WASILLA — Teeland Middle School was recently awarded the ESPN Honor Roll Recognition by the Special Olympics, receiving a national banner for their commitment to providing inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities.
“It’s a collaborative effort,” Teeland special education teacher Shannon vonEh said. “We all work as a team to make it fun for everybody and accessible for everybody.”
Teeland Middle School was selected as a top 36 Special Olympics Unified Champion school, one of two Alaska schools chosen this year. The other one was Homestead Elementary School from the Anchorage School District.
Teeland is among a handful of schools in the state’s history to receive this honor, according to a recent press release. The other schools include Robert Service High School and West Anchorage High School.
Teeland and Homestead are among 121 schools across the nation to receive this distinction for the first time, according to the release.
Each school will be presented with a special banner to hang up on their grounds. They’ll also be included on a list of other schools around the country who received the award.
According to the release, over 80 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Alaska, as part of more than 7,500 schools across the country engaged in the program. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.
Teeland was recognized for their continued efforts bringing special education students and general education students together through their Partners PE program.
“It’s a great program,” vonEh said.
vonEh has been involved with the program since she started at Teeland. She said that special education students, referred to as athletes, are parked with different general education students each week, sometimes one on one or two on one.
“My students absolutely love it. It’s their favorite part of the day,” vonEh said.
Teeland students go on several Special Olympics field trips each year for hockey and bowling events.
vonEh said they practice relevant skills in the classes leading up to these trips. She said they also play lots of games and hold a lot of holiday parties with plenty of team building opportunities in between. She said the program helps foster teamwork, social skills, and overall confidence.
“It’s a pretty individualized program and it’s been pretty fun for everybody,” vonEh said.
The nation recognition from the ESPN award will help bring more awareness to Teeland’s inclusion program, according to vonEh.
“These programs allow everybody to be included,” vonEh said. “It allows them to have an open mind… It creates lasting relationships that these students carry throughout their school career. “
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com