Top Teachers: Lourie Sledd
Freeman H.S., exceptional education
Lourie Sledd feels fortunate to be among a group of special exceptional education teachers in Henrico County.
But the parents of the students she’s taught feel fortunate that she’s been looking out for their children.
Sledd has spent her entire teaching career – more than two decades – in Henrico. She was inspired to work with intellectually disabled students by her sister, who taught such students in Henrico and Richmond before becoming a guidance counselor at Cosby High School in Chesterfield, where she works today.
Sledd landed at Freeman when it began its full-time program for intellectually disabled students 10 years ago.
Students in the program suffer from a range of disabilities, so she works to find ways to reach each one effectively. The program combines core academics with vocational and life skills. Some of her students also take mainstream elective courses at the school.
“Without Lourie’s leadership,” one nominator wrote, “the students in her class would be very isolated. Instead, they are part of the fabric of Freeman -- young people who attend plays, football games, talent shows; young people who have jobs all over the school and in the community; young people who have the opportunity to make connections with their peers and teachers all day long.”
That, according to Sledd, is her goal every day.
“My kids, I just see them every day walking through the door, and I think about the obstacles they must face before they walk through that door,” Sledd said. “Their bravery, all the challenges they face just keep me going.”
But she’s adamant that what she does is no more significant that what dozens of others of teachers in the county do.
“I am only one of 100 exceptional ed teachers who should get this [recognition], and I really mean this,” she said. “I know many special ed teachers who work late every day and then work all weekend.”
Sledd helped create the Career Pathways Club at Freeman, a program that allows mainstream and disabled students to work side by side selling spirit items in school and at sporting events while developing real-world business skills at the same time. She also is heavily invested in the all-star basketball league, which matches teams of disabled students from county high schools against each other in weekly basketball games.
To Sledd, the most visible change during her time as an educator has been the way that mainstream students have accepted and welcomed special education students into their lives. At Freeman, one of her students even was crowned homecoming king.
“That’s what they want more than anything, is friends,” Sledd said. “They’re just part of the gang now.”
Students with certain intellectual disabilities are permitted to stay in high school until the age of 22.
As a result, Sledd has taught some students for as long as seven years. She considers the best part of her job to be the realization that she’s helped her students thrive in school – and in life.
“They come in as immature teenagers and leave as young adults,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling knowing that you helped them along the way. Many of them will get jobs, be productive citizens and hopefully lead happy lives. Being part of that is very special.
“They’re just amazing kids. I get strength from them.”
The 10th Annual Filipino Festival will be held Aug. 7-8 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 8200 Woodman Rd., beginning with opening ceremonies at 5 p.m. Friday and continuing with live entertainment, food and exhibits until 10 p.m. On Saturday the festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a full schedule of performances featuring traditional Filipino dance, music and song.
Filipino cuisine, including BBQ, pansit, lumpia, adobo, halo-halo, lechon, empanada and leche flan, will be available for purchase. The festival will also feature a children's area, church tours, exhibits, and health screenings. > Read more.
The Children’s Museum of Richmond last week opened its new Short Pump location at Short Pump Town Center, to the delight of children who attended a sneak preview of the location July 10. The new facility, located under the forthcoming LL Bean store (formerly the food court) is 8,500 square feet in size – much larger than CMoR’s former Short Pump location at West Broad Village, which opened in 2010. The new space includes The CarMax Foundation Service Station, the Silver Diner, a grocery store, a performance stage and an art studio, as well as a giant Light Bright Wall. > Read more.
The Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Henrico Police are both presenting community events tomorrow, Aug. 1. The Feria Community Resource Fair at Richmond International Raceway brings together community service providers, embassies/consulates from Latin American countries, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and corporations that impact the Latino community. The Division of Police’s Community Day will feature demonstrations and displays from police, fire, animal protection and sheriff’s office, as well as family activities, food, entertainment and more. Other events this weekend include wine, chess and theatre! For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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