Saturday, December 21, 2013

Years 13 to 22: The Reid Years: Strong Support Staff and Thematic Teaching; A Powerful Combination!

It's time for me to give due credit and belated thanks to the wonderful support staff I had the honor to work with in Cheney. First up; Kay Scott. Kay was my instructional assistant for the ten years I worked at Reid. She was not new to being a preschool aide having worked for two teachers previous to working with me, and continuing to work with other preschool teachers after I left. It takes a lot of patience to work with that many different people and personalities, but Kay did this with grace and determination. She wasn't afraid to give suggestions or tell me if she thought I was crazy when I had some far flung idea! She also loved working with the children with large motor activities but was a little less enthusiastic about the messy things, so we made a good team! Kay had a good sense of humor and so did her husband Gary. Here is a note he sent in with Kay one day. That cracked me up! And here is a picture of Kay in our gross motor area. As part of a unit on Bears, the children swung in the hammock on their stomachs and hit a "beehive" pinata with a rhythm stick. The beehive was made out of brown paper lunch bags folded down and placed inside of each other. Candy was placed in the middle.

Next up; the "Julies". We had two Julies that worked with us; Julie Carstens, occupational therapist, and Julie McNeal, speech language pathologist. These two ladies were (and still are) the most amazing therapists to work with. They were very supportive of the idea of working in themes and every summer we got together at Julie Carstens' farm and had a potluck planning session. We planned out our themes and weekly activities through November, and then during that first conference period, we planned through the end of the year. This was not only fun, but made lesson planning a breeze as the weeks passed.

Julie Carstens planned sensory and other fine motor activities. Here is a picture of her with a student during a unit on Water. The little girl is standing on a small stool in the middle of a wading pool filled with bubble solution (made up of dish washing detergent and glycerin). A hula hoop is being used to pull a giant bubble up and around her. She is inside the bubble! Good times!

Julie McNeal planned language and social activities that were theme related. So for example, during our unit on Bears, she would have the children act out the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. To help make this more fun, I made plastic canvas masks for the children to wear. Here is one of my students wearing one while pretending to climb over a "mountain".

Our PE teachers Jackie Randall and Brenda Kloe made good use of our full day preschool programs and the wonderful college campus in winter. Sledding became a permanent activity when the weather cooperated and we had a lot of snow. It was good "heavy work" pulling the sleds up the hill, and extra fun sledding down! After a half hour or more of this, we would return to the class for hot chocolate.

Finally, Gloria Kelley, our physical therapist, always had the most creative ways to problem solve and make our activities inclusive to a wide range of students with disabilities. One year I had a little girl who was quadriplegic. She was a very bright young lady with great ideas and the ability to communicate them clearly. During our unit on Insects and Spiders, I liked to do fly swatter painting as one of our activities. This activity was done outdoors with large sheets of butcher paper taped to the fences and pie plates filled with paint and fly swatters. The children loved this activity and really got into slapping the paper with their swatters! However, I wasn't sure how to include this little girl. Gloria to the rescue! She adapted a piece of head gear to hold the paint loaded swatter. All the child had to do was turn her head. Success!

 I am forever indebted to all of these wonderful ladies! I learned so much from them!