Special education teacher gets creative after pandemic disrupts job site training

Posted at 12:34 PM, May 03, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) -- At the Western Wayne Skill Center, independence is the goal. The program within Garfield Community School in Livonia , Michigan, students who have cognitive impairments, ages 18 to 26, learn valuable skills.

"We teach them job skills, they're also learning problem-solving, how to work with others, how to take direction, how to correct their work when they make a mistake, and working through any issues that all of us workers come across on a day to day basis," said Western Wayne Skill Center teacher Amy Munday.

Photos courtesy Skill-ful Designs

Amy, an educator for 15 years, works with students at the center, usually out in the field at various job sites. So when the pandemic hit, that on-the-job training stalled.

"We had to get creative and think, 'OK, well, we still want to teach them job skills, how can we do this?'" she said.

That’s when Amy's recent basement renovation and love for do-it-yourself projects sparked an idea.

"I started to gain more confidence and thinking, 'OK, this is something I might be able to do with the students,'" said Amy.

Amy says she put a few feelers out on Facebook community pages asking for old furniture, and that’s when Skill-ful Designswas born, a class that teaches students how to take old furniture from drab to fab.

Photos courtesy Skill-ful Designs

"We have ... redone kids' desks, dressers, coffee tables, end tables. We do smaller craft projects, the Solo box holder for parties, welcome signs," she said."We have multiple pieces going on at one time. We have the sanding going on in the wood shop, we have some students back here either painting or putting poly on, waxing pieces."

And what once was old is new again.

Photos courtesy Skill-ful Designs

Photos courtesy Skill-ful Designs

"When we go back and look at the before and after photos, it's a drastic change for some of the pieces. So they get ... that instant, 'ahhhhh,'" Amy said.

Photos courtesy Skill-ful Designs

Darrien Daske, a Western Wayne Skill Center student, agrees that the transformation is satisfying and that he feels like he's done a "very nice job."

Those beautifully refinished pieces are then sold on the Skill-ful Designs Facebook page, with the money going to help fund events and activities for the students.

Amy says she’s appreciative of the local support, shouting out the Plymouth Home Depot and Behr Paint for donating to their efforts, among others.

"I feel very blessed to be a part of Skill-ful Designs because the community's embraced it. The students are getting a kick out of it," she said.

Photos courtesy Skill-ful Designs

Amy says she hopes Skill-ful Designs continues after the pandemic.

This story originally reported by Alexandra Bahou on WXYZ.com.