Wednesday and Friday are the best days of the week for a group of students at Gig Harbor High School (GHHS), who get together each week to swim and play at the school’s pool.
Happy pop music loudly plays in the background as Employment Training and Transition (ET&T) students and general education students swim together as a part of their P.E. class. ET&T is a special education program provided by PSD to help high school age students learn skills that will benefit them after graduation.
ET&T focuses on functional academics, daily living skills, and vocational skills. Students prepare for post-graduation goals both in the high school setting as well as in the community. GHHS paraeducators and teachers say the integrated swimming class is a wonderful way for the students to meet their peers and get to know each other.
“The [general education] kids can really be behavior models to our kids, and get them excited to try different things," said GHHS Paraeducator Frankie Hacker. "They’re more comfortable with each other, and swimming lets them relax around their peers. Our students then make better connections that way. They bond and become friends.”
To an outside observer, swim class looks like a group of students just having free play in the pool, but for both the general education students and ET&T students, there is a lot of learning going on. GHHS P.E. Instructor William Landram is the school’s swim instructor and chooses which of his students to ask to join the integrated swim class.
“It gives the general education students a chance to do something for others, and gain some empathy, and it gives the ET&T kids a chance to work with others and get guidance from their peers," Landram said.
“The [general education] kids can really be behavior models to our kids, and get them excited to try different things. "They’re more comfortable with each other, and swimming lets them relax around their peers. Our students then make better connections that way. They bond and become friends.” GHHS Paraeducator Frankie Hacker
Landram teaches P.E. for the ET&T students throughout the year. When they aren’t swimming, they are learning tennis, relay races, yoga, and more. Swimming, Landram said, is a great exercise for anybody no matter their physical abilities.
“Some of our students have physical disabilities where it’s difficult for them to move their body. But the water provides an easier way to move around. It can be therapeutic," he said.
Senior Christian P. plays multiple sports for GHHS including football and basketball. He swims each Wednesday and Friday with the ET&T students and some of his fellow teammates, and says it's something he looks forward to each week.
“It’s just super fun, the other students are funny, we teach them a little bit of swimming but mostly we just get to have fun," said Christian P.
Did you know?
Washington State does not fully fund our mandated special education programs, including paraeducators, who serve our most vulnerable students? Paraeducators and programs such as ET&T are funded by the Educational Operations and Programs Levy.
- learning environment