WATERTOWN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Wednesdays are "Station Days" in Amelia Cato's classroom.
“It’s good for them, though," she said. "It works their brain muscles, which is big on them.”
The students play board games and do arts and crafts, but these ordinary activities serve an extraordinary purpose.
"They need the sensory," said Mrs. Cato. "That’s one thing with special needs students is they really need that sensory time.”
Cato is a Special Education Teacher at Watertown Middle School in Wilson County.
"I have autism, I have just delayed learners, and I have a traumatic brain injury student that’s in here," she said.
Each student has unique needs, but Mrs. Cato's goal is the same for all of them.
"They need to be independent, and they can be sovereign citizens when they get older," she said.
But a new activity turned her students into published authors.
"And so, I wanted them to feel special, and publishing this book — I mean, it was a lot of hard work," said Cato.
Students were tasked with writing and illustrating their favorite classroom memories. The book is called "Our Memories." The Exceptional Education students wrote about things like field trips and class experiments.
"It is a joy to work with these kids," said Cato. "I hope more people sign up and go to school to do this because it is very rewarding."
Cato admits it's a tough job, but one that's desperately needed. There's a shortage of special education teachers across the country. Currently, Wilson County has about 15 job openings.
"These kids deserve every right just like a general education class. They deserve it," said Cato. "They need to learn life skills that will help them when they get older."
She knows she's just a small chapter in her students' life, but it's a chapter she hopes will shape the rest of their stories.
As for the students, they're already planning another book for next year.