May 28, 2020
Record 45 Nominations in 2019

EP Special Needs EPLAC Awards

11th Annual EPLAC Recognition


The East Providence Local Advisory Committee (EPLAC) for Special Education held its 11th annual Special Needs Recognition Program Reception on Thursday night, May 2, 2019. An overflow crowd filled the cafeteria at E.R. Martin Middle School and was treated to snacks, hors d'oeuvres and pastries provided by the culinary arts program at the high school Career Center student chefs. Several PTA/PTO groups helped to fund the purchase of award plaques and other event costs.

EPLAC is a group comprised of parents of children with disabilities along with administrators, teachers and others with a concern for our children. The committee meets throughout the school year to share information and concerns of educational issues. "Our committee’s goals are: To enable parents of special education children to be effective in their advocacy efforts; to jointly advocate for all children with special needs; to aid the East Providence School Department in its efforts to provide quality education for all students and to provide each other with a strong network of support," explains the group's mission statement.

The 2019 EPLAC leadership team spokespersons, Rae-Anne Culp and Liza Richardson welcomed the audience which included Superintendent of Schools, Kathryn Crowley, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Forand and Director of Pupil Personnel, Julian "Bud" MacDonnell. School Committee members Jessica Beauchaine, Anthony Ferreira and Joel Monteiro attended as did City Councilman-at-Large, Robert Rodericks.

"In my four years here, I think this is the biggest crowd I've seen at this event," said Superintendent Crowley in her welcoming remarks. I am proud of everyone here, enjoy your evening, you deserve this," she added. Director MacDonnell also wished the group well. "This is the most active advisory group in Rhode Island. You are the only advisory group in the state to host such an event," said MacDonnell. "Everyone talks about Townie Pride all the time. This epitomizes that pride, especially for our special needs students and families," he said. "I'm not a Townie but I certainly feel it, this truly speaks about Townie Pride," MacDonnell added.

"We had over 45 nominations this year of people who go above and beyond to help our students and families," said Rae-Anne Culp. "Other school districts should be jealous of East Providence," Culp said as the crowd applauded in approval.

"Tonight we recognize outstanding programs and staff for our students, especially those in inclusion," added Liza Richardson. "This award is designed to identify those individuals or programs that are providing consistently outstanding services for Special Education students. Through your hard work and dedication, students are provided with opportunities that promote self-determination, interdependence and meaningful learning."

Talking with The Reporter before the program began, an event organizer Christine Lilly was also pleased with the growing support for the program. "It has gotten so strong that we now have more nominations for awards than we can recognize. It is very important to so many people."

The award categories were divided into the following groups: Educators/staff, Programs/Models, Community Resource and students. Individual school staff as well as parents could nominate candidates. Amanda Fournier introduced both award recipients and their sponsors. Here are the award winners and condensed excerpts of the nominees reasons for their candidates:


Jayden Delgado, Martin Middle School, Student
Abbygail Pacheco, Whiteknact, Student
Ava Torngrin, Hennessey, Student
Vanessa Swanson, Whiteknact, Student
Corporal Tammy David, Riverside Middle School, Community Resource
Maribeth Finn, EPHS Educator, Support Staff
Dalila Raposo, EPHS, Educator/Support Staff
Allie Costa, Francis Schoo, lEducator/Support Staff
Melissa Leite, Francis Schoo, lEducator/Support Staff
Carla Midgley, Hennessey, Educator/Support Staff
Tina Shaw, Kent Heights, Educator/Support Staff
Mia Millea Martin Middle School, Educator/Support Staff
Michelle Babbitt, Oldham, Educator/Support Staff
Stephanie Munro, Oldham, Educator/Support Staff
Sonia Aguiar, Orlo Avenue, Educator/Support Staff
Lacy Rego, Ginny Keneally, PreK @Martin, Educator/Support Staff
Jeanne Ouellette & Lois Boyd, Riverside Middle School, Educator/Support Staff
Katie Grifka, Riverside Middle School, Educator/Support Staff
Amanda Hope, Silver Spring, Educator/Support Staff
Greg McCarthy, Whiteknact, Educator/Support Staff
Laurie Marchand, Whiteknact, Educator/Support Staff
Amanda Batista, Whiteknact, Educator/Support Staff
Partner Program EPHSEP HS Program: Savannah Feola, Ellen Phillips, Christina-Marie Capobianco, Sarah Vargas, Kylie Barhy, Jasmine Dosantos, Lily Palumbo, Ajsha'e Edwards-Correira and Christina Rebello.
Orlo Avenue Full Inclusion Orlo Avenue Program

