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    In an effort to create a safe environment where every learner can grow emotionally, physically, and academically - Worthington Hills Teacher/Intervention Specialist Ashley Wiot and Paraprofessional Courtenay Rausch make sure to start students’ day with a smile and a warm welcome.

    They have created a classroom environment where their students, as well as students from other classes, can thrive both emotionally and academically.

    “We have kids who have the emotional, oppositional and defiance behaviors,” Wiot said. “Kids who have a hard time in a regular classroom.”

    The first step to a successful day is for both Wiot and Rausch to meet their students at the bus in front of the school with smiling, welcoming faces. After arriving in a classroom with low lighting and calming music in the background, there is time to talk about how things went over the weekend or previous night.

    “We have kids who have the emotional, oppositional and defiance behaviors,” Wiot said. “Kids who have a hard time in a regular classroom.”

    The first step to a successful day is for both Wiot and Rausch to meet their students at the bus in front of the school with smiling, welcoming faces. After arriving in a classroom with low lighting and calming music in the background, there is time to talk about how things went over the weekend or previous night.

    “We just try to get a feel for how they’re doing,” said Rausch. “Then we’ll tell them about our night. It’s just kind of getting that opportunity if they have something on their mind, they can get it off their chest.”

    It was also important to them for students to build friendship skills and interact with their peers. Early in the school year, Wiot and Rausch identified some students in other classrooms to help. One case in particular, stood out to the pair, as a boy who is deaf was having a tough transition.

    “We made the extra effort to walk into those classrooms and find kids who looked curious and wanted to help,” Wiot explained. “We talked to the guidance counselor and asked about some kids who could actually be role models for these students.”

    The students were invited into the classroom during lunch and recess to get to know the boy. What started as an icebreaker ended up evolving into true friendship.

    “These students still come down here,” said Wiot. “They really care about him.”

    Transition can be tough for any student, but making sure their students feel as comfortable as possible, despite the many challenges, is paramount to Wiot and Rausch.

    “We share our home lives with them,” Rausch said. “We keep pictures of our families on the walls. Today, for instance, (Wiot) brought her dog in. It’s just bringing personal life into the situation. They feel comfortable with us and other kids in the building do, as well.”