Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Inclusivity: Ensuring all students count

Inclusivity: Ensuring All Students Count

It’s important to document the school year in a way that includes equal representation for students with special needs

No matter age or ability, it’s critical that schools make inclusivity a priority for all students. Parents often struggle to find inclusive environments for kids with special needs, which limits abilities to capture memories outside of the home or secure a space in traditional memory books like yearbooks or other school representation.

In-person schooling can be challenging for the special needs population, and virtual learning exacerbates common barriers for families. Nearly seven million students have a disability, which oftentimes lowers self-esteem and hinders socializing and building friendships with peers.

Whether it be attention deficit disorder or having a diagnosis like autism, where a child may struggle with communication and have repetitive behaviors, disabilities can position students to not be seen in the same way as other students. This not only creates an unfair advantage for these students, but it is sometimes a difficult road for parents, too, as most parents and guardians want their child to feel included or “part of the group.”

The value of inclusion

Students with disabilities make up 14 percent of national public school enrollment but can often be overlooked when it comes to traditional school activities. Inclusion is only truly effective when educators believe in the value of an inclusive educational model and choose to collaborate internally and with parents to get the support they need.

While virtual learning has altered the typical meaning of educational inclusion–where students spend most, if not all, of their time in the classroom with kids of all abilities–virtual learning has opened the doors to how technology can maximize students’ access to learning. Be it customizable yearbooks or “being in a classroom on Zoom,” all students have been able to experience learning together, which is a powerful thing.

It’s critical that typically developing students understand that although there may be differences between themselves and the special needs population, there are also a lot of similarities. All students benefit from engaging with peers and being in a system that values equity and opportunity in education. Equity recognizes every students’ unique gifts and different needs. And the beauty of this past year, especially with the heightened use of technology, is that schools are tapping into new and innovative ways to capture the silver lining moments of all students–including more creative and inclusive representation in annual yearbooks. This commitment to inclusion is a gamechanger for students with disabilities and gives parents the peace of mind knowing their child is welcomed and represented alongside their peers.

Provide inclusive settings in classes and extracurricular activities

Regardless of the timeline for when more in-person classes will take place, inclusion in any sort of classroom setting or within extracurricular activities is important. When typically developing students work alongside students with a disability, it creates immediate awareness around the fact that everyone learns differently and might require modifications or accommodations.

Mentor programs are one way for students to work alongside peers who may experience developmental delays. This kind of setup enables students of all abilities to feel seen and encouraged to learn. Inclusion in elective classes like art or music is also a way for typically developing students to serve as a buddy and learn about others’ abilities. Some children may have visual or hearing impairments, too, so it’s important to get a thorough understanding of those in a classroom and identify ways to promote a safe, encouraging environment for everyone.

Working with students with special needs teaches important life lessons, including empathy. One doesn’t need to hold a certain degree or achieve a specific accolade in order to meet the needs of others. Some students simply require more specialized education and care in order to reach their full potential.

Capture memories in a customizable yearbook

Some companies can capture every students’ memories–even memories during the pandemic–in a yearbook that reflects the school and makes each and every student the star of their own book. Through customizable yearbooks like this, even a non-traditional school year can be documented with students in makeshift classrooms at home, tuning into Zoom lessons, doing homework with their pet at their side or enjoying an outdoor recess with neighborhood kids.

Traditional yearbooks often only include a few photos of each student, and many students end up only included with a single school portrait. Students with disabilities are often overlooked or not represented in as many photos as the students who are involved in sports, clubs, and educational accomplishments. This is often unintentional, but is common, nonetheless. It’s critical that all students see themselves represented in the yearbook, a long-standing tradition for K-12 schools. Customizable yearbooks create more collaboration between teachers, parents and students and include all students without hidden bias.

While it must be an ongoing effort, it’s possible and necessary that schools take steps to ensure that all students feel included and that their school memories are positive ones – whether in-person or virtual.

TreeRing Announces Four Winners of the #TreeRingMemoriesMatter Challenge

TreeRing Announces Four Winners of the #TreeRingMemoriesMatter Challenge

San Mateo, Calif.: Today, TreeRing is pleased to announce the winners of our #TreeRingMemoriesMatter challenge. Yearbook editors from across the US submitted their favorite yearbook spreads from the 20-21 school year.

First, we want to send a big thank you to everyone who participated in our challenge and helped make it a success.

“This inaugural challenge was prompted by our empathy for our yearbook editors this year,” said Kristina Cruz, Head of Marketing, TreeRing. “Preserving our children’s memories is so important and this year it was even more so from a journalistic standpoint. Given the various COVID safety protocols in schools, parent volunteer’s and teacher’s work was made even more challenging. We wanted to celebrate these editors’ hard work as well as their student’s memories.”  

A special congratulations to:

First Place: Lois Lenski Elementary in Centennial, Colorado

$100 Amazon Gift Card, 10 Free Yearbooks for their School, & An Art Block of their Spread

Their yearbook spread was not only beautifully designed but did a great job representing the uniqueness of how their community decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day. What other year would our pets make the yearbook?

Second Place: Del Norte Heights Elementary in El Paso, Texas

$50 Amazon Gift Card, 5 Free Yearbooks for their School, & An Art Block of their Spread

As facemasks became the new normal to attend school, the stylish covering became the norm. The photos of those “fashionable facemasks” captured the beauty of each child’s personality, and this spread captures the year beautifully.

Tied for Third Place: Plumas Charter School in Quincy, California

$25 Amazon Gift Card, 3 Free Yearbooks for their School, & An Art Block of their Spread

Laid out and designed beautifully, this yearbook spread does an extremely honest and thoughtful job covering the wildfires, and how the community came together to “weather the storm.”

Tied for Third Place: Pelham High School in Pelham New Hampshire

$25 Amazon Gift Card, 3 Free Yearbooks for their School, & An Art Block of their Spread

This verbal and visual spread encompasses the health and safety measures that had to be followed to be in school along with a timeline of events. These “Pythons in a pandemic” will be grateful to see this honest reporting of their school experiences this year for years to come.

Our panel of judges, which included members of TreeRing’s marketing and support teams, would also like to thank and congratulate the following runners up:

Alliance MIT

Canyon View Elementary School

Cedar Brook Academy

Chief Joseph School of the Arts

Clarksville High School

Classical Conversations of Greater Covington

Cornerstone Academy

Crane Middle School

Del Norte Heights Elementary School

Emma C Chase

Evergreen Valley High School

Garden County Schools

Garrett High School

GECO Homeschool Group

Grande Park Elementary

Harlowton High School

Hydesville School Elementary

Johnston Senior High School

Lakeside Christian School

Langston Hughes High School

Lyle School

Mexico City Christian Academy

Mount Vernon Christian

Mountain View Middle School

NB Cook Elementary

Nebbie Williams Elementary

North Hampton High School

Oak Tree and Applegarth Elementary Schools

Olympic View Elementary

Oneida Baptist Institute

Pacific Horizons School

Philander Lee Elementary School

Pottsgrove Middle School

Presidio Middle School

Rita Ledesma Elementary School

Riverside High School ‘70

Seashore Middle Academy

Skyview School

Tomahawk Elementary Olathe

USC Hybrid High Prep

Valley High School

Virginia City Middle School 

White Twp PTO

Woodmont Elementary PTA

World Compass Academy


Established in 2012, TreeRing, is a technology company that offers high-quality yearbooks at affordable and transparent prices by updating the outdated yearbook industry to allow for inclusivity, flexibility, and sustainability.