The recipients:
Jayden Delgado, a student:
Nominated by Sharon Kochan, Susan Feiro-Rodriquez and Patricia Garganta. "To quote Winnie the Pooh, "a friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the best things you can be," said Kochan. "When you see the two of them together (friend PJ) on the court during Unified Basketball here at Martin, it's Jayden's choice to be there as PJ's buddy. They work together, they trust each other, they like each other. Where other boys might feel embarrassed because PJ wants to hold hands during the game, Jayden doesn't shy away from it. He's there with a gentle hand on his back to guide him, speaking words of encouragement as PJ dribbles the ball down the court and celebrates with a Hl-5 and their own special handshake when he shoots a basket." It truly brought tears to our eyes. But what really brought tears to our eyes was one day we had a writing activity that we had asked the students to complete. It asked them to discuss someone who was really important in their lives. Jayden decided to write about PJ. Jayden had stated that PJ was his best friend and the only person that truly understood him," added Feiro-Rodriquez and Garganta.

Corporal Tammy David, a Resource Officer at Riverside Middle school:
Nominated by Principal Robert Perry. "She plays a vital role in maintaining the safety of our school. Equally as important, Officer Tammy serves as an important resource for our school community. She engages with students and parents regularly, addressing issues of safety and the health of our kids. She is friendly and approachable and her nearly ten years of service to the kids of Riverside has made her an invaluable member of our staff. When It comes to working with kids with special needs, no one is more empathetic and supportive than Officer Tammy," said Perry in his nomination.

Amanda Hope, an Occupational Therapist at Silver Spring School:
Nominated by Jennifer Malafronte. Amanda has been the Occupational Therapist at Silver Spring School for five years. "She has impressed our staff and been an integral part of our students' success since day one. Amanda is an extremely well-rounded individual who brings a vast array of talents to our diverse school community. In addition to working with students in small groups and classroom settings, she was a lacrosse coach for some of our female students through a community program. She balances her career and home seamlessly. Amanda is a wife and mother of three young children and is extremely active in their school and extra-curricular activities," writes Jennifer Malafronte in her nomination of Hope.

Greg MacCarthy and Laurie Marchand of Whiteknact School.
Nominated by Kelly Braga and Sarah Marion. "In September, Laurie Marchand and Greg Mccarthy took over Whiteknact's administration and brought what feels like an entirely new dynamic to the school! We have been a Whiteknact family for almost three years now and I can honestly say that the school seems far more inviting (read INCLUSIVE), teacher and staff morale seems higher, and all of the students appear to be happier with them as their leaders. With Laurie and Greg as the administrators at Whiteknact, I believe that students with special needs are being appreciated for who they are and their inclusion is finally being considered a priority," said Braga.

Orlo Avenue Full Inclusion program.
Nominated by Orlo Principal Yanaiza Gallant. "When you walk through the doors of Orlo Avenue Elementary, you will quickly notice that there is a shared mindset of accepting, inclusivity, and encouraging differences. We believe in all of our students and know that true teaching has to do with meeting students where they are. I nominated the Orlo staff that embraces Full Inclusion. Thank you for being true child advocates and for understanding the power in believing that children can. Thank you for having a growth mindset and never giving up. I am always inspired by their dedication and commitment," said Gallant.

Partner Program @ EPHS. Savannah Feola, Ellen Phillips, Christina-Marie Capobianco, Sarah Vargas, Kylie Barhy, Jasmine Dosantos, Lily Palumbo, Ajsha'e Edwards-Correira and Christina Rebello.
Nominated by Kristin Carreiro. "Students in the partners program go above and beyond to provide students with severe and profound abilities access to an inclusive education experience. There are so many amazing partners that it would be hard to nominate just one, they all deserve recognition. Students participate in a reverse Inclusion program where they join the life skills program to work with students on functional academics, behavior management, appropriate social Interactions and most importantly meaningful friendship. The students have to be selected to participate, pass administration approval and be interviewed. Students are not required to join us on community outings such as swim/luncheons/bowling, but many go above and beyond to join us such as Savannah Feola, Ellen Phillips, Christina Capobianco and Ajsha Edward-Correia. I was also equally impressed with the partner participating in a sweet 16 party for a student over February vacation. Ellen Philips, Christiana Rebello, Kylie Barhy, Jasmine Dossantos andSara Vargas all spent Saturday evening of February vacation dancing the night away with one very special newly 16-year-old and it made all the difference in the world to him as well as his family to have their support that evening. The above-mentioned students, along with many others this year and years passed, have made an impact on the student s, families and staff alike in the life Skills program and should be recognized for their hard work and dedication they show on a daily basis," writes Carreiro in her nomination of the group.

