Jeremiah Hurlburt and special education teacher Ellen Hubbard work in the Ticonderoga Middle School cafeteria. Hurlburt is the first student in a new program to teach life skills to students with learning difficulties.
Jeremiah Hurlburt is good at his job. The Ticonderoga Middle School student moves from task to task each day in the school cafeteria and office, paving the way for future pupils.
Hurlburt, who is autistic, is the first student in a new program designed specifically for children with special needs at the school.
“Instead of doing traditional academic work all day, Jeremiah is in a life-skills program,” explained Ellen Hubbard, a special education teacher. “This is an opportunity for him to learn job skills he can later in life take into the community.”
And while Hurlburt is learning, so is the Ti school district.
“Jeremiah is the first student in the program, but he won’t be the last,” Hubbard said. “We have other students in the district who are different learners. As they get older this new program will also give them the opportunity for life-skills training.”
Hurlburt, the son of Linsey and Robert Hurlburt, began the school year working about 10 minutes a day in the cafeteria. He’s now working about 45 minutes a day breaking down boxes, stocking milk, sorting silverware and other tasks. He also occasionally helps out the school office.
“Jeremiah’s come so far,” Hubbard said. “The ladies in the cafeteria have been awesome and he loves coming to work. He feels he’s part of the team. As he’s learned new skills as we’re added more and more jobs. It’s been a real success.
“The work has been really good for his self-esteem,” the teacher added. “He has complete ownership of these tasks. He knows what needs to be done and does it.”
In fact, Hurlburt has been given some management duties. As part of the program he directs Hubbard on what needs to be done.
“I work for him,” she said. “He tells me what to do and I do it. He’s really accepted the responsibility that goes along with a job.”
Hurlburt is a man of few words, but he did smile and offer a resounding “Yes” when asked if he enjoyed his work.
This summer Hurlburt hopes to work with the school maintenance staff.
While Hurlburt is learning, he’s also earning. Hurlburt is paid for his work at school, which provides another opportunity to learn.
“He’s learning about money and how to handle it,” Hubbard said. “We have an account set up for him and he has to make decisions on how to spend his money. He likes to buy games for his computer.”
Hurlburt is setting a standard for the new program at Ti Middle School.
“As we look a different learners and disabilities we have to be creative in using the resources of our school district,” Hubbard said. “We have meaningful jobs these students can do as they learn important skills.
“The sky’s the limit for Jeremiah and other students,” she added. “There’s no cap on the things they can accomplish here, especially with the support we’ve received. Jeremiah’s a great example for other students who can benefit from this type of learning.”