As a moderate-severe disabilities teacher for an independent school district in a suburb of Louisville for 5 years, I focused my instruction on increasing the functional ability and independence of my students while still seeing academic growth in my students.
In my first year of teaching, we began by hosting a yard sale to raise funds to purchase a library of Hi-Lo books, because of a connection I made at the CEC Convention in St. Louis, we fully funded the classroom library, placing age-appropriate books in our classroom. In the second year, my students created the goal for the yard sale, their goal was to build a kitchen in the school for them. This yard sale raised over $5,000 and with the help of the Lowe's Heros Project we built a brand new kitchen and life skills classroom for our students. With the kitchen, we consistently prepared meals for staff, families, and friends and started a classroom business baking dog treats in collaboration with a local brewery. All of the money raised through our dog treats went to fund academic and functional materials for the students. The third year brought about the creation of a middle school peer tutoring class, where students without disabilities would join my classroom in during academic times. The program was hugely successful in developing social skills and academic abilities for my students. Creating friendships extending outside of my classroom and the school. Through the peer tutoring program, my students grew academically at a rate that I had not previously witnessed, because of the confidence they gained through working with their peers. In my fourth year of teaching, we noticed there was a major issue with our downtown area regarding accessibility for individuals with cognitive disabilities, as well as, those who are blind or visually impaired. Using problem-based learning the students developed a presentation for the City Council to propose the installation of talking crosswalks throughout the downtown area. The students created an excellent presentation that captured the attention of the city and the media around us. Because of this, the city began piloting taking crosswalks in the community and also built a sidewalk for us to use while walking to the local grocery store. Everything the students accomplished was with the help of local businesses and partners that saw the mission we had in our classroom of creating functional and independent students while still making academic growth, but most of all their success was due to their drive to be better and do better.
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