‘Real connection to community:' County special education department looks for ways to serve
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount County Schools is getting into the holiday spirit.
The school district’s special education department participated last week in a Blount County Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. For nearly four hours, six employees staffed a gift-wrapping station at Foothills Mall.
Tammy Cash, a countywide speech language service coordinator; Judy Coppenger, a special education secretary/bookkeeper; Susan Elrod, a special education instructional coach; Genia Huffstetler, a special education census/attendance secretary; Sylvia Kerr, a special education bookkeeper and census/preschool secretary; and Scott Kirkham, supervisor of special education, wrapped gifts for a multitude of afternoon customers. They wrapped more than 50 gifts.
Staff members exhibited the same camaraderie while performing their tasks as they would in the Central Office, Kirkham said. “We worked as a team to wrap the gifts. While I’m good at gift wrapping, I’m not very good with bows or packing the boxes with tissue paper. They were highly qualified in all wrapping skills, so I was the slow one. We ended up handing off tasks to other people who specialized in certain areas, which is normally the way that it works in the office. They’re a very talented group of people.”
In addition to team building, the fundraiser allowed employees to work directly with community members.
“One of our district goals is ‘providing uncompromising educational services to our students through a highly motivated, caring, and dedicated staff that is committed to building a culture of excellence and providing capacity to support learning at all levels,’” Kirkham said. “We are charged with serving the community. On that day, we were able to serve them in a slightly different capacity.”
After their gift-wrapping shift ended last week, school employees even continued to work the station in an effort to help an individual who is obtaining a Blount County Habitat for Humanity home. The individual, who was logging volunteer hours for the process, was scheduled to have additional help, but they didn’t show up.
School officials plans to continue serving the community in unique ways, Kirkham said. “We welcome opportunities to serve the community, so we’re definitely looking for future opportunities.”
For the past five years, school employees have also worked the Special Olympics.
“We want to help our staff in a way that gives them real connection to the community,” Kirkham said. “After all, what they do is much more than process purchase orders and answer questions. They directly serve our children and the community.”