Welcome to Paradise

Welcome to Paradise

Everything about Kathryne Brown’s classroom appears inviting. A window display welcomes each student into “Paradise” and once inside, the large classroom, bright colors, clearly posted rules, and flexible seating offer a sense of comfort that’s particularly important for our kids.

Take 13-year-old Kyle* for example. He’s normally extremely talkative and active, but after finding a seat in a bean bag chair and covering himself with a weighted blanket, Kyle scoots to where he can see the smartboard to watch a special video on the science of plants. He sits quietly engaged in the activity and raises his hand to participate in the discussion.

“The new space is so helpful,” says Kathryne, affectionately known as Ms. Kat, to her middle school students. “They really like the flexible seating and being able to use sensory items in the classroom.”

As a Special Education teacher for the Gerber Education Program, Ms. Kat sees how Cunningham’s new Rosann Gelvin Noel Education Center (NEC) and Coach Lou and Mary Henson Gymnasium (Henson Gym) positively impacts her students and their ability to learn academic and
behavioral skills.

“My students have a lot of energy,” she says. “If I place them in a chair that has a rubber ball seat, it allows them to bounce during the lesson and helps them focus. For students who are struggling with emotions and being disruptive, I use the pullout room which keeps them and my Teacher’s Assistant in the classroom but away from distracting the rest of the class.”

Jeffrey*, another student, is curious about the mystery science lesson. The class has placed seeds in a baggie to see if they will grow. Ms. Kat shows him the roots that have started to sprout. “What do plants need to grow?” she asks. Jeffrey and his classmates quickly yell out, “Sunlight, water, minerals, and air.” She smiles and exclaims, “Great job!” and the lesson continues.

The teachers and staff from both Gerber and CIRCLE Academy, our education programs, like having so many spaces, including sensory rooms for students to take a break and calm down effectively. Ms. Kat adds that having everything under one roof has made transitions to gym and lunch easier.

The NEC and Henson Gym are making it easier for our students and staff to heal, learn, and grow. It’s just the right size for their needs. And seeing the smiles on our kids’ faces and hearing the teachers say things like, “the building has been great,” and ”the students love the gym,” is about as good as it gets. Some might even say it’s paradise.

* All stories are real, however, names are changed to protect the privacy of our youth.