Position: Special Education Teacher
School: Florence High School
School District: Rankin County School District
City, State: Florence, MS
Music that Describes Donna
Donna Campbell was nominated by her colleague, Sandra Tabor.
"'Every child can learn,' was a saying my very first principal had on his wall. He would always explain that every child deserved the chance to be the best they could be," said Tabor. "He said that some would become nuclear scientists, but not everyone. He also believed if you had a child who started the year unable to write their name with capital letters, but who learned to during the course of the year, that child learned and was successful in their own way. Donna Campbell gives our special students the opportunity to do this every single day."
Mrs. Campbell gives her students a sense of belonging and teaches them things they need to know to survive from day to day. She takes them on shopping trips to Walmart to learn how to buy groceries and brings them back to school where they cook some of the items they buy. Each year, she finds out what her kids like to do and gives them opportunities to participate in these activities during the course of her school day. This year, her students' favorite activities include: vacuuming, fixing hair, woodworking, and working with plants. She teams up with the Vocational Agriculture teacher to help students who want to do woodwork or grow plants. She has one special student who loves fixing hair, so Mrs. Campbell allows her to give her a makeover. This is priceless to watch, especially the expression on the young girl's face as she works!
Mrs. Campbell does not stop working with these young people during school hours. She takes them on numerous trips to places like the Pumpkin Patch, a Braves baseball game at Trustmark Park, birthday parties, and Top Soccer. Many of these students do not have the opportunity to do things like this due to their disabilities and other family factors, so it is such a special treat for them. She even gives up her personal time on Saturdays to take her students to participate in community service activities.
Mrs. Campbell has the entire school involved with her class. They have an annual trick or treat through the hallways and into classrooms. At Christmas, she has a party where Santa and his Elves come. At the end of the year, there is always the annual end-of-year cookout. She could not do this alone, so she has enlisted some peer mentors from the student body who help her. They love the kids, and the kids love them right back. Some of the peer mentors even come back after they graduate to help at special events.
Ms. Campbell has shown a group of students with significant cognitive and physical disabilities what it's like to be a teenager. She has changed the way her entire school looks at special needs students and has given everyone around her the blessing of being involved in changing lives. She does it every single day, and always with a smile. Campbell's Crew is known by everyone at Florence High School.
"I saw a saying in 'First Grade Fun Times' that is a perfect fit for Donna Campbell: Most people don't realize that special education teachers are really angels disguised as extraordinary human beings," said Tabor. "This saying is what Donna Campbell is all about. She changes lives daily."