Jacqueline Welch, Mount Mercy Academy’s art teacher and noted artist, has added another prestigious award to her portfolio. Head of School Michele Melligan announced recently that Welch has been awarded the FICE (Foundation for Inclusive Catholic Education) Teacher of the Year Award. Welch was recognized at the Foundation for Inclusive Catholic Education 7th Annual Taking Flight virtual celebration on April 22.
FICE is an organization which supports families, educators and schools with the advocacy, knowledge and resources necessary to help students with special needs experience the spiritual and academic richness of a Catholic education in an inclusive environment.
Despite the difficulties of reopening school five days a week in September with all of the safety precautions needed in today’s world of Covid-19, Mount Mercy Academy opened its doors to Mary Grace Wood, a young woman with Down’s Syndrome. The enrollment happened late in the summer which left the faculty little time to make special preparations for its newest Mercy Girl.
However, Welch, a member of the Mount Mercy faculty for over 30 years, was able to realign her instruction to help Wood. “Ms. Welch has found ways to implement strategies for special needs students, despite the limited number of resources available in a non-public school setting,” commented Melligan. “She restructured her classroom to be an inclusive setting that mirrors the mission and values of a Mount Mercy education.”
Welch’s nomination read, in part: “Ms. Welch took the time to get to know Mary Grace and her personal aide, establishing a positive learning environment that fostered growth and self-expression for Mary Grace. It was patience, encouragement and the opportunity provided by Ms. Welch that made this growth possible. More importantly these classes gave Mary Grace the sense of belonging to the Mount Mercy community. Students in Ms. Welch’s classes witnessed firsthand how everyone can contribute to society according to their own strengths and weaknesses.”
Wood completed projects such as potholders, knitted hats and woven plastic mats for the homeless. Completing these tasks produced results and fine motor skills that Wood’s occupational therapists never thought possible. These are life-long skills that Wood did not possess prior to attending Mount Mercy.
“We are honored that Ms. Welch is part of our Mount Mercy community. Her years of experience and dedication have impacted 30 years of students at Mount Mercy. She has now touched the heart of one very special student and has made history at Mount Mercy Academy,” Melligan remarked.