Amy Downey doesn’t just believe in inclusion, she lives it.

Downey is a special education teacher and the volleyball coach at Beck Academy in Greenville. She has been teaching for 22 years – all in special education and all but one at the middle school level.

“I love this age,” she said. “I have a great team that I work with. I have a great co-teacher and a great system between she and I and our aides. It’s exciting watching them grow into adults. It never gets old. No two days are ever the same. They are all very different individuals. I love to dive in and pull out as much as a I can. I like to find the individual abilities in each kid and build bonds with them and their families in and out of school. Working with their families is huge, just working as a team.”

Downey lets her students help as managers with the volleyball team. On game days, they come to cheer for the team, often as a big group sitting with buddies in the bleachers.

“If it’s just a few, sometimes they sit on the bench with us,” Downey said. “It’s important to make them feel a part of the school community.”

Downey and her students run concessions for the school’s basketball games, and her students play in or help with the school’s annual dodge ball tournament fundraiser. She also organizes a Buddy Walk team each year and takes her students to participate in Special Olympics events.

“On Christmas break and summer break, we try to keep in touch and do things outside of school,” she said.

Downey said her students just make life better.

“I truly believe that this is my calling from God,” she said. “There are some days that are tougher than others, but you can be in a bad mood when you walk in and they will brighten your mood in a second.”

Nomination excerpt:

“Ms. Downey goes above and beyond for all of her students at Beck and has such an amazing way of offering love and support not only for her students but the families as well. She appreciates the uniqueness of each individual she teaches and sees them first, then tends to the disability that is apart of who they are. ... She is a blessing to all who walk through her door and is deserving to be recognized for all that she does year after year!”

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