Fall / Winter 2008

A Tale of Woe: Romiette and Julio

By Mr. John Fabiano and Mr. Donald Foster

How do we differentiate to teach English literature to a class of academically diverse learners without compromising the rigor of learning? It is being done in Mr. Foster and Mr. Fabiano’s co-taught class at Sandalwood High School in Duval County.

Act I: Teacher Collaboration
The teachers met and discussed how to teach 9th grade Shakespeare from a modern standpoint. The most important goal was for ALL students to succeed, with applause and laughter being the catalyst for achieving the standards related to literary analysis.

Act II: Setting the Stage
Two movies were viewed, the Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet (1968) and the modern version starring Leonardo Dicaprio. The students compared/contrasted the Elizabethan written form with the modern translation of the play.

Act III: A Script for All
Using his background in Art, Speech and Theater, Mr. Fabiano wrote a script of Romeo and Juliette (Romiette and Julio) referencing the Glencoe Literature Book 5th Act. The students also had access to a separate side-by-side text.

Act IV: Inclusive Casting
Creativity was the goal. One character was played by a student whose portrayal built much-needed, positive self-esteem. Another part was played by a student with intellectual disabilities who never missed a line, and one character was portrayed by a student with autism who performed independently without additional support. Another student cast in the play previously had the worst attendance in all his classes. Throughout the literature lesson and play, he never missed a class!

Fabiano and Foster share that learning can occur beyond a traditional approach to instruction. The joy of reading carried over to other subject areas to maximize student achievement. With a focus on learning styles and interest, some students were selected to help with props and building the stage. “Our students stood up to the task because we had clear expectations and raised the bar” said the teachers, “and in the end they did the best performance—with confidence, joy and laughter.”

Bravo to the teachers and students!

Students at Sandalwood High School performing a modified version of Romeo and Juliet

Submitted by: Beth Scanlan and Blanche Young
February 2009

Disability History and Awareness Celebrations in Lee County

The 2008 Florida Legislature declared October 6th -17th “Disability History and Awareness Week”. During the two-week observation, school districts and postsecondary institutions throughout the state were encouraged to conduct and promote activities that raise awareness of individuals with disabilities and the disability rights movement.

Take a look at how Lee County celebrates disability and diversity in some of their schools:

Cape Elementary School ~ Toni Sindler, Principal
At Cape Elementary, 3rd graders in general education classes are provided with information about students with disabilities. Students with and without disabilities participate in a reading buddies program. Additionally, this year, Cape Elementary will begin to implement “The Power of Peers” peer support program.

Colonial Elementary ~ Jennifer Brown, Educator
Each year Colonial Elementary participates in fundraising events so that money can be donated to research in specific disabilities and to heighten disability awareness.

Edgewood Academy ~ Nancy Durham, Principal
The Junior Cadet program includes students with and without disabilities, as well as, students learning English as their second language. This program rewards students for “doing the right thing” and students earn pins for conduct, service, academic progress, attendance, and personal success in the Accelerated Reader Program.

Lehigh Elementary School ~ Dwayne Courtney, Principal
As part of Disabilities Awareness Week, students with disabilities participated in the morning newscast. They presented the menu for the day using a voice output communication device. Staff members participated in a Disability Awareness brain teaser to enhance their current knowledge of students with special needs.

Mirror Lakes Elementary School ~ Karen Holliday, Principal
During the last few years, we have had a critical shift with the teachers. We focus on ‘how to meet the needs’ of all of the kids. We share responsibility for all students and no longer have classes called ‘inclusion classes’. We don’t need them because our general and special education teachers work together to support all students in a seamless fashion. Students with and without disabilities participate and learn alongside each other at Mirror Lakes. Inclusive opportunities are closely monitored and adjusted for each student.

Pinewoods Elementary School ~ Dr. Denise M. Carlin, Principal
This exciting journey began with several of our teachers and administrators attending training on inclusive best practices, which led to the creation of an action plan that was shared with our faculty. We also created a committee at our school whose charge was to periodically review our progress on the action plan. Additionally, we invited Stan Weser, Regional Facilitator for the Florida Inclusion Network, to speak to our faculty and discuss inclusive practices. A master schedule was then created so that all of our students’ needs could be met.

