Richard Boothby has been teaching special education at Patterson High School for just about ten years. Boothby teaches in the Moderately Severe sub-division, Special Day Class (SDC) at PHS and works with his staff of paraprofessionals to help teach the students important life skills such as interacting safely and cohesively within a community.
“So for my program we teach students functional life skills,” said Boothby. “We teach how to be productive and contributing members of society.”
Boothby said that the students in his program may not have all of the skills or education that other students may have, but he and his staff work hard to teach them how to function appropriately in society.
Boothby detailed an exercise in which his students got to go to Round Table Pizza (pre-pandemic) and learned hands-on (acting as employees) how pizza is made. The students were able to practice proper food-safety, sanitation and handling procedures and then were able to roll pizza dough, add the sauce, cheese and miscellaneous toppings. With the assistance of Round Table staff and Boothby’s paraprofessionals, the pizzas were loaded onto the double electric belt conveyor ovens.
“A big part of my program is to teach them community based instruction,” said Boothby. “[At] Round Table they got to see how a job there works and what it’s like and what it takes to be in that role as a pizza maker.”
Other exercises include walking to grocery stores and teaching students how to shop and practice social skills.
“All those different aspects on how to interact with people in the community safely,” said Boothby. “Safely walking to and from [the grocery store] that’s a huge part of what we do. [We also] teach them about money, but it all comes down to functional life skills.”
Boothby, a graduate of California State University Stanislaus, received his Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies for Teaching before receiving credentials in Pupil Personnel Services for School Counseling and eventually, a Master’s Degree in Education.
For 15 years Boothby worked as a school counselor and his experience working with special needs students inspired him to go back to school and receive teaching credentials for Mild-Moderate Special Education and Moderate-Severe Special Education, which is the credential he currently uses at Patterson High.
As a counselor Boothby said, “I would work with students individually and then in small groups and I got to see those classes and see how it could be if I was a teacher. I wanted to go ahead and get my own classroom so that I could work with students and get to know them better so that's why I went into teaching and through my time working as a counselor I worked with a lot of special education students and I got to see how important it is to have someone connect to them and have a good support system for them, and I felt that I really could do that.”
Boothby says that independence is one of the most important focuses of his program and that it’s really important for the students to be able to learn to function independently in society to the best of their ability. He said that while all students are different, some will be able to get a job and maintain their independence and social awareness.
Mr. Boothby repeatedly brought up the fact that his paraprofessionals have been a huge part of the program and their work with the students has been a tremendous boost to their learning experience. He also brought up Special Education Resource Teacher, Amy Barron and credited her involvement in the success of the program as well.
“We work as a team with the paraprofessionals in trying to help the students out
and Amy [is also involved] in the program helping [the students] with reading and functional life skills as well cause next year we are going to be team teaching again because the program is getting bigger...She taught with me for three years but she’s coming back next year and we are going to be expanding our program.”
Currently, the students have been working on “Kindness Kards.” A new activity that was started after paraprofessional, Marin Hooper got the idea when thinking about ways to welcome back returning students. Each week a new sentence is written on the whiteboard, this week’s sentence is, “You are amazing.” The students write the sentence down on a card, draw pictures, sign it and give it to a random student on campus.
“It’s something to just help boost positivity in the school,” said Boothby. “Giving students and staff a card of encouragement and we are also working on our writing skills. They do it two times a week so it’s kind of a cool little thing. We come up with the statement and put it on the board and they write it down. Some of them write it and some trace it and some have been really creative by putting all sorts of drawings in there. Thursday, Ms. Amy and Marin, they went walking around and they saw a class outside and one of the students went up and picked a student randomly and handed it to them...We have one student that actually takes them to her art class to hand out. Anyway to get some positivity out there.”
As for the program’s future, events like the district Special Olympics and Car Show are uncertain, but Boothby and his staff have gotten the green light on being able to get back into the community to start being more hands-on again.
“We have been on distance learning for so long and we just went back to in-person learning but we are going to start going back into the stores. [Another thing] we have been doing is cooking and doing some planting in the little flower bed outside of our room. So we’ve got that going and we were able to actually go into the logistics department and some of our students actually did a truck driving simulator and that was pretty cool because logistics is all about the community and so we got to do that.”
As for next year, Boothby is hopeful that the program can continue to expand and that they are able to start visiting Rising Sun School in Vernalis again.
“We also do activities together with our transition program, Rising Sun. We are hoping we will be able to do something with them through the end of the year and every year... We go out there so they can get familiar and we do activities with them. We work in the greenhouse and in their vegetable gardens and with the animals...That’s something we are looking forward to getting back to.”