Millville - This week's Golden Apple award winner teaches 1st through 4th grade autistic students at Margaret K. Lewis school in Millville. Keri Lewis was nominated by a mother who's daughter doesn't speak, but she communicates in other ways just how much she loves being in Ms. Lewis' class.
In Ms. Lewis' classroom, small successes are celebrated every day. "We have 8 children in here, most of which have the label of autism. They are all struggling with their own disabilities, but they also have huge abilities and I think we need to focus more on what they are able to do," said Ms. Lewis.
With Ms. Lewis' help, first grader Maddie Boggess is learning to communicate one step at a time. "Maddie has improved so much since starting Ms. Keri's class. She has started communicating her wants and needs more, she is making more sounds and words. She is so happy, just overall happy to be at school," said Jenny Boggess who nominated Ms. Lewis.
Ms. Lewis uses speech, sign language, and pictures to teach her students to express themselves. "Whatever we can do to make them more independent is what we do. We definitely encourage whatever comes more natural, whatever they can become fluent in is what we encourage," said Ms. Lewis.
Achieving those successes takes a special partnership between teacher and parent. "At the end of the day when I pick Maddie up she tells me how Maddie's day went. If it wasn't for that I wouldn't know because Maddie is nonverbal, she doesn't have the words to tell me," said Ms. Lewis. "Keri does an exceptional job of this, of making contact with the parents, letting them know how their child is doing and making suggestions for how they can improve so that we can work hand in hand," said assistant principal Lori Hast.
Congratulations to Ms. Keri Lewis, this week's Golden Apple award winning teacher. "I just think it takes such a special person, teachers work hard but special needs teachers work even harder," said Jenny.