Lifetime Special Ed Advocate Bids Farewell to Falls Church

Over 100 guests showed up last Sunday, among them the who’s who of Falls Church, to celebrate the 45-year career of Annette Spector, who announced her retirement as executive director of the Falls Church-based Diagnostic and Educational Resources, Inc.mug-shot

Over 100 guests showed up last Sunday, among them the who’s who of Falls Church, to celebrate the 45-year career of Annette Spector, who announced her retirement as executive director of the Falls Church-based Diagnostic and Educational Resources, Inc.


(Photo: News-Press)

Spector’s fete featured appearances from such city notables as Lou Olom, who brought the International Baccalaureate program to the Falls Church City school system.

But the highlight for Spector was an unannounced visit from her and her husband Steve’s two daughters, Jamie and her younger sibling Allison. The daughters live in San Francisco, where Annette and Steven intend to move later this summer or early fall.

Steve is a former Falls Church School Board member who works in retirement as the property manager at the Spectrum building on West Broad.

In an interview with the News-Press, Annette Spector shared her journey as a young, Brooklyn-born educator, and the eventual move to Northern Virginia that began her 35-year history with the city, and the advancement of its special education needs and services.

Since 1985, Spector has operated Diagnostic and Educational Resources (DER), an educational services company which has provided for a wide range of diagnostic testing, consultations and tutoring needs.

Spector, who began her career in elementary education before focusing on special education, said her “passion is in working directly with the children” who need the extra help to succeed.

“We need to catch the kids before they fail,” she explained.



(Photo: News-Press)

Over the years, the DER has evolved from a company that, after a merger with area giant Traveling Tutors, had employed around 200 tutors, to its current size, with Spector tutoring children one-on-one. As of 2000, Spector parted ways with Traveling Tutors, and continued with her private practice

Additionally, there is the ongoing graduate test prep courses provided by DER instructors at locations such as Virginia Tech’s Falls Church branch.

Spector has worked with children suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder, dyslexia and other learning problems. Her calling may have “been due in part” to her husband, Steve, she said.

When the couple contemplated marriage in the early 1960s, Annette encouraged Steve, who has severe dyslexia, to pursue a college career. Steve, a D.C. Metro native who met Annette in New York, would go on to graduate from George Washington University’s law school, and work in public policy, becoming the director of public policy at the national organization, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Annette Spector said she feels “fantastic about the move” to San Francisco, where she and her husband will be closer to their daughters, and some recent additions to the family. Daughter Allison has a nine-month old child, and Jamie is expecting sometime in December.

The Spectors will leave behind a lifetime of special education advocacy, with particular efforts here in Falls Church.

“I’ve learned so much from them,” Annette said about tutoring special education students. “They’re facing these problems, and need positive encouragement.

“I can’t see myself stopping.”

She said she “plans on doing exactly what I do now, but part-time” in San Francisco, reserving time to care for her grandchildren.

The Spectors, who are also celebrating their 45th anniversary, said they would miss the convenience of living in Falls Church, with its easy access to city and country.

“It’s only a 15-minute drive into the city, and then you have whatever you need right here in Falls Church,” Annette quipped.

Steve added, “Falls Church gives us the best of both options. You have access to the music and cultural scene in Washington, and you can drive the other way and be in the country.”

Now the Spectors’ main concern is “finding a new pool and fitness gym,” Annette said, laughing.

Their involvement in the fabric of the Falls Church community has run deeper than the couple’s professional lives. Annette served on the special education advocacy committee for 17 years, chairing it for about eight years.

She also worked with the PTA, functioning as its president for a time, and at the publishing center. Both daughters were products of the Falls Church public school system.

“Anyone who wants to get involved in their community, in Falls Church, can,” said Steve. “The community is always looking for people to serve on committees and work in the community.”

In the wake of her move, Spector has referred clients to other Falls Church area educational services, like Dr. Ralph Perrino’s Northern Virginia Tutoring Service and retired special education teacher Chris DeRosa’s “Take Wing!” enterprise, located on Park Avenue.

“Private tutoring is needed more than ever,” Spector noted. “The kids need individual attention.”