Learning through evidenced-based practices

Thunderbirds Charities generous support for Gompers programs has been extraordinary. Now topping nearly $212K since 2004, Thunderbirds Charities have helped fund our multisensory room, contributed to our capital campaigns, resurfaced our indoor basketball court and helped build the physical infrastructure for our assistive technology (AT) program. When Gompers Private School recently identified the need to update our K-12 classrooms and increase staff training in technology, the Thunderbirds once again offered their support.

Special Education Director Becky Gurnick, M.Ed. recently shared the foundation for her educational philosophy and the basis for the grant request, “Educating special needs students to reach their highest potential requires not only an individualized, multi-faceted educational approach, it also requires a well-trained staff, teaching in a highly structured classroom environment and utilizing evidence-based curriculum.” She went on to say, “The 2015 funding from Thunderbirds Charities provides the essential partnership that makes this possible.”

Four essential pillars define Gompers Private School, an Arizona Department of Education certified K-12 special education school:

  1. Curriculum – Each student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) is generated specifically to support the learner with goals to increase academics and life skills. Our school utilizes Unique Learning System and News 2 You, curriculums which are both aligned with common core standards using evidenced-based practices. These curriculums provide opportunities for all ages and levels of functioning to experience learning by using a differentiated learning strategy. In addition, our classrooms are structured to support a variety of behaviors by using a teaching model that supports Positive Behavior Interventions (PBI), and allow the students to develop independent functioning.
  2. Assistive Technology (AT) – The need and use of AT are assessed through a collaborative process of integrating and implementing various assistive technologies using evidence-based strategies to support a student’s access to individualized curriculum across all contexts.
  3. Community-based instruction – Through exposure to a wide variety of activities out in the community, students are able to practice and apply learned educational strategies in real-life situations. In these often unfamiliar environments, multisensory activities provide opportunity to increase receptive and expressive communication skills as well. Each activity provides an opportunity to gain knowledge through self-discovery and building new social skill sets. Gompers large fleet of available, accessible transportation supports this important education experience. As our programs grow, we intend to add a variety of therapies including aquatics, equine therapy, community kitchens and the science museum.
  4. Transition – A transition-based secondary curriculum, combined with Gompers adult programs, ensures students are prepared for life beyond school. Special areas of instruction include career readiness, social relationships, environmental control and daily living skills. Instruction encourages greater independence and empowers the student to become more vested in their own transition into adulthood. Many of our high school students are participating in tasks that will provide them a foundation to take on multiple job duties.

Executive Director Mark Jacoby recently applauded the Thunderbirds for their significant support which has directly resulted in better programs and services for the individuals we serve. He also noted their momentous impact in bettering lives throughout our larger Valley-wide community. “Thunderbirds Charities’ dedication to improving the lives of individuals and families is clearly evident through the good work they do,” Jacoby said. “Our organization is a strong supporter of the Thunderbirds Birdies for Charity® program because their efforts benefit so many,” he continued. “To all the amazing men and women who volunteer their time to make this possible, Gompers shouts out a big Gator salute!”