Peggy Peters, intervention specialist at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, has been honored with the Dottie Schrum Culture Award for starting the Teammates program. This award is presented by the Summit County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Summit DD), to an outstanding employee in Summit County within the developmental disabilities field whose dedication has gone above and beyond to make a difference for those they serve.
The Teammates program is a class where typically developing students do activities such as gym, cooking and life skills with students who have developmental disabilities. The Teammates help to support each other in class and also do social activities together, such as birthday celebrations and community outings together in Stow. The goal of the program is to connect students with and without disabilities in meaningful school activities together to foster friendship. Since the program began, almost 500 students have participated.
"Before this class, my students and their (typically developing) peers had no real opportunity to interact," Peters said. "The Teammates program allows them to develop friendships and relationships with each other outside of class. It's a great opportunity to build understanding and to create an environment where everyone is welcome."
Peters started the Teammates program at SMFHS in 2011 with the help of physical education teacher Tim Viscuso. At that time, typical students and disabled students were in the same physical education classes. Peters knew it was potentially dangerous, but also did not want to take away the interaction between the students. She and Viscuso then had the idea to develop the Teammates program and presented it to the school administration.
Students in the Teammates class now modify gym activities to a pace that allows each student to participate at their level of ability. Students work in small groups to work on individual skills such as kicking a ball or running, then come together to play a game that is modified based on the students in the group. This allows them to participate and interact without the potential danger of unmodified physical education classes.
Another competent of the program is education about disabilities. Each Wednesday in the class, the students are separated as the developmentally disabled students go to work study or other activities. The typical students remain in the classroom to learn about different disabilities, behaviors and symptoms.
"The dialogue we have on classroom days is extremely important, because it builds acceptance and combats judgement," Peters said. "I'm passionate about this because I know the students are all similar and could build great friendships, they just need the opportunity and understanding to do so."
An awards ceremony took place on March 30, but Peters was unable to attend. In her place were Mary Jo Gilson, assistant special education teacher, and one of Peters' students. The student played a message from Peters on an iPad instead of a traditional acceptance speech. Peters received a certificate and trophy.
"Congratulations to Peggy on a highly successful program and subsequent award," said Superintendent Tom Bratten. "The program has been a wonderful way of bringing differently abled students together to cross pathways and form friendships, and it has benefitted everyone who has participated. We are lucky to have her at Stow-Munroe Falls High School."
The Dottie Schrum Culture Award is named after a former Summit DD assistant superintendent who was a passionate advocate for those with disabilities.
The Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board (Summit DD) also announced other winners of the 2017 Summit DD Appreciation Awards.
"We want to take the opportunity to recognize the achievements of advocates, volunteers, community leaders, supporters and other community partners who are actively helping to build communities that are welcoming for people of every ability," said Summit DD Superintendent John Trunk of the awards.
"Because of the efforts of this year's winners and nominees, Summit County continues to move forward and empower people with disabilities," Trunk continued. "And in turn they make this community a better place for citizens of all abilities."
Russ Pry Public Leader of the Year Award: Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio of Munroe Falls, Summit County Juvenile Court
The Public Leader of the Year Award is awarded to an elected leader in the community who, through their leadership, helps ensure that communities are more inclusive and that citizens of all abilities have a voice in the community.
Innovative Partner Award: Lock 3 (City of Akron)
The Innovate Partner Award honors a business or non-profit that is making an impact in the community for people with developmental disabilities through their mission or business. Lock 3's dedication to creating an inclusive public environment embodies the vision of a community built by the abilities of all citizens.
Community Impact Award: University of Akron Engineering Design Team
The Community Impact Award honors a person (or group) whose volunteerism impacts the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. Their innovative and inclusive volunteer efforts help empower people with disabilities to connect to their community in more meaningful ways.
Carlene Weaver Achievement Award: Don Rettberg Jr.
The Carlene Weaver Achievement Award honors an individual with a developmental disability whose actions or self-advocacy has helped to change perceptions or bring about positive awareness for those with developmental disabilities in their community.
Summit DD is the community resource that connects more than 4,700 adults and children with developmental disabilities and their families to services and supports in Summit County. It is the Agency's mission to connect people with disabilities to supports that empower each individual to contribute to their own success and to that of their community. More information regarding the Agency is available online at SummitDD.org.