By Leslie Rivera, Communications Officer
Inclusive Schools Week is an international event celebrated the first week in December. It’s a time to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of teachers, administrators, students and parents in making their schools more inclusive.
A resolution to be approved by the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education acknowledges, “that each child is unique, learns differently and therefore, learns better if teaching is tailored to their abilities and interests and electronic and information technology is accessible.”
Shontelle Lampkin-Jackson is among those teachers dedicated to providing a supportive and quality education to all students. Lampkin-Jackson is an Autism teacher at Inman Middle School who admits special education found her. She moved to Georgia after serving in the Air Force for six years. She began working with students with severe and intellectual difficulty (SID) and moderate and intellectual difficulty (MOID) as a paraprofessional in Newton County.
As a teacher, she worked with MOID students as well as students with an emotional and behavior disability (EBD). After teaching five and a half years, she decided to focus solely on students with autism. “I like the fact that at the end of the day they make me appreciate the little things,” Lampkin-Jackson explains.
Middle school is her ideal place to teach because of the progression she witnesses during that time. She remembers one student who began sixth grade unable to navigate the halls because of his fear of crowds. By eighth grade that student was not only able to walk the halls by himself but he was also able to watch the clock and get to class on time.
Lampkin-Jackson says there is no standard approach to teaching special education but she finds her military background and its focus on structure to be a benefit. “I teach every one of them five different ways. It may be different today than yesterday but some things stay the same, morning routine stays the same,” she explains.
Lampkin-Jackson is married to a middle school social studies teacher. The couple has two sons, ages 9 and 10. She is also working on earning her doctorate degree in administrative teaching and learning.
Inclusive Schools Week is special to her, “My goal is to understand the world we live in… I think it’s important to teach our kids how to be included because they are taught so much how to exclude.”
Monetia Hollie has spent her entire 12 -year teaching career in Special Education. She is currently the lead special education teacher at Burgess-Peterson Elementary School.
Hollie was introduced to education at an early age by her grandmother who owned a daycare. Hollie then learned basic nursing skills and served in a hospital as a member of H.O.S.A.(Health Occupations Students of America). The program allowed students to use their skills at the Gene Stallings Rise Center on the campuses of University of Alabama.
“This school served children with physical disabilities yet mainstreamed an equal percentage of children with ‘typical’ development. The environment was loving and learning was absolutely enjoyable for everyone who walked in that building,” Hollie remembers.
She finds the smiles on the faces of children with disabilities to be the most rewarding part of her job, “Our students’ exhibit tenacity and compassion that is unwavering. All I have to do is instructionally prepare myself and never lower my expectations. All of America’s children can achieve. No exception.”
“One School Community” is the 2014 Inclusive Schools Week theme. It’s a message that Hollie takes to heart, “It’s like having a family member’s back and going the extra mile to ensure that no harm comes their way… Our educators promote unity and differentiation is our strength. It’s our goal to increase parental support of families of children with disabilities. I’m thankful for the one-week celebration, yet we must continue to strive to provide equal education to all students. We must teach the whole child which means supporting families, educators and students to ensure that success for all invested parties.”
Hollie was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She is married with a teenaged son. They enjoy college football and serving at their church.
The Atlanta Public Schools’ Department of Special Education offers a broad continuum of services for students ages three through 21. There are approximately 400 special education teachers in the district who work with students in the general education and special education environment.
Vickie Cleveland, Executive Director of Special Education at Atlanta Public Schools, is looking toward a more inclusive future. She says the district is working on initiatives to enhance Autism programming as well as working with businesses in the community to provide more transition services to students with disabilities.
Cleveland reminds us all about the significance of this week, “All schools and the community should create a culture where students with disabilities feel welcome and their ‘abilities’ are highlighted and appreciated.”