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I have taught within the Department of Exceptional Learners at Pike High School for eight years. The students to whom I teach English come to me with their own unique struggles. Most with mild cognitive disabilities have reading levels between 2nd and 3rd grade. Not only do they struggle to improve their reading and writing skills, but they are also in great need of developing social skills for life. There is much work to do; these kids are so young and unprepared to face the world successfully. In order to provide a meaningful, practical, and relevant education I must first provide a safe and trusting atmosphere for them. Research has shown the importance of a family dinner.

“With the funding from the L.I.F.T. Grant I was able to create something that in a small way mimics family dinner time around a table. I was able to purchase ingredients for 5 theme “Family Dinner Fridays”, tablecloths, plates and all else to set a table for each dinner serving 25 students each, dry erase boards, games, books and magazines, and even scrap booking materials… all items used to have fun around the dinner table.

USEEEE_FotorThis one grant also paid for ingredients to make several healthy meals and snacks in our kitchen. One of the breakfasts was preparing healthy omelets with fresh ingredients like chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes, with wheat toast and fresh fruit on the side. Several students were not used to preparing foods with fresh ingredients and enjoyed the new experience! Students took orders and delivered omelets and snacks to favorite teachers throughout the building. They learned new life skills and have been asking when we can cook again…”

.USEEEEEE_FotorAs a final project, showing they had gained the social skills, the grant allowed me to take 25 students and chaperones to see the Miracle Worker at the Indiana Repertory Theater, as well as have a dinner out. The L.I.F.T. Teacher grant I received paid for my entire unit on Helen Keller: books, DVD, tickets to the play, bus, and lunch afterwards. The field trip to the Indiana Repertory Theater to see Miracle Worker was the first time most of my students had ever been to see a live play. Actors from the I.R.T. came into the classroom to prepare students to better appreciate and enjoy the play. Students were mesmerized at the live actors, costumes, sets and scenery that were part of the performance

“This year 25% of my students are on the autism spectrum; the games I was able to purchase, with the grant last year has helped these students focus on learning, while promoting social skills they need to develop. On Fridays, we often play games and put together puzzles, while having snacks to celebrate a hardworking week. Thank you for making my students’ learning experiences relevant and lasting for years to come. I am grateful for this opportunity!”

Elsa Eckart
Exceptional Learners English/Math Teacher School to Work Program
Pike High School
Metropolitan School District of Pike Township