KEIZER, OR (KPTV) — This year, amid a pandemic, FOX 12 will regularly go inside Keizer Elementary to share the stories of teachers, staff and students firsthand, in a new series called “Keizer Strong.”
FOX 12 most recently looked at some of the unique challenges students with special needs have faced while learning online.
Most students are still learning online, at least for now. But that’s not the case for all students.
“They were so excited to be back in person,” said Britney Griffith. “I was excited.”
“I almost cried and, you know, my first instinct was to run up and want to give them a hug and of course, I couldn’t do that,” she continued.
Griffith is an EGC teacher at Keizer Elementary. EGC is a special education program and stands for Emotional Growth Center, meaning she teaches and supports students who have emotional disabilities.
“I always have students; they all have their individual needs,” she said. “So, one thing that may work for one student, doesn’t work for every student.”
Because of that, Griffith said some of her students simply can’t fully learn online. So, when she found out school guidelines allowed her to have some kids in the classroom, even if not full-time, she jumped on the opportunity.
“I wish it could’ve been all of them,” she said. “I miss all of my students, but we were able to bring a few of them in so I can help them navigate and the rest of the week, they still are all online, but they’re getting that, a little bit of extra help getting through what they’re struggling with computer-wise and getting some work done.”
But Griffith is clear, most of her virtual classes throughout the week aren’t easy.
“My students need a lot of support,” she said. “We do a lot of support in the classroom, as far as giving them tools to use as they’re learning and that’s been a challenge to do it online.”
For example, she said if a student is having a meltdown, someone isn’t there in-person to help them get through it. But she’s found ways to get creative.
“I offer breaks, like please go take a walk or go to the bathroom, get a snack,” she said. “We do some breathing exercises.”
“I have one student that absolutely loves doing those breathings, it helps calm her down,” Griffith continued. “She needs that and another student it could set him off, you know, even more, so it depends on the students and the situation.”
Griffith also said when teaching kids with individual needs, sometimes learning a subject like math or reading needs to take a back seat.
“I think that we spend a lot more time talking about social every morning,” she said. “We start out about discussing our feelings and what they mean and during a time like this, they’re feeling that stress even more, ten times full than probably a student who doesn’t have those disabilities.”
“So, we’re just really trying to support them and teach them some strategies to deal with those feelings and emotions,” she continued. “I have to get them in the right mind frame, to be ready to do the learning.”
But even through the challenges, she said her kids are still showing up and showing they’re all “Keizer Strong.”
“I think that a lot of people look at an EGC program and it’s hard because they only see the parts where my students are upset and struggling with those disabilities and I think it’s hard for people sometimes to look at it as a disability, and these students are just the greatest students ever and I love my job 100%,” she said.
Griffith said a few of her kids have adapted well to online learning and are doing better being able to get their work done individually. She said some have even benefited from being able to turn off their camera if they’re having a rough day.
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