At Hartvigsen School, Every Child Matters and Every Opportunity Counts
Nov 10, 2015 03:22PM ● Published by Stephanie Lauritzen
By Stephanie Lauritzen
Taylorsville - Hartvigsen School principal Janice Wayman describes her school as “a unique, special place” for both students and faculty. The school serves special education students with significant cognitive disabilities, with ages ranging from first graders through adults at age 22. Despite the range in ages and level of abilities, Wayman and her faculty value the opportunity to teach students with unique challenges and circumstances.
“We have established a legacy of service and acceptance that transcends the typical student/teacher relationship,” Wayman said.
In addition to receiving an academic education, Hartvigsen also offers life skills training to help prepare students for independent and successful lives outside school.
“Our goal is to educate the whole child so they can meaningfully participate in life. We have adapted physical education classes, a pool, a music class and occupational and physical therapy services on site,” Wayman said.
In 2014, Hartvigsen School was rebuilt at its current location at 1510 West 5400 South, on the northeast corner of the Taylorsville High School campus. This location is ideal for students at both schools, allowing Hartvigsen students the opportunity to attend certain classes at Taylorsville, and providing internship and service opportunities for Taylorsville students interested in special education. Wayman describes the relationship between the two schools as mutually beneficial.
“Currently, the Latinos in Action program from Taylorsville High School have students who come to socialize and play games with Hartvigsen students... The elementary students used our pool last year and have attended assemblies at Hartvigsen. We are continually looking for ways to allow our students to participate in educational opportunities and social activities with regular education students,” she said.
Hartvigsen teachers describe working at their school as a privilege and a joy. Rhonda Small-Oakes remembers being inspired to enter special education after volunteering at a summer camp for severely disabled students living in a residential facility.
“I got to be a part of the absolute joy these people experienced and realized that I could be a positive force in their lives. I was smitten and hooked. My career choice was certain – I would be a teacher for students with severe multiple disabilities. I would do all in my power to be their voice, their advocate and walk beside them on their life journey.” Small-Oakes said.
Now, after 40 years working in special education, Smalls-Oakes still feels the same passion and devotion for her students. “The story is the same. It is a privilege to teach these students, guide them on their journey and be their champion when their voice cannot be heard. These individuals give so much more to me than I could ever repay them. When you teach at Hartvigsen School, you can be a positive influence every day.”
Jody Jensen became a special education teacher after a career in graphic design. “While designing was fun, and I could see my products being used for a short season, teaching has given me lasting accomplishments. I do make a difference in the lives of the students I have, and that lasts a lifetime,” she said.
Working with special needs students allows Jensen to feel creative and engaged in her work, similar to how she felt as a graphic designer. However, she chose to work with students with significant cognitive disabilities “because of the daily challenges and creative problem-solving skills that are required to reach each child on an individual level. My creative side has been pushed to find unique solutions to teaching things that you and I take for granted.”
As part of her mission statement, teacher Barbara Hegland dedicates each day to recognizing her students’ potential and talents. Part of her class mission statement reads, “As a special educator, I will never say a student cannot learn. I will provide opportunities that enrich their life. I will see that a student does not remain a stagnant star going nowhere, but can be the shooting star reaching their potential.”
In addition to teaching academic subjects and skills, Hegland focuses on teaching emotional strength and resiliency. She hopes to “promote excellence for students and staff through respect and trust of others. I strive to be kind, compassionate, considerate, supportive and wise in our relationship.”
Wayman believes the school vision is encapsulated in the following statement: “Every child matters, every opportunity counts.” Her faculty and fellow administrators feel honored to work in an environment with “truly amazing students who add to the quality of our lives.”