South Dade High English Teacher Abdiela Sanz during a Friday afternoon activity session with  transition students. Sanz works hard to make sure everyone at South Dade is included and has  the best experience possible.

South Dade High English Teacher Abdiela Sanz during a Friday afternoon activity session with her English students who volunteer. Sanz works hard to make sure everyone at South Dade is included and has the best experience possible.

English teacher really cares about all the students at South Dade High School.

Abdiela Sanz has a true passion for helping her students at South Dade Senior High School and wants to make everyone feel included. Sanz teaches 11th grade English and sets high standards. She teaches regular and honors English.

A genuine passion for Sanz is working to ensure that every South Dade student feels a part of the school scene.

“I am focused on building a community here. I care about the kids. I want to build an atmosphere at the school where everyone feels a part of it. I want all students to be accepted by everyone else.”

Sanz found a way to help young people who are intellectually disabled by reaching out to South Dade’s transition students. These are individuals aged 18 to 22 who are facing various struggles and need help getting ready for the real world.

They are learning basic work skills such as removing trash and doing jobs such as basic farm and restaurant work. Some are considered nonverbal. Sanz encouraged her English students to get to know the transition students and the relationships really took off.

The English students and the transition students will get together toward the end of a school day, usually on Friday and about every two weeks.

“The students will play games together such as sidewalk chalk, ring toss or playing catch with a football. We did an egg hunt and had fun blowing bubbles together. Sometimes we just sit and chat together. This exposes the English students to people who are different from them. They learn that they can be friends.”

And the young people from each group look forward to spending time together.

“The transition students have come to me and asked when are we going to hang out? And some of the English students who are quieter enjoy spending time with the transition students,” said Sanz. “It has been a chance for people to make friends.”

Recently, the transition students and some of the English students worked to organize a big Easter egg hunt at the school. Sanz asked some of her friends to raise money to buy plastic eggs and some candy. They raised enough to buy 5,000 plastic eggs and filled each with several pieces of candy that were placed around the school.

“The transition students are used to sorting and packing and they put that skill to use putting the eggs together. They put about two to three pieces of candy in each egg,” said Sanz.

Sometimes high school can have a harsh atmosphere. Sanz works to prevent that from happening at South Dade. While there is academic work that must be done, Sanz wants everyone around her to be having a pleasant time.

“I always try to build happiness in my hallway. I decorated my hallway with LED lights. I look for other ways to decorate the hallway. I have brought paint for the students to use on the hallways. Last year I brought a mirror and they started taking selfies of themselves by the mirror. They would share those selfies and they loved hanging out by the mirror. The kids would be chatting among themselves and fixing their hair in front of the mirror. We have had superhero themes and played candy land games,” she said.

Everywhere Sanz goes, she brings positive and affirming energy. This upbeat feeling rubs off on people around her and raises the spirit of the classrooms and hallways where she is.

“All I want is for the school to be a positive place for the kids,” she said.

Sanz is facing cancer but never lets this slow her down. She has run marathons, half marathons and shorter races.

The intellectually disabled students are allowed to remain at South Dade until age 22 because they need more time to develop real world skills. South Dade has a partnership with Berry Farms and Tiago’s Tacos.

At the Berry Farm, the students do a lot of custodial work. They also sort vegetables that cannot be sold to the public.

At the taco restaurant, the students are helping to build the restaurant and when it opens in the fall, they will stock and clean, according to Roxana Hernandez, who teaches the transition program.

“My kids have clicked with the English students. We have a great working relationship. We are trying to get the friendship going with alternating Friday social events. We will have snacks and games together,” said Hernandez.

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