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Arkansas teachers using inclusive practices to aid students, in and out of classroom

It's Teacher Appreciation Week. These 3rd grade teachers at Chenal Elementary are going the extra mile, creating a better and more inclusive classroom for students.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It's Teacher Appreciation Week, which means we are highlighting a group of educators that are going the extra mile for their students. 

Big things are happening along the 3rd grade wing at Chenal Elementary. 

"I could not be more proud of your efforts," Angie Freese, Solution Tree Author and Inclusive Practices Project Associate, said.

While every teacher impacts their students in some way, educators, like Special Education Resource Teacher Shonta Williams, were able to immediately see their influence through numbers on Thursday morning.

"We looked over the data from our inclusive model," she said.

It's a new strategy for these classrooms that focuses on inclusive practices for students with special needs, according to Williams.

"They know that I'm part of this class, and I'm going to succeed just like my peers," she said.

Kristin Lerew, 3rd grade Science and Social Studies Teacher, said part of these practices include small group instruction. It also includes bringing resource teachers into the classroom, rather than pulling kids out.

"Having that inclusion practice piece allows them to stay in the classroom where they are just like their normal peers. Whether they're struggling or not, you don't know because they're doing exactly what an 8-year-old should be doing," she said.

While they've only been doing this for one school year, both Williams and Lerew said they're already seeing its impact.

"They feel more part of a class and more engaged. They're not looking at the clock, [or] it's time for me to leave," Williams said.

"We've had a lot of growth. We have students who grew a lot. We have students who grew a little but they still grew," Lerew said.

This growth not just seen by teachers, but showing in the numbers. 

According to the data, 61% of students were below expected levels of performance at the beginning of the year. Now, that number has decreased and it's only 21%.

Additionally, 3% of students were above grade level last August. Now, just 8 months later, 30% are above.

"We're trying to provide opportunities for them to reach those goals, and we want to give them the foundation to know that they can be successful, no matter what," Lerew said.

It's working as it's a foundation that's clearly been instilled in 3rd grader Matthew Rogers.

"They've taught me almost everything I've needed so far," he said.

It's pretty easy to see in the 3rd grade wing at Chenal Elementary, these teachers are more than appreciated and their impact is felt each day.

"I love you all. Y'all have helped me learn a whole lot," Rogers said.

All the teachers hope they can continue with these inclusive practices next school year. 

This all started with a state grant, so they need another grant next year to continue.

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