Symphonic choir students share their positive experiences working with the high school’s special education glee club
By Kate Magill, ’13
Walking into eighth period on a Monday afternoon, senior Tanner McClellan immediately smiles. Already she is happy to be in her class, where she leads a group of special education students in a glee club. Accompanied by senior Ryan Fry and juniors Allee Overmyer and Nikki Green, the symphonic choir students teach songs, dance steps and sign language to six special education students two days a week. After working with the club, the student mentors say that no matter the song choice, all of the school’s choirs create beautiful music.
Started in 2010 by UAHS alumna Kelsey Overmyer as her senior Capstone project, the glee club continues this year under the leadership of McClellan, who has made it her own Capstone project. McClellan said she was inspired to continue the club after seeing the positive impact it had on its participants.
“I wanted to help continue the tradition because I knew how much the students loved it. I have also always loved helping students with special needs and am thinking about majoring in special education [in college],” she said. “I have also always been involved in the choral program so I figured what better way to combine my loves and make my Capstone special than make the special ed. glee club.”
Allee Overmyer, who is Kelsey’s sister, along with Green and Fry were also interested in helping with the program; they joined after encouragement from special education teacher Kim Hutson. Hutson emphasized that the club should be continued because of its benefits for the special education students.
“We have a group of students who have a strong passion in music, and [the] glee club [gives] them a meaningful outlet for this interest,” she said. “It was the perfect setting to pair non-disabled students with students in our classroom and have them working together as a group.”
Similar to the school’s main glee club, the special education choir also learned the song “What a Wonderful World” last fall, and added dance steps and sign language to the lyrics, according to Overmyer. She said repitition was key in helping the students remember the lyrics and movements.
After mastering their main song, Green said they have moved onto thematic songs, including Christmas carols during the holidays.
In the last part of class, Overmyer said they let the students listen to music of their own choosing.
“We’ll have 10 minutes of listening to whatever songs the kids like.,” she said. “They love Disney.”
For both the special education participants and the student mentors, McClellan emphasized how much they enjoy their participation in the club.
“Monday during eighth period is the absolute highlight of my week. The three students that I work with, Alec, Lauren and Steven are absolutely incredible,” she said. “It does not matter what mood I am in, they always manage to make me smile.”
McClellan also emphasized the advantages the special education students receive from the club.
“Students most definitely benefit from the glee club because music requires so much coordination and hard work to memorize all of the words, let alone dance and do sign language to them at the same time,” she said.
Green and Overmyer echoed McClellan’s sentiments, and added that the interactions the students have with peers they might not otherwise meet is extremely helpful. Overmyer also said that both the student mentors and special ed.ucation students benefit from the stress reliever the club provides as a part of the day dedicated to learning and having fun through music.
It is this positive experience with their student mentors that shows Hutson how important the club is for her students, as it gives them a chance to be a part of a larger community.
“[The student mentors] help give our students confidence in their ability to learn and grow as students. They are wonderful models. Most importantly, they make our students feel important and accepted in a world where they are often ignored,” she said.
As a mentor, Fry also emphasized the amount of learning he has gained through his work with the club. He said the glee club has shown him the power of music and interaction in a person’s life.
“Glee club has reminded me how we, as humans, can all be connected through music and art,” he said. “There is no greater bond between people than that made through art.”