PLAINFIELD — The doors opened Friday to the library at William B. Orenic Intermediate School and excitement took over for 11 students in the special education program as their parents, grandparents, aunts and teachers walked into the room.
The smell of turkey and all of the trimmings, as well as fresh-baked pies and cookies, lingered as students created a spot for their guests to sit.
Friday marked the ninth year the students in the special education program at the Troy School District 30-C school, under director of special education teacher Kenlyn Anderson, hosted a Thanksgiving lunch for family and school staff and teachers.
Anderson said when she started at the school the class had done something similar the year before with the students themselves, but her need for outreach changed the focus.
“The first year I taught here at Orenic Intermediate I had a parent I really needed to build a relationship with, so I thought we could add the parents to the Thanksgiving lunch,” Anderson said. “Plus, parents can be so involved when the kids are in elementary school, but when the students get older, parents don’t have as many opportunities to help at the schools, and it’s hard on parents. This event helps them be involved in their child’s life at school.”
Two days before the lunch, the children and special education staff headed to a Shorewood grocery store and the students shopped for the food items on the list. Anderson said it was a great way for the kids to learn how to make a list, etiquette in a business and how to find the food in the store.
Friday morning the students prepared the food for the lunch. Each had specific tasks, and Anderson wanted to keep them simple, yet instructional for the children.
“The students learned how to prepare food and to be safe when they use knives and prepare hot foods, as well as decorating and clean-up procedures,” Anderson said.
Sixth-grade student Caroline Collins said her favorite part of the meal preparation was when they made the pilgrim hat cookies. They took cookies, peanut butter cups and icing to create the festive treat.
Most students had a parent or grandparent come to have lunch and teachers were lunch partners with those who did not have a family member attend. The room was filled with laughter and smiles, and teachers and parents interacted with the children on a personal, more casual basis.
“Caroline was very excited for this lunch today. She was so excited to go on a shopping field trip and for us to come and eat lunch with her. It’s all she has been talking about lately,” Larry Collins, father of Caroline Collins said.
Dena Dixon came to eat lunch with her fifth-grade son Mason Dixon, but this was not her first time at the Thanksgiving feast. Her now-12-year-old daughter was in Anderson’s class and Dena Dixon remembered how hard Anderson worked for those lunches to make them special for the families.
“I love that I get to eat with my son in his school and he gets to point out all of the things that he made,” Dena Dixon said.
Mason Dixon, like most students, said his favorite part of the day was when he made the pilgrim hats. That, and when his mom came to spend time with him.
“Happy, I’m super happy,” he said.