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'They really thrive being able to do things by themselves:' Meridian special ed teacher focuses on life skills

Claire Chambers incorporates everything from cooking basic recipes to social skills in her lessons.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Claire Chambers worked as a geologist before being laid off many years ago, but says it was not until she landed a teaching assistant job that she found her calling.

Chambers teaches special education at Lowell Scott Middle School in the West Ada School District, and loves to get her students' attention both inside the classroom and remotely.

"All of my students are negatively affected by a disability and pretty significantly, and so it takes them a long time to learn skills that most kids learn when they're young," Chambers explained.

Chambers incorporates life skills into her classroom every week. She teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

"I start when they're in sixth grade, we make simple, simple recipes," said Chambers. "That's one of the things we do in our life skills classes, basic cooking. We also spend a day doing jobs around the school, or did before coronavirus... now we just do jobs around the classroom. Then another day is just devoted to friendship skills. Play games and talk to your friends."

When they were learning remotely, Chambers taught other fun skills too, like how to make hummingbird food.

"All kids, they really thrive being able to do things by themselves," Chambers explained. "They all want to be independent. They don't want to have to rely on someone to do things for them, so it really gives them the sense of empowerment and it carries over to other parts of their life because they're learning how to follow a schedule, how to follow a recipe, and that the order you do things is really important. There are some things we do daily that if you don't do it in that order it's not going to come out right."

She says teaching her students brings her so much joy.

"What I love most about teaching this particular subject is I get to know the families really well," she said. "I work with the parents and siblings so we stay in contact long after the kids have left the classroom."

Chambers hopes to eventually have a life skills lab with a fully equipped kitchen and washer and dryer. In the meantime, she is thankful for a CapEd Credit Union grant that paid for a full-sized fridge for their cooking adventures.

If you would like to nominate a teacher who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com. Educators, for more information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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