New school program utilizes teachers

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Monica Weirauch, left, and Charlotte Howell teach an English class together as part of the inclusion teaching style recently implemented at Yucca Middle School.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ Staff Writer

Clovis Municipal Schools is having success with special needs students using a system that utilizes two teachers in classrooms, according to school officials.

Called inclusion teachers, both give tests, ask questions and direct discussions. In some classes, students with an individualized educational plan are mixed with other students. Inclusion teachers are aware of which students have an IEP, but the students in the classes aren’t.

Principal Alan Dropps at Yucca Middle School said he feels that the program has come into its prime.

“We’ve started to understand what it takes to be successful with inclusion,” Dropps said.

Inclusion teachers work together in the core classes of math, English, science and social studies at the secondary level. Dropps said the format is the least restrictive environment for students who need more help than others.

“It helps us make sure all kids are successful academically,” Dropps said. “And it helps socially too.”

Charlotte Howell and Monica Weirauch have taught two classes a day together at Yucca throughout the school year. Weirauch is an IEP teacher, Howell an English and theater teacher. Both say inclusion is effective.

“It’s really good for our IEP students. They have higher expectations to meet,” Weirauch said. “Both academically and with behaviors.”

As well as teaching classes with Howell, Weirauch also follows each individualized education plan. Weirauch said the adjustments are made based on a child’s needs.

“They retake tests, read out loud,” Weirauch said. “There is some modified grading, testing or assignments, or a mix of all three. It just depends on what the student needs.”

As far as sharing a classroom, Weirauch and Howell work together and feed off each other. Howell said the biggest difference is the pace.
“In English, we might take more time to go through the reading,” Howell said. “Not only because it’s an inclusion class, but because there are two of us. One might think of something the other might not have.”

The inclusion teaching method is part of a new teaching concept implemented by Clovis Municipal Schools at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year called team teaching. With team teaching, four core class teachers share a group of 130 students. Howell said team teaching is helpful when keeping up with individual students needs. Four teachers see each student daily and they can discuss with them what they think a student needs.

Cindy Osburn, executive director of Clovis Municipal Schools student support center, said basing adjustments on what each student needs is what inclusion is about.

“It is generally thought that special education is a place, a class with separate expectations,” Osburn said. “But what the law says is that it is a support we should offer. We need to find out what level of support the child needs to be successful.”