Marbridge instructors excel through continuing education
April Sumner, our Music and Spiritual Instructor, grew up with two special needs siblings. She has a Bachelor of Music Ministry and an Associate in Church Music and has attended many conferences and courses in Biblical Counseling. April taught second grade for ten years. This summer, she completed 60 hours of Orff Schulwerk I at Trinity University in San Antonio and will be attending workshops throughout the year.
Orff Schulwerk is a method of music education that utilizes singing, poetry, instruments, movement and dance. Learning how to play music does not begin with reading notes on a staff. While that can be added, music is created by natural repetition of familiar words or by making patterns with clapping, tapping, stomping, etc.
Music is broken into small blocks. These blocks are then put together to make a dance or a song matching each resident’s ability. Musicians will grow comfortable with one small section before adding another. This will allow them to safely improvise as they bounce between these small blocks.
April has already transformed her Music Therapy, Stage and Drama, Choir and Music Exploration classes due to the Orff Schulwerk (Schoolwork). This fall, April will pilot an instrumental ensemble.
April is thankful for this training because it filled “black holes” in her teaching. “I did not know how to coach our residents in creativity. Orff has shown me how to provide the safety net that allows them to express themselves through instruments, singing, dance and play.”
Orff Schulwerk does not concentrate on an end result such as a concert. While that can be a byproduct, each lesson in itself is the reward. In handling music and the fine arts and playing with the elements, each lesson becomes a performance.
Jan Meeks recently celebrated her fifteenth anniversary as the Art Instructor at Marbridge. Having studied art at Stephen F. Austin, Jan has worked extensively with VSArts of Texas, a Kennedy Centre Affiliate (Vision, Strengthen, and Accessibility) as a Teaching Artist. Her duties include adapting art projects for the students and to train public school teachers in how to implement art as a teaching tool within their existing curriculum. Jan has been a professional artist since the 1970’s.
For the past several years, Jan has attended a summit put on by the Center for Educational Development in Fine Arts, CEDFA. This past June, at the CEDFA Summit XV, Jan studied under two leaders in Texas and national art education: Samantha Melvin and Suzanne Greene. The focus of the summit was the incorporation of the newly adopted Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, re-introducing the Fine Arts into the State curriculum. While looking at the TEKS, participants experienced structured hands-on activities and shared ideas to explore art in the classroom.
Through this training Jan was reinvigorated in implementing cross disciplines, such as mixing science with her art classes. Recently, residents studied fig trees while creating art from a leaf.
Because the summit allows Jan to see what is going on in the school system, she is better able to understand the experiences of younger Marbridge residents who have recently graduated from high school. This is very important for Jan as she helps residents transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Jan has received over 200 hours of continuing education, which she sees as a necessity for new ideas, saying she needs “a constant thread of art information to continue to stay ahead of my residents.”
Jennifer Diaz earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, Teacher Education from the University of Texas and a Masters in Exercise Science from Texas State University. She coaches Special Olympics Bocce, Track, Equine and Power Lifting. She also teaches Yoga, Elder Sports, Cardio, Circuit Training, and Weight Lifting. Her passion is helping our residents obtain a healthy lifestyle. She realizes that motivation is sometimes hard to find and finds unique and fun ways to help the residents be active without feeling that it is “work”.
Jennifer attended the Health Matters Program hosted at The Arc, an organization for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The program’s main goal is to give resources to care centers to keep their population active. The program reviewed elements of health such as BMI, portion sizes and specific barriers to certain disabilities and medication.
The Health Matters Program has helped Jennifer create a fitness assessment to map the progress of residents from the beginning of a semester until the end. She has purchased a scale to help residents see tangible results of their hard efforts. She also discovered a new way to interview residents so that she can equip them to enjoy exercise. She also gained greater momentum for creating a health awareness across campus and not just in her classroom.
“I see training as a way to keep in view research that has taken place since I have been in school. It is helpful to meet people with the same passions.”
The instructors value the opportunity to be challenged and think outside the box. They are aware that continued training prevents stagnation. Most importantly, it allows our instructors to not just be teachers, but learners as well.
Shonda Corn is our Special Olympics Swimming Coach at Marbridge, but is best known for her work as the Equine Coordinator. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Minor in Social Work. She has worked in the mental health field for eighteen years. Shonda got her first pony when she was three and is a lead rider on the Bexar County Palomino Patrol and Drill Team which performs the opening ceremony for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo each year.
Her interest in both horses and psychology are mingled in her work with EAGALA, the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. Having been certified in 2008, this year she attended the annual conference in Mesquite, Texas. Participants and speakers came from around the world to discuss how working with horses can influence people.
The model is used on the ground, not on the back of the horse. This emphasizes growth in a relationship with the horse. One has to problem-solve, as well as earn the trust of the horse, to perform tasks as a team with the horse. An important element of the EAGALA model is debriefing the experience with the horse. This allows residents to discuss emotions and struggles and then to learn coping skills which are helpful outside the horse arena. It is also productive for Marbridge residents in learning work ethic, assertiveness, and communication.
Shonda has implemented tools to help mature residents in responsibility, boundaries, and empathy. She is able to promote team building through activities and games.
Shonda has a great desire to continue to grow. Attending conferences such as this allows her to discover different ways to approach teaching.