April is Occupational Therapy Month, and Osseo Area Schools is grateful for the difference these individuals make in helping each student achieve their dreams. Occupational therapists develop creative solutions for students to accomplish everyday tasks and are a primary support person for students and families.
One occupational therapist, Denise Franz never planned on working in a school, but found the school setting to be a place where she could use different aspects of what she learned when working with scholars. She has been a part of Osseo Area Schools for 25 years, and this year she helped create reference cards for students to use specialized assistive tools and programs.
“Denise Franz goes above and beyond to create and share new and innovative tools and strategies to help students be more independent and advocate for themselves,” shared Kimberly Tiesma, lead occupational therapist.
Franz enjoys working with at least 163 students, and recalls working with some students consistently from the time they entered kindergarten to 21 years old. Since she serves students at Basswood Elementary School, Brooklyn Middle: A STEAM School, Park Center Senior High School and the Osseo Education Center, she has opportunities to work with students throughout their educational journeys and in their transitions into adulthood.
“I love it because it is like a puzzle. You work with a student, and you know they want to do something. You try to figure it out with them, and you are a team player. When they meet that goal, it is so rewarding,” said Franz.
As an occupational therapist, Franz likes to look at the life-long challenges students face when assessing what direction to move in. When working with teachers, she uses the information she knows about each student to provide more context to develop plans to move forward.
One student wanted to work on tying his shoes, but did not feel comfortable working with anyone except for Franz. Her patience and willingness to be present allowed him to work up the confidence to regularly improve his ability.
“We are all about empowering each student and finding their strengths. We look for ways each student can participate, and even though it might be different, we still want each student to be included,” Franz continued.