AVON — When Avon East Elementary second-grader Noah Dudas came home from school one day in January, he was determined to create something worthy of the gratitude he felt that day.
His parents, Dan and Lauren, said they were physically pushed out of his room so he could work on a special project to thank his classmates.
The project was a four-minute-long video of Noah dancing to “My House’’ by Flo Rida that was shared on social media this week. Dancing with passion and joy in his heart, shouting “Thank you” to the camera as he made a video for his classmates.
Lauren Dudas said Noah has always been creative but he’d never shown this much initiative and independence on a project before.
“He basically went up and ran into his room, he pushed us out of his room and said ‘I got this, shut the door,’” she said.
It all stemmed from his day in class.
His second-grade teacher, Michelle Szczepanski, has a “shout-out” bucket, where children can fill out a piece of paper and give a compliment to their classmates. On the day he came home with a goal in mind, Noah — who has autism — received four shout-outs during class. One of the shout-outs was from a student who thanked him for “teaching me that being different doesn’t matter.”
Noah shared the video with his classmates and was praised for his efforts.
The creative student first went to an academically specialized school but was expelled for having “unmanageable behaviors” — he was combative.
At times, instructors would have to restrain him or move him to a different class room during episodes.
When he was transferred to Avon East Elementary halfway through kindergarten, he was able to control his behavior with the help of Szczepanski in first grade and second grade. One of the ways he channels his focus on school work is through a creative outlet. Noah does a lot of creative projects, including comic books like “The Witch Busters,” which was somewhat inspired by “Ghostbusters.”
Lauren Dudas said she was thankful for Szczepanski for her dedication and helping Noah in first and second grade and of giving Noah the attention he needed to excel in school: “Not to just look at him as a body in a building but to actually get what makes him tick so he will succeeded has been really instrumental for him,” she said.
Dan Dudas added Szczepanski wasn’t just giving their son special treatment; instead, she was giving all children in her class the same amount of focus and help.
The teacher said she has found that it’s better to have teachers mold themselves to meet the needs of their students instead of molding students to meet the teacher’s needs.
“It’s a whole lot easier if you follow their lead and let go of control,” she said. “I’m just a believer that kids will succeed if they can. And if they can’t, find out why.”
Szczepanski said she has learned a lot from Noah, too, especially his dance moves.