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Ely teacher honored for special education work

Kelsey Borchert one of three nationwide recognized for work with autism

Keith Vandervort
Posted 8/3/22

ELY – The early childhood special education program at ISD 696 recently received a major boost because of the gratitude of a local parent with an autistic child who wrote a nomination letter …

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Ely teacher honored for special education work

Kelsey Borchert one of three nationwide recognized for work with autism

Posted

ELY – The early childhood special education program at ISD 696 recently received a major boost because of the gratitude of a local parent with an autistic child who wrote a nomination letter stating that a teacher here “saved her life.”
Kelsey Borchert, who teaches early childhood special education at Washington Elementary School, was chosen as one of three teachers nationwide who won the “More Than a Teacher” Award which provides special education teachers sensory equipment for their schools.
This all came about because a local parent, Micah Perry, wrote a letter about the help her son Gnarr received from Borchert just shortly after he was diagnosed with autism. The letter from Perry was so heartfelt and inspirational that Borchert was chosen for recognition.
“When I met Micah and Gnarr, they were just in the beginning stages of a diagnosis for him,” Borchert said. “It is a very overwhelming process, and I always try to take extra time and care with the families. There is so much to learn and it is so, so scary.”
She joined Ely K-5 Principal Anne Oelke last month for an online presentation and recognition program.
“They read the letter from Micah and it made me cry because it was super sweet,” Borchert said.
Borchert teaches a group of kids with mental and physical disabilities, including autism.
“I have an amazing job, I really do,” she said. This fall, she will start her seventh year working for the Northland Learning Center and is now assigned to the Ely school.
Borchert commented about the sensory materials the school will be receiving.
“These are things that help kids calm down, things that help kids wake up and get ready for their day,” she said. “It will feature lights, climbing walls, swings and more. Sensory equipment can help kids with different abilities learn more. And having a sensory room can help us, as teachers, learn about our kiddos and how we can help their bodies and minds together. A room like this gives Gnarr and other children an opportunity to be in a place where they can be comfortable,” she said.
As part of the $21.5 million Ely school building and renovation project, the Early Childhood and Family Education, Early Childhood Special Education and School Readiness programs will all have their own dedicated area in the Washington building.
“We have a sensory room as part of our expanded facility, and this award or gift of equipment will be a total game-changer for us,” Borchert said.
In the past, donations from the Ely Education Foundation, Lake Country Power Operation Roundup, and the Ely Jaycee Club helped support the program.
“This equipment is so expensive and we weren’t able to get everything on our wish list. Now, we will be able to complete our room,” she said.
Borchert added that Gnarr “was the one who helped the other kids” by getting this room.
“It is so cool that he can silently advocate for him and our other kiddos because that’s what you need, you need people to fight and push the boundary,” Borchert said.
Borchert marveled at how she came to receive the recognition.
“I was just floored when I realized what happened,” she said. “When we got off the Zoom meeting, I turned to Ms. Oelke and said something like this was just for three people in the nation. That means the United States? Ms. Oelke just laughed and nodded. This whole thing was so shocking. It is pretty amazing.”
The More Than Project was co-founded in 2021 by Kate Swenson and Amanda DeLuca. With both women being special needs mothers, they understood the stress, exhaustion, and struggle that comes with special needs caregiving and wanted to serve others with the support they wish they had years ago.
They established the More Than Project as the overseeing body for More Than a Caregiver, More Than a Sibling, and More Than a Diagnosis.
For more information, go to www.findingcoopersvoice.com.

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