As the education system evolves, the knowledge of all different academic needs evolves with it. According to Disability Scoop, a recent study deduced that during the 2017-18 school year, 7 million students ranging from ages 3 to 21, received services from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This accounts for 14 percent of the student population that attended public schools within this time period.
These 14 percent of students are oftentimes considered invisible, a stereotype that the women of the Centerbased department are determined to fix. By integrating the students into classrooms, the Centerbased Department has made these students visible in the eyes of the rest of the student body.
In order to improve the educational lives of high and special needs children, the Eaton School District established a Centerbased program that works specifically with such children. These kids range in many different ages from middle school to high school and all require intensive help either physically or mentally.
However, only 50 years ago, departments like this one were almost non-existent. In fact, Sue Moreno, a Centerbased para at both EHS and EMS, graduated in 1977 and said that the Centerbased Department was“not at all prominent, but I’m not sure why. I guess it just wasn’t a big issue.” Special needs children were secluded to a designated building and were both completely out of sight and out of mind of the entire school body.
The newest versions of these amazing and innovative Centerbased departments now offer a completely customizable curriculum based on the needs of each individual student. Women like Scotland Algino, Moreno, Natalie Hill, Tracey Ramirez, and Tiffany Schreiner make sure that they deliver a curriculum that provides each and every student an opportunity to learn at their own pace. It also promotes inclusion by integrating the students into traditional classes making these lives visible to the other students.
Many of the students within the district require technically advanced software such as eye recognition screens that allow non-mobile children to answer questions with only their eyes. It also provides a simplified version of the curriculum the rest of the student body receives. This inclusion-based curriculum has spread all throughout the country and only continues to grow.
The five women educators who make up the Centerbased team all say they are driven by the many influential people each has encountered throughout their lives.
Algino has devoted much of her life to integrating inclusive programs into the Eaton School District. She attended Montana State and earned her undergraduate in Kinesiology and then moved home to Colorado where she received her Master’s Degree in Special after receiving her General Education Degree in K-12 education grade students. While Algino is very accomplished in her educational fields, she attributes a majority of the way she teaches to Lisa Lamb, her mentor teacher that she student taught for right out of college.
Algino said, “She was an amazing mentor, teacher, friend, and I still ask her questions when I have them. She’s an amazing resource because she has done this for over twenty years.”Lisa Lamb carried philosophies that Algino admired and then transferred into her own teaching style. This tall, red-headed woman is an assertive leader who many go to for advice both in and out of her department, and she runs her department with a smile always ready to help her students.
Moreno is a para who knew that she wanted to work with children from a young age. However, her first ambition was to become a PE teacher before the opportunity came up for her to become part of the Centerbased team. Her transition into a high needs special education program required a level of dedication that she did not anticipate when entering. Nonetheless, she persevered and considers herself a better person for it. Moreno said that she is now more aware that there is a group of people with disabilities and that it is better to simply reach out to them. Moreno attributed her intrigue of becoming a teacher to the many fantastic role models she found in her teachers growing up.
She best expressed this, saying, “I have had several fantastic teachers, but my fifth grade teacher really stood out. She really cared about her students.”Moreno said that her teacher always took the necessary steps to show that she cared, whether that be remembering their names or simply being a person that they could trust. Moreno really showcases this ideal in the way she teaches the kids. On an average day you will find this soft spoken and kind-hearted woman doing her best to show the students that she cares.
Hill, a mother of three and teacher of many, has emerged herself in the many different levels and abilities of the children within the Centerbased department. Hill began her career as a technology-based para, but decided that she ultimately desired to be more involved. When an opening in the Eaton Centerbased Department arose, Hill jumped at the opportunity. Hill did not attribute her appeal towards the Centerbased Department to one person, but the many relationships that she has built throughout her two years of employment.
Hill said, “I have helped the best I could through the relationships I have built with the students and other teachers.” Hill is the type of person who knows who she is and how she deserves to be treated. Her relationships with her students and her co-workers are built off a complete mutual respect. She can be seen most days assisting the students by making them more productive and focusing them in.
Ramirez, a well-trained para from Texas, has devoted her life to the well being of Centerbased Departments in both Colorado and Texas. She has been a para for a total of 16 years, making her one of the most experienced people within the Department. In fact, Ramirez is the only Eaton para who always knew she wanted to work with special needs children. Because of the inspiration from the Special Olympics Organization, she went to college and graduated with a degree in basic education. Little did she know, she would spend the next 16 years training to become a para.
Ramirez said, “There is not really one specific person who influences me, I think we all work together.” Ramirez is a very free spirited and easy-going person who finds great joy in both working with the kids and being around her co-workers. She is the person who will always find the good in a situation even if no one else can. Throughout a normal workday, Ramirez can be found simply trying to make the students, and the people around her in general, smile.
Schreiner, a mother of four and a beloved teacher, has spent her entire career teaching children of all ages. The first ten years of her career were spent as a preschool teacher across Weld County. It wasn’t until her youngest son, Mason, was diagnosed with Autism that she realised her passion for special needs children. Her intrigue towards the Centerbased Department began as she watched Mason’s teachers and therapists help him conquer Autism. As she searched for a job, Kenny Gartrel, principal of Benjamin Eaton Elementary, paired her with an opening in the Eaton Centerbased Department. She says that this program has taught her to be more compassionate towards people who are different. Schreiner considers many people within her life influences upon how she teaches, but two in particular stood out in her mind.
Tiffany said, “Scotland teaches me every day, and Mason taught me to be patient. Overall the kids teach me, because if you are willing to listen, they will tell you what they need.”Schreiner carries the caring heart she has learned from Algino and Mason with her as she handles every obstacle thrown in both her own and her students’ lives. She has a heart of gold and truly cares about the well-being of every person she knows. As she proceeds through her day, she can be seen making every person she can happy.