STUDENTS | May 25, 2022
Jenny exemplifies growth. As a non-verbal student, she had a slow start at Orozco Academy in Pilsen after joining the school in 2019. She would avoid eye contact with others and did not want to participate in classroom activities. But, with the support of her teachers—Ms. Drucker, Mr. Rhodes, and Mr. Escarpita—she has made incredible progress and is fully prepared to graduate from Orozco as a member of CPS Class of 2022 and attend Whitney Young High School in the fall.
At the core of her progress have been several communication tools that have allowed her to excel academically and socially. When she was first getting acclimated to the classroom, Ms. Drucker used an “eye gaze” chart that helped Jenny communicate using her eyes. As Jenny became more comfortable in her classroom, she started actively using another communication device that allows her to answer “yes” or “no” to questions with the push of a button. This device allows her to both participate academically and advocate for her needs.
Not only is she growing academically, but Jenny has also become more independent overall. She’s able to have a more active role in feeding herself and is able to take steps and sit down outside of her wheelchair. Ms. Drucker attributes that success to the power of holding high expectations for diverse learners, pushing them in ways that allow them to reach their full potential rather than become frustrated.
Remote learning was a pivotal time for Jenny’s development, and it went well because of high levels of parental involvement. Because she was able to stay engaged during that time, she returned to Orozco ready to hit the ground running academically.
For phonics, Ms. Drucker uses a communication device that allows her to record herself so Jenny can listen to different letters and sounds repeatedly. For social studies, she uses a program called News2you that reads news stories aloud, such as recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial, and allows students like Jenny to engage by asking questions afterward.
Ms. Drucker and her colleagues believe that every part of their classroom should be age-appropriate for their students. Jenny has displayed a love of music, so her teachers have exposed her to everything from Elvis to Motown to The Beatles. When “Popotitos” by Los Teen Tops comes on, her eyes light up and she starts to dance in her wheelchair while Mr. Rhodes drums to the beat.
Even after Jenny graduates, everyone who has helped her along the way will continue to hold high expectations for her. Ms. Drucker envisions a future where Jenny’s incredible progress leads her to get a job working in a store.
Jenny is sure to make our District proud. Because the team at Orozco has put their all into helping her succeed, she is graduating with a sense of accomplishment and empowerment inside of her that will only continue to grow in the years to come.