Special education students rock to the ’60s
June 7, 2016
By: Lori Comstock
HAMPTON — Wearing tie-dye T-shirts and glow-in-the-dark bracelets, singing and dancing to hits such as The Temptations’ “My Girl” and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” special education students from Kittatinny and High Point regional high schools performed to a nearly-packed house inside Kittatinny’s auditorium Monday, taking the audience back to the psychedelic 1960s.
The musical-play, an activity started in 2006 as a small production in the classroom of High Point special education teacher Joan Smith, has erupted into a big-stage production and has been performed at both schools the last three years.
This year’s theme — “Songs of the 60s” — was thought up by Smith to kick-off High Point Regional High School’s 50th anniversary and was slightly tweaked for Kittatinny’s performance.
This year, 21 students from both schools — 12 from High Point and nine from Kittatinny — took to the stage for a full hour to show off their skills, enjoy the spotlight, have some fun and even honor Kittatinny special education teacher, Andy Meyers, who is retiring this month after 41 years at the school.
Alex Lippert, a student at Kittatinny, sang and played guitar to a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” complete with a little tapping of the feet.
“I’ve been taking guitar lessons the last three years,” said Lippert.
Although Lippert received praise from the audience after his rendition of the song, Lippert said his favorite part of the show was being the lead singer during “My Girl.”
With white T-shirts, black pants and black boots, the girls – three from High Point and five from Kittatinny — danced to a cheeky performance of Sinatra’s “Boots” and a handful of boys, complete with cowboy hats and colorful button-up tops, danced to The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
Instead of singing The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” all special education students used sign language, and toward the end of the song, the auditorium went dark where only ultra-violet bracelets on students’ hands could be seen, waving back and forth.
It was an effort by Kittatinny special education teacher and musical advisor Sam Lupo, paraprofessionals and a former Kittatinny parent to surprise Meyers by bringing back a handful of Kittatinny alumni, all former students of his.
“I had no idea they were doing this honor for me and when I saw those kids, I lost it,” Meyers said, tearing up.
For Brandon Bordt, a Kittatinny alum, Meyers’ was always one of his favorite teachers, saying that he was always “so nice.”
The show ended with the students and audience members singing and swaying to Neil Diamond’s classic “Sweet Caroline.”
“I had so much fun; I really like going on stage and doing this kind of stuff,” said High Point student Kalahan Sybesma, who added his favorite part was playing Barney Rubble from “The Flintstones.”
The musical-play is a by-product of SWAP, also known as Sussex Warren Activity Program, and started several years ago by Patti Nugent, Kittatinny special education teacher, Joan Glusiec, Lenape Valley Regional High School special education teacher, Julie Wilson, Hopatcong High School special education teacher, and Smith. Smith had the idea of doing a show, always with a theme, and invited others to join a few years ago.
According to Smith, the musical-play has expanded from a small classroom set-up to a small library show and, eventually, to the big stage with other schools.
“There are great benefits to it; they learn repetition, cognitive components, memorize lines and it improves their reading,” said Smith.
“It was started mainly in part to widen the social circle of students while in school and encourage friendships with students from other schools,” said Nugent, who has been part of the program on and off for several years. “It is hard for our students to have a social life outside of school.”
The program, said Nugent, gives students self-confidence and has educated peers in what they can do, not what they can’t do.