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#3Heroes: 'She's the greatest teacher you could ever ask for.' Elyria teacher leads yoga online to keep students with special needs engaged

Samantha Polczynski teaches students with disabilities at Murray Ridge School. She leads yoga classes to help students regulate their emotions, body and mind.

LORAIN COUNTY, Ohio — Adjusting during the COVID-19 outbreak is tough, especially for families of children with special needs who depend on the structured environment of school.

That’s why Lorain County Intervention Specialist Samantha Polczynski is using yoga to give her students, and their families, a sense of normalcy.

“Yoga in our classroom is really one of the staples for our schedule,” says Polczynski, who is affectionately called Ms. Sam.

Polczynski teaches a small group of students with varying disabilities at Murray Ridge School in Elyria. She found that leading yoga classes helped students regulate their emotions and be more aware of their body and mind.

Unfortunately, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools, it disrupted the routine that is instrumental for student success. So, Polczynski took her yoga class online.

“He perks up whenever he hears Ms. Sam's voice,” says Elysia Pasenow, a Murray Ridge parent, of North Ridgeville.

Pasenow's 11-year-old son, Landen, is non-verbal and has numerous physical disabilities after surviving cancer twice before the age of 3.

Although Landen needs someone to move his body into different yoga poses, his mother is brought to tears as she thinks about how Polczynski makes sure her son is included in yoga.

“I was always worried about him being left out of things because he can't do those things,” says Pasenow. “But she really makes it a point to make sure he's involved in everything.”

“She's the greatest teacher you could ever ask for,” says Korin Adkins, of LaGrange.

Polczynski helped Adkin’s 11-year-old son, Dorian, who is blind and has other special needs, grow academically and personally.

“Sam has never given up on him,” says Adkins. “He looks forward to every Wednesday and every Friday with Ms. Sam having Yoga.”

Polczynski’s online yoga classes are offered Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Fridays at 8 p.m. Those interested in participating can request to join through Facebook and Instagram.  

Polczynski’s yoga certification is for children, so classes are kid-friendly with student accessibility in mind. Parents and siblings of students are also welcome to take part in the class.

“It’s really very rewarding and refreshing to watch on my screen the parents and the siblings working together to create these new bonds that maybe we wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do together in the past,” says Polczynski. “It's really nice to have access and to be able to meet with our kids but obviously it's still not the same so we hope to get back to school soon.”

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