Collaboration, accountability and a qualified special education team key to success
Calvin Christian School (CCS) in Hamilton seeks to do whatever it can to meet the needs of individual students.
“We do a lot of work towards accommodating and modifying and that’s appreciated,” says principal Ted Postma. “It’s become a trademark of our school.”
The school’s special education team meets the needs of individual students by staying accountable to students and parents, ensuring that resources, instruction, and activities are appropriate in meeting the needs of the students, and by working closely with classroom teachers.
In addition to supporting students who have difficulties in reading, writing, and math, the special education team works hard to be sensitive and attuned to the emotional, social, and behavioural needs of students, both those in the resource program and others.
When a child experiences behavioural difficulties, administration often consults with a resource teacher before action is taken. The resource teacher may be able to identify the stressors which resulted in the behavioural incidents and help plan appropriate action.
Students have a good attitude towards the resource program, which speaks to its effectiveness, according to Mary Guldemond, special education co-ordinator. The school’s resource room doesn’t have any stigma attached to it, she says. “The students just see it as a place that helps them succeed.”
The special education staff also stays accountable to parents, readily meeting with them, making every effort to listen to their concerns, and including them in the development of directives for the classroom teachers.
In addition, the special education team works closely with classroom teachers so that students can be better served.
“One of our main roles is to be a resource to the classroom teachers,” says Guldemond. “So we’re always advocating for the children and helping our teachers do the best job they can.”
Classroom teachers connect with the resource teachers about various issues, such as when they have a concern about assessment. In turn the resource team helps teachers
figure out how to modify their lessons and assignments to accommodate students’ needs.
The resource program’s success also stems from the fact that the team includes qualified and dedicated staff with various skills, according to both Postma and Guldemond.
In addition to the special education co-ordinator, the program includes two other teachers whose duties involve being a resource teacher for part of their assignment. There are also several staff-members, called para educators at CCS, who take on the role of personal support worker or educational assistant or a combination of the two.
The CCS special education program serves about 10 per cent of the student population on a routine basis and provides an occasional or consultative support role for another 10 per cent of the student body.
The program’s effectiveness has also been made possible with appropriate funding. At CCS, funding for the resource program comes largely from the supporting community and from the Continuing Care Access Centre for the children with special needs.
The school also holds an annual fundraiser golf tournament which helps raise funds for the resource program. Postma says the widespread community support for the program is evident through that tournament.
“CCS has had the privilege of being a blessing to many special or high needs students for more than two decades,” says Guldemond. “The students, in turn have been a wonderful blessing to their peers, who learn to interact
lovingly and compassionately with children who have created differences.”