Despite physical distance, students around Frisco ISD continue to make social connections through eLearning. Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) students in the education and training class have been connecting via Zoom with special education students in the Aspire program.
Aspire is a transition program designed for Frisco ISD special education students (called interns) aged 18 and above who focus on pre-vocational or adult living skills. They participate in a variety of community experiences with same-age peers through social skills engagement and recreational/leisure activities.
“When eLearning began, we knew we needed to create a way for the interns to continue to work on their social skills,” said Melita Grimes, Frisco ISD transition specialist. “After approaching CTEC education and training teacher Nicky Fryman, it wasn’t long until her students (called teacher assistants) were volunteering their time to engage these students.
Interns have the opportunity to talk to multiple students and are usually scheduled for 10-minute conversations, but it’s not unusual for conversations to run long.
“The high school students have gone above and beyond to make connections with the Aspire students,” said Lenae Anderson, 18+ program site instructor. Site instructors Rincy Thomas and Shanta Walker agree that the collaboration has been admirable.
Daniela Burciaga is a teacher assistant and senior at Heritage High School who plans to attend Texas Christian University in the fall and major in math and minor in secondary education.
“I really enjoy talking with the interns because we can talk about everything from music to our favorite foods,” Burciaga said. “Sometimes the interns can get distracted, but I am happy to help them work on their social skills because I know it’s hard to stay inside all day.”
Burciaga has met with a number of students including Grace Evans, an intern who loves dancing, music and chocolate.
“Our best connection is through One Direction,” Burciaga said. “She told me about her favorite song and music video and it happens to be my ringtone!”
Over Zoom, Evans lights up when she sees Burciaga and takes pride in her newfound skill of telling time with the watch she received for her birthday.
An important aspect of teaching is relationship building and the teacher assistants are getting a great opportunity to apply this firsthand.
“I really appreciate my time with the interns because it’s an opportunity to use what I have been taught in class while socializing and brightening someone else’s day,” Burciaga said.
“I am actually envious the interns are getting these opportunities as high school students,” Fryman said. “What I would give to go back in time and have the opportunities they are having in their internships, especially during this eLearning journey!”
The teacher assistants support their mentor teachers at elementary and middle schools across Frisco ISD during the school year and pivoted to eLearning flawlessly. They have co-led Zoom meetings and interacted with students on Flipgrid and Seesaw while continuing their regular responsibilities of teaching and writing lessons.
“This collaboration has made a lasting impact on our parents, teaching assistants, and most of all, our Aspire interns,” said Cleveland Knight, Frisco ISD transition specialist.