Welcome to our news section! You can view current and archived news items by using the drop-down menus below.
Fort Edward BEARS Are Out and About
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
If you stop in to the Fort Edward High School cafeteria, you may have seen a friendly face stocking the breakfast bar or drink cooler. Or if you are an employee at the Washington Country Office Complex, you may come across some students from the BEARS program washing windows, cleaning the break room, or organizing the food pantry. These students are learning employment and community skills as part of a new BEARS classroom that was added at the Fort Edward Union Free School District at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
Megan McGaughnea, who taught the BEARS class at the Oliver Winch Middle School in South Glens Falls, says she realized that her students who were moving up to the high school level, had the capacity to do more and needed to expand their skill set. So, she came up with a plan to use her classroom team of related service providers and support staff to establish the new class.
Similar to the School to Work program, it retains the TEACHH model used in BEARS classes. In addition to their regular academics, students go to a “job site” 4 days per week.
McGaughnea and assistive technology staff have created short videos for each work system the students do. If they are cleaning windows, there is a video to show how much paper towel to use, how to fold it, how much spray to use, what direction to wipe. If they are cleaning door knobs, there is video for that, all with step by step instructions. She carries an IPAD with her to show students. She also uses specially made cards as visual prompts.
If she needs to teach a new skill, she models the proper way to do it, creates a video about it and uses it to reinforce the technique. For students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, visual prompts supplement verbal communication.
McGaughnea also concentrates on soft skills, like corrective criticism, getting feedback and learning how to process it.
“It is important to develop those skills now before they go into the work place. We were finding that students would get upset when they received criticism. We went over that. We taught them breathing techniques and explained how it related to work. We told them that when your supervisor tells you that you need to do something, you need be able to do it.”
Another important aspect of the program is life skills. The students go to the home and careers classroom to learn how to prepare meals and do laundry. Several times per month they do community based education where they visit a local library, grocery store, or other outing that helps develop social and personal management skills.
McGaughnea says, “the academics are going up. The students seem to be paying more attention to detail because they are at work and we’re teaching them those skills. Two students who did their Read 180 SRI went up 120 points. They are also more active and learning new vocabulary.”
The Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) is a reading comprehension test that assesses students’ reading skills. The score from this test helps teachers place students on the correct educational path, adjust their teaching style to students’ needs, track students’ reading growth over time, and match readers to books appropriate for their skills.
McGaughnea says she is pleased with the progress the students have made.
“We’ve done a lot. Everybody is working. Everybody is doing some sort of job. I think it is going really well.”
Over time, some goals are to fill out work related forms, get to more community locations and have more work experiences for the students.
If you see a Fort Edward BEARS student, say hello and see how their skills are coming along.
Megan McGaughnea discussing the work system with BEARS students.
The teacher shows the IPAD with the tools she uses.
The students' intern ID.