Kingery and her colleague, Krupta Paulsen, manager at Mitra Special Needs School in Bangalore, India, were determined to find an exemplary school that serves students with special needs, integrating them successfully into the general education population on a daily basis.
They approached Megan Howell, the principal at Imago Dei School inside Trinity Classical Academy, to establish a relationship where the Mitra Special Needs School could learn how to model their school similarly, and successfully prepare their students for eventual independence through academics, educational therapy and integration.
“We opened the Mitra Special Needs School a couple of years ago and are now ready to form a partnership with a school, opening the door of communication to share strategies, concepts, therapies and interventions,” explained Kingery. “The Imago Dei School targets the students’ underlying causes of their learning disabilities, as opposed to treating behaviors. This type of learning environment gives us great excitement for our students’ future, vocationally and socially.”
Kingery and Paulsen were able to discover first-hand how the Imago Dei School’s techniques, curriculum and individualized therapies enhance the students’ overall intellectual, academic, spiritual, social, emotional and vocational skills.
Coming from a country that greatly lacks any programs for students with developmental and learning disabilities, partnering with Imago Dei will greatly benefit their students, enhance their curriculum and introduce them to techniques that could improve the overall wellbeing of their student body.
In 2011, Trinity Classical Academy launched The Imago Dei School – Latin for “image of God” – a unique kindergarten through 12th-grade school within a school for students with learning and developmental disabilities.
“Unlike most schools, the Imago Dei student benefits from academic instruction in small, specially designed classes with a low student-to-teacher ratio, an average of 3:1, while also being fully integrated into the vibrant Trinity mainstream student culture for their social and spiritual goals,” explained Howell. “Our skilled faculty and staff strive to assist each student to successfully access the rich variety of learning and social opportunities provided to them, as well as utilizing specific individualized therapies targeting their unique disabilities.”
Over the last 14 years, Trinity has grown from 28 students to more than 550 in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade, making it one of the largest classical schools in the country – and the perfect environment to integrate students with special needs into the school’s general education culture seamlessly.
Trinity’s mission has remained consistent: to offer a challenging education, grounded in the Christian faith and the classical tradition; to produce young men and women of virtue, wisdom, purpose and courage.
The Imago Dei School is committed to providing an environment that helps develop students academically, as well as socially. To help navigate the often challenging terrain of social situations, academic and community integration, Trinity Classical Academy developed the Noble Knights and Peer Mentor programs to provide Imago Dei students with support, friendship and guidance from other students at their grade-level, as opposed to the traditional aide or adult behaviorist.
In junior high and high school, Imago Dei students are academically mainstreamed where appropriate and thrive alongside their peers. The Imago Dei curriculum includes Bible, composition, science, literature, math, world history, geography and physical conditioning.
Imago Dei students participate in Group Education Therapy sessions, which focus on four key components: cognition, perception, academics and emotions, and include a variety of techniques designed to improve the student’s overall ability to think, reason and process information. These techniques emphasize basic skill areas such as reading, writing, spelling, and grammar with reasoning skills within each area.
Upper School Imago Dei students are fully integrated into the general education extracurricular activities like Trinity Knights junior varsity and varsity football, basketball, cheer, cross country, volleyball, softball, swim and soccer.
They also actively participate in Trinity’s general education Fine Arts programs including orchestra, band, and vocal ensembles, as well as perform in Trinity’s Rhetoric Theatre productions. The most recent production, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: The Comedy of the Bard!” was such a success that all the Imago Dei student’s will return to the stage for this spring’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
With students with both physical and intellectual disabilities ranging from 4 to 11 years-old, Mitra Special Needs School’s – Indonesian for friendship – mission is to inspire hope by providing an environment that fosters transformation through practical life-skills training, as well as provision of mobility aids, physiotherapy, job placements, education sponsorships, computer training, counseling and government advocacy.
Partnering with proVISION ASIA, they serve by offering a hand up, not a hand out, which encourages people with disabilities to recognize and utilize their own abilities, empowering them to make a significant contribution to society.