As educators, we have a responsibility to all students to not only help them achieve academically, but to also prepare them for life as productive, contributing, global citizens.

For our students with disabilities, this is a more involved and comprehensive process. These students require repetition and hands-on experiences to acquire the skills necessary for success beyond school walls.

At Salem High School in Virginia, we’ve developed a comprehensive approach to educating our students with cognitive delays. In doing so, we have implemented a program that strives to send our students across the stage equipped for the working world and prepared to live as independently as possible. Here are the seven steps we take to make this vision a reality.

1. Evaluate interests and opportunities
Since natural skills and curiosity lead to greater engagement, we begin the process freshman year by exploring a student’s strengths, interests, and preferences to determine what line of work they would be the most successful in.

7 steps to success in work and life for all students

In addition, we focus on jobs available in a student’s neighborhood that increase the likelihood of students securing and maintaining employment. Our instruction is then centered on work skills relevant to the community and functional living skills that increase the probability of independence in adulthood.

2. Tap into community partners and businesses
Community connections are important for businesses and students—businesses need talent and our students need jobs. Building relationships with local companies allows our school to place students in the community for non-paid work experiences and increase the opportunities for paid employment in the future.

Businesses have expressed their appreciation with the skill levels our students demonstrate, which translates into less resources needed to train them once they are hired.

About the Author:

Amy Schuiteboer is a school improvement specialist at Virginia Beach City (VA) Public Schools.


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