NES celebrates exceptional students (PHOTOS)

Published 10:17 pm Saturday, June 15, 2013

A few Northeast Elementary School parents received progress reports that brought them to tears.
The progress reports came in the form of an end-of-year celebration for students enrolled in the school’s exceptional children program.
Dressed in formalwear, students sang and danced for their parents then served a meal each had a hand in preparing.
Teacher Linda Hanchey said she came up with the idea for the celebration because she wanted to showcase the advances the students had made in their first year at the school. She and the school staff managed to keep everything a surprise for the parents.
“We took the kids behind the stage and had them on risers. Parents were brought in, we opened the curtain and their mouths dropped,” Hanchey said.
The students matriculated from Bath Elementary School to Northeast Elementary School’s exceptional children program last fall. Hanchey said parents started the school year apprehensive about the new school and teacher.
“They were concerned because they had a wonderful teacher and the kids loved her,” Hanchey said. “It’s a real scary moment, knowing how hard it is to learn each child’s personality and ability. And the teacher they had knew their children.”
The event quickly became a community effort. Volunteers from First Christian Churches of Belhaven and Washington decorated the assembly hall with yellow tablecloths and fresh-cut flowers and Tiffany Randalls photographed the event.
Most of the students’ attire came from Pearl’s Prom Boutique, a nonprofit organization started this year by Northside High School student Eliza Bowen. The boutique offered free dresses to anyone who had monetary issues holding them back from attending prom.
With more than 100 dresses at their disposal, Hanchey’s students were fitted then styled for the big event.
“We had them dressed up like little women,” Hanchey said of the girls in her class.
The boys received dress shirts and ties for the occasion.
“The students just glowed. They just felt really pretty and handsome and just really proud of themselves,” Hanchey said.
Eighth-grade students volunteered to escort Hanchey’s students. Hanchey said her students have been able to interact with the rest of the student body, visiting classrooms and playing together during recess.
“All the kids at our school have been so gracious with these children,” Hanchey said. “They don’t look the same. They don’t act the same. But, they are a part of our society and they are still loved.”
Hanchey’s luncheon menu included student favorites like ham, deviled eggs, Watergate salad and banana pudding. She and the class started preparing the food two days in advance.
They performed “Step into the Spotlight,” a song Hanchey had taught them that really hit home for students uncomfortable with performing before an audience.
Before food was served, everyone watched a PowerPoint presentation of class activities and fieldtrips set to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
“That’s when everybody lost it because it was beautiful,” Hanchey said. “Emotions ran high; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
The event ended with a 30-minute dance party. Hanchey’s class dances with her everyday.
The year has been a learning process for Hanchey, getting to know her new class and the abilities of each student. Preparing for the showcase has been a learning experience, too.
“I’ve learned more about how far I can expect them to go and I’ve learned by this event they can learn songs, movement, how to cook – the independent skills they can use in the future,” she said.
Hanchey said next year’s goal would be to send her class to prom with the rest of the student body.
There will be a few more showcases in the class’s future, as well.
“Oh yes,” Hanchey said. “And our imagination is our only limit.”