Schools have always sought to balance academic education with hands on, life experience. One way Rocky Mountain High School students achieve experience is through a consumer concepts class called Lobo Bistro. Teacher Chris Rosazza has transformed his enjoyment of cooking into a program that teaches students what it takes to plan, budget, shop for, prepare and serve a meal. Students spend an entire semester learning and practicing what it takes to coordinate a lunch service at a student run restaurant. They are assigned job roles such as host, manager, set-up/clean up, wait staff and cook. The early part of each week is spent preparing for the meal so that when Thursday rolls around students are ready to prepare and serve lunch to staff who have come to enjoy the bistro. What was once a classroom/kitchen is transformed into a comfortable, cozy, dimly-lit bistro. Patrons are simply asked to make a $5 donation to help offset the cost associated with their meal. Even if students decide the restaurant industry is not for them, they are gaining confidence and experience in their cooking abilities. Job experience, life experience and the wafting scent of bacon, what could be better?
“And the winner of Homecoming Queen 2016 is Teagan Motschall!” September 23, 2016 was a special day for Poudre High School. It was homecoming week; it was a football victory over Rocky Mountain High School; and it was a win for the whole Poudre High School community. That evening, 19-year-old Teagan, with an infectious smile, was queen for the night. Teagan, who is beset by health complications and unable to speak without assistive technology, sparkled like the gem she is.
Teagan’s childhood was a fight from her first moments. At birth, Teagan suffered a brain injury that would significantly affect her brain. Within 6 minutes of her birth, baby Teagan began what would become a life of seizures. Through determination, fight and her faith, Teagan has made the most of life with, and despite, her limitations. To friends and family, she is the sassy girl with a great sense of humor.
Being the oldest of four children, Teagan’s siblings have never known a life untouched by disability. Teagan’s brother Taylor, who is 13 months younger, has helped her become the young woman she is. He treats her the same as anyone else. As children often do, he expected a lot from her. He didn’t stop to consider her limitations; instead, he pushed her beyond them. The night Teagan was nominated for Homecoming Queen, her whole family, including her brother who made the hour drive from college, were there cheering her on. As we sat and visited for this article, Teagan scrolled through years of photos saved on her phone, beaming with pride over pictures and videos of her sisters and brother.
“We are better people for having her in our family,” shares mom Christine. They have had enough close calls to know how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone. When Teagan was eleven she experienced an allergic reaction to pain medication. One evening while napping on the family’s couch, she became unresponsive and her heart stopped. She had for all intents and purposes died. Paramedics were called and revived Teagan. “We got her back!” says Christine.
Over the last year and a half Teagan has become a beloved member of the Poudre High School Community. “I am so happy that Teagan came to Poudre High School and that I have been one of her teachers. She brings the best kind of energy to our school; she not only has a great sense of humor, but also real determination to try everything and have fun while she’s doing it. She is an incredibly valuable member of Poudre High School and will be truly missed when she graduates this year!” Lisa Owsley, Integrated Service teacher, shared.
“The thing I appreciate and cherish most about Teagan is her sense of humor. That girl is one of the funniest people I know. She’s also incredibly caring and has a great attitude. Sometimes I catch her playing with my hair and loving on me, just because. She’s got so much love in her heart and she radiates that to everybody she meets. In Unified basketball, I might have perfected her shooting form but in high school she didn’t need my help. She has shaped me into a better human being and has helped me be successful in viewing things in a different perspective. Teagan has been successful at PHS in the fact that she has touched so many people’s hearts. She is unafraid to make new friends and is very accepting of everyone. She puts her all into her academics, sports, and the meaningful relationships she creates along the way. I am truly blessed to call Teagan Motschall my friend,” shares classmate and friend Madi Giles. Whether it’s secret handshakes or playing together on snapchat, Teagan has been accepted and loved by her community and peers.
Teagan’s favorite class is PE with Mr. Goyler, so it’s no wonder she is active in Poudre High School’s Unified flag football and basketball teams. She spends free time with her family, care takers and her Capernum (Young Life) group.
“We are so grateful for the Poudre High School kids, Ms. Owsley, paras and teachers.” Christine, Teagan’s mom, shared why Teagan is thriving at school. “I genuinely believe it [the school culture toward people with disabilities] comes from the top down at Poudre. Lisa has revolutionized how typical kids’ attitudes have changed toward students with needs. Lisa gets everyone excited! She loves her students! She is amazing with all of the students.” Christine had no shortage of praise for the PHS staff, in particular Lisa Owsley. “Every time I am around her I think, I want to be like Lisa, to love as much as Lisa does.”
In addition to the Poudre High School community, the Motschall family is excited about and supportive of High Pointe Services. High Pointe Services is an organization that provides private care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A variety of services are offered based upon the needs and desires of each client. By partnering with PHS, High Point, and home care providers, Teagan’s family is given the chance to be father, mother, brother, sisters and not simply care takers.
It’s not hard to figure out why Teagan was elected Homecoming Queen by her peers. She is brave, resilient, sassy and inspiring. I dare you to see her smile and not return it in full.
With the weather growing colder you may think the time for gardening is over for the year. On the contrary, Speech Language Pathologist, Colleen Reyes, and students at Fort Collins High School are extending the growing season. With the use of the greenhouse at FCHS, an Apple grant, as well as a grant from Whole Foods, several projects have been funded for students with disabilities.
The Apple grant has helped fund two projects. The first portion of the grant was used to purchase poinsettia flowers and spider plants. These plants gave students the opportunity to utilize the greenhouse at Fort Collins High School, with their peers, while building on their speech and language skills. “Speech and language objectives targeted in these two tasks included the following: biology, botany, and science vocabulary introduced to the students, as well as teaching the sequencing, following directions, community experience, vocational and communication skills necessary for participation of working in the greenhouse,” says Reyes. Vocational learning opportunities for students include caring for plants, re-potting plants, root clipping, sweeping, washing windows and cleaning tables with independence.
The secondary portion of the grant is the partial funding of an aquaponics system for the greenhouse. The Aquaponics Source explains aquaponics as “the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in.” A grant from Whole Foods provides the funds for the growing system as well as the supplies necessary to keep the aquaponics system working.
Students are in charge of budgeting, shopping for parts for the gardening system, building the station and ultimately caring for the fish and plants. Students practice appropriate and functional communication through team work, following directions in a variety of settings and working with peers and the community.
The goal for this year is to grow lettuce, spinach, basil and green beans as well as an assortment of herbs. There are big plans for aquaponics growth in the future, but one thing is certain now – the students are loving their time in the greenhouse.
Poudre School District Integrated Services Director: Sarah Belleau 2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521