Allie Costa, educator at Francis School.
Nominated by Gina Mercer. "Allie Costa has been a teacher for my son, Nicholas Sullivan, who is dual diagnosed with physical and intellectual/behavioral issues for the past 2 school years. My son has a variety of extra needs. Allie has helped my family navigate the system to address the resources needed to help my son {which has helped us as well be able to better handle his needs). We are very grateful for her 'out of the box' thinking and her outstanding creative ways to help my son reach his goals daily and long term. Allie Costa has found a way to connect with my son in order for him to engage in his work assignments and stay focused enough to complete them. Allie Costa is a great example of patience and love for her work which definitely shows In all she does for my son. We are very thankful for her!" wrote Mercer.

Carla Midgley, teacher Hennessey.
Nominated by Noele Hosley. "I would like to nominate Mrs. Carla Midgley for being the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Historically it was difficult for my son to adjust to daycare and Pre-k. On his first day of Kindergarten I sat by the phone nervously awaiting a call that it wasn't going well. To my surprise the phone never rang. Having been in Mrs. Midgley's class my son is at a place where he is thriving emotionally, socially, and academically. He believes In himself and I owe that to the respect and mutual affection Mrs. Midgley shares with him and all the students in her class. The first time I saw her interact with my son I immediately noticed a difference In him. I thought to myself who is this woman ? Can she show me what she knows? She has a way about her that soothes his emotions, pushes him to try as hard as he can while commanding the respect that she deserves. Her communication is excellent as it promotes my involvement to enable my son to be the best he can be. She does a very great Job with sharing both lows and highs. For the first time there are many more highs," said Hosley.

Maribeth Finn, EPHS.
Nominated by Carolyn Sanders, Diane Bedrosian. Erin Rupert, Karen Marotto, Debi Cordeiro. "Over the past thirteen years she has gone above and beyond her duties as a Special Educator. Programs at the high school have changed over the years, and she has adapted to the changes seamlessly. From self-contained to resource to a new skills program she has always put the students first and has done an exceptional job meeting their needs. Maribeth currently teaches English and Social studies to the "skills" group at the high school. These students are in dire need of differentiated instruction and their needs are not met in the regular classroom. Maribeth makes the effort to address all learning styles while traveling to different rooms in the building to teach. Maribeth strives to make content relative to what is important In the real world to each and every student. She addresses and teaches academic skills that will support independent living. The skills program is fairly new at the high school and she has been able to help make it highly successful. Because of her there is a group of students that will be able to earn a high school diploma that may have fallen through the cracks just a few years ago. Students treat her with respect and Maribeth is able to get to them to challenge themselves and do their best. She has been able to get even the most challenging of students to co-operate and produce quality work. Not only does she help them meet their academic needs, she supports their social emotional learning as well.

On a professional level, teachers working with Maribeth find her very easy to work with. She Is always open to discuss student progress, modifications, etc., to ensure that the curriculum is in the best interest of the student(s).

Dalila Raposo, Teacher.
Nominated by Richard Silva. "With over 32 years of experience, both in the classroom as well as in the school counseling department, I have worked with many special education personnel. Dalila is without a doubt one of the most impressive and dedicated educators I have ever worked with. She works tirelessly to insure that all of the students on her caseload as well as regular education students in her collaborative classes receive the best education possible. Approachable and easy to speak with, Dalila listens candidly to the concerns of students, teachers, and staff members and works with those Individuals to develop a plan of action that will benefit all involved. As a model to her peers, Dalila leads by example. A graduate of the East Providence School Department's Teacher Leadership Academy, Dalila has supported her colleagues and peers by sharing her knowledge and experiences with them. She has collaborated with science and math teachers to develop meaningful lessons for all students. She has engaged in professional development opportunities both as a participant and presenter. Having Dalila as the special educator in your collaborative classroom is more than any teacher can ask for," writes Silva.

