Haven, NJ schools in 1979 to promote awareness and appreciation for people with disabilities with a focus on what they CAN do and how they have adapted to their unique challenges. Understanding Disabilities was also introduced in Middletown Township public schools in 1987.
In 1992, Mrs. Gaunt added another unit to the It's OK to be Different program: Celebrating Cultures, which was introduced in Navesink School in Middletown, NJ and explores racial and ethnic differences that are common within our society.
In 1997, the program expanded further with the addition of Courage To Care, which was written and implemented in Navesink School funded by Mrs. Gaunt's award of the prestigious Christa McAuliffe Fellowship. The unit gives students the skills to stand up to peer pressure and discrimination by exploring events in history that depict the struggle for human rights.
In 2005, Building Friendships: Be a Buddy, Not a Bully was written and implemented at Tower Hill School in Red Bank, NJ to promote respect for individuals and to encourage inclusiveness. In 2007, Monmouth Day Care Center in Red Bank, NJ also adopted Be A Buddy.
In 2015, all four It's OK to be Different units were implemented at Sickles School in Fair Haven, NJ where the program first began. The program has since been gaining widespread recognition throughout NJ and Mrs. Gaunt hopes to bring the program statewide and hopefully grow a national following.
Mrs. Gaunt has also been awarded the New Jersey A+ Disseminator Grant, The Axelrod Award presented by the New Jersey Education Department, Holocaust Commission and the Anti-Defamation League and has appeared on MSNBC's Racial Divide, serving on a panel with Harvard educator Cornel West and Senator Bill Bradley.
Presently, Mrs. Gaunt is delivering workshops, training parents and educators and assisting schools in the implementation of It's OK to be Different.
View Mrs. Gaunt's Photo Gallery: Click HERE
It's OK to be Different Team group photo, pictured from left to right:
*Adrienne Hoban, Media Consultant
Adrienne Hoban is a former Board President who helped Mrs. Gaunt administer the It's OK to be Different program when her children attended Tower Hill School in Red Bank, NJ. Adrienne has 10+ years of experience in public relations. Career highlights include serving as the personal publicist for legendary author Helen Gurley Brown during her retirement as Editor In Chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and later as Manager, Corporate Communications for Conde Nast Publications.
*Laraine Gaunt, Creator & Director (full bio listed above)
Suzanne Duffy & Suzanne Butler, former It's OK to be Different Parent Program Co-Chairs at Sickles School in Fair Haven, NJ.
*Suzanne Duffy, Editor/Graphic Designer, It's OK to be Different Curriculum
Suzanne Duffy has 10+ years experience in public relations, marketing, branding and design. She has also served as Board President at Tower Hill School as well as on numerous boards and committees.
*Suzanne Butler, Marketing/Business Development
Suzanne Butler has 15+ years experience in human resource management supporting sales and marketing clients. She has also served on the executive boards of both Tower Hill School and the Fair Haven PTA.
+ Meet our newest team member:
*Amy Eklof, Education Consultant & It's OK to be Different Program Instructor
Amy Eklof devoted 12+ years to promoting individual student growth in a motivational, responsive, and nurturing environment while encouraging essential partnerships with parents and the community. Highlights included being named Teacher of the Year, Leadership on the Intervention and Referral Services Team as well as Character Counts committee, mentoring new teachers, implementing new technology, and teaching through the Inclusion Model to support multiple learning needs including Autism. After a happy 7 year professional detour—motherhood—where she expanded her capacity to adapt instruction and write education grants, she has returned to teaching It’s OK to be Different at the preschool level and consults with us from this perspective.
JOIN OUR TEAM:
Bring It's OK to be Different to YOUR school!
Please indicate the specific unit(s) you are interested in learning more about via the provided email form and a member of our team will reach out to you.