Lauren Arends, Oak Park and River Forest High School's new inclusion facilitator, said she's focused on making sure special education students at the high school who are in general education courses are receiving all the resources they need.
The District 200 school board voted unanimously March to approve the new position. Arends taught special education at OPRF for seven years before her promotion. Her new post has a salary of roughly $73,000.
She said her "role, in a nutshell," is to "help students with disabilities be included in general education classrooms by adjusting or helping others adjust how they're taught and what they're taught."
Arends also described her day-to-day functions as an inclusion facilitator.
"I'm a certified special education teacher in this role and part of the faculty," she said. "I teach two classes, but throughout the rest of the day, I'm in and out of different general education classrooms ensuring that students with disabilities in those classrooms are getting what they need to be successful."
Arends said that she's working with about 40 special education students trying to navigate the general education curriculum. Her background teaching students with significant disabilities will come in handy in her new position, said Arends.
"We have students in general education classes who have pretty significant disabilities and that's not something that all teachers are trained to deal with," she said. "So, having someone else come in and provide boots-on-the-ground professional development in how to modify the classroom for students with those needs is important."
Arends said she's also been tasked with identifying special education students currently in self-contained classes who have the potential to move into college prep courses that are co-taught by both a general education teacher and a special education teacher. Ultimately, the experience benefits all students involved, she said.
"There's a strong body of research that says having students with disabilities is beneficial for all students in class," Arends said. "The experience builds community. I strongly believe that inclusion benefits everyone."
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