Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration
After the isolation of remote learning and more than a year of social distancing, a crucial part of Karla Dillard-Skinner’s work is helping her students learn the language of touch. Dillard-Skinner, a speech teacher at PS 236 in the Bronx, conceived of her “Hugs Project” to teach her students appropriate ways to ask for and receive hugs.
“We work on the sequencing of the communication — that before you hug someone, you have to ask,” said Dillard-Skinner. “If they’re nonverbal, they have a wallet card that asks, ‘Can I approach?’” The project is schoolwide and even involves the custodians, who know to be on the lookout for a child requesting a hug.
Dillard-Skinner’s project was one of 29 honored at the UFT Speech Improvement Chapter’s 17th annual Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration on May 25 at UFT headquarters, where about 150 students, parents and speech teachers gathered in Shanker Hall for the ceremony. UFT Vice President Anne Goldman was honored with the Friend of the Chapter Award for her strong support and advocacy for the chapter.
The projects were displayed on tables and via a video stream. As each award was presented, the speech teachers described their projects and introduced the students for whom they were created. The presentations highlighted the diversity of speech teachers’ work, with everything from self-published books to cooking clubs on display. Margaryta Kuzmin, of 771K@Brooklyn Studio in District 75, implemented a reading buddy program so her high school students could know the joy of helping elementary school children who are also in District 75 programs. “I kind of felt like I was a teacher,” marveled her 11th-grade student.
Oksana Savuk and her student at PS 11 in Brooklyn were celebrated for their project, “Undefeatable Malcolm.” The 3rd-grader researched famous and accomplished people who also stutter. In his first-ever public speech, Malcolm had high praise for Savuk and offered encouragement to other people dealing with speech disorders: “Always be yourself and don’t be afraid to speak!”
The mood at the event was jubilant and at times boisterous. “It’s a celebration of all the hard work the kids do,” said Speech Improvement Chapter Leader Caroline Murphy. “The providers go above and beyond to work with these students, to help them achieve their goals, and this is the culmination of the hard work of the entire year.”