One of our teachers of the seasons – Shannon Houston in Clark County, Nevada – recently earned another well-deserved award for her trophy case. Special Olympics Nevada selected Mrs. Houston as our Schools Partnership Program Volunteer of the Year! The volunteer of the year awards are our highest form of recognition and we are so thankful for our volunteers!
We caught up with Mrs. Houston to get her thoughts on the Schools Partnership Program and more!
OurUnifiedSchools.com: Why do you think the Schools Partnership Program makes a difference?
Mrs. Houston: The Schools Partnership Program makes a difference because the general education population becomes aware of the special needs population at their school. Even more remarkable and important, the general education student’s involvement oftentimes moves from mere taking part to more intimate relationships throughout the school day, such as lunchtime, before and after school.
OurUnifiedSchools.com: What’s your favorite part of your job and being involved in the Schools Partnership Program?
SH: The favorite part of my job is seeing special needs students break out of their shell when they come to realize that the gen ed students are sincere in their interactions with them. I also love to see gen ed students realize that special needs students have way more to offer than they may have originally assumed.
OurUnifiedSchools.com: What tips or insights would you give other schools, teachers and students when it comes to planning Schools Partnership Program events?
SH: Tap into student groups that exhibit leadership roles at your school such as student council, honor society, key club, student athletes, etc. Definitely use Best Buddies if your school has that program. Once you have volunteers, be sure that everyone is aware of the desired goal(s).
OurUnifiedSchools.com: What tips or insights would you give other schools about creating inclusive campuses?
SH: I held Spread the Word to End the Word pledge during lunchtime and that allowed me to bring awareness to the entire student body. It’s also a good idea to know the publications teacher(s) at your school to help you use morning announcements and or school newsletter as tools for disseminating information. Providing a variety of methods for student and adult involvement, to meet the needs of commitment levels, interest, time constraints, etc., is also an important element.
OurUnifiedSchools.com: When you’re not teaching, what do you like to do?
SH: During my off time, I enjoying riding my Trikke on the Las Vegas trails.
OurUnifiedSchools.com: What would you tell other teachers and parents about the Schools Partnership Program?
SH: The Schools Partnership Program is successful due to adult and student involvement. It changes the environment at your school by facilitating inclusion. It’s important to realize that a Schools Partnership Program expands and grows year after year, once word spreads about the program and the positive experiences that arise out of it.
OurUnifiedSchools.com: Why do you continue to stay involved with Special Olympics in the schools?
SH: Without the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program in my schools, it would be just too easy for everyone to slip back into their cubby holes and never interact, and I, for one, do not want that.
Congratulations, Mrs. Houston! We are thankful for you!