This post written by Dianne Ward, Woodstock, ON.
Excerpt from "The Ideal Way to Cook: Food for Thought".
Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Dianne Ward and I am a literacy instructor for the Thames Valley District School Board in Woodstock. Throughout the years I have taught many different students with intellectual and physical disabilities. Each time a student walks through my door, I know there is a challenge for me as a teacher; overcoming these challenges is always a new adventure.
A lot of my students have a desire to learn and were never successful in a mainstream program. They were teased and told they couldn't do things that a normal person could do. The result is they have lower reading and math skills, as well as low self-esteem. Fortunately, I struggled through school myself and later realized that there are many different ways of learning. One of the ways I embrace this in my classroom is through creative projects, which allows my students to utilize skills that are taught in daily lessons.
A project that I would like to share with you that my class worked on was writing about a role model in their lives. All of the students had to think of somebody in the community which they found to be influential. After each student decided on a person, we began writing poems to thank and honour them. When the poems were completed, invitations were sent out to the role models, inviting them to an afternoon where each student read and presented a copy of their poems and a rose to them. Some of the role models that were written about included: a bus driver, a cleaning lady, a store clerk, a bowling alley manager, a minister, and a counselor, just to name a few. Listening to each story brought tears to my eyes as my students were able to convey not only genuine feelings but words that thanked their mentors for being supportive and being role models in their lives. All of the mentors treasured their poems. So many people from the comunity left our event feeling proud and honoured and said they will always cherish their personalized poem. One lady said it was the nicest gift that she had ever received.
Everyone can learn no matter what age or what disability you have; the key is if you want to.
My program relies on one-on-one teaching and volunteer instructors. Our materials are relevant to the students' lives and their everyday living. Learning is a difficult process and when it is compounded with intellectual disabilities, it is amazing what my students can do. Through the years we have had many highlights and every day brings a new situation. This is one of the many heartwarming stories that I have experienced through my 15 years of teaching and I know the years to come will bring me many more.
Photo: Chicago 2016 Photos