Harris County Department of Education’s Academic and Behavior Schools provide trusted, enriching and supportive learning for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities or challenging behaviors. With low student-to-teacher ratios, many Harris County students receive the support they need to reach their goals. This is certainly the case for 18-year-old Angelica Garcia.

Garcia suffers from auditory, visual and orthopedic impairments and has attended various school districts, including the Texas State School for the Blind, to find a place that meets her needs. After being dismissed from the School for the Blind due to behavior issues, she was sent back to Houston where parents Rolando and Yoahanka enrolled her in Harris County Department of Education’s AB School West through a contract with a local school district.

Garcia has been at AB School West since February 2016 and her family has already seen tremendous progress.

“I’m very proud of Angelica,” said Mother Yoahanka. “She is visibly happier since attending AB School West and looks forward to going to school every day.”

Described by her teachers and therapists as friendly, determined and independent, Garcia is thriving at AB School West. She recently received the perfect attendance award and is currently on the honor roll. Her family has also mentioned she is calmer and happier outside of school.

At AB School West, Garcia works daily with special education teacher Anderson Thompson III and blind/deaf intervener Gloria See. Working as a team, Thompson handles most of Garcia’s instruction, while See works as her eyes and ears to connect Garcia to the classroom and her peers. See also has a special connection with Garcia and has been working with her on and off since she was 5 years old.

Thompson and See use direct instruction with Garcia, a teaching approach that is skills-oriented and teacher-directed. This approach emphasizes the use of small-group, face-to-face instruction by teachers using carefully articulated lessons in which cognitive skills are broken down into small units.

This kind of specialized instruction and care in the classroom creates an enriching learning environment for Garcia, as well as the 83 other students who attend AB School West.

What makes the school unique is that each student has an individualized learning plan. Plus, classes are small with a 5-2 student to instructor ratio. Students range in age from 5-22 and are placed in age-appropriate classes.

Houston-area school districts contract with HCDE for services. Students are bused by their home districts to two schools—in east and west Houston.

“The atmosphere of the school creates opportunities for student success,” explains Thompson. “Because we work with smaller groups of students, we can engage them and provide them with the attention they need. They feel a sense of accomplishment here.”

For more information on HCDE’s Academic and Behavior Schools, visit www.hcde-texas.org/schools or contact Dr. Dee Mattox-Hall, senior director for HCDE Schools, 713-696-8216.

About Harris County Department of Education (HCDE): Serving students, teachers, schools and communities throughout Harris County, HCDE is a local governmental organization providing value for school districts while supporting educational opportunity. Partnering with Harris County school districts, HCDE maximizes local resources and responds to the needs of locally elected school boards and education leaders. HCDE services include school-based therapy for students, afterschool programs, Head Start, educator training, adult education and programs to promote safe schools. To learn more about how your county department of education can help you: www.hcde-texas.org.

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