Skyline Elementary School ~ Colleen McCarthy, Educator
Skyline Elementary has been an inclusive school for many, many years. Each year we assess our needs to increase our inclusive practices by working with our District Inclusion Specialists. We have come so far, yet we strive to get better every day. Below is a list of activities, lessons, and everyday practices that we employ at Skyline to promote our mission of inclusion:

  • Bully Prevention Lessons: Our school guidance counselor schedules classes to discuss ways to prevent bullying on campus, including bullying of students with disabilities. Classrooms make signs to hang in the hallways to remind each other of our Zero Tolerance Policy.
  • Positive Behavior Supports: Skyline has a committee to ensure we focus on the positive behaviors of ALL students. Students can be recognized for awards such as Bus Student of the Month, and receive positive referrals from staff for demonstrating good character, etc.
  • Circle of Friends: Groups of students are selected to “support” a student with a disability around campus and off campus. Many lasting friendships have formed from these valuable activities. We have a PowerPoint presentation we would be willing to share.
  • Differentiated Instruction (D.I.): Teachers use of D.I. allows students at ALL levels to be successful with the general education curriculum. Peer Buddies: Many teachers utilize our intermediate students to assist with classroom routines and activities such as Accelerated Reader. Many of these students who are the mentors are students with disabilities themselves!
  • Resource section in the Media Center: Thanks to the Florida Inclusion Network, Skyline has built a thorough library of teacher resources to help teachers develop new strategies that work with ALL students. Several books for students to check out regarding students with disabilities are also available.

Tropic Isles Elementary School ~ Beth Liszak, Educator
5th grade students with and without disabilities conduct Curriculum Night Presentations and participate in a multicultural luncheon each year with classmates & their families. This event is partially funded by the Social Inclusion Project and helps students develop meaningful relationships with one another. 5th grade students with and without disabilities also participate in a Class Council to help govern their classrooms.

Villas Elementary School ~ Linda Buckley, Principal
A school-wide celebration event was held during Disability Awareness Week. Students received a personal bubble blower to blow bubbles as a symbol of hope, support and wishes for families affected by autism. The whole school assembled on the field enjoying the sunshine, each others’ company, and blowing bubbles to show our unified support of autism awareness.

Submitted by: Stan Weser, FIN Facilitator, Lee County Public Schools
January 2009

Making a Difference in Lee County

The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support innovative initiatives that enhance independence, productivity, inclusion, and self-determination of individuals with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life. The FDDC sponsors the You Make a Difference Award to recognize educators who demonstrate excellence in the practice of educating students with developmental disabilities in inclusive settings. The FDDC eligible Nominees are educators or administrators from Florida public and private pre-Schools, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools who demonstrate excellence in the practice of educating students with developmental disabilities alongside students without disabilities.

Lee County teachers have consistently been selected for this honor through their unwavering dedication to the provision of quality inclusive education for all students. With the support of their school administrators, the Exceptional Student Education Department, the Superintendent, and the School Board, Lee County educators continue to find innovative ways to utilize shrinking resources in their efforts to maintain equity for their students. The Florida Inclusion Network is pleased to have supported their efforts.

2005 Winners – Connie Galek & Michelle McNerney, District Inclusion Specialists

2006 Winner – Barb Nantz, Teacher – Riverdale High School

2006 Winner – Willie Petersdorff – Paraprofessional (Retired), Buckingham School

2007 Winners – (L to R) Lisa Briant, Teacher – Orangewood Elementary, Laura Furderer, Teacher – Littleton Elementary, Colleen McCarthy, Teacher – Skyline Elementary, Sara Bearman, Teacher – Skyline Elementary

2008 Winners – Jen Brown & Tese Willis, Teachers – Colonial Elementary

2008 Winner – Michelle Brown, Behavior Specialist – Trafalgar Middle School

Submitted by: Stan Weser, FIN Facilitator, Lee County Public Schools
January 2009

Grady Elementary Celebrates Inclusive Schools Week

Grady Elementary School, located in Tampa, Florida, celebrated Inclusive Schools Week in December with the theme “Together we are better: Inclusive schools benefit all children.” Organized by Physical Therapist, Kim Vickers, Grady began the week by distributing Inclusive Schools Week badges at a kick-off rally in their outdoor pavilion. Each day, students and staff participated in inclusion activities which were highlighted during an inspirational presentation by Robyn Stawski, a Paralympic Gold Medalist.

