Learning life skills at John Stark

  • Zach Fifield practices using a drill and learns safety skills during the home maintenance unit where students learned to do tasks like hanging a picture. Courtesy photos

  • Luke Couture (right) learns how to fix a clogged drain with volunteer Mr. Carbonneau who used a washcloth to clog the sink. Because the sink was elevated, students could see how suction worked to clear the drain.

  • Luke Couture measures ingredients in cooking class with the assistance of paraprofessional Christine Anderson.

  • Zach Fifield gives his approval for the day spent learning home maintenance skills. —Courtesy

  • Caroline Wetherbee learns how to change a doorknob. —Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 4/7/2021 5:15:20 PM

The Life Skills Program at John Stark is designed to ensure that students with specific disabilities are taught the skills necessary to become as independent as possible and actively participate in the school community and the community at large.

“The program is highly individualized and is tailored to meet each student’s needs,” said Special Education teacher Tessa Carbonneau. “This allows us the flexibility to work one-on-one and in small groups of students. It also gives students the flexibility to be part of the Life Skills Program and take general education offerings on this campus and programs at (Concord Regional Technical Center).”

Learning to cook, nutrition, and basic home repairs are taught as part of independent living lessons.

“Every student is different and some may need more repetition and time to build skills. We give them the time and space to achieve their goals,” said Carbonneau.

Special Education teacher Faith Crowe conducts the weekly cooking or nutrition segment and records a video of the cooking lessons so the Learn at Home students can easily participate. All students also have the video to refer to when making the dish again at home. Lessons this year have included making vegetable soup, gingerbread, and cupcakes.

Before becoming a teacher, Crowe held several restaurant jobs from chef to baker.

“Just like in a restaurant, a teacher takes personal responsibility for everyone in the room. Each student is different and they are the ingredients I use to create a positive environment for my students,” Crowe said.

Students also learned some valuable home repair skills this year during the home maintenance unit.

“My dad is a carpenter and I knew he’d be game to come in and show the students how to handle a few basics like how to hang a picture, change a doorknob, and fix a clogged drain,” said Carbonneau. In the hands-on lesson, students learned how to safely use a drill and hammer and plunge a sink.

The Life Skills Program also includes instruction in math, science, English, and social studies. Students work on self-management skills such as dealing with stress and conflict. Career goals and building a plan to achieve those goals are deeply explored and often culminate in an internship at a business in the community.

The Life Skills Program also includes a dedicated paraprofessional staff who assist teachers and students with academic support, the wisdom of experience, and role modeling to help grow students into well-rounded, confident young adults.

“The students in our program are just like everyone else, they’re just trying to find their way. It’s our goal to help them become well-rounded citizens that have the life skills they need to be successful,” Carbonneau said.

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