COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ask nearly anyone who works at West Central School why working there is so special, and the answer will almost always be the same.
“It’s the kids, it’s the kids,” said Jennifer Schneid, the adapted physical education teacher. “I’ve been often asked why I’ve stayed so long, and I’ve stayed because I fell in love with the kids and fell in love with the program.”
Schneid is marking 33 years at the school, which serves students between the ages of 14 and 21 who have developmental disabilities. Many of her colleagues have been there for decades as well.
Deborah Charles is in her 22nd year as the school’s registered nurse.
“We are very much a team,” Charles said. “We are teamwork. And so, for the whole school to be nominated, I think that was really nice that you would highlight us as a school staff.”
Assistant Principal Joe Becker did nominate the entire staff for the Classroom Hero honor. And he got a bit choked up while talking about it.
He praised his fellow employees for hanging in there throughout the pandemic, facing challenges they had never had to face before.
He talked about celebrating the student successes, both big and small.
“Every time we see something new, it just brings us chills to think, first of all, that they were able to do it, and then to think that we, as a staff, had a role in that. We played a part of that,” he said.
Becker also pointed out that the school is in a unique position to help students because of the close relationships staff members are able to form with the students. The roughly 70 staff members know each one of the 80 or so students.
“This can’t be the kind of job you just come to do to get through the day,” said Tammy Mackey, an intervention specialist marking her third year at the school. “You have to be dedicated to the students because they need us to help be their voices a lot of times. We have a lot of students that don’t speak. We have very, very significantly delayed students. So we’re here to try to push them forward as much as possible so they can learn as much as possible.”
The goal at West Central is to help each student reach as much independence as possible. Students are taught basic life skills and receive help with physical, occupational and speech therapy.
“It actually changes my heart, like going from not knowing if it was possible, and then all of the sudden it happens, and it actually changes who I am as a human being,” Mackey said. “That’s how much effect it has.”
Many of her colleagues feel the same, and Mackey is grateful to see everyone getting well-deserved recognition.
“I hope it gives that little piece to each person that sometimes, doesn’t always know if they make that significant difference, and I think having this will make that significant difference and let other people know in the public that we’re here,” she said.