PALM COAST, Fla. – Teamwork is a core principle in elementary education, and the kindergarten students at Belle Terre Elementary in Palm Coast have a great example leading their class each day.
When Amanda Otero sent her special needs daughter, Audrianna, off to school for the first time, she was a little apprehensive.
But a year later, she wants Central Florida to know about the teachers who got results.
Otero tells us last year, Robyn McAnany and paraprofessional Susan Elliott were instrumental in her daughter’s progress.
Six-year old Audrianna Otero was born three months premature. She has Cerebral Palsy and learning challenges.
“For me, as a mom, it was very hard for me to even put her in school,” Otero said. “But they have done such an amazing job.”
Otero said Elliot — who as a paraprofessional worked one-on-one with Audrianna — made tremendous progress in teaching her daughter to learn the letters of the alphabet, colors and even how to spell.
“Mrs. Susan worked with her very, very hard and actually taught her to feed herself with a fork and spoon which she wasn’t able to do,” Otero said.
On our visit, McAnany and Elliott practiced with Audrianna using flash cards. She recognized words and pictures, sometimes using songs to help verbalize. Audrianna’s smile and energy were reflected in her teachers’ faces.
“She lights up a room,” McAnany said. “She comes in so happy, so excited. She loves kindergarten, she loves to learn it’s what you want for everybody and it was contagious.”
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McAnany teaches a Gen Ed Inclusion class, a general education classroom where students with and without learning differences learn together.
“Audrianna worked right along with the other kiddos on our Kindergarten curriculum with the help of her friends. It really was a special group last year and every accomplishment was celebrated! That’s what it’s all about,” she said.
Elliott has 34 years experience in special needs education. She said working with Audrianna was perhaps the most rewarding part.
“I look at it as topping off my career,” Elliott said. “She didn’t have the skills to carry on a conversation, to answer questions. She didn’t know how to interact and express what she knew.”
The pair discovered that Audrianna liked to communicate through song, so they tailored her learning to include more music.
“Sometimes people think that because of their special circumstances maybe they can’t go as far as another kiddo,” Elliot said. “But it’s trying to find what makes them tick, what makes the light go on in their brains, and for Audrianna it was music. So we embraced it and ran with it.”
Otero said it was the individual attention by McAnany and Elliott that made all the difference.
“They have done such an amazing job,” Otero said. “They have been a light for my daughter. She has excelled with them so much more than what the doctors were expecting, more than what we ever expected.”
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