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Benefits of Immersion 3: Teachers Talk

“I love the end-of-the-year-all-staff-meeting when everyone and everything comes together and we get to visually see all the accomplishments that took place that year. It has always made me feel like I am a part of something bigger and gives me a huge sense of community and school pride. I also wanted to just say again that if an opportunity, project etc. comes up that you feel I may be able to contribute towards, please never hesitate to ask. I feel so blessed that I came to be a part of the Oakstone community 7 years ago, and honestly I do not have the words to express the gratitude and respect I have in  my heart for you.”             -A middle school/high school teacher

One of the things that students and families alike enjoy about our Academic and Social Immersion Model is the teachers. We hear time and time again about the impact that our teachers have in a child’s day, week, even a family’s daily life. We are proud of our outstanding teachers, but several things set them up for success in an immersion model.

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  1. Our teachers know what they signed up for. Our teachers are hired understanding that the school they work in is a model program for Academic and Social Immersion. They aren’t surprised by ratios of peers to students with ASD. They expect challenging behaviors or quirky communication issues. They want to be teaching all of the students in their classrooms, not just a portion of them. They have a passion not only for young people or for their subject matter, but for seeing the model succeed. Communicating expectations about immersion to staff helps keep everyone on the same page.

“ “Well, you did your best.” These five words from a graduating student at the end of an Exit IEP meeting make up one of the greatest compliments I’ve received during my career as a teacher.  As one of the last teachers students work with before leaving our academic and social immersion environment, I get the pleasure of seeing the rewards of our unique setting. Students graduate from Oakstone Academy prepared to take on whatever is next. Whether it is college, trade school, or competitive employment, our students are prepared.  They will succeed because they have been challenged by an educational model that pushes everyone to do their best. Teachers do their best to ensure students meet rigorous academic and social expectations and students push one another through positive peer pressure to participate in extracurricular activities, to reach out to a struggling friend, or to try a college-level course. We are all doing our best, and in turn, our students are thriving.  The academic and social immersion model at Oakstone Academy has taught me when “your best” is the expectation, everyone benefits (and sometimes along the way you get a nice compliment for your efforts).” – A high school intervention specialist

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2. Our teachers are members of a teaching and learning community.  The teachers in our Academic and Social Immersion Model not only have other teachers, intervention specialists, and paraprofessionals to rely on, but they also have ABAs, SLPs, and OTs who expect to be working in classrooms with the teaching team to improve student achievement. Additionally, all of our administrators were once teachers in the model, so the advice they give is based on experience in similar situations. Anything that we ask our teachers to do is based in researched best practice and has been tried by the person giving feedback.

“I want to preface this letter by reiterating that ALL of the teachers and staff at this preschool amaze me with their talent, compassion, love, and dedication (I could go on and on).  It is an AMAZING place to work. With that said, I wanted to just take a minute to really single Miss Bridget out. She had some kiddos with some tough challenges in her class this year and she and her team were the perfect teachers for this group!  Bridget’s calm demeanor was exactly what was needed for a couple of our easily over-aroused kiddos. She was able to maintain complete control with a steady, calm, and quiet voice/manner. Her patience was exactly what was needed for a couple of the kids with processing issues that did just really need someone to simply wait it out rather than repeating the request again and again. She reacted quickly and calmly to address behavior issues and seems to know just how to handle each of the kids’ very different needs when it comes to behaviors.  I saw her using tools that had been recommended for different kids and appreciated that she was open to suggestions. You would not know to look in her class that she actually started the year out with some of the school’s most challenging behavior issues. It was amazing to me to see where the kids in this class started out (from both a behavior stand point and a skill development standpoint) and where they ended up by year’s end. I learned a great deal from her and am looking forward to working in her class again sometime.” -An preschool occupational therapist  

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3. Our teachers feel supported by staff, parents, and each other.  Our teachers know that they can ask for help at any time to facilitate the best lesson, class, or interaction possible. They know that our parents have chosen this model and are on board with it (though sometimes still need education in it). They know that a free exchange of ideas is important to the success of the program and that asking for help is expected because no one has all of the answers.

 

“I have seen the benefits of an immersive environment through my cousin who attends (the school). When he was first diagnosed we were told that he would never be able to communicate, and that he was deaf because he would not respond to others. He also would not show any affection to his family members. He started attending Oakstone when he was 4 years old, he is now 16 years old. While he still considered non-verbal, he has made so many gains! He is able to communicate his needs, listen to others, and he will even hug his dad and other family members. I started working at Oakstone last year because I loved how much this school helped my cousin. I am now able to see first hand how this school and an immersive environment helps so many kids, and it’s so exciting to see how much they are able to grow. Today, our students had an assignment for morning work, their assignment was to write what they were thankful for. This leaf was written by one of our students who demonstrates how beneficial the immersive environment is for students.” -An elementary teacher

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4. Our teachers genuinely like doing what they do and feel personally connected to it.  Staff in our Academic and Social Immersion Model see growth happening before their eyes each and every day. They get excited by not only the big leaps, but the baby steps in learning, whether that learning is academic, social, emotional, or communication-based. Our staff continuously amaze us in their support of “our kids” as they sign up to travel with them, begin new extracurricular activities, or just go that extra mile to help a student understand a tough concept.

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For some of our students with ASD, our teachers are the first adults outside of their families who really “get” them and like them as they are. Our teachers don’t simply teach the Academic and Social Immersion Model; they live it everyday. They hold the keys to the program’s success.