While Adams Protestant Reformed Christian School (Byron Center, MI) only became a CLC Network Member School two years ago, they have worked on their own to provide inclusive education for more than thirty years.
“Our school saw a need to help students who were struggling in learning, and they planted the seed of the program as it is now,” explains principal Rick Mingerink. “I think it started out with a teacher who just had a cart with her books. From there we devoted a room to our Resource Program, then added more staff. With CLC Network, we saw we could get to another level with the help of their teacher consultants and outside opinion.”
With 238 students in grades K-8, Adams Christian is growing and anticipating a building expansion. As the student body grows, so do the students’ needs. That’s good news for resource teachers Vicki DeKryger and Alva Spriensma.
“We really appreciate CLC’s perspective of looking at the whole student, starting with their strengths. Parents need to know that, and we need to give hope. Even though there are great struggles, there are always strengths. That diversity is not a surprise to God,” explains Mrs. DeKryger.
DeKryger and Spriensma use their degrees in special education daily in order to support the needs of all their students, be they academic or otherwise. “We’ve seen students grow in their understanding of themselves,” they reflect. “With the outside help of our CLC Network teacher consultant, we have been able to help our students understand the struggles of other students,” recall Mrs. DeKryger and Mrs. Spriensma. “As a result, those students have become more open to asking questions and building relationships with us, which is what we want.”
One way Mrs. DeKryger encouraged that growth was to present the puzzle piece perspective to the second grade class. CLC Network advocates every person reflects God’s image, and we each have been created with intrinsic value.
Using neurodevelopmental constructs, Mrs. DeKryger explained to students that each person may have strengths in certain areas like sports and language, while encountering challenges with tasks like writing and paying attention. The students then reflected on their own puzzle pieces, and knit them together on the wall for the whole school to see. The puzzle pieces have served as a centerpiece for introspection and conversations that deepen students’ understanding of each other.
Rick Mingerink explains their commitment to inclusion: “We view our students as covenantal children, who are children of God. We don’t educate a brain, we educate a child.” Maybe that’s why inclusive education feels so natural at Adams.
Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 Inclusive – CLC Network’s semiannual newsletter.