California Educator

August / September 2017

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ach May for the past five years, Fontana Teach- ers Association (FTA) member and Kaiser High School special educator Michael Giardina has coordinated "Splash and Dash," a districtwide event that embraces disabilities and values student diversity. S i m i l a r t o t h e S p e c i a l O l y m p i c s , S p l a s h a n d D ash brin gs togeth er al l of Kai ser Hig h's stud ents and edu cators, in ad dition to athl et e s from oth er schools, in an uplifting celebration. Its impact goes far beyond a single day to longer-term student rela- tionships and achievement. "Splash and Dash started at Kaiser as an event that adds the fun of water alongside educational components of living a healthy lifestyle," says Giardina, known as Mr. G. "e event embraced the entire school community." This year, more than 250 participants with special needs — 20 classes from Fontana Unified School Dis- trict's seven high schools and transition programs (age 18-22) — competed in running and field events as well as water challenges, supported by more than 150 student volunteers and leadership groups from Kaiser High. "e best of who we are was on display at Splash and Dash," says Dinny (Diana) Rasmussen, an FTA member and Kaiser High counselor. "A regular education stu- dent struggling with depression ran joyfully alongside her friend with critical needs who could not contain her own happiness. A transgender youth helped his partners cross the finish line. A star athlete laughed uproariously as he struggled to keep up. Kindness won the day!" Because of its size and scope, Splash and Dash has become one of the largest district special education events in California. And now Giardina and FTA are looking to expand it to other districts and chapters. T h a t m a ke s s e n s e t o L e s lye Me n d oz a - L o p e z , a senior who volunteered for the day. "It was the best experience of my life," she says. "Seeing how happy th e t ea ch ers , p e er tutors an d st af f m a d e th e stu - dents made me want to pursue a career as a special needs teacher. Splash and Dash is really something all schools should have because it motivates students and makes them feel proud of their accomplishments." Splash and Dash starts with the athletes' welcome A Win-Win Kaiser High's 'Splash and Dash' brings students, schools together Story and photos by Ed Sibby More than 250 participants with special needs competed in running and field events, as well as water challenges. E 58 Teaching & Learning S P L A S H D A S H

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