Vernon, Sussex Tech honored for innovative special ed. programs

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:45

    SUSSEX COUNTY n People in Vernon Township know the high school's Industrial Arts Technology Education program by its more common name: the "Roaring Lion Chair Company." The "company" manufactures Adirondack chairs. In the process, the students assume positions that mirror jobs in the real world - foreman, salesperson, etc.-and they earn paper money that funds their company picnic: a field trip to an amusement park. Profits pay for aprons, hats and some equipment. Students build chairs for contribution to community fundraisers. Over the years, the program has given Adirondack chairs to some notable recipients, including a New Jersey governor and two U.S. presidents. Walnut Ridge's program, which evolved into "Learning with Lady", was established in 2002 to address the needs of preschool to first-grade students with multiple disabilities. From the onset, the program enlisted the help of the community: High school art students decorated the classroom with colorful ceiling murals, an Eagle Scout built a wheelchair-accessible sandbox, and each week a community volunteer brought in her therapy dog, Lady. During one visit from Lady, a student uttered his first words to the small corgi: "Sit." Lady has become a significant part of class activities. Students learn verbal communication and motor skills through song, games, and stories-and their interaction with Lady. Sussex Tech's RATES (Reading And Technology Education in Shop) program was established two years ago when special education was combined with auto shop. Students use computers to research specific information (a motor oil company, a tool manufacturer, etc.), and they write a professional business letter requesting information and sample products. Students work with special software to improve reading. In addition, they write research papers and give PowerPoint presentations. Ultimately, students develop an electronic portfolio that they can use for job interviews.