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'Friendsgiving' a time to come together in PSH special services

Published on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

foster helps student make peach cobbler

For the last two months, Emma Santor and Daphne Foster’s students have asked over and over, “…are we doing the Thanksgiving feast this year?”

“Friendsgiving” has become a tradition at Philip Simmons High for the special services classes; it is a time for the students to join forces and cook a Thanksgiving meal together on the last day of school before break. Foster started the tradition five years ago – and the students always eagerly await; Santor’s students even had a countdown to Thanksgiving on the board in her classroom this month.

Foster is a cross-categorical special services teacher and Santor’s works with students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.

Both teachers can attest that this annual festivity helps their students build life, social and daily living skills that will prepare them for adulthood after they exit high school.

“We’re actually setting them up where they are responsible and in charge of these tasks,” Santor said, adding, “I think they get excited when they are given adult responsibilities and jobs that we trust them to complete.”

The students really take the reins on the event as well; not only do they help prepare the food for the Thanksgiving meal, they took a trip to the nearby Publix the day prior to shop for everything they would need to cook.

“They pick out what they want to make, they pick out the ingredients…Foster’s kids make all the lists of the things that we have to look for (in the store),” Santor said.

The annual event has gotten so successful that both teachers felt they were mainly supervising the festivities.

“They did a really good job this year,” Foster said.

Santor’s classroom is equipped with an oven, so during first and second blocks on Tuesday, the teachers had their students don some plastic gloves and get busy cooking the delicacies in the kitchenette. student helping foster with macaroni noodles

Their students had a great time lending a hand to whip up some macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes and peach cobbler recipes. The main dish was ham and fried chicken in lieu of turkey. The teachers blew up the recipes on giant pieces of paper and hung them near the kitchenette so the students could follow along with the recipes. Students helped by adding ingredients to pots and baking dishes, and also helped with the cleanup afterward. The main event took place toward the end of the day in Foster’s room.

Santor and Foster are looking forward to more events to come this year to keep their students active in school. Santor is the sponsor of the new Philip Simmons High Iron Hearts Club; the club’s mission is to promote inclusion, kindness and respect among everyone at the school. The club was created to help students with intellectual and physical disabilities build positive peer relationships and receive social mentoring from the general education population. She already knows students who are eager to volunteer with special services. More planning for this will take place when students return from Thanksgiving break.

Santor said Philip Simmons High’s special services team works very cohesively.

“We have a really good program with good people,” she said.



Monica Kreber