Shelby's Story: "Paving the Way for Other Kids"

October 18, 2012

  • Print
"Shelby is 13 and she's in 6th grade, and up until last year, she was never in any grade," says her mom. Thanks to Aspire Alexander Twilight College Preparatory Academy, that's no longer the case.

Alexander Twilight Principal, Robert Spencer, describes the school's philosophy on teaching students with disabilities as one of inclusion, equal opportunity, and high standards for all students. Mr. Spencer says, "we want all schools to be able to include students and make them feel welcome, and shift the cultures of thinking around helping students with disabilities."

Aspire's innovative and inclusive approach to serving students with disabilities is seen through the experience of Shelby, a student with both physical and cognitive impairments. Prior to enrolling at Alexander Twilight, Shelby received all instruction and services at home. Because the traditional public schools never offered Shelby the opportunity to attend a general education classroom with her peers, her family never imagined this was possible.

But the dedicated teachers and administrators at Alexander Twilight have taken a different view. To provide Shelby with the same educational and social opportunities given to all students, they have opted to teach Shelby alongside typical, grade-level peers. Shelby now attends a general education class, where she receives the differentiated instruction and supports she needs to be successful.

Shelby's teacher and Program Aide say that her growth at Alexander Twilight has been tremendous. "She's happy, and is able to participate in everything that her peers do," says Vanessa Hefner, Shelby's program aide.

When asked how the school was able to break through antiquated special education teaching molds, Rainey Bruce, the school's Education Specialist responded that "special education is just good teaching." Mrs. Bruce goes on to say that the teachers at Alexander Twilight are "strong and very flexible" and that they are "open and willing to be partners."

Mr. Spencer also cites Aspire's Special Education Director Sue Shalvey, as playing a "critical part" in creating an inclusive culture across the entire Aspire organization.

After two years at Alexander Twilight, Shelby's mom describes the charter school experience as one that has been "life-changing" for the whole family.

Click here to watch the video, which documents this incredible story.

Special education is one of CCSA's key priority areas. Learn more about our work in this area.

Add a comment