Individuals with special needs represent the single largest minority group seeking employment in today’s marketplace. Only 23% of adults with special needs are employed. Given their high unemployment rate and the fact that their entitlement to educational resources stops at 21, many adults with special needs—who could bring a range of skills to the workplace—are only marginally integrated into mainstream society.
Through the years, the Catholic Church has recognized the lack of integration of people with special needs into modern society. Pope John Paul II addressed this issue stating, “To show disabled persons we love…there should be a change of heart…a conversion on the part of every citizen and group, so that they may be willing to accept the presence of handicapped persons at school, at work, and in every activity.”
Catholic schools strive to educate the mind, body, and soul of a person, and we believe that they accomplish this to the best of their ability. The National Catholic Education Association states that a Catholic school will happily accept students with special needs if the school is able to meet their needs. Unfortunately, however, most Catholic schools do not have the resources to support a person with special needs. Consequently, the mission of Catholic schools is carried out in an environment devoid of contact with someone with special needs. This robs students of an incredible opportunity to grow in compassion, patience and love—all of which are essential to the Catholic school mission of educating the complete person. Teaching Together provides Catholic schools with the opportunity to carry out their mission more easily while simultaneously improving the ability of Catholic schools to serve students in a purely academic sphere.
Catholic schools compete with public schools for students. Because public schools receive significantly more funding than Catholic schools, they are able to maintain a lower student-to-teacher ratio. They are able to provide more one on one attention for students. With the help of the teacher’s aides trained by Teaching Together, Catholic schools are able to provide more individual attention to students because do not spend as much time on routine daily tasks. Madelene Kill, a high school teacher who currently works with Lani–our first teacher’s aide–says, “Lani makes me a better teacher because when she is around I don’t have to worry about things like making copies, running errands, putting up bulletin boards, and organizing science materials; instead, I can just focus on teaching”