APPLEGATE: Providing a comprehensive and accessible learning environment for all students

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Schools are responsible for creating a welcoming environment for all students to learn and succeed, and educators are quick to embrace this mission with enthusiasm. To ensure that learning is tailored to every student, Niles provides special education programs that are the cornerstone of our efforts toward inclusivity in each of our schools. By providing equitable academic opportunities for all students, regardless of the challenges they face, we are able to set them up for success both in and out of the classroom.

For our youngest learners, our educators focus on developmental milestones and giving students and families the assistance and tools to prepare them for K-12 schooling. For students ranging from 3 to 5 years old, we host hands-on learning activities and modern teaching practices through the Great Start Readiness Program run by the YMCA of Greater Michiana.

From their first day of kindergarten to their walk across the stage at graduation, students have access to many programs, services and support that lead them toward social development and academic success. We offer general education courses that meet the diverse needs of all students and provide a team of trained special education teachers, teacher consultants, speech pathologists, school social workers, paraprofessionals and school psychologist to aid our learners as they move through the curriculum. We also partner with the Berrien Regional Educational Service Agency (BRESA) for additional supports that students may need as they move toward graduation and independent living.

For some of our students receiving special education services, we offer a variety of vocational and transitional opportunities to build independent living and occupational skills. These lessons teach young adults from 18 to 26 to navigate everyday tasks that connect them with the community. In addition, students participate in occupational scenarios that allow them to learn the basics of an assortment of careers and develop the relevant job skills.

Of course, at the core of all our special education programming is our amazing teaching and paraprofessional staff. Thanks to their hard work, endless compassion and concentrated expertise, every single student is given the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and academically driven environment at the pace and skill level they need. On behalf of the district, I thank you all for your efforts and for creating a dynamic space for all our learners to thrive.

Niles Community Schools is dedicated to empowering each and every one of our students. As we continue to uphold the principles of equitable access in education, it is essential that we recognize the invaluable role of special education programs in shaping a future where every child has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of the challenges they may face. With the end of the 2023-24 school year on the horizon, we encourage families to begin the enrollment process for their children, if they have not already started. If you have any questions or want to discuss academic planning for your child’s future, do not hesitate to reach out to our team. Thank you for your continued support, and as always, Go Vikes!

Dr. Dan Applegate,

Superintendent, Niles Community Schools