Fraser special education paraeducator Melanie Motto figured she didn’t have much of a shot at winning a $2,500 classroom grant from a competitive award program, but her students’ needs outweighed her doubts.
Motto completed and sent off an application, describing the resource room where she works with teacher Samantha Bartkowicz to support 20 K-6 students in reading, writing, and math at Edison Elementary School.
Motto’s grant request focused on one big pandemic-related change that altered how the two MEA member educators were able to support their students. “All of our sensory items had to be put away for the year, because those supplies were shared by all of the kids. We use those items when they need to regroup and recenter to be able to focus on their academic tasks.”
In her sixth year working with students who cycle in and out of the resource room for direct instruction and general education support, Motto dreamed of having separate bins and a storage cubby to create and keep sensory materials individualized to the needs of each child.
To her surprise, the project was chosen to receive a grant. “The majority of our kids stay with us for the duration that they’re in our building, so they’ll be able to use those materials year after year – and we can adapt and change and replenish as we go along,” she said.
All spring, while students were tied up in state standardized testing, Motto was ordering supplies for the bins and getting the cubbies set up in a permanent spot in the classroom. Delays prevented a hoped-for unveiling before the end of the school year, but now she’s ready for the fall.
Each bin will contain some variety of squish balls, finger puppets, bubble poppers, water beads, moon sand, modeling foam, spinners, light-up stress balls, tactile discs, and more. “I cannot wait to take some pictures after we get the items doled out to the bins and we can let them know it’s all for them,” she said.
Motto says she became a paraeducator after starting at the school as an aide in the developmental kindergarten program, following in her mother’s footsteps working as an education support professional in a Fraser school that her children attend.
Working as an educator with students who have special needs is her dream job, she said, and she was happy to go the extra mile to secure the $2,500 grant from the Michigan State Farm Teacher Assist program. The contest closed quickly – after the first 200 entries were received – and 40 winners were chosen.