Hixson High School launches new teaching program for students of all abilities

A unique program at one Hamilton County school is making sure students of all abilities are learning together in the same classroom.

That program is called the IGNITE program. IGNITE stands for individual growth in an inclusive teaching environment.

In some schools, exceptional education students spend most of their days in a separate classroom - especially when it comes to academic classes.

At Hixson High, that's not the case.

When you walk into a classroom there, you'll find students encouraging students by igniting growth through integration.

Briana Thacker is a junior at a Hixson High School and a mentor in the school's new IGNITE program.

"I'm very blessed to have all these kids. I absolutely love working with them. I've always loved working with special ed kids," Thacker said.

Thacker spends her days learning and helping out students who are Hixson High's exceptional education program.

"Most of the time, they don't get to get out of their confined classrooms because oh they're not able to do it. Well, they are able to do it. You can't underestimate these children because they are bright," said Thacker.

But, she admits, it's not always easy. She says the most challenging thing as mentor is the communication barrier.

This is only the second semester for the IGNITE program.

Zachary Landrum loves that he's able to spend time in regular ed class with some of his friends.

"It's kinda boring and kinda interesting sometimes," Landrum said.

He says his mentor makes it easier.

"Questions, answers - lot of stuff," he said.

Charles Weems is the Department Chair of the Exceptional Education Department at Hixson High.

He was one of the teachers that helped develop and create the IGNITE program.

"We wanted to promote a best practices curriculum for all of our students at Hixson High school to allow them to get the academic and social enrichment experiences that they need to be successful when they leave here," he said.

Something Thacker's definitely thankful for.

"They're excited to learn. They're eager to learn; just don't underestimate them," said Thacker.

Weems tells us student mentors, like Thacker, are a key part of the program.

Students are selected based on teacher recommendations and their grades. They're also required to fill out an application and participate in a group interview.

Weems tells us Hixson High School is the only school in the county to have a program like this.

Right now, there are 23 students in the program and 