Teaching Inclusion: April Jones

April Jones was at the University of West Georgia, working as a research assistant in an archeology lab while majoring in both environmental science and anthropology, when she could no longer deny that she just wasn’t happy. She loved science, and her mother was an environmental scientist, but April wasn’t feeling it. She decided to take some time off from school and happened upon a job in a childcare center. She never considered becoming a teacher until a colleague noticed her natural abilities in the classroom. April returned to college to get her degree in education, and she hasn’t looked back.

April considers herself an advocate in the field of birth through 5 years. After teaching Georgia Pre-K at Georgia State University’s child development center for six years, she decided she wanted to stretch her wings a bit, and that’s when she discovered Frazer Center’s inclusion program. “I knew that Frazer Center was a facility where children had special needs, but I didn’t really know what that meant as far as being in the classroom. I had worked with special education students in the past, but not at this level.” April applied for an assistant teacher position so that she could learn about the inclusive educational environment. Before long she was promoted to lead teacher in a classroom where she had four students with special needs. She was nervous at first, but with the help of the Frazer administrative team, she learned how to integrate lessons for all of her students.

Also of tremendous help is Annie Brown, the inclusion consultant who comes from Frazer’s partnership with the Adaptive Learning Center. April and Annie discuss goals and objectives for each child. “Annie models each therapy and shares the ‘why’ behind it,” April says, so that she can really integrate that modality into the classroom. And since April spends so much time with the children day-in and day-out, when she discovers a teaching technique that really helps with a particular child’s progress, she brings that discovery back to Annie, and they share with the parents for reinforcement at home. “It’s a real collaboration,” April says.

April sees first-hand how an inclusive environment is an advantage for neuro-typically developing children as well. Even at a very young age, they learn empathy from their classmates with disabilities. “They may not be able to verbalize it, but they know that a peer might be different from them. The children are excited to help and encourage” those with disabilities. “The educators here are passionate about inclusion.” April is also a big fan of the surrounding forest and gardens and takes advantage of Frazer’s unique outdoor classroom as much as possible.

April is confident that she’ll be in this field for the rest of her life. She might go back to school to study applied behavioral analysis, and perhaps one day she’ll open her own child development center, but for now, Frazer is family, and she’s happy to be a part of it.