While schools are in place to teach students academics such as math or language, they also serve a larger function in society by providing a well rounded social fabric for those that attend. In the case of Castle Valley Center that cloth is woven by connections from student to student, teacher to student and with the community at large. Instructing students how to get along in a world where they will meet challenges is an important part of the education at the school.
“One of the things we have always tried to do is to build a bond with the community, but with the pandemic taking place we are now having to create some new things here for our students,” said Principal Amy Bell. “One of the things that has happened is that there are so many people from outside our school that have donated time and their talents to help the students here. We appreciate this so much.”
For instance, for the first time ever, yoga is being taught to the students and it is a huge hit at the school. Tanica McArthur, a Helper resident, has adapted a program for the students.
“She volunteers every other week to work with the students,” said Bell. “She knows our students and the work she has done with them is phenomenal. She was so interested in adapting it and making it work for them. I wasn’t really sure how the students would respond, but they love it and the teachers love it. That program alternates with our physical and occupational therapy every other week.”
The Utah Opera also has contributed to bringing in an outside influence to the school as well.
“They are doing free assemblies virtually this year,” explained Bell. “While they had been here before, we were just not sure how the program would fit with it being in this format. I told them that and they said without hesitation ‘We will create a whole separate program for your students.’ They even recorded it. Each class watched it from within their rooms and the Opera members interacted with the students. It was done on a Google meet and it was amazing.”
Bell said that groups and individuals like those serving the school realize that the students at the school need to be taught differently and that they also do things differently as well. She also said that the pandemic has taught the school how to do some things in unique ways.
“This year we still did Christmas in a little different way and at Halloween our teachers went from room to room, but we still had the activities,” she said. “Last year because of the pause in school in March we missed our Spring Prom but we hope that will come back this year.”
Some things, however, continue to be done like they were before. For instance, students from the school go to the Gateway Bowling Lanes in Helper every other week for some recreation.
“They actually host our students for free when they come,” stated Bell. “We bring 15 to 20 students and they learn to bowl and have fun. This is one of the community partners we love so much.”
Internally it takes teachers and staff who are so dedicated to what they do to work with students. Many go above and beyond to help students and to make their life bright.
“We have an aide in the school (Brandle Colona) who has been here three years and he came up with a program for the students in which he got local businesses to contribute prizes for a raffle to earn money for Christmas gifts,” she said. “This gave many students a wonderful Christmas that made things a little brighter for them.”
“There are many others that do similar things,” she added. “One teacher organizes an angel tree each year and that is a lot of work. The point is that this staff does more than just teaching. A lot of people think it would be hard to work in this school, and it is true that it isn’t for everyone. But the people who work here, they wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. Not everybody could do this kind of work. They are not just here because of a job and that is a blessing for a principal like myself. I have to say, even after all these years of working here, I am still amazed at what they all do.”