Plant High School’s Mary Radigan wins Teacher of the Year

Students at Henry B. Plant High School are united by special needs instructor, Mary Radigan.

Radigan leads several programs for her students that teach more than academics. They learn work and social skills that are critical for life after graduation.

“The staff and the student body embrace this population and there’s so much acceptance to diversity,” Radigan said. “The whole world is inclusion.”

She was recognized as Hillsborough County’s Teacher of the Year in March for her work. Plant High Principal Robert Nelson is grateful to have her on his staff.

“She takes it to the next level,” Nelson said. “The patience she has for her kids, the kindness, and the way she advocates for them set her apart.”

Students learn basic work skills at a coffee shop on campus. They brew, sell, and deliver coffee right outside of their classroom.

They also built and now maintain an organic garden on campus. Soil and plants grown are studied by AP Environmental Studies students. The fruits and vegetables are used in the school cafeteria.

“I like it because of the exposure,” Radigan said. “They’re out there working and it promotes inclusion with the students walking by.”

Additionally, Radigan is a coach of the Unified Special Olympics teams. Plant High Special Olympics teams for flag football and basketball competed at the state level this year.

“To be a successful school you want to give them those extracurricular activities,” Nelson said. “You want to create that culture where kids are excited to come to school.”

 

 

Baseball league creates lasting friendships for special needs children

Baseball can be more than just a sport. America’s pastime has this unique ability to bring people from all different walks of life together. This is especially true for Buddy Baseball commissioner Russ Oberbroeckling.

“My sister has a league in Illinois,” Oberbroeckling said. “ Once I saw how well that league was going up there I figured we should have this here in Tampa. We started in the fall of 2009 and we have two seasons a year, we’re just finishing up our fourteenth season.”

Based in Temple Terrace, Buddy Baseball is a non-competitive league for boys and girls with special needs. The players are each paired with a buddy that they will spend the entirety of the season with.

“For typical kids, they don’t have a lot of chances to interact with kids with special needs,” Oberbroeckling said. “But now they do. They want to volunteer their time and get to know these kids. Not only that, but when they see them out in the general public, they are a little more receptive to them.”

Thanks to Buddy Baseball, players like Zach Mueller have been given the opportunity to break down social barriers.

“I like to play baseball with my focus kids,” Mueller said.

Mueller has been involved with Buddy Baseball for its entire existence. His mother, Kim, has seen the effect the league has had on her son and his teammates.

“Once the buddies come out here, I think they see that life isn’t always about being able to run the bases like an average kid can,” she said. “I’m hoping that if at least just one buddy of the hundreds that have come through in the last 14 seasons, take away from it that life isn’t always so simple.”

This league isn’t about the results. Simply put, it’s about the memories and the experiences that will last forever.

“No matter what, win or lose,  we are baseball winners,” Mueller said.