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Educational Empowerment: Embracing Multiple Learning Styles

Student on balcony at Cougar Mountain Middle School smiles
Student on balcony at Cougar Mountain Middle School smiles

Editor’s note: This article is part of an occasional series designed to highlight student voices and experiences from throughout the district.      

Hannah S.  

A vibrant symphony of laughter, chatter and ambition resonates at Cougar Mountain Middle School. Hannah S., a seventh grader with a zeal for learning, stands out among the crowd. Living with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Hannah’s journey isn't just a display of her tenacity, but also a melody of appreciation for her school's efforts to create an inclusive environment for different learning styles. In a world that often demands unwavering focus, students with ADHD can sometimes find themselves marching to a different beat. 

Hannah is a promising leader in the student government, a talented cellist in the orchestra, and a creative force in the knitting club. But Hannah says that orchestra is a sanctuary where her mind, often buzzing with a million thoughts, effortlessly narrows down, an unfamiliar tone compared to her other subjects. "In a normal class, it is ‘sit down, take notes, fill out a worksheet,’ but with orchestra, it is making my mind actually go the entire time," she explains. 

Orchestra teacher at Cougar Mountain, Jana Dalpez, shares, “Hannah is self-motivated and a born leader. She helps her peers constantly and is always pushing herself. She asks insightful questions and gets the class to examine the processes behind their musical study.”

The school's commitment to fostering an environment that accommodates various learning styles has been a significant change for students like Hannah. Different teaching methods, extracurricular opportunities, and an understanding staff have harmonized to create a melody of inclusivity and support, and only increases her appreciation for classes that engage students with unique learning styles.  “I appreciate that there are options. There’s band, orchestra, choir, art, different types of art, different science programs. There’s coding, which I think is pretty cool. There are just different options for students.” 

As Hannah grew up, she learned how she can concentrate and learn best in her classes. “During COVID, it was really hard,” she says. “It was online school and there was a program called Lexia, where if you got one question wrong if you didn’t know it, it would make you restart! (It) was really discouraging. That was a hard time for me because I was in third grade, and it was just hard for me to focus. There were a lot of tears shed during that time.”  

The classrooms at Cougar Mountain also offer physical accommodations for students to try. One is a chair that allows students to move their body quietly, helping high-energy students stay seated and focused longer. “For me, it takes more energy to try to sit still and not move around, which makes it harder for me to focus,” Hannah explains. “A lot of teachers are great about giving ‘wobble stools.’”  

Her hard work is evident in the classroom. She continues to learn what helps her succeed in school, as her grades rose each trimester, and she finished with all A’s in her classes last year.  

Hannah's involvement in diverse activities speaks volumes about the school's ethos. In the student government, she learned the value of leadership and advocacy. The knitting club, on the other hand, provides a therapeutic canvas for her creativity. “Knitting club is so much fun! You get to make so many new friends and you get to learn so many new skills.”  

Hannah said that in the future she is open to the idea of becoming a teacher. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I don’t want others to not like school.” 

In a world that is quick to judge by conventional standards, Hannah’s story highlights a poignant lesson: Success is not a monotonous tune but a rich orchestration of different notes coming together in perfect harmony.