Golden Apple

Special Ed teacher integrates students, changes lives

Special Ed teacher integrates students, changes lives

CLAYTON, Ind. (WISH) — Eighteen years ago in western Hendricks County, the Walker family welcomed Logan to the world.  

“Logan was born with hydrocephalus which is water on the brain,” explained Logan’s mom Kirstie Walker, hand resting on her son’s arm as they sat in the Coatesville public library together. 

Logan can walk, play and smile, but can’t speak or fully understand what’s going on around him. His mother says he also hasn’t always loved school. He’s been in special education classes since he started school, but a few years ago he started liking school, even loving it. Kirstie Walker thanks Mrs. Heather Brewster, special education teacher at Cascade Middle School in Mill Creek Community Schools. 

“Oh yeah,” she smiles, “She’s amazing. She has done so much for Logan and I think she is one of the main reasons he loves school so much.”

We did some Golden-Apple-style investigative digging and learned it wasn’t hard to find more Mrs. Brewster fans.

“I love her, I love her so much,” gushed Courtney Barnett, a fellow special education teacher at Cascade Middle School. “She’s great. I’m like Heather Brewster’s biggest fan.”

We learned Mrs. Brewster has a specific philosophy when it comes to teaching her students and integrating them into the school at large, and she possesses the skill set to make it happen. 

“At a lot of schools, your life skills or special needs is tucked away in their own corner and isolated from the rest of the school. One thing about Mrs. Brewster is she’s well known and she’s visible throughout the school,” said Zach Schroeder, assistant principal and athletics director. 

“She goes above and beyond for her kids,” adds Kale Blickenstaff, principal at Cascade Middle. “She fights for them. She’s really like a second mom to most of them.”

“You can just tell they feel loved when they’re inside the school,” said Barnett. “She’s taken this program and really transformed it into something successful.”

“She knows not only her kids but the families as well,” said Schroeder. 

“She’s very sincere, caring, truly loves these kids and I feel like it takes a special person to love these kids like Mrs. Brewster loves these kids. She truly cares about them,” said Kirstie Walker. 

Mrs. Brewster’s class runs the sports concession stands, they cook in a classroom kitchen, practice doing laundry, attend general education classes and make friends outside of their group with a peer tutoring program.  

School administrators explain general education middle schools can come and spend an hour or two with the special education students in Mrs. Brewster’s class, helping them with their tasks, school work or attending general ed classes together. Both groups of students benefit and form friendships, said Blickenstaff. 

A fist bump in the hallway or high five at a football game didn’t happen before to Logan, says his mother. Now, it happens nearly every day.

“It’s been huge when we’re out in public and interact with Logan and say ‘hi’ to Logan,” said Walker. “I never dreamed the students at the school would be as accepting as they are.”

After school buildings closed in mid-March, surprising Mrs. Brewster quickly turned into a tough task. The governor has yet to issue a stay-at-home order or restrict outdoor public gatherings. Her principal told Mrs. Brewster that WISH-TV wanted to do a story on the middle school, and asked if she would meet us at a public park for a quick interview.

She thought she was one of several interviews and not the center of the story, but we were ready with the surprise. 

When we showed up all at once with several of her students and their families, you could tell she was a little confused. We told her before we did the interview, we had to confess something. The story isn’t about the school or the students. It was all about her. 

“I am speechless. Amazed. Thank you to each and every one of you,” she said. 

Brittany Lodge with Bailey and Wood Financial Group, the Golden Apple Award sponsor, presented Mrs. Brewster with a gleaming trophy and an oversized $500 check as a thank-you. 

“I love my job. I love my kids. I love their families,” she told us. “Seeing their successes, that’s what keeps me going every day.” 

Watch Mrs. Brewster’s full nomination video below.

Our Golden Apple team is eager to bring you a winner for April, but we need your help. Teachers are now working remotely, helping students through e-learning. Please nominate a teacher in your life who is making a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic through distance learning.