Special needs students at South Forsyth High School had a unique opportunity recently to demonstrate an extensive array of talents and interests during an “Expressing My Passions” program. The event was sponsored by the Sawnee-Cumming Optimist Club. It was coordinated by John Arant, special education teacher, or as he prefers, “educator of exceptional students.”

Some of the special education students used storyboards or Power Point presentations to describe a variety of hobbies, sports, and other activities they enjoy. Others performed and displayed their passions such as dancing, painting, even cooking. Parents, teachers, friends, and Optimist Club members encouraged and cheered the students.

Arant said that the special needs students are assisted by general education students through two programs: Peer Facilitation and Teaching Pathway. “The Peer Facilitation Program is an elective which allows general education students to work in the special education classes,” he explained.  “They assist our special education students both academically and socially.  And I believe all of them would tell you the lessons they learn from our special needs students vastly outweigh what they provide.  Teaching Pathway is a program that offers general education students the opportunity to explore teaching as a career. They are a perfect fit to work with our students on their presentations.

“These general education students, with the help of our special education staff of Ms. Aycock, Ms. Higham, Ms. Bissig, Ms. Moran, Ms. Tyra, and Ms. Sidwell, make this an exceptional day.

“And we are particularly grateful to the Sawnee-Cumming Optimist Club for allowing us to share our passions,” Arant added.  “We had so much fun preparing and presenting.  They made it a special day for us, our peers, and parents. ”

“The special needs students did an excellent job,” said Russ Thomas, Optimist Club president. “It gave them the opportunity to express themselves, and they were so effective and impressive in demonstrating their communication skills. The motto of the Optimist Club is Bringing Out the Best in Kids, and this program certainly brings out the best in these special needs students.”

By Larry Brown