Everyone has to overcome obstacles. Randi Retinski, a speech provider at MS 51 in Brooklyn, wanted to show her students that “even though you struggle in school, you can still be successful in life.” Their project about celebrities who beat the odds was among those honored on May 10 at the UFT Speech Improvement Chapter’s 12th annual Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration at union headquarters in Manhattan.
Through their research, Retinski and her three-student team discovered that Howie Mandel of “America’s Got Talent” had ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, and movie star Tom Cruise was dyslexic until he got help in high school. But those obstacles didn’t hold back either celebrity. And thanks to their project, “You Can Do It, Too,” Retinski’s students now can be proud of their own success.
“I wanted my students to feel special,” she said. Looking out on a room filled with special students and their speech teachers, Speech Improvement Chapter Leader Mindy Karten Bornemann said, “The children who are here tonight, someone believed in them.” Bornemann, who is retiring as chapter leader after 26 years, said the moment was bittersweet. “I know our speech teachers, speech language pathologists, students, families and friends will never forget this night, nor will I.” Anna Khenkin, a speech provider at PS 209 in Brooklyn, had her students design hotels for their project. They came up with names, enticing descriptions, price lists and more.
“Sometimes we can learn from our students,” Khenkin said. “I learned about their culture, their interests and how much knowledge they already have that they can apply to their work.”
The event’s theme was “Everyone Deserves a Voice,” and speech provider Susan Ross of PS 771 @ PS 329, a District 75 school in Brooklyn, was determined to help her student develop his. They created a video “to get him motivated during therapy and give him something to look forward to” as they targeted topic maintenance, reading comprehension and generating rhymes. “He was so excited” about the celebration, she said, that he showed everyone the invitation. And then he generated a rhyme: “Speech is fun for everyone.”