Melissa Leite, Francis School.
Nominated by Linsey Allain, Kristin Branco, Heidi Corriero. We nominated Melissa for the EPLAC Special Needs Recognition Program. She was assigned as a PCA to one of the students this year and the growth he has demonstrated because of Melissa is obvious to everyone in the building. She is conscientious, hardworking, creative, and incredibly caring.. Her job brings with it unique challenges that can be physically demanding at time,s and she rises to the occasion with a smile on her face each day. Melissa goes way beyond the scope of her responsibilities: which include being trained on and managing all of her student's mobility equipment, helping him stay engaged during daily inclusion, learning his personal AAC and assistive technology devices, etc. She is so talented artistically and has willingly shared her talent making the classroom much brighter and cheerier. Melissa is also one of the kindest most caring people we have had the pleasure of getting to know. It is evident in all that she does that she loves the students she works with (not only the student she is assigned to but also each child in the classroom.) We consider ourselves lucky to have such a wonderful assistant at Myron Francis this year!" writes her nominators.

Ava Torngrin, Hennessey School.
Nominated by Noel Hosley. "I would like to nominate Ava Torngrin for the direct assistance, friendship, and encouragement she has provided to my son Noah over the past school year. Ava and Noah met while participants of the Hennessey Boys and Girls Club and have developed a genuine friendship ever since. Ava's maturity level and gracious heart shines through, not only in her smile, but in her actions as well. While Noah attended the Boys and Girls Club, Ava picked him up every day from his classroom and escorted him down the halls to the program. At the end of the day she always made a point to stop whatever she was doing to run to him and say goodnight. Ava introduces him to all her friends and makes him feel included at all the school dances. I am grateful for the comfort and security that Noah feels whenever he is in Ava's presence. In our current climate, far too often bullying takes a front seat in the topic of peer interactions. Ava is a true example of leadership in inclusivity and acceptance among her classmates," writes Hosley.

Tina Shaw, Kent Heights School.
Nominated by Pam Jensen. I would like to nominate my colleague Tina Shaw, School Social Worker at Kent Heights School, for recognition by the East Providence Local Advisory Committee Special Needs Program for the 2018-2019 academic year. I have had the privilege of working with Tina since she began working at Kent Heights School In 2015. Tina has consistently demonstrated expertise In the areas of child development, mental health, social emotional learning, family systems, and special education. Tina fosters close collaborative relationships with students, staff, parents, and community providers. She addresses challenging situations with empathy, skill, and a willingness to go above and beyond for every child she encounters. Tina's proficiency with active listening, communication, and child advocacy is evident in everything she does. Her follow-through with students, families, and community providers is stellar. The work Tina does behind the scenes is often the catalyst for student success. When Tina walks down the hall at Kent Heights School, you will see students' eyes light up as they say, "Hi Miss Shaw." They are so excited to tell her what a great day they had...because she went the extra mile to support them.

Mia Millea, Teacher Martin Middle School.
Nominated by Jodie Audet, Donna Dugan, Amy Moran, Dean Eklof and Kelley Richardson. Mia is a special educator at Martin Middle School. Her rapport with all children at Martin is bar none. At Martin, Mia walks the halls and smiles at all students and staff. She knows more students than most, as she monitors detention after school. We love her ability to see kids in the hallway and be able to make a connection. She always seem to be able to help a student who is having a rough day in such a subtle but helpful way that allows them to finish the day. The connections she makes with student s at Martin are lifelong as she keeps in touch with h them as they move on to the high school," writes the nominators.

Michelle Babbitt, Teacher Oldham School.
Nominated by Stephanie Carroll. I would like to nominate my son's resource teacher Michelle Babbitt. Max met her his first year of Kindergarten at Oldham elementary it was also her first year as well. Max was enrolled into the early learning program 2 years before at Meadowcrest. He was behind verbally and academically and he'd some social delays. When Max started Oldham, Michelle saw him right away. Max had just lost his grandpa, my father, a week before school started so going into kindergarten after all that was a lot for him but once I met Michelle she assured me he was going to be OK. She has worked so hard with him over the past 5 1/2 years he would not be where he is today without her she never gave up on him. I don't know how else to thank her for everything she has done for him. Michelle would always go the extra mile for him and educationally she formed an amazing relationship with him where he trusted her and worked so good with her. She has always been there for every question concern or anything that myself or my husband had for her. She's always checking in with Max usually every day before she sees him to make sure he's good. That usually happens as she's greeting everyone at the door in the morning as they enter school for the day," wrote Mrs. Carroll.