All classes participated in shared reading about inclusion and students created displays for classroom doors that listed the benefits of inclusion. All staff, including administration, teachers, and clerical personnel, participated in disability awareness experiences throughout the week. This standout celebration culminated on Friday with an entire student and staff gathering under the pavilion. The audience was captivated by a beautiful dance performed by the student dance team, which included students with and without disabilities. They sat spellbound as student and adult vocalists, accompanied by the school’s string ensemble, sang the words to Steve Seskin’s book and song Don’t Laugh at Me*.

Athletes with disabilities from the Veteran’s Administration challenged Grady’s teachers and students to a rigorous wheelchair basketball game as the entire school cheered on! The day’s event culminated with a presentation of an inspiring fabric art mural depicting students’ interpretations of inclusion around the world.

Read further to see what some of Grady Elementary’s students remember about Robyn’s message:

Dear Ms. Stawski,

“Thank you for teaching faculty, staff, and students about believing in yourself and never giving up your hopes and dreams”. Mattie

“I’ve learned two things: One is never give up if you can’t do it–just keep trying. And two is to help other people understand what’s going on. If somebody next to you is having trouble, just help them”. Eric

“Your speech was an inspiration. I loved it”. Amanda

“If you were my teacher, I would go to school even if I were sick. You must work really hard to throw that shotput”! Santiago

Adults at Grady share their impressions too:

“This was an unbelievable week. It allowed us all to focus on our many different abilities, not disabilities! New bonds and friendships were forged and everyone walked away with good feelings about themselves and the people around them.”
Kim Vickers, Physical Therapist

“This was one of the best events that Grady has ever held! Our entire Grady family participated, which gave us insight into the many diverse abilities of others.”
Melanie Palmeri-Bottini, Principal

*To listen to and download the music from the book Don’t Laugh at Me, just click on the book’s title in this Spotlight. You can also download a free curriculum guide with lots of ideas for integrating the book and music into your school’s inclusive activities!

Students presenting their fabric art mural on inclusion around the world

Students and adults perform music from the book Don’t Laugh at Me, By Steven Seskin

A rousing game of basketball kept the crowd cheering!

Students with and without disabilities, coached by the Asher Dance Company of Tampa, wowed the audience with their dance routine!

Submitted by: Denise Frenz

Rose Calco
January 2009

Broward’s South Plantation High School Theater for All

South Plantation High School (SPHS) took an extraordinary look at clashing cultures in its groundbreaking fall production of West Side Story. Those familiar with the show might have thought they knew what to expect, but were they in for a surprise! Of course the play showed the rift between the “American” Jets and the Puerto Rican immigrant Sharks, but this production changed everything! Not only was it directed in the style of Theatre for The Deaf, but after casting the leading role of Maria with actress Giovanna Vazquez, who happens to be deaf, Director Jason Zembuch chose to integrate the family of Sharks with characters who were both deaf and hearing. This added a new dimension to the play, incorporating American Sign Language, interpreters, and many other facets of deaf culture in an examination of what happens when deaf and hearing cultures collide.

For years, SPHS’s internationally recognized theatre program, under the direction of Zembuch and Michelle Terl, has been known for its unwavering inclusion of students who are deaf and hard of hearing. As a result, they are now able to promote their program as the premier south Florida training ground which places an emphasis on educating actors who are both deaf and hearing.

With this classic piece of American Musical Theatre, Zembuch has explored what it means to be deaf in our society. In doing so, he has discovered that deaf culture brings with it a rich community connection that exists both within and separately from the world at large. By infusing culturally specific attitudes into the production, and with the creative use of double casting to ensure that all audience members are able to fully enjoy the beauty of Maria’s music, this show astounded and amazed audiences of all ages!

