April 15, 2013
April is Autism Awareness month and one Greene County teacher is launching a special project to help students with autism and the rest of the school come together. In this week's Stephanie's Heroes CBS19's Stephanie Satchell is featuring Ruckersville Elementary School autism teacher Serena Forrest.
For Serena Forrest, taking part in the school store is just one of many activities she looks forward to every week.
It's a special project she started to help her students who have autism and to raise awareness in the school.
"I felt like I wasn't doing enough providing social skills and functional life skills and I felt like they needed even more math skills added where it's purposeful and it's a meaningful learning experience," said Serena Forrest, Autism Teacher, Ruckersville Elementary School.
Students run the store during lunch. They make and sell all of the trinkets and also use an iPad app that helps with the math.
Forrest says doing business and selling these autism themed earrings, lanyards, door hangers and more help her students to open up.
"I've seen them grow in their sustaining eye contact longer which is very important and they're kind of showing more personality," said Forrest.
Not only are students and staff enjoying an opportunity to do a little shopping, it's also bringing everyone in the school together.
"The school store symbolizes how we work with all of our students. It's not just putting the blue ribbon up because it's Autism Awareness month, but it's actually doing something special with our students and giving them ownership," Dr. Charles Heaton, Principal, Ruckersville Elementary School.
Although, Serena Forrest doesn't think of herself as hero, her co-workers say she's making a big difference for the children.
"I think she's awesome. I think she has a positive attitude and she helps the kids and really motivates them," said Tracy Morton, Autism Assistant, Ruckersville Elementary School.
Forrest says she just wants to be an advocate for her students.
"I think it's important for everyone to see how just with the right support and structure they can do just as much as everybody else and beyond," said Forrest.
The money raised goes back to buy more supplies to make crafts for the store.