Laura Henry, a speech pathologist at the Murphy School, was the surprise guest of honor at a school assembly on Nov. 11 in which Google presented her and the school with an Impact Challenge grant.
The funds will be used to supply Henry with the tools she needs to help K-grade 2 students, including a new printer, laminating sheets, and color ink, which will be used to create individualized picture books and boards to help students communicate with each other, their teachers.
After posting her project proposal, “Help My Students Learn to Talk”, on Donorschoose.org, Google’s philanthropic board decided to support her effort with a “flash-fund” grant hat celebrates teachers who are working to make education more accessible for students with a wide variety of special needs.
The surprise ceremony was Google’s idea. They reached out to the Murphy School’s principal Courtney Sheppeck to give her the good news. State Representative Dan Hunt was also on hand as Henry’s students filled up the gym with balloons, hand-painted thank you signs, and most importantly, their joy, laughter, and congratulatory cake to show their appreciation to one of their heroes.
“She has a really high-level of specialized skill in this area of work,” said Sheppeck. “She is just as important as any teacher. She provides students that have multiple handicaps with alternative ways for communication that are excellent.”
Henry has worked in the Boston Public School’s for four years, but this year is her first at the Murphy School. She made the transition because she wanted to follow her initial passion to help children with multiple handicaps improve their communication skills.
“I realized how important communication is for children with severe special needs and how much it can change their life if they learn to communicate their wants and needs and connect with others,” said Henry.
She assists 48 students that have multiple handicaps like cerebral palsy and vision impairment. She mainly works with grades from Pre-K to 2nd grade. Resources can be scarce, she says.
“It is very exciting to receive help for our kids. Every day, the teachers and I spend a lot of our own time and money, so it is nice to receive a little help and be recognized,” said Henry.
Sheppeck is impressed with the unwavering dedication to the students that Henry and the other teachers at the Murphy School show every day.
“If [Henry] hadn’t taken the risk of putting the proposal online, then others wouldn’t have noticed all the great work that happens here every single day. We serve over 900 students at the Murphy and it really does take a village.”