South Plantation High School’s Production of Westside Story

Entertainment for ALL at SPHS!

Submitted by: Barbara Krakower, FIN Facilitator, Broward County Public Schools
January 2009

Central High School is Paving the Trail Through Peer Support>

Central High School, in Brooksville, FL, has taken tremendous strides toward including students with moderate to severe disabilities in a variety of general education classes. High school students, in grades 9 through 12, who are interested in being a “peer support student” are able to choose from six elective classes. These classes include Exploratory Teaching I, Exploratory Teaching II, Peer Counseling I, Peer Counseling II, Peer Counseling III, and Peer Counseling IV. Students enrolled in one of these electives are paired with students with disabilities to provide instructional, communication, and physical supports in general education classrooms and other school environments.

The peer support students are required to complete various research assignments related to the disability of the student they support. In addition to research assignments, students read and reflect upon articles related current philosophies in education such as “Presumed Competence” and “Least Dangerous Assumption”. They also focus on learning styles, behavior management skills, discrimination, and best practices in inclusive education. Peer support students also receive direct instruction from two support facilitators: Mrs. Theresa Gramazio and Mrs. Renee Supple. These ESE teachers go to each class to model what the peer support students need to do in order for students with disabilities to meaningfully participate and learn in the general education class.

There have been monumental benefits of peer support, as evidenced on the high school campus and in the community. Academically, students are being exposed to the general education curriculum. In English class, students with disabilities are reading “The Outsiders” and exploring the concepts of friendship, anger, loss, responsibility, and respect. In Algebra, equations are used to practice computation skills using a calculator. In Culinary Arts, students are learning life skills alongside peers without disabilities as opposed to receiving instruction in a separate kitchen with only students with disabilities.

The students with disabilities have benefited socially as well. Students with moderate to severe disabilities who were previously educated in self-contained classrooms throughout the day are now seen traveling throughout the campus, being greeted by and socializing with their peers without disabilities. Homecoming week presented several opportunities for all students to get involved! Students with disabilities participated in the Friday night tailgate party and football game and Saturday night’s Homecoming Dance. Students also join together in school-sponsored, weekend car washes and attend Tampa Bay Rays baseball games, funded through a field trip grant. Many more exciting events are planned throughout this school year!

With support from the administration, teachers, and peers at Central High School, there is no doubt that students with disabilities will continue to make progress in general education classes and build lasting friendships through school-related activities.

A student receives encouragement from a peer during a writing task.

A peer facilitates learning with adapted materials during math.

Students even get support from peers in their electives classes!

Submitted by:

Theresa Gramazio
Renee Supple, ESE Teacher
Central H.S./Brooksville, FL

Renee Supple
Theresa Gramazio, ESE Teacher
Central H.S./Brooksville, FL

December 2008

Broward County Public Schools Celebrates National Inclusive Schools Week December 1-5, 2008

Since its inception in 2001, Inclusive Schools Week has celebrated the progress that schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse population, including students who have been marginalized due to disbility, gender, socioeconomic status, culture and other factors. This year’s theme is: “Together We Learn Better: Inclusive Schools Benefit All Children”.

At Westchester Elementary School in Coral Springs, Principal Raymond LeFevre and ESE Specialist Wendy Merrill led the school in its acknowlegement of the effective inclusive practices the staff utilize to meet the needs of ALL students.

In celebration of this event the entire school created an “Inclusion Quilt”. Each class contributed a quilt square showcasing the unique qualities of their students. The quilt is now proudly displayed in the school’s cafeteria for all to see. Faculty, staff, and students were all involved in this process, and the quilt is amazing indeed!!

National Inclusive Schools Week.

Westchester Elementary’s Inclusion Quilt

People are like M&Ms!

