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Let’s Talk Pella – Adaptive P.E.

Posted: Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 at 1:00 pm
Author: KNIA/KRLS News - Andrew Schneider

With classes winding down and seniors preparing to graduate, there’s no shortage of the excitement summer vacation is bringing to the hallways of Pella High School.

Lost in the buzz of students ready to leave, are some not so ready for class to end. Physical education has become a favorite subject of a group of students often left behind.

Every spring, a group comes together to play games usually reserved for Madison or Lincoln Elementary, all the while growing closer together in ways they don’t expect. Bob Fessler teaches Adaptive P.E. in conjunction with the Special Education Department.

Peer helpers apply to be a part of the class, and a select number of juniors and seniors are accepted. Fessler says they are then paired daily with those with various intellectual disabilities to participate in a variety of sports and games.

“In essence, on the needs side, we are probably doing elementary-level P.E., but it’s with helpers,” he says. “So we’ll have everything from autism, down syndrome, wheelchair based, mobility or a behavioral-type issue, but we pair them with a helper and that’s how we go through class.”

Marcus Goodyk is a sophomore at Pella High School, and often finds his way to the center of each activity in the course.

“I like the games that we play because it’s a lot of fun to go hang out with your friends,” he says.

Goodyk is one of the special needs students participating in the program–and he’s picking up more than just competitive skills.

“I’ve made a lot of friends at school, and I don’t want to stop meeting them,” he says.

One of his best friends he’s met along the way is Senior Alice Lickteig, who was inspired by a story in her family to join the class as a junior.

“My dad has always pushed being nice to others, and I’ve always wanted to be friends with those kids,” she says.

Kara Wichhart is another peer helper, who joined the class after seeing upperclassmen changed by the experience.

“It just looked like a great time, I mean I saw people when I was in middle school and everyone had a good word about it and that it was the best times in their lives,” she says.

“I think this is one of the best opportunities I’ve had in high school.”

Every day, the class begins with one-on-one time between peer helpers and those with disabilities, before the games begin.

“So day-to-day, we start with five minutes of walk-and-talk, where we pair up with some different people every day and we just take five minutes to talk to them and ask them how their day is going and talk to them about different activities that have happening throughout the week,” Lickteig says. “That’s honestly some of my favorite time is just getting to talk to them.”

“And then we go into warm-up activities which can include red rover and red light, green light,”

The primary goal is to help the students with disabilities thrive — but they aren’t the only ones that benefit.

“We become more selfless and understand more about what it means to be caring for all types of people, so it’s a huge life lessons that’s been awesome to be a part of,” Lickteig says.

“I’ve learned the most lessons from this class, whether it’s learning to be selfless, to caring for others more than yourself,” Wichhart adds.

For Lickteig, the experience has allowed to find a purpose.

“Last year, I wasn’t sure what field I wanted to go into, but these past two years I’ve truly found that working with special needs kids is my passion and it’s something that I’m going to go into after college,” Lickteig says. “It inspires me day-to-day to just work with them and be able to just how to deal with different problems they have.”

Fessler says the program has brought a shift to the way special needs students are treated–not only in the adaptive programs, but in daily routines.

“In years past, our special needs students weren’t always treated the best,” Fessler says. “But now, the culture has changed so much–we’ll have students that go out of their way to walk across the hallway and give them a high five or to make sure to say hi, or they’ll walk across the school to Mrs. Grubbs’ room to step him and just let them know someone cares about them today.”

Wichhart and Lickteig both have noticed the difference, too.

“I’ve noticed a lot of changes from the beginning with our relationships,” Wichhart says. “You just see how people get along so well, even if you don’t know them outside of class that well, it’s a class that brings everyone together.”

And the difference ha become evident to Marcus, who still worries about how others react to him in the hallways.

“Alice is always the one I’m counting on when I get hurt, she always helps me up in the hallways, and she’s always helping me with stuff like when I’m always getting hurt or when I’m afraid when people are hurting my feelings in the hallway,” Goodyk says. “They’re always coming by and hugging me and making me happy and not so upset or sad.”

“Without these two, I wouldn’t be the friend they made me today.”