Department Chair of SPED, Karen Cummings, is working in her classroom with her students. Cummings has been Department Chair for a year now and organizes Circle of Friends. (Madeline Rivera)
Department Chair of SPED, Karen Cummings, is working in her classroom with her students. Cummings has been Department Chair for a year now and organizes Circle of Friends.

Madeline Rivera

Aiding the way to success

May 3, 2022

As a substitute teacher ten years ago, paraprofessional Dorothy Foster catered to special needs classes and realized her calling: helping special needs students and sharing their stories. Foster wanted to be able to set up a foundation of success for children’s lives and impact them for the better.

Now, Foster has established a name in the Special Education Department (SPED) at Hebron. In a time of job shortages, Foster is more essential than ever as a paraprofessional in our community, according to assistant principal Jacquelyn Kushnir who oversees SPED.

“[The shortage has] been difficult,” Kushnir said. “[Paraprofessionals] do a lot of work behind the scenes that people don’t see every day. They’re instrumental in taking care of our students’ day-to-day needs.”

On a typical day, Foster prepares equipment for students needing the assistance of wheelchairs and trolleys prior to the start of the school day. She guides them through each period, assisting them with special meetings to meet their goals and prepare them for graduation. 

Junior Emily Weiss (right) and freshman Gabi Florez (left) watch a movie on an iPad during lunch. After lunch, SPED classes attend yoga or special meetings to cater to their academic and college plans. (Madeline Rivera)

“We work with our kids so that when they graduate from here, they can go to a group home and places that are set up to help them to be successful in life as well,” Foster said.

Clubs such as Circle of Friends allow non-special needs students and special needs students to become friends, have lunch together at school and connect through similar interests. Special Education Department chair Karen Cummings believes that students can become aware through these organizations.

“Our kids love to have friends just like everyone else does,” said Cummings. “You can say hi to them, interact with them [and] get to know them on a personal level.”

Foster said special needs children just want to be loved and involved in activities around school.

Senior Brady Vaughn poses in front of room 1320, Mrs. Cummings’s classroom. He is planning to attend UNT after high school. (Madeline Rivera)

“[The kids] are unique and beautiful, and you can have so much fun with them if you get to know them,” Foster said. “If you just take a little time and let them know how much you care about them, they love it.”

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