If there’s a door of opportunity available to her students, you’ll find Michelle Van Dyken knocking on it. The Canyons Transitions Academy educator has established a program to help students with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 21 transition from public school student to community member and worker.
As such, Van Dyken often is found knocking businesses’ doors to see if they might provide employment or internships to her students. For her efforts, Van Dyken was honored recently with a 2011 Arch Coal Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award at the Utah Education Association’s annual Superstars in Education banquet.
“(Van Dyken) sees students with autism, Down syndrome or other severe disabilities not as an impaired individual, but as someone who deserves the chance to interact with the world,” writes a co-worker, quoted on the UEA's Web site.
“What some people may view as a quick trip to the grocery store or a stop at the library, Michelle sees as an opportunity for her students to become more independent … to learn life skills they will need as they leave the public education system.”
The award, for which Van Dyken was nominated by her peers, comes with a $1,500 check. Ten Utah educators received the awards at the banquet.