“St. Marcus integrated Mason from day one,” says Brenda Jashinsky, Mason’s mom. “They embraced him with love immediately.”
After Mason was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, Brenda struggled to find the right learning environment for him. Then she heard that St. Marcus, Milwaukee, Wis., provided special education services. Mason began attending St. Marcus in first grade and is now in fourth. As Brenda says, “He’s been rocking and rolling ever since.”
Mason is in an integrated classroom with a diverse group of peers. St. Marcus has helped coordinate behavioral treatment with outside community resources as well as one-on-one instruction with St. Marcus staff members—or even students.
“Students could sign up to be a ‘Mason buddy’ and engage with him one-on-one during recess,” says Brenda. “I can’t believe that students would give up their recess time to help Mason.”
It’s not a surprise to Rebecca Hannemann, though, who says, “St. Marcus provides a loving, caring, safe environment for students to learn that we are all uniquely created by God. Often we have fear when we encounter differences and we want to look away, but at St. Marcus we want to help students step into it.”
As the director of student services for St. Marcus, Hannemann says that about 10 percent of the school’s students use special education services for mild to moderate disabilities—about 90 students in all. One challenge is finding qualified, certified, synodically-trained educators. That’s why Hannemann was excited to partner with Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., in the fall of 2021 to help train three students who were pursuing undergraduate degrees in special education.
“We exposed these students to a variety of special education needs, and they took it on with eagerness, grace, and a passion to serve, which is what you want all the students coming out of Martin Luther College to have,” says Hannemann. “They embraced diversity, worked hard, and shared the gospel.”
The students were grateful to put their special education classes into action during their ten-week student-teaching experience at St. Marcus.
Hannah Oelhafen, who graduated from MLC on May 14, says, “St. Marcus was a wonderful experience where I was finally able to apply strategies learned in class. I worked with a diverse group of students with varying needs. I grew close bonds with many of my students. The especially neat thing about that experience was that I was able to share Jesus’ love with them every day.”
Classmate Elizabeth Blank agrees and adds, “At St. Marcus I was able to see how much God and his love changed the atmosphere of a school. We love because he first loved us. That unique love that our schools provide should be accessible to all students.”
Volume 109, Number 06
Issue: June 2022