Stephanie Munro, Oldham.
Nominated by Leslie Andrade. "She possesses the typical obvious traits you would expect in someone who works with four year olds - flexibility, a sense of humor, generous and fun! Her tool box contains tricks of the trade including intelligence and common sense. Children in pre k are learning to share space appropriately and how to have respect for and understand others. Mrs. Munro's philosophy is to treat each child as she would want someone to be with her own child. She maintains high expectations, respect and patience. In September, she learns each child's likes, dislikes, strengths and challenges. The children begin to trust her as they learn she is genuine. Many times I am leading the whole class and Mrs. Munro is charged with supporting the students in attending to task. She will often sit on the rug or in close proximity, use visuals or model what is expected. She speaks to the child quietly, without judgment. Her conversations often sound like "you are safe. I can help you. We will do this together. I believe in you." to individuals, while reassuring everyone by subtlety saying "You are safe. I am helping him/her. If you were having difficulty, I would do the same for you." We have had many observers in our room and all have commented on our student's acceptance of each other. I truly believe It is Mrs. Munro's influence, leading by example, treating each child as an individual and meeting each one's unique special needs; which is why I believe she is worthy of this award," added Andrade.

Sonia Aguiar, Orlo Avenue School.
Nominated by Betsy Knott. It is my distinct pleasure to nominate Sonia Aguiar for the EPLAC Special Needs Recognition Award. She has been the one to one teacher assistant for a student for four years at Orlo Avenue Elementary. Specifically, this year, I've had the opportunity to have Miss Sonia in my fifth grade inclusion classroom while she assists the student. Sonia is a wonderful, caring and kind person who effortlessly works with the student. They have a wonderful relationship. He truly loves her and the feeling is mutual. Having two children with disabilities, Sonia advocates for students as if they were her own. She makes sure that everyone is giving him the level of support he needs. Whether it be with his teachers, his parents, therapists or his friends. Sonia speaks Portuguese and will often translate messages from his teachers to his parents because English is not her student's parents' first language," writes Knott.

Lacy Rego and Ginny Keneally Pre-K at Martin.
Nominated by Principal Karen Rebello. State funded PreK is a new initiative in East Providence. It serves as the beginning of school for many of the district’s four year olds now and as a fully inclusive environment where the support of a child’s social emotional development is at center stage. It often acts as a catalyst for identifying children who are struggling more with self-regulation than their peers and noticed within the general education setting. Prek is a year of development especially in the area of social and emotional. Children are just starting to recognize that they are part of a bigger world and that they are required to be able to step outside themselves and recognize others.

Ms. Lacy Rego is a first year Special Education/Early Childhood Teacher in one of the seven PreK classrooms in our district. Her philosophy is immediately identifiable by her daily interactions with all the students in her class. She individually engages each of her students with a warmness that strikes instant emotion to her welcome every morning. Her passion for creating an environment where all children can learn is evidenced by the level of individuality shown as she makes her way through the centers each day. If something within the environment needs adjusting to support any child it is made immediately. Even with all the right accommodations in place, there are still the Littles’ who need that tad bit more than most and Ms. Rego does that too!!

However, this often pulls Ms. Rego from the whole group for extended periods of time which disrupts the natural flow of things overall. That is when Ms. Ginny Keneally Building Based Para Professional, lends the much needed extra support. As a staff who is well versed in the RIELDs standards, CPI and the day to day flow of the classrooms, she is a perfect supplement to a child’s need in the exact moment following the lead of the classroom teacher in regaining calm. She works with the most specific individual needs of the children to help them find their comfort zones again and re-enter the group at a level playing field.

Together these two women have supported the plans for students who needed something above and beyond the realm of the Gen Ed classroom. They have collaborated regularly to ensure sameness in routine, modifications, accommodations and follow through. They communicate regularly to stay current with program needs and to make pro-active changes to lessen supports when appropriate. They never give up trying to find ways to support the differences without making it noticeable and they encouraged an environment of peer support and understanding at all times. They treat all children as individuals and meet each one of the eighteen students’ unique, special needs in varying and appropriate ways and this is why I believe they are absolute recipients of this award.

