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Preparing students for life outside of school
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Before Martha Bouts' sons were born, she worked as a paraprofessional in DeKalb County.

After their births she stayed at home with them until they were both in upper elementary school and her husband encouraged her to go back to school.

Bouts had always had an interest in helping those with disabilities. She started a group several years ago at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Almon called "Special People" to assist those with special needs and their families.

"There are so many special needs people that once out of school have a hard time finding much for themselves," Bouts said.

The group focused on honing social and vocational skills.

Bouts' passion made her an excellent candidate for a community-based vocational instructor in special education.

Her goal as an educator is to make her students as independent as possible.

"I try to focus on their abilities and not their disabilities," Bouts said.

In the classroom, Bouts leads lessons on functional academics and household chores such as sweeping, cooking and doing laundry.

Her class also visits businesses outside of the classroom to improve the students' vocational skills.

Bouts' students help the owners of Frank's Restaurant on Ga. Highway 212 by rolling silverware, wiping down tables and chairs and disinfecting bathrooms when the restaurant is closed on Monday.

Students also work in the floral department, bakery and stock room at Kroger on Ga. Highway 212.

"I just want people to see that these kids do have something to contribute to society," Bouts said.

She also tries to groom the students in much more than vocational skill.

"I focus a lot on transitioning," Bouts said, "trying to get them ready for the world."

Once out of school, Bouts wants her students to have self-confidence as well as social skills.

She said teaching socially appropriate behavior to her students is sometimes a challenge, but that all teenagers are bundles of hormones as well as hard-headed.

At the moment, Bouts class is preparing for the Special Olympics basketball tournament and making checkerboards to fund class outings.

Bouts said selling the decorated black and gold Alcovy Tiger checkerboards is teaching the students about templates, measurements, taking orders and counting money as well as school spirit.

Checkerboards are $12 and can be purchased by contacting Bouts at

Bouts said she enjoys working with special education students because of their innocence in today's society where children are often well versed in adult issues.

She also feels a sense of pride when one of her students accomplishes something he or she has worked so hard to achieve.

"They teach me everyday to appreciate the simple things in life," Bouts said.