One of the hardest things in the field of special education is telling a parent their child has a disability. Being a parent is one of the most wonderful, but toughest jobs in the world. If you have a child with a disability, their education and social and emotional well-being may be an area of concern for you. The good news is that there are a number of resources available to families and parents that have a child or adult with a disability.
Last year, Farmington Central School District employees knew there was a need to bring awareness of community resources to our families. The special education department collaborated together to plan the first special education resource night. The event was a huge success and was kicked off by a speech from Advocates for Access staff. Advocates for Access provides direct services, combined with advocacy for social change to allow greater integration of persons with disabilities into mainstream life. They serve people with disabilities, their families and the community in which they live. Approximately 20 vendors volunteered their time at the event. Families and community members met with various agencies of choice to educate themselves on the programs and resources available. When it was time to start planning for the 2015-2016 event, special education staff knew they wanted to make the event this year even bigger and better.
On March 2, 2016, Farmington School District will host their second annual special education resource night. The goal of this event to raise awareness of the community resources available to families and students with disabilities. We hope this event will provide our students access to appropriate resources which will help them be successful, independent learners now and post-graduation from high school.
At the event, students and their families will get the opportunity to walk around to various vendor tables and gather information on the resources available to students with disabilities. Some of the vendors invited to the event include Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association, Autism Society, County Link, Epic, Easter Seals, Met Life, Camp Big Sky, Bridgeway, Special Olympics, Dyslexia Awareness Network and many more. In addition, there will also be representatives from group homes, pet therapy programs, and organizations that provide financial planning assistance to individuals with disabilities.
As special education staff, we believe families, school, and community should have equal partnership in our students’ education. When schools actively engage community resources, they are able to respond more effectively and efficiently to student’s needs. The more communication we have with our families and community, the greater chance our students have to succeed and grow. The special education resource night will give our families the opportunity to collaborate with community and school staff to provide the best supports possible to our students.
Women's Fitness classes continue to work on themselves emotionally, physically, and intellectually. The girls have been pushing themselves and their partner in the weight room, on fitness days, and games that we play in class. Each day before class I give the girls a chat about life, or physical education, or research about what the girls are trying to accomplish. On Dec 16, the girls will go to the computer lab and put their fitness-gram results into the computer. Also, the girls will turn in their folders in that contain their activity log and weight lifting sheets. On the activity log besides the activities they must report how many calories they expend. It is an expectation for the girls to know what different exercises do what in terms of calorie expenditure and what is working the best for them. Questions that they must think about include deciding if running a mile or shorter faster runs like the pacer test are more beneficial for their fitness. This is good practice for their future fitness goals.
High school Co-Ed P.E. classes have maintained a high level of activity during the second quarter of the school year with a Football unit as well as a Volleyball unit, along with 2 Fitness Days each week. All of the first semester sports units have been great for each of our classes with quality teamwork and outstanding games involving our students.
Junior high physical education classes have been busy with different skill based games and units. With the weather getting colder every day we have been focusing on indoor activities such as Frisbee, ultimate football, floor hockey and soccer. On a typical week, the junior high students participate in 3 days of skill work and 2 days of fitness focused activities. As the school year progresses the students will add new exercises and movements to their knowledge. A main focus with this age level is body weight exercises and using the proper technique each time. Practicing the proper way to do a push up, squat, jumping jack and lunge will help them with their weightlifting in high school. As Christmas break approaches, the students will be testing for their second fitness gram test. They will be trying to beat their previous bests and try to meet all healthy fitness levels!
Elementary physical education has had a lot of fun working on throwing and catching skills as well as kicking and accuracy. We are continuously working on locomotor and fine motor skills with each activity. We love playing games where the students get to use their imaginations and creativity, focusing on using their bodies in different ways. With the Thanksgiving holiday and upcoming winter/Christmas break coming up, the students have been excitedly playing specific themed games. These have included; Zombie tag, stuff the turkey, turkey round up, Grinch tag, capture the elf and feed the hungry snowman. It is a lot of fun for both the students and the teachers!
The Farmington Social Studies 6-12 grade department works to develop well-rounded students and citizens. Part of this task requires facilitating a deeper understanding of key U.S. events and milestones that have significant importance for the nation and what it means to be a citizen. With such goals in mind, the Social Studies department used Veterans Day as a means to explore the service that veterans have contributed throughout America’s history. Some grade levels focused on veterans as they returned home, while others focused on the world conflicts that highlight the American military. To best exemplify the thoughts of Farmington students, here is a collection of their comments following Veterans Day:
“We celebrate Veterans Day so that we can honor the ones who fought for us-because we should and I do have respect for the ones who gave their lives or fought for us. I greatly respect their service.”
