By Guest Blogger Rebecca Mills, Library Media Specialist, Kingsfield Elementary, Escambia County School District
“EEEEEEEK!” Sierra said over and over as she danced and flitted around all night long. The happiness could be seen all over her face and with everyone she grabbed to come and dance with her. Sierra was my buddy at Night to Shine. This amazing event is Tim Tebow’s sponsored prom for special needs. She never stopped, other than to eat a piece of cake with her newfound friends, those cute Marines! Needless to say, we both danced the night away, and I have a new friend for life.
As a librarian, I am so lucky to be able to work with all 791 of the students at my school. Kingsfield Elementary in Cantonment, Florida is home to a diverse student population. We have 8 full-time ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) classrooms and 13 ESE inclusion classrooms. Making them feel like they belong is part of my job. So when I was asked to be a buddy for The Night to Shine Special Needs Prom, I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to meet and dance the night away with those who have a love for life!
I teach several of our autistic classes weekly. It has been a challenge, and I have learned a tremendous amount about the disorder and how amazing all children with disabilities really are. At Kingsfield, we have tried to create an atmosphere that is open and celebrates all children. Our autistic and inclusion population is mainstreamed as much as possible into all academic areas. We are building a community that celebrates all children. Every child is a gift, and they should be celebrated in every possible way. Tim Tebow’s Foundation does amazing things, and I was blessed to be a small part of it.
Librarians create an atmosphere that becomes the heart of the school. Getting to know your population is one of the hardest but best parts of our job. I love talking to students about what they like to read, what their interests are, and what they want to see new and exciting in the library. Keeping the lines of communication open, celebrating our differences, and allowing our students to have ownership in the library program is essential. I learn something new every day, and am so thankful my students love to come to the library!
I am also so grateful to have met Sierra. She has Angelman Syndrome which is a rare congenital disorder characterized by mental disability and a tendency toward jerky movements. It is caused by the absence of certain genes normally present on the copy of chromosome 15. I had never heard of it before. It is very rare. One in 12,000-20,000 are diagnosed with Angelman’s Syndrome.
As an educator, librarian, and mother, I always jump at opportunities to help, love and spend time with those who need a little extra helping hand. I can’t wait to do it again next year!