Pre­par­ing stu­dents for life out­side of school

Com­mu­nity-based vo­ca­tional in­struc­tor helps stu­dents de­velop work skills

The Covington News - - SCHOOL BEAT - By Jenny Thompson

Be­fore Martha Bouts’ sons were born, she worked as a para­pro­fes­sional in DeKalb County.

Af­ter their births she stayed at home with them un­til they were both in up­per el­e­men­tary school and her hus­band en­cour­aged her to go back to school.

Bouts had al­ways had an in­ter­est in help­ing those with dis­abil­i­ties. She started a group sev­eral years ago at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Al­mon called “Spe­cial Peo­ple” to as­sist those with spe­cial needs and their fam­i­lies.

“There are so many spe­cial needs peo­ple that once out of school have a hard time find­ing much for them­selves,” Bouts said.

The group fo­cused on hon­ing so­cial and vo­ca­tional skills.

Bouts’ pas­sion made her an ex­cel­lent can­di­date for a com­mu­nity-based vo­ca­tional in­struc­tor in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion.

Her goal as an ed­u­ca­tor is to make her stu­dents as in­de­pen­dent as pos­si­ble.

“I try to fo­cus on their abil­i­ties and not their dis­abil­i­ties,” Bouts said.

In the class­room, Bouts leads lessons on func­tional aca­demics and house­hold chores such as sweep­ing, cook­ing and do­ing laun­dry.

Her class also vis­its busi­nesses out­side of the class­room to im­prove the stu­dents’ vo­ca­tional skills.

Bouts’ stu­dents help the own­ers of Frank’s Restau­rant on Ga. High­way 212 by rolling sil­ver­ware, wiping down ta­bles and chairs and dis­in­fect­ing bath­rooms when the restau­rant is closed on Mon­day.

Stu­dents also work in the flo­ral de­part­ment, bak­ery and stock room at Kroger on Ga. High­way 212.

“I just want peo­ple to see that th­ese kids do have some­thing to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety,” Bouts said.

She also tries to groom the stu­dents in much more than vo­ca­tional skill.

“ I fo­cus a lot on tran­si­tion­ing,” Bouts said, “ try­ing to get them ready for the world.”

Once out of school, Bouts wants her stu­dents to have self- con­fi­dence as well as so­cial skills.

She said teach­ing so­cially ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior to her stu­dents is some­times a chal­lenge, but that all teenagers are bun­dles of hor­mones as well as hard- headed.

At the mo­ment, Bouts class is pre­par­ing for the Spe­cial Olympics bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment and mak­ing checker­boards to fund class out­ings.

Bouts said sell­ing the dec­o­rated black and gold Al­covy Tiger checker­boards is teach­ing the stu­dents about tem­plates, mea­sure­ments, tak­ing or­ders and count­ing money as well as school spirit.

Checker­boards are $ 12 and can be pur­chased by con­tact­ing Bouts at bouts. martha@ new­ton. k12. ga. us.

Bouts said she en­joys work­ing with spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents be­cause of their in­no­cence in to­day’s so­ci­ety where chil­dren are of­ten well versed in adult is­sues.

She also feels a sense of pride when one of her stu­dents ac­com­plishes some­thing he or she has worked so hard to achieve.

“ They teach me ev­ery­day to ap­pre­ci­ate the sim­ple things in life,” Bouts said.

Jenny Thompson/The Cov­ing­ton News

Crowned jewel: Martha Bouts, spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion com­mu­nity-based in­struc­tor, sits at Frank’s Restau­rant on Ga. High­way 212 and moves a piece on a checker­board her class dec­o­rated. Bouts’ stu­dents are sell­ing the boards for $12 to fund their class out­ings. They will do­nate a board to Frank’s Restau­rant to show their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for al­low­ing them work on vo­ca­tional skills at the fa­cil­ity.

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