Submitted by: Barbara Krakower, FIN Facilitator, Broward County Public Schools
December 2008

The Power of Peers at Emerald Cove Middle School

Emerald Cove Middle School (ECMS), in Wellington, FL opened in the Fall of 2007 as an inclusion-ready school. The principal, Dr. Nancy Lucas, asked the Palm Beach County FIN team to provide training for the staff on inclusive best practices. Before the students arrived during the fall of 2007, teachers learned many ways to support the wide range of students with disabilities who were enrolled at the school. Each staff member reflected that inclusion was a priority topic, and so it began.

The ESE and general education teacher teams throughout the school embraced the philosophy of “our” students, not “your” students or “my” students. Two teachers who represented this shift in thinking are Mrs. Gerard, a teacher of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mrs. Cahl, a teacher of students with intellectual disabilities. Following is their story of how peer supports truly can make a difference:

“The Social Inclusion Project Club” was a HUGE Success. The students in Mrs. Cahl’s and Mrs. Gerard’s classes gained many important skills this year through bonding and building friendships with general education students. We paired five general education students with one child with a disability to be their friendship mentor. The 25 general education mentors sat with them at lunch, said ‘Hi’ to them in the hallways, modeled how to build upon friendships created during monthly club activities, and encouraged them at Special Olympics events. The students went on many fun social trips into the community: Lion Country Safari, Rapids Water Park, and the Silver Screen Movie Theater. They also participated together in many naturally-occurring school functions: dances, recreation nights, and sporting events.

We finished off the year at our End of the Year Awards Dinner at Red Lobster. The parents of the general education students took great pride in watching their children receive awards for caring, kindness, and showing compassion for others. The parents of the students with disabilities showed great pride in their children’s social/emotional growth through participating in this project. Some students received awards for most improved social/personal student, funniest student, etc. and all went home with a smile on their face”!

Students with ASD playing table games with their peer buddies.

Students with ASD at Autism Walk with peer buddies and chaperones.

Students with ASD and intellectual disabilities enjoying watersports with their peer buddies.

Student with intellectual disabilities playing table hockey with their peer buddies.

Students with ASD watching a track meet with their peer buddies.

Submitted by: Marilyn A. Schiavo, PBC FIN Facilitator
October 2008

Broward County’s You Make a Difference Award Winners

The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC) sponsors the You Make a Difference Award to recognize educators who demonstrate excellence in the practice of educating students with developmental disabilities in inclusive settings. The FDDC is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support innovative initiatives that enhance independence, productivity, inclusion, and self-determination of individuals with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life.

We are happy to announce that there were three 2007-2008 You Make a Difference Award winners from Broward County Public Schools! They are Gayle Moscatello, Kindergarten Teacher, from Silver Ridge Elementary in Davie, and the team of Corrie Anderson-Lohr, ESE Teacher for students with autism, and Sheree Schulson, 4th Grade Teacher, from Parkside Elementary in Coral Springs. These outstanding educators were recognized in June during a statewide awards luncheon sponsored by the FDDC and again by Broward County’s School Board on September 23, 2008. The Florida Inclusion Network is very proud of their efforts and commitment to include all students into their school community!

Gayle Moscatello was nominated for the You Make a Difference Award by Silver Ridge Principal, Marion Gundling. She teaches an inclusive kindergarten class of 15 students, three of whom receive ESE services. Mrs. Moscatello believes that all students can be successful, vital members of her classroom community and holds high expectations for each of her kindergartners.

Mrs. Moscatello is quick to share that her success in the classroom is the result of a collaborative effort. Through collaboration with the speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, ESE teacher, ESE specialist, vision teacher and paraprofessional, she is able to adapt instruction and activities to meet the needs of all students in the classroom. A quote from parent Beth McCullough’s award nomination support letter says it all: “Mrs. Moscatello is a fabulous teacher and a leader in her field. Her experience, insight, and ability to focus on each child’s strengths are demonstrated by the success of her students”.

The dynamic duo of Parkside Elementary’s 4th grade teacher Sheree Schulson and ESE teacher Corrie Lohr are Broward County’s other award recipients.

