In her 21 years as a special education teacher, Jennifer Hart has seen too many children with special needs get “lost by the wayside.” Compassionate and practical, she has always believed her students should become active members of the communities in which they live. But for much of her early career, Jennifer had trouble finding the right opportunities to enhance her students’ classroom experience.
She found what she was looking for in 2005 when she attended an open house for a new program, Lessons for Life.
“I was hooked,” recalls Jennifer, who immediately began bringing her students to Friendship Circle to help them develop skills that were difficult to teach inside of a traditional classroom. “This is a program where students can practice, make mistakes, grow, and learn.”
Through Lessons for Life, students practice communication, following directions, time management, safety, budgeting, problem solving, and job interviewing inside a true-to-life cityscape that includes dental and doctor offices and even a bank. They learn to count money – and also sit in a dental chair. After a visit to the “dental office,” one of Jennifer’s students overcame her fears and felt more comfortable getting braces!
“My students have built confidence, self-esteem, and independence that they normally wouldn’t have out in the community, their caregivers are prompting them, guarding them and protecting them, which doesn’t allow them to be and to grow,” Jennifer says.
“Friendship Circle needs to be here to teach students with special needs life skills, independence, time management skills, and employability skills in an environment that is safe and encourages them to grow and to be who they are.”
-Jennifer Hart – Lessons for Life