She’s ‘a natural’ at working with special needs children

Published 9:55 pm Friday, November 21, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Special education children here are benefitting from someone who others say is 'a natural' at working with them.
Carol Cochran came from a small town in northern Michigan to Niles in 1973.
After a couple of years spent settling down in a new community, she began working as a playground supervisor at James Ellis Elementary School in 1975.
For a few years, she had different jobs in the school district, including a stint in the Niles High school kitchen.
Cochran, however, came back to the place she hopes to retire from when she was hired on as an instructional assistant at James Ellis in 1980.
But working with the school's special education students is only part of what Cochran does.
She is also on a mission to provide James Ellis with new computers.
A while back when one of the school's computers didn't have enough memory to support a program one of the students used regularly, Cochran took matters into her own hands.
Cochran and Pam Hollis, the teacher Cochran currently works with, made lunches they sold to teachers and staff at James Ellis each Friday.
Cochran said the money raised by the effort enabled them to purchase a new and adequate computer.
The fund raiser, in fact, was so successful that Cochran decided to use it as a means to raise money to gradually replace the school's old computers with new ones.
She is glad the staff at James Ellis have been so supportive of her fund raising effort, which is ongoing.
Cochran, who leads Niles' Eastern Star chapter -- the female counterpoint to the Masonic Temple -- said her Star project this year is to raise money that will be used to fulfill the goal of replacing the remaining old computers at James Ellis.
Gretchen Hart, James Ellis and Howard schools' assistant principal, said Cochran is one of six instructional assistants at James Ellis.
She appreciates Cochran's dedication to the school, and her effort to update the school's computers.
Hart said Cochran is always positive and up-beat with the students and staff.
Hart said she thinks Cochran is a "natural" when it comes to working with special education children.
One might wonder how a woman who has four children, two step-children and 10 grand children, then, has the time and energy to work at a restaurant and clean homes during the weekend.
Cochran said she also works as a waitress at the Stop Inn on Barron Lake Road, which is a chance for her to meet people.
Asked when she plans to retire, Cochran said she hopes to be able to work until she can't do it anymore.