BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Making school successful for kids with special needs takes special people. Those people are due to be honored with Sparkle Awards.
“You can be nominated as a student, bus driver, cafeteria person, anyone can be nominated who goes above and beyond for a child who has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan),” said Heather Roeser, president of the Clarkston Parent Advisory Committee (PAC).
Roeser and a committee are organizing the Second Annual Special Education Appreciation Evening in March to honor individuals and groups in Clarkston Community Schools who show extraordinary service to students with an IEP.
Any student who has specific needs, such as having a test read to them, needing extra time or taking breaks could have an IEP, said Clarkston PAC member Cyndi Coe.
Roeser added there’s a range of reasons a student needs an IEP, from a learning disorder to emotional impairment to sensory issues to being on the autism spectrum.
“Some kids, it’s more obvious they may have one or not,” Coe said. “I think the awards are just about taking care of the caregiver, really to recognize the people who go above and beyond and take care of those kids every day for us.”
Last year, Coe said her son nominated his music teacher, who had never previously taught children with disabilities or sensory issues, but saw how much it helped the kids and added a second class during the week for the students.
Nominations start at the preschool level and go through Post-High School. Around 60 people were nominated last year, Roeser said, and everyone who’s nominated gets recognized.
“Everyone gets recognized and some of them were kids, too,” Roeser said. “(They) were nominated by teachers that could see that these kids go above and beyond just being a friend, and that’s really nice. I love seeing the kids up there, it’s really cool when you see the peers really care about these kids.”
The idea for the Sparkle Awards came from Rochester schools, which have held a similar ceremony in their district for many years, Roeser said.
“I was so amazed by how it brought everyone together and really these people have a tireless job. I wanted to do something special for them, and I know they don’t expect anything, but I think they really deserve to get recognized.”
Coe said they recognize these people because they choose to be involved with students with IEP’s, even though it can be more difficult then teaching in a standard classroom.
“That’s really a labor of love and those are things that they choose to be part of this world and to help out,” she said.
This year’s awards will be is Clarkston Junior High’s auditorium due to the overwhelming number of attendees expected.
Three hundred people RSVP’d to the first award event, Roeser said, and she hopes it’s just as successful this year. The school board, superintendent and school principals all came to the ceremony last year and the event trickled down to the whole community through individual school newsletters and meetings.
Anyone affiliated with the school district can send in nominations, whether they’re students, parents, teachers or support staff, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sparkle Awards Ceremony will be on Wednesday, March 29, at 6 p.m.
BY JESSICA STEELEY