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Our Special Education Moments

Easter Seals Greater Houston loves our wonderful Caroline School teaching team and enjoyed celebrating them during Teacher Appreciation Week. Check out their Special Education moments:

Ms. Sandra’s SpEd moment:
“The day I knew I made the right decision working in Special Education was when my student (who suffered from vision challenges, was unable to verbally communicate or use his body – and had every right to be frustrated and angry) rolled into my classroom, scanned the area, locked eyes with me and smiled. That half-smile and look in his eyes gave me all the communication I needed to know that he was happy to be with me and that my class brought him joy. I knew then that Special Education was where I wanted to be.”
Sandra Guerra joined The Caroline School in 2018 and has since brought The Caroline School students immense joy and specialized teaching every day.

Ms. Tiana’s SpEd moment:
“Stepping into the SpEd community coupled with the medical needs of our students was very scary at first, however, it did not take me long to realize this is exactly where I needed to be… I will never forget the moment I knew I could be the difference between the disability and the ability! I was working with one of the younger students (one that is chair bound, non-verbal, only has control of his eyes, and is absolutely dependent on my support). He was recently provided with an eye-gaze device for communication. I took the time to support him in his new device and he was able to start answering questions by simply using his eyes for responses!”
Tiana Hine joined The Caroline School in 2019 and has since brought The Caroline School students’ zest for communication!

Ms. Tabitha’s SpEd moment:
“I realized I wanted to work with the SpEd population when I was 19 years old. I was a college kid with a work-study job teaching at a preschool. I had never taught before but was paired with an ESL preschooler who never spoke. After many challenging afternoons, I finally asked my site coordinator why she would pair me with someone who I clearly didn’t know how to teach. She observed our interactions many times and assured me that we were the perfect fit. That she chose me to be her teacher because she knew I could reach her because of my sister with disabilities. A week later, we were sitting in Circle Time reviewing letters and my student sporadically yelled out, “T is for Tiffany!” We had been working on her name all semester and it was the first time she spoke in a group.” I changed my major the next day and never looked back.”
Tabitha Hernandez joined The Caroline School in 2016 as a teacher and program director. She has since brought TCS teachers and students, patience, and leadership every day.

Ms. Beatris’ SpEd moment:
“My most impactful SpEd moment was the first time I successfully taught a lesson to a student with a full visual impairment. At first, I was hesitant and didn’t know how to teach him, but after some training, practice, and relationship development, I could see a difference! He smiled when we worked together and started showing me that he was able to learn different materials based on touch. This amazed me and brought such joy!”
Beatris Zubieta joined The Caroline School in 2020 and has since brought The Caroline School teachers and students, smiles and support every day. 

Thank you, Ms. Sandra, Ms. Tiana, Ms. Tabitha, and Ms. Beatris– We love you! The Caroline School provides unique educational services to meet the physical, social and cognitive needs of individuals ages 0-21 with multiple disabilities, including those who have additional medical needs. Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s The Caroline School at CarolineSchool.org!

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Full Circle

70 years ago – we started in Montrose in an old house at 1415 California (the new and improved home of Legacy) as the school for children with cerebral palsy before the laws changed to allow children with disabilities into the independent school system.  That law changed in 1975, and as a result we became a therapeutic treatment center.  One of my favorite people in the world – Katherine “Ronnie” Kenner, went to the school in the 1950’s and still remains close with us today. Her stories and antics then and now delight me and suffice it to say she was our very first “Ambassador” thanks to the kindness of well-known Houston Chronicle writer Andy Anderson, many of the entertainers (pictured Ronnie and Eddie Arnold and Dinah Shore) from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and the much missed Shamrock Hotel.

When I started 17 years ago, we saw our clients in the Infant Program/ Early Intervention in our offices. Parents and caregivers sat in our lobby and waited for their children and as a result got to know the other parents, traded information, gave each other pep talks and created a network.  We – the staff – got to know the families as a whole, remember when children took their 1st step, said their 1st word or graduated – cap and gown included – at 36 months!  Back then we also had Respite Services, Buckaroo day camp and our Adult Program.

Laws changed and our therapists had to start seeing clients in their own “natural setting” – that meant driving to their home, school, or even a local church to see clients. It has its benefits – moms and dads can learn how to help their child with therapy in their natural setting – translated that means they should be able to replicate what the therapist is teaching them and continue on a daily basis – for a much better outcome. I see the benefits – but it also makes me sad…first and foremost we didn’t see kids in the office, get to know the families, our staff in the office shrank from at that time 30 to about 3….(gets kind of lonely in an echoing 1950’s cinder block school building) and our trampolines and larger equipment now went un-used.  So downsizing was a must. Now we are lucky enough to be in a building centrally located in Bellaire with five outreach offices.

So the last 10 years have been incredibly busy, major shares of ups and downs, Enron, Katrina, Ike, and Rita along the way….more than a learning curve… and despite the downs, ESGH has managed to grow every year…the number of clients we serve is always on the rise, their needs are always more desperate, the gaps always seemingly huge…but at the same time – an incredibly dedicated staff, incredible supporters and volunteers, and great new programs along the way to help fill those gaps, help many out of desperation and actually see change in our community.   Camp is bigger and stronger with more kids served, more weeks offered; Play Therapy and our Toy Tech Program went from serving 10 to 800!  Home Of Your Own has been there to see over 170 closings on homes – families in the community, saving money, contributing back and not one of them has been in default; High School High Tech is in four different school districts, served close to 400 teenagers last year and versus the national drop-out rate of close to 50% for teens with disabilities, our is an incredible 1%! 2011 we served 5,500 families 0r over 20,000 individuals.

3 years ago, we opened the Children’s Therapy Program (up to 15 yrs) with physical, occupational and speech therapy in our clinic – so children and their families started coming back to the office, we know all their names again, celebrate in their achievements and consider them part of our family.  About the same time we re-established the Caroline School with the amazing help of Board VP, Elizabeth DeLuca,…more kiddos and school again! Since then we have brought in Social Motion Skills and BridgingApps – both cutting edge programs that we are proud to include in the spectrum of services we offer.  With the census showing 1 in 5 with a disability combined with the aging of the baby boomers…we must continue to be able to serve more and through more innovative cost saving programs.

So as I sit in my office today, as we prepare to move into larger space for both the Caroline School and Children’s Therapy, I am amazed. Amazed at where we were and where we are, amazed that I can tell you the names of pretty much any child that comes in, amazed that their moms and dads come to me and tell me – “I work at Randalls Food Market now, I am so proud to be working for a national sponsor” or “we just raised $3,000 cash for our Walk With Me team…and we think we can do more!” We have now been officially Easter Seals Greater Houston for a 1 ½ years and one of our favorite pictures which is the cover of our brochure is a vintage black and white picture of the house at 1415 California, nurse with seamed stockings on and a “We sell Easter Seals here sign at the door”.   So while the seamed stockings are out of the picture (thank goodness)…..1415 California is alive and well at 4500 Bissonnet – with children running and playing up and down hallways again, Caroline School students will be starting school in a month in their new and improved space, stronger families are being made, stronger children are growing up and Easter Seals is in the forefront.

Kelly Klein, Development Director, ESGH

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