Creating a “common learning environment,” that is, places where students study, recreate and work within and beyond the school grounds makes a significant difference in fostering a culture of inclusion where everyone has a sense of belonging.
Principal Celinda Van Horne and the Students Services Team of Hampton High School spent the past four years transforming their school into a fully inclusive environment. The student services team provided teachers and paraprofessionals with information and training on Universal Design. Each year the changes were visible and obvious. This was a first for the school, but has proven to be so successful that more teachers have requested this training.
A special needs room was replaced with a student centre where the Guidance Counsellor and other staff worked with students. The room which used to house students with high needs has since become an office for the Resource teachers and paraprofessionals. Students who once ate their lunches in the resource room now eat in the cafeteria with their peers
Each of the school’s three resource teachers work closely with the teachers to provide guidance, resources and support in their efforts to ensure that all students are participating fully and to the best of their abilities.
“The principal has also been instrumental in establishing a school atmosphere that is welcoming and respectful to all students, visitors and other staff members,” says Julie Stone, an Inclusive Education consultant who nominated the Student Services Team for the award. “In fact, she is often seen outside greeting students as they come off the buses.”
It is for their commitment to transforming their physical and working environment where all students had opportunities to participate and learn to their fullest potential that the Student Services Team was presented with the National Inclusive Education Award.