For almost a century, Uni has been recognized as one of the top high schools in the area. Uni’s vision is to work towards “encouraging a culture of creativity, thinking outside conventional boundaries, and pursuing learning at an intensity beyond the norm.”
However, Uni is not an optimal school for students with learning differences or special educational needs.
Jeanette Nuckolls, Uni’s Associate Director and Director of Admissions, says that Uni administration and teachers do their best to make Uni a welcoming community for all students, but as a small school Uni doesn’t have the resources to sufficiently help students with learning differences.
Students with learning disabilities use a 504 or IEP plan to communicate their educational needs to their school and create an individualized plan to help them succeed. Counselors and teachers work with students to figure out how to best meet their needs. However, Uni often doesn’t have the resources to help meet the needs of students with learning differences.
Nuckolls says that almost none of the Uni teachers are trained in special education, so they often don’t understand how to help students with learning differences succeed in their classes. In addition, Uni doesn’t have the funds to hire special education professionals to work face to face with students.
Kristi Bandy, a counselor at Uni, says that “there are quite a few students here at Uni who get accommodations, but it’s not necessarily to the same level that they might get if they went to Urbana or Centennial.”
Bandy says that many students with learning differences need to find resources outside of school to help them succeed. Uni often works with a student’s home school district, like Champaign District 4 or Urbana District 116, in order to help the student obtain services like tutoring that Uni can’t provide.
While Uni just doesn’t have the resources to support students with severe learning differences, I believe students and teachers could make Uni a more inclusive environment.
First of all, classes at Uni often emphasize memorization and are best suited for students who excel at reading, writing, and language skills. I understand that it’s difficult for teachers to make lessons that are accessible to all students, but I think that teachers could do a better job of varying their curriculum in order to accomodate students with different learning styles and abilities. For example, teachers could provide students with more opportunities for hands-on learning rather than rote memorization.
Secondly, I think that students can do a better job of being open to classmates with different educational needs. Uni can often seem like a homogenized learning environment, and we can all do a better job of understanding and welcoming our differences to make a more welcoming and diverse school.