An Inclusive Special Education Program = Endless Possibilities
by Ally Von Ruden, Integrated Special Education Teacher, Southside Community Prep
When I tell people that I am a special education teacher, I get all sorts of questions and comments. The most common one is, “How do you do that? I give you so much credit; I could never do that. ”
The truth is: it does take patience. Every day. But I do it because the rewards are so great. Every day. Nothing beats the feeling of your students blasting beyond their goals. When I have challenging days or find my patience wearing thin, I think of my students and their many successes. Michael, a K5 (pre-K) student often comes to mind.
Michael did not come to Rocketship with a diagnosed learning disability or an IEP. However, we noticed a delay in many areas of his development and the team decided to evaluate for special education services. The results showed he was demonstrating delays in the areas of academics, social skills and speech and language.
Shortly after starting services with the speech and language team, a para professional and me, we started to notice huge gains for Michael. He was starting to talk spontaneously, starting to recall his colors and learning all of his letters and letter sounds – not to mention all of the Jolly Phonics hand movements. He was becoming more socially aware of his peers and how to interact appropriately. It was incredible. Moving into kindergarten in the fall of 2014, Michael was on his way to catching up to his peers, both academically and socially.
I recall a data day this past fall when I was preparing my new schedule and small group pairings. I was talking with my coach on what group to place Michael in. Do I put him in a guided reading group where he will be comfortable and probably do well, or do I push him a bit further and see what he can do? By the end of my 1:1 with my coach, we decided we were going to push him. We were going to provide enough scaffolding for him to be successful but then slowly take it away. We were setting that expectation high because we believed in him. Within a couple of weeks, Michael was independently reading a pattern book, copying sentences and making his own pattern book to take home. Since then, Michael continues to read books in our guided reading groups and does so very excitedly.
Another important component to the success of a student is the parent involvement. Michael’s mom, Judith, is a real partner in Michael’s education. In addition to taking home projects to help his teachers, she’s also in frequent communication with Michael’s team of teachers.
“I’m so happy to see Rocketship’s program working so well for my son. I’m so proud of all the achievements he’s made while at Rocketship. He’s grown so much! I’m excited to see him continue to grow even more in future years,” she recently told me (in Spanish).
Michael is just one success story of our great school. We have so many more, just like Michael, who have a desire to learn, who are making huge gains and who we at Rocketship are pushing to the next level because we know that all students can achieve greatness.
Rocketship is a great model of an inclusive school and the benefits it has for all of our students, with or without disabilities. At Rocketship, the possibilities are endless and I love that.
Allyson is a special education teacher, supporting K4-1st grade students at Rocketship Southside Community Prep in Milwaukee. Prior to joining Rocketship, Allyson taught reading and study skills courses at the university level. She attended UW-Oshkosh where Allyson earned a undergraduate degree in Human Services and a Masters in Early Childhood Special Education. When Allyson is not teaching, she’s eating great food and spending time with friends and family.
Published on April 1, 2015