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Georgia delegation visits Renton's New Horizon School
Renton’s New Horizon School hosted an international delegation from Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science on March 28.
The five delegates, accompanied by two State Department interpreters, were in the country to get a firsthand look at special education programs in the United States. The World Affairs Council of Seattle contacted New Horizon because it’s solely a school for students with learning disabilities, attention deficits and other learning differences, serving fourth through 12th grades.
The visiting group was participating in the State Department’s professional exchange called the International Visitors Leadership program. The Georgia delegation was to visit public and private schools and institutions in Washington, Mississippi, Wisconsin and were in the District of Columbia prior to visiting Seattle. While in the state, the group was to also visit Roosevelt High School, the Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, Seattle University and the University of Washington.
“At NHS, it is our mission to make learning accessible to special needs students and provide them with a personalized learning environment that will prepare them to be contributing members of society and life long learners,” said Marla Veliz, New Horizon administrator. “The Georgian delegates likely have the same or a similar mission for their special education students in their country. Perhaps it is the shared mission and shared passion about special education that makes the discussion so exciting for all of us.”
The group of five women from Georgia toured the schools classrooms and facilities, speaking with educators and being led by New Horizons’ Associated Student Body officers. They asked questions about student assessments and curriculum.
“We liked it very much,” said Mariam Chikobava, head of Georgia’s National Curriculum Division. “The learning areas are so beautiful.”
The tour was focused on inclusive education examples and the country of Georgia is just now developing their special education programs, Chikobava said.
The group also included Georgia’s head of Inclusive Education Development, the deputy head of the National Curriculum Department and members of the Ministry of Education and Science’s multidisciplinary team.
Several years ago, New Horizon hosted a delegation from Syria that was interested in special education as well. The school prides itself on going in-depth on subjects, although they may not cover as much subject matter. Educators take an integrated approach to curriculum setting academic goals, keeping students engaged and meeting students where they are. Teachers develop curriculum based on students needs and a lot of hands-on projects.
Many of the students at New Horizon are the products of bullying from their previous schools.
“We create an environment of trust and acceptance that is safe, where students are engaged and willing to try new things,” said Veliz. “We provide a structure and routine within the learning environment, we know and understand each of our learners individually, we invite students to talk to us about any difficulties they may be having, and we pay attention to student emotions.”
“Creating this environment allows students to feel safe and feel accepted, which further enhances their opportunity to learn,” she said.
Renton Reporter Tracey Compton can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5052.