Ms. Schulson and Ms. Lohr believe that, in order for inclusive education to be successful, all students must feel comfortable and part of a learning environment. When the children with disabilities feel safe and accepted among their peers, then academic learning begins. The process used to achieve this was multi-layered and included a multitude of academic and non-academic activities. Students participated in activities to develop relationships among peers during and outside of the school day. The culminating activity was a showcase of performances filmed and premiered during a red carpet event. Songs, music, poetry, and artwork were presented, and captured the “See How We Fit Together” experience. The project was a success and celebrated the uniqueness of all participants!

Ms. Schulson and Ms. Lohr list the following benefits of their inclusive practices:

friendships were developed,
independence and academic achievement were enhanced,
students with autism gained communication skills, and
students with physical challenges were motivated to navigate stairs.

And another great outcome: Their success has motivated others teachers to develop inclusive practices!

Sheree Schulson works with students at Parkside Elementary

Corrie Anderson-Lohr works with students at Parkside Elementary

Sheree and Corrie visit NASA with their students!

Submitted by: Barbara Krakower, FIN Facilitator, Broward County Public Schools
October 2008

Inclusion at Piedmont Lakes Middle School

During the 2006–2007 school year, the Piedmont Lakes Middle School (PLMS) ESE and administrative team decided to be proactive by initiating an inclusion model for their students with varying exceptionalities. Many of these students have multiple disabilities, including language impairments, specific learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders.

In the spring of 2007, Mr. David Magee, Principal, and his leadership team attended a Flexible Scheduling workshop to learn ways to better support students with disabilities to be included in general education classrooms. The first step was for the team to individualize the placement of 270 students with disabilities (22.5% of the school population) into general education classrooms. The goal was to match not only students to teachers but to ensure that the ratio of students with and without disabilities was satisfactory in each classroom.

Next, during the summer of 2007, six teams of general (core academic) educators and eight ESE teachers attended a Collaborative Teaching workshop at their school. This training provided opportunities for general education and ESE teachers to share teaching styles, grading systems, classroom procedures, and learning expectations. They examined support facilitation and co-teaching models and decided which would work best in given situations. By the end of the training, two mindsets had merged into one working model that would benefit students with and without disabilities. Before the school year began, a positive tone had been set and the groundwork for teaching and learning had been laid.

Although it was not an easy transition, ESE teachers were learning how to manage and provide flexible supports to their students in general education classes. Even though the original plan was to implement a co-teaching model, budget cuts forced Piedmont Lakes to transition to a support facilitation model. At the beginning of the second grading period, general education and ESE teachers were provided with substitutes so they could meet to plan lessons, share information about specific student supports, and discuss ways to implement accommodations. This second meeting was helpful because teachers were now familiar with their students and their needs.

The students who had been in a self-contained setting the year before showed signs of elevated self-esteem as they learned to self-advocate. This mind-frame set a tone for the entire school which was reflected by a change in Level Three Discipline by 240 less referrals than recorded during the previous school year. However, two challenges remain: One, it is often difficult for the students to carry a heavier workload, and two, it is often a struggle for students to utilize organizational tools. Several workshops were held during the school year for the general education and ESE teachers to brainstorm strategies to help students become more successful in those areas. As a result, Piedmont Lakes has seen significant learning gains on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test: 2% in Reading, 4% in Math, and 5% in Writing!

PLMS is committed to the belief that progress is a process. The administration, faculty, and paraprofessionals continually seek to improve presentation of curriculum in such a way that all students are part of the learning team.

6th grade Language Arts Teacher, Karen Bell and Support Facilitator, Dara Kaasa were nominated for Orange County Co-teachers of the 2007-08 school year!

6th grade Mathematics Teacher, Erin Russell and Support Facilitator, Erma Braithwaite-LaMotte

7th grade Language Arts Teacher Diane Flagler and Support Facilitator, Jim Stroud

Enter caption to picture four here: 7th grade Language Art Teacher Mary Nielson and Support Facilitator Tracey Fields

Enter caption to picture five here: 8th grade Language Arts Teacher Terri Reilly and Support Facilitator Wayne Riggs.

Submitted by: Dawn Kirkpatrick, FIN Facilitator, Orange County Public Schools
August 2008

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