PHOTO: Lara Polse adjusts to distance learning to conduct her speech and communication therapy over Zoom.
By Elliot DeJong,
Lara Polse sits in front of an IKEA desk in the corner of her bedroom. A mug of ginger green tea sits next to her laptop, and her children’s artwork hangs on the wall. This is where Polse has been conducting speech therapy online since the beginning of the school year.
Polse works for the Davis High Special Education Department as a speech therapist, helping students who are having difficulties in school. She started at DHS last year.
In high school, Polse volunteered at a center for kids with severe autism for her community service hours. At first, Polse was photocopying and helping with other small tasks. She eventually began to help during sessions when therapists took days off.
Polse noticed the importance of communication for the kids she was working with. “I felt a little worried that the way we were teaching them was kind of feeding them what we wanted them to say instead of them being able to express themselves,” Polse said.
Polse now has a master’s degree in speech therapy. She helps students learn strategies to solve problems and develop their communication skills.
According to Patrick McGrew, the director of special education for the Davis Joint Unified School District, all of the services that the special education program provided are still available over Zoom. Special education staff and general education teachers use the collaboration time built into the distance learning schedule to check in on students and ensure they have the support they need.
“This is an incredibly challenging time in education,” McGrew said. “I appreciate the hard work of DJUSD staff, […] students and families as we navigate distance learning together.”
Polse is still enjoying her work during COVID-19. She now spends more time doing arts and crafts with her 5-year-old and 2-year-old, playing ping pong, and creating ceramics. She also likes to go on bike rides and explore nature.
Polse finds that the most satisfying part of her job is working with students and seeing them succeed.
“Students are always making me laugh, and smile, and making amazing progress, and surprising me,” Polse said.