Special education joins technical theater

The Team Awesome technical program is expanding this year with the hope to incorporate more students with disabilities into technical theater.

Amy Thomas, special education aide, heads the program with her husband Maylan Thomas, technical director.

“Team Awesome is a group of kids with various disabilities, cognitive and physical, that can’t necessarily participate in tech without extra supervision,” Amy said.

The two initially started the program for their son, Sully, who was not receiving the same opportunities as regular education students.

“There really is a lack of opportunity for kids, and we didn’t want to see him and other kids fall in the cracks and not have opportunities,” Amy said. The program started November of 2014 with two kids coming in once a week.

“Mrs. Thomas volunteered her time once a week last year and she would bring in a couple of students each week,” Maylan said. “They started with Showcase and a couple of students brought microphones in the first scene change and that seemed to be really exciting. And then we kind of built it off from there where the students would come in build once a week with students in tech during show builds.”

Team Awesome has received special funding from the Meet the Match Grant from the Bader Foundation. “Now we have the opportunity and have received the funding, and students will be coming in every day after school. Currently [there are] just two students a day, but they will be working with the build team to create the show,” Maylan said.

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(Shilei Bell-Lipsey )Students work onstage in after school program Team Awesome. The program gives students with disabilities the opportunity to participate in technical theater.

American Idiot will be the first full show Team Awesome will work on. “We had a preview about [what] the current set is going to look like,” said Adrian Stepanski, freshman and Team Awesome member. “It is going to be really good. We are also going to be helping to paint it when it comes to that time.”

The students will be meeting for two hours day each day and they rotate the students throughout the week. “Most of the students will be coming in twice a week,” Maylan said. “The plan is to see how we can integrate them into the run crew. There is the building side and then the running side and we will be looking at each individual students’ needs and see where they can fit into the run crew.”

The Team Awesome students are completely integrated into the tech program. “We support and do what the rest of the tech kids are doing,” Amy said. “Our kids don’t work alone on their own projects, we work with the rest of peers. It is really cool that way because it gives them the opportunity to work on their social skills, their language skills, and meet new friends.”

Team Awesome is the first program of its kind in the country. “I don’t have anyone to guide me,” Amy said. “This is kind of something we are just doing on our own. We are always looking for ways to make it better.”

According to Amy, the regular education tech students are supportive of Team Awesome. “Shorewood has very high standards and I so I worry that they are afraid that we might bring their standards down,” Amy said. “But most of the kids have been very welcoming and they introduced themselves and help guide them along the way.”

Stepanski said everyone has been very nice and welcoming. “Working with all the high school people is pretty interesting,” Stepanski said. “We get to see what they get to do and meet some nice, new friends.”

By Katie Eder

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