Her program is called Project Life, and that’s exactly what Helen Lane has given to dozens of Forsyth County students with special needs over the past six years.
Lane’s success in preparing those students for the work force earned her the Cumming Civitan Club’s Special Education Teacher of the Year award Thursday during the club’s banquet.
“I was really honored that I was recognized, that’s for sure,” she said. “It was a tremendous honor to be recognized by my peers.”
Lane, who’s spent nearly 30 years as a teacher, was about to hit her 10th year at North Forsyth High School when she decided to try something different.
“We were not actually meeting the complete need of showing a student how to hold down a job,” she said. “We were skirting around it, but we weren’t doing it completely.”
That’s when Lane decided to try partnering with a business in the community where students could work as “interns” and learn tangible skills to help them thrive in the work force.
For the past five years, Siemens has filled that need. The company has also become a home base for Lane, where she works daily Monday through Friday guiding her students through the ins and outs of working a full-time job.
“We’ve been at Siemens for five years. This is my classroom,” she said. “We’re becoming more and more visual in the community. Project Life has gotten a good reputation in the community.”
Civitans primarily work to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, said Ann Raines, president of the Cumming chapter, which honored Lane.
In total, 10 special education teachers were nominated for the honor and Lane was eventually selected from the other three finalists, Christie Ingram, Lesa Barnett and Jordan Livermore.
Raines said Lane “represented what we’re working toward — getting special education students into a productive lifestyle.”
“It’s fitting for us to honor the teachers that pay such a big role in the growth and development of our special education students, helping to be all they can be,” Raines said.