“I think it’s important to honor veterans because they do so much for our country. Also, because they risk their lives and we need to respect them for taking such risks.”
“We celebrate Veterans Day because we want to honor all of the fallen and veterans. We do this to remember all of this to keep another Twin Towers attack from happening.”
“It’s important to remember veterans because we should care for what they risk to keep us free. I still don’t think we thank them enough.”
“I believe Veterans Day is important because it honors and shows respect for all those who served our country.”
Elementary music is where it all begins. From the first day of school, kindergarten classes are turned on to music. It all starts with steady beats, high and low sounds, and loud and soft sounds. In first grade we take it further, looking a specific pitches, like “do” and “so” and learning about quarter notes and quarter rests. Each year it keeps growing as long as the child is
in music. If we start with a goal it is make children lifelong musicians (in some sense of the word).
We are fortunate enough to have some great tools to use in the elementary music classroom. The first is the Suzuki mallet instruments that we use for Orff Curriculum. Using the mallet instruments can increase the student’s awareness of both pitch and rhythm. We still sing the songs but also add accompaniments and/or melody on the mallet instruments. We start using
two scale syllables with the pitches and gradually add to that.
We also use percussion instruments to work with rhythm and beat. We have various drums, maracas, tambourines, etc. that we use and vary for students to show their understanding of rhythm concepts.
Another tool that is a great way to get some real life practice for the kids is the Yamaha Music in Education keyboard lab. By taking the pitches and using them on the keyboards the students begin learning the letter names and keyboard technique. It is also a great composition tool. The lab is used in the spring but usually only with second and third grade.
We love to get the kids performing. The Christmas concerts are just finished for this year but in spring grades Kindergarten to third will have concerts in the auditorium during the school day. By offering these during the day we have a chance to use the stage and give those family and friends who couldn’t make an evening concert a chance to see their child perform.
Junior High Band students started the year with 2 weeks of summer band, where the students learn to march, prepare for the fall parades, and also had the opportunity to learn about jazz performance. The 7th and 8th grade marching band performed “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in 2 parades: Yates City Parade and the Homecoming Parade.
High School Band had a very successful start to the school year. During four weeks of summer band, they prepared this year’s field show featuring the music of “Queen”. The Golden Wave marching band competed in four competitions, performed at home football games, and also marching in two parades. They earned 1st place and “Best Auxiliary” at Washington , 2nd place and “Best Winds” at Limestone, 3rd place at Dunlap, and 3rd place and “Best Winds” at Geneseo. It was a very successful and fun marching band season!
In September, many JH/HS Band and Chorus students completed the very difficult audition for ILMEA District 2 Festival. The competition was very tough and we had a total of 16 students in band and chorus students accepted. Those students attended the ILMEA District 2 festival at Augustana College on November 14th.
Farmington Central was fortunate to host the ILMEA District 2 EGM-Jazz Festival this year on November 7th. The top Jazz Musicians from ILMEA District 2 come together at this festival to create three jazz bands and two vocal jazz ensembles. This festival also included an Elementary Chorus, in which 121 students from approximately 20 different schools performed. It was a huge undertaking to plan and host, which couldn’t have been done without our fantastic students and Music Boosters assistance.
5th grade beginning band students signed up and began in September. All 5th grader students had the opportunity to try the instruments and those interested sign up for the instrument they liked best! The 5th grade band students are taught in small groups by Miss Freese, Mr. Herink (along with our student teacher, Mr. Brown), and Mr. Ganschow. Their first performance was at the December 4th/5th Music Program and they will perform again in May.
Once marching band season concludes, Concert band season begins! Both the JH and the HS Bands are working hard in preparing for their December concerts. The bands will feature both holiday and non-holiday concert band pieces in a variety of styles at their Winter Concerts.
Second semester, the JH and HS bands will be gearing up for music contests, 3rd annual FCJHS Band Festival, Prairie Land Band festival, Peoria Spring Arts Celebration, and of course, Spring concerts, promotion, and graduation. The music department stays busy throughout the year with a wide variety of performance opportunities for our students.
The Choral Program has experienced some growth in the last year with the High School Chorus nearly doubling in size. JH and HS Chorus students carolled in the community this year at both the Farmington Santa Stroll and the Hanna City Firefighters’ Santa Breakfast. The HS Chorus also performed for the School Board Appreciation Dinner. The chorus students will be working second semester on music contests and Peoria Spring Arts Celebration with the bands, as well as Bradley Honor Choir for HS students, conference festival for our JH choirs, and our home concerts here at Farmington Central Schools. In addition we had four 6th grade chorus members selected to participate in the first ever Illinois Music Education Association All-State Elementary Chorus which will perform at the state music education conference in Peoria in January.