Katie Grifka, Social Worker Riverside Middle School.
Nominated by Principal Robert Perry and Pam Jensen. I am pleased to nominate Katie Grifka, the school social worker at Riverside Middle School for EPLAC recognition. Katie plays a vital role at RMS as our go-to person for social-emotional Issues among students. She Is knowledgeable and responsive and It Is apparent that she really likes kids. Katie meets regularly with several of our students with special needs. At any given time, she can be found in her office off of the library with a student who has come with a major crisis or just to check in. Katie always follows up with parents and she serves as an important conduit between RMS and the homes of many of our students with significant needs. During IEP meetings, she asks great questions and provides her expertise in a way that helps parents understand and feel more comfortable with the process and the ro le of special education In general. While Katie's professionalism has been invaluable to the students of RMS, what I value most is that Katie simply has a most pleasant demeanor. Simply put, she is really nice to work with. Considering the significant and often difficult situations she deals with on a daily basis, she retains a positive and kind attitude. I am confident going to Katie for guidance in any situation and I know that we can work together to find solutions to any issue that comes our way. That is invaluable to me as a principal. Finally, I have observed Katie engaging with our kids in need of support. They are always better off after speaking with her. They know that they can depend on her and her door is always open to them. All students at Riverside Middle School are better off because Katie Grifka is part of our team.

Jeanne Ouellette and Lois Boyd, Riverside Middle School.
Nominated by Rae-Anne Culp. "I would like to nominate the dynamic duo of Jeanne Ouellette and Lois Boyd. Mrs. Ouellette and Mrs. Boyd have been my son Jack's teacher and classroom support for 2 years now. When Jack transitioned to Riverside from elementary, it wasn't a smooth transition. It was a very stressful time in my life with many tears and sleepless nights. Jack was having behavior issues that I hadn't seen in many years and I didn't know how to fix things because I wasn't there. Mrs. Ouellette took the time to explain how her classroom was run and the awards system that she had in place. I thought to myself that Jack would do very well with an awards system like that. Mrs. Ouellette had high expectations for her students and I felt she would always be pushing Jack," writes this nominator.

Amanda Batista, Whiteknact School.
Nominated by Katherine Jette. I wanted to have Mrs. Amanda Batista recognized for the AMAZING teacher that she is. My son, is currently in her 1st grade class. I had noticed difficulties & struggles with him for some time now. I had him tested & was constantly checking in with his Pre-K & Kindergarten teachers at the time on his behavior & academics. I was always told from so many people that there was nothing wrong with him. That he was where he was supposed to be academically & socially. I knew deep down inside that he wasn't. I finally had someone support everything that I was feeling& witnessing with Dracen. The day Mrs.

Batista approached me in September about things she was noticing with him I was like "hallelujah", hands up in the air. Someone was finally understanding what I was going through.

Abbygail Pacheco, Whiteknact Student.
Nominated by Shana Walsh. "Abbygail Pacheco Is a very special girl. The smile that radiates on her face every single day is contagious. The care and kindnes sshe shows to others is infectious. I cannot think of a student more deserving of this award than Abbygail. Abbygail is a member of Whiteknact's Best Buddy program. This program works to help build relationships between special needs students and typical peers. She spends time weekly at the Best Buddy lunch table and participates in craft activities, reading buddies, and helps facilitate running the school store. She is supportive of all students but has an amazing connection with her special needs peers. When Abbygail has the opportunity to work directly with these friends, she is the first to volunteer support and help to be as inclusive as possible. She lends a hand to help students with tasks whether it be an assignment or project in art class or completing activities in Music or Library. She ensures that students to participate in P.E. activities and makes she they feel an overall sense of belonging . The most beautiful thing about Abbygail is that the qualities she possesses are genuine," writes her teacher.

Vanessa Swanson, Student Whiteknact.
Nominated by Joseph Stringfellow. As a first year teacher, I have been blown away by the amount of amazing students I get to teach at Whiteknact Elementary. Amongst these students is an incredible girl named Vanessa. Vanessa is a girl that shows tremendous hard work in her classes as well as strong leadership skills around her peers. Vanessa is extremely bright when it comes to her school work, and she shows signs of great athletic ability in my physical education class, but neither of these traits are what amazes me most about her. Each day in P.E. students from a special education classroom join Vanessa's class to learn and to exercise. All of my students in class are respectful of these students, most greet them with a smile or a high-five, some keep to themselves, few help them out from time to time, and one stands out among all the rest: Vanessa. She always has a big infectious smile that people are drawn to as well as the want to help any person around her that needs it. Whether it be understanding a concept better, or encouraging someone to try their best, Vanessa never backs down from an opportunity to brighten someone's day or to help out in any way she can. All of these traits are examples of why the amazing students from this particular special education classroom are drawn to her and why she is drawn to them. I feel as if it is extremely rare to have the willingness to help and to be as comfortable with special needs students at such a young age as Vanessa is. She truly is a special kind of person," said Stringfellow.


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