Thursday, May 30, 2019

Inclusive Education Award 2019

Each year the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living along with the Department of Education presents an Inclusive Education Award to a school that has shown an exceptional spirit and commitment to creating a space that is welcoming and inclusive for students with an intellectual disability.

I was honoured to be part of the selection panel once again this year, to assist in reviewing the nominations and to help choose a deserving school for the 2019 Inclusive Education Award.

Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual to feel accepted, valued and safe. As a parent of a child with a disability, this is what I want most for my son. When he goes to school, I want him to feel included and valued, and encouraged to build on his own unique abilities.

Inclusive school communities are those with an open, welcoming attitude that respect every individual, while valuing and celebrating differences and diversity.

When reviewing the nominations for this year’s award, it was wonderful to see that some really great things are happening in schools all across our province, however, one school stood out unanimously across the judging panel. This year, we were thrilled to present the Inclusive Education Award to Roncalli Elementary!

Throughout their application, there were many examples of how Roncalli goes above and beyond to appreciate each and every child in their school. From installing a special swing in the playground to accommodate a young student with a physical disability, to the planned development of a sensory garden that will allow for stimulation and learning for all students, particularly those with complex needs, Roncalli has demonstrated a deep understanding of the link between social, emotional and academic achievement and unwavering commitment to ensuring that all students feel safe, valued, welcomed and included in all aspects of school life, not just in the classroom.

Perhaps the most compelling letter in their application package was written by the parent of a Grade 3 student. This young boy was diagnosed with a rare disorder that lead to the loss of his verbal expression and language comprehension. He began to use ASL (American Sign Language) and many teachers in the school took the initiative to learn these skills and to become proficient ASL as well. ASL is now incorporated into daily classroom instruction, and many of the students in the school have learned to communicate in ASL as well. This student and his peers are now able to communicate together in a way that truly celebrates the different ways we learn, communicate and live. Roncalli has clearly demonstrated the conviction that every single child belongs in their community school and in diverse classrooms, with the right to learn, discover and develop their unique talents and abilities together with their peers.

Inclusive education is the foundation for building a more inclusive world for everyone, and for all that they are doing to promote a culture of inclusion and acceptance, I was proud to present the Inclusive Education Award to Roncalli Elementary!

Inclusive education provides all students with the right to attend school with their peers and to receive quality programming and instruction. It involves a continuum of supports and services in the best possible setting, respecting the dignity of all children. We have some very positive approaches to inclusive education being utilized in schools throughout our province and they deserve to be recognized. I encourage all schools to apply for the Inclusive Education Award, to highlight their important work and efforts."

- Dennis Gill, President, Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living

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