Elizabeth Martin, General Music Grades K-3
Aaron Ganschow, General Music Grades 4-5, Junior High and High School Choral Director
Bethany Freese, General Music Grades 3-5, Junior High Band Director
Fred Herink, High School Band Director
Lisa Kurtz, Art Grades 6-12
For most kids, going back to school means studying and getting good grades. Little thought is given to how they will move around the building, communicate with teachers and peers, pay attention, write legibly or carry their lunch tray. But for students with special needs, carrying out these and other routine school activities can be such a huge challenge that little energy is left for learning.
Schools are helping students, ages 3 to 21, remove these barriers to learning by identifying the student’s strengths and needs, determining if the student has a disability that requires special education, developing an individualized education program (IEP) and providing appropriate related services such as occupational, physical and speech therapies to help the student meet his or her goals.
Although occupational, physical and speech therapies are well known in the health care communities, their roles in the school setting are not as clear. Not all children who receive these therapies in the medical setting are eligible for services in the school setting. School based therapists focus on the educational needs of the student rather than the medical needs. They evaluate the student within the framework of their respective disciplines, work collaboratively with the IEP team to determine if the student’s disability has an adverse effect on his or her ability to benefit from their special education program and if the child’s unique needs can only be addressed with the particular knowledge and skills of the related service provider. If the related service is found to be educationally relevant, the therapist works with the team to develop educational goals and interventions to help the student become more successful in their educational programs.
A related service continues as long as the student requires the therapist’s expertise to meet their special education goals. When the student attains a functional level similar to their peers or when the classroom staff are able to use the treatment strategies to meet the student’s needs, school based services would be discontinued.
The Special Education Association of Peoria County (SEAPCO) provides all occupational and physical therapy services to the county’s 17 school districts outside of the Peoria Public School District #150. Speech and language therapists are employed either through SEAPCO or directly through the individual school district.
The role of school-based occupational therapist is to identify, evaluate and treat students who display difficulty with school related tasks in one or more of the following areas: processing of sensory information impacting attention and/or behavior in the classroom setting (self-regulation); task performance related to fine motor, visual motor and/or visual perceptual skill levels; functional skills performance as it impacts classroom success in areas such as handwriting or hand dexterity for cutting; functional skills performance as it relates to self-help such as dexterity for securing fasteners(buttons or zippers) or using utensils at lunch time. The occupational therapist establishes goals to help the child perform everyday tasks related to success in the school environment, aiming to keep their skill sets comparable to their peers.
Occupational therapy intervention is performed in collaboration with the student, his/her family, general education team and special education team. Therapists work with students on a variety of skills through the use of functional activities that are developmentally appropriate, meaningful and fun for the child. Occupational therapists put the fun in functional!
Physical therapists and physical therapists assistants are experts in motor development, movement and motion. Physical therapy interventions help students with a wide variety of movement disorders improve their physical competencies (strength, range of motion, balance, endurance and coordination), assume and maintain sitting and standing postures, improve their ability to move parts of their body and organize their movements into functional gross motor skills. The intervention plans are designed to enable students to become more involved in a wide variety of routine school tasks such as participating in classroom activities, accessing the playground, carrying materials, traveling throughout the school environment, as well as managing stairs, restrooms and the cafeteria. Physical therapists and therapist assistants continue to assist the student learn new ways to move and adapt to changing environments as the child grows and transitions to other educational settings. Movement therapy is most effective when it involves the educators who are with the student throughout the day. The physical therapy team works with the classroom staff to identify appropriate assistive technology such as adapted chairs, swings, standers and mobility devices to be used throughout the school environment and provides ongoing transfer, positioning and mobility training.
Speech and language therapists work with children with communication needs. Those needs might be in the areas of language development, voice, articulation and/or pragmatics (social communication skills). Some children may speak with sound errors that make them difficult to understand. Other children may make errors in the grammar or content of language. There are even children who are unable to produce any form of communication and need to be taught alternative ways to communicate their wants and needs. It is the speech and language therapist’s position to help the child communicate in a way their peers and their teachers will understand so they can have increased success in the classroom.
Occupational, physical and speech therapists help students with identified disabilities make progress and accomplish things they never thought they could accomplish. We, as therapists feel privileged to share in the success stories of so many students here at Farmington Community Schools and throughout Peoria County.
Once upon a time there was a great forest with many trees of different kinds. During the winter months most of the trees were barren and ugly. However, in the spring a miracle happened. On each tree, small green things began to grow. They were labeled leaves. Two of the leaves were labeled Jack and Jill.
