School Profile: Hull Christian School
What began as a response to students’ needs has transformed into an approach to education that is now a natural part of Hull Christian School’s identity. The preschool through eighth grade All Belong member school located in Hull, Iowa has watched inclusive education impact students, teachers, and families. “We first started working with All Belong seven years ago when we realized some of the students’ needs were not being met,” said Randy TenPas, principal. Since 2009, All Belong consultants have provided staffing recommendations, insight on students, and accountability to educational best practices to help the school welcome students with a variety of abilities and gifts.
Inclusive education has helped students flourish academically.
“Because of inclusion in general education classes like science and history, we have seen students with disabilities take off academically and socially,” noted Sherry DeWitt, resource room teacher.
Professional development and weekly teacher meetings are part of the reason for this success. Through training on ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, behavior management, and more, all staff have been equipped to educate the variety of learners within their classrooms. “The education of faculty would not be near what it is without All Belong,” said TenPas. Additionally, weekly meetings allow staff to brainstorm how each student can participate, based on their strengths.
When teachers and families need extra assistance understanding a struggling student, they rely on All Belong director of evaluation services, Doug Bouman, S.Psy.S. to provide insight and a fresh perspective. DeWitt recalls how a comprehensive educational consultation benefited one student: “Between implementing Doug’s suggestions and working together with the parents, we saw his grades and self-esteem increase.”
Peers also play an important role in creating Hull Christian’s inclusive environment. Students within the classroom are quick to step up to help one another and notice when their peers with disabilities are absent.
“Creating a Circle of Friends has helped students develop a deeper understanding of one another, both within and outside of the classroom,” said TenPas.
First suggested by retired All Belong teacher consultant Greg Yoder, circles offer particular students an intentional group of friends that participate in activities together.
To foster understanding and celebrate diverse abilities among students, Hull Christian recently embarked on “Celebrating God’s Children” week, an important demonstration of the school’s commitment to all students. The week included activities such as a handprint collage, a reminder to students that they are each made in God’s image. DeWitt coordinated peer groups throughout the school that read and discussed children’s books about disability.
As observed through staff and student ownership, Hull Christian has a strong commitment to inclusion — a commitment that will guide the school into the future.
“We want to continue to meet the needs of all students,” said TenPas.
Whether that means hiring paraprofessionals to assist students, implementing assessment tools to track students’ progress, or asking a CLC Network school psychologist for a fresh perspective on a struggling learner — the Hull Christian community will do what it takes to make sure God’s kingdom is complete.
Passionate about inclusive education? Make a contribution to All Belong to help us create inclusive communities for persons of all abilities.
Katie Barkley is the director of marketing and communications at All Belong.