To the Editor:
When educators come back from February recess, you know this is the heart of the schedule; the meat and potatoes. This is a “make it or break it” time for the students. Educators know this is the time in which the students will be tried and tested through the rigors of their curricula.
As the great singer-songwriter John Mayer once sang, “by the time I recognize this moment, this moment will be gone.” I’d like to say I recognized what was happening in the moment. One hour turned out to be a great day for the Toll Gate community. This “intangible elusive moment” is what the best day at Toll Gate, for me so far, was all about.
A unified basketball game was held on March 21 from 9 to 10 a.m. I sent some of the Jazz Ensemble members to the gym to play some pep music. Little did I know it was to become one very special hour. About a month ago, sophomore Taylor Venter, a flute and sax player, told me she was going to get a schedule and we would perform at some unified games. Being new to Toll Gate, I was unaware of what I now know makes Toll Gate a very special place.
At the center of the day was a special needs student named Kellen. He sang the national anthem a capella. You could not hear a sound in the gym as he sang. His every note was vocally in tune and could be heard to a packed audience of silence. He garnered the respect of the entire student body, faculty, staff and parents. Mr. Royster, Kellen’s chorus teacher, and myself were very moved, and Mr. Royster was welled up a bit. I could only think of my own special needs daughter, Gennie, having a day like Kellen did.
Toll Gate versus Cranston East became more than a game. As the Jazz Ensemble played “Sweet Caroline,” Kellen came up to me to tell me it was his favorite song. The halftime presentation included a video about the Toll Gate special needs students and the importance of eliminating the “R” word. Wow, what an hour.
The entire special education department seemed to be there. I know Ms. Rachiele was behind this a great deal. The physical education department gave up the gymnasium. Mr. Parker, the athletic director, seemed to move about quickly to coordinate things smoothly. So many people came together in a concerted effort for such a great event.
And March continues on.
George J. Landrie Jr.
Instrumental Music Teacher
Toll Gate High School