I was in Anchorage for the first three days of this week attending the Alaska Statewide Special Education Conference. As Kenai’s large, open-enrollment, Neighborhood School we are fortunate to have the staff and facilities to meet the specialized educational needs of students with a wide range of cognitive and emotional disabilities. In fact Mountain View has one of, if not the, largest Intensive Needs program in the Kenai Peninsula School District. The benefits from these programs extend to every adult and student in the building.

Our Intensive Needs staff is an amazing collection of teachers and aides dedicated to helping each of our most needy students reach their individual educational, life skills and social goals. The empathy with which they approach their jobs is an inspiration for our staff and an awesome situation for all of our students to experience. Are there hiccups that may disrupt the flow of the school day or cause temporary disruption in common areas? You bet there are; and every one of them is an opportunity for students and staff to see these situations handled with consistency, care and compassion.

Our goal is to integrate our IN students into the fabric of our school as much as safety, and educational appropriateness allows. As these students succeed and achieve their goals our general education students get the benefit of recognizing that obstacles can be overcome with the help of empathy, care and compassion. Some students may also take pride in the fact that their own presence and acceptance of their IN peers may have actually contributed to these students’ success. Perhaps they will be more prepared when they eventually find themselves in a situation when it is their turn to be the one who needs to act with compassion and empathy to someone in need.