They grew a little slower than their brothers and sisters on the same tree and also looked quite a bit different. That wasn’t a problem, though, because there were so many different leaves on so many different trees that the word different lost its meaning.
Therefore, Jack and Jill were allowed to live their entire lives with all the other leaves on all the other trees in the great forest. Jack and Jill felt secure being attached to strong branches and tree trunks. Yet they felt free to respond to each experience in their own unique way.
They experienced the warmth and beauty of the sun. They enjoyed the beautiful moon and stars at night. They experienced light and darkness. They thrilled at the touch of the gentle rain and mist. They enjoyed the melodious and varied sounds of the forest. They witnessed birth, life and death. They experienced a wide range of temperatures. They endured strong winds, thunder, lightning, hail, pounding rain, animals that like to eat leaves, and humans who chop down the trees and start forest fires.
During the fall of the year, Jack and Jill fell to the ground. There they lay with all the other leaves from all the other trees in the great forest.
- Elvin D. Koester
This poem describes the type of attitudes and philosophy Farmington District 265 strives to provide for all students including students with special needs. This school year Farmington Elementary has begun implementing “The 7 Habits” from “The Leader in Me” which encourages students to work together for the common good of ALL students. The 7 Habits are: Be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win win, seek first to understand then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen the saw. It’s exciting to see the positive interactions and team building happening among ALL students.
The Jr. High Special Education Department are introducing the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens through providing opportunities for them to successfully practice each habit. Our classes have really focused on the first three habits, “Being Proactive,” “Putting First Things First,” and “Beginning with the End in Mind.” We realize that students need guidance and direction when learning and practicing these skills. Through daily agenda checks, locker organization checklists, and weekly goals, the students are working towards becoming highly effective teens.
“Unity is strength… When there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things are achieved.” This quote by Mattie J.T. Stepanek, a young American poet who lived with muscular dystrophy until his death at the age of 13, signifies many movements that are being made in the FCHS special education department.
With new additions to our team this year, we are moving forward with many goals in mind. One of the main goals is to increase communication with the junior high special education department in order to make a more seamless transition for students coming into high school. The outcomes of strengthening this communication will be to align IEP goals to the Common Core State Standards, synchronize data collection methods in order to better track student progress so that goals can be more individualized, increase student participation in the IEP process by moving towards student-led meetings, and to provide consistency in student expectations throughout the district.
Within the high school, we as a team are working to provide our students with the best education possible in the least restrictive learning environment. A large portion of our special education student population is active in co-taught environments. Our special education teachers are actively working with general education teachers to plan lessons that are differentiated on multiple levels; students receive instruction from both the special education teacher and the general education teacher within the same setting. There are many benefits to co-teaching including a lower student to teacher ratio, more hands on learning, and a wider variety of ways that information is taught.
With so many great things going on in the high school, it's hard not to be excited about the year to come. We hope to live up to Mattie’s advice, and by collaborating and working together as a team we are going to make wonderful things happen here in Farmington!
Written by Jill Martin, Cherie Dunbar, Carrie Black, Maria Kieser, Melissa Johnson, Travis Wilkinson, and Anita Bausman
Farmington Central High School has always had a rich tradition of extracurricular participation, but this fall there has been an upswing in numbers across the board. The volleyball team had large numbers for tryouts this season and boasts full numbers at the younger levels. “It’s nice to have so many kids interested in volleyball. Anytime your numbers are high, it’s a step in the right direction,” said volleyball coach Cassie Jensen.
Golf Coach Todd Robertson leads full squads of boys and girls for the Farmers. A full girls team is not something that is a given for small schools around the area. First year cross country coach Travis Wilkinson has seen his numbers increase from the previous season. The added numbers seem to be helping. Cross country has gotten off to a fast start this season placing high in several area meets.
Football participants at Farmington have increased by over 20 kids from last season. With only 10 seniors on the squad this season, the future looks bright. Head coach Toby Vallas stated, “We have made it known that we welcome kids that have never played or haven’t played for a while. Last year some of those first year kids had great success for us. I think other kids have seen that and said, “I’ll give football a shot.” Tight end Reid Berry was one of those kids. He ended up on the all-conference team.
This year’s state champion 3-point shooter and all-state trackster, Eric Higgs, joined the squad. “I think the big thing is we have a lot of energetic coaches that all support each other’s programs. Coach Otto (Farmington head basketball coach) is always helping us recruit kids. It’s really a great place to coach with a lot of positive energy,” said Vallas.
By the looks of the numbers in the fall programs, the students at Farmington seem to agree.