EASY INTEGRATION: Dinah Hill, head of the Bixby Enriching Academic Readiness program, demonstrates her teaching methods in her classroom at Central Elementary. Hill began the special education program four years ago and uses technology, visual images and auditory methods to communicate with her students and help them transition into a school setting.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
It didn’t take long for Dinah Hill, Teacher of the Year at Bixby’s Central Elementary, to pinpoint her main interest. “In second grade I used to wheel handicapped students to lunch,” she says. “I don’t know what started it. I just gravitated toward it.”
Hill received a bachelor’s degree in special education from Northeastern State University.
At 22 years old, Hill found herself creating a new program within Bixby’s special education program, called B.E.A.R. (Bixby Enriching Academic Readiness) program, which helps multi-handicapped children transition into a school setting.
“I have always wanted to have a multi-handicap program,” Hill says. “I had a vision and I knew that I was going to do it. I just said ‘let’s go for it.’”
Hill is in her fourth year as head of B.E.A.R. “This (program) is geared to help children follow a structured routine of a daily schedule,” she says. “These students are coming from being at home; they are not used to sitting in a chair or at a desk.”
Hill often works with students with limited communication skills. She employs various assistive technologies such as smartboards and touch screens. She also uses pictures to help students describe their needs and how they are feeling. For students who learn better through auditory and rhythm activities, “I sing a lot,” she says.
No matter the method, though, the harmonizing factors in Hill’s instruction are individualization and consistency.
Consistency is attained largely through communication, Hill realizes. She sends parents daily reports about their child’s day and special activities they engaged in, along with any possible problems.
Hill’s consistency also includes her four staff members. “Even if I’m not there, the staff knows and the kids know that (the same things) are still expected of them,” she says.
And Hill has ample proof that her methods are working. “There are kids who come into my program who maybe aren’t saying a word, now they are saying their months and days of the week,” she says.
“And for the kids, when they have been trying to communicate either verbally or by actions, and you are finally able to understand them, it’s a moment on their faces that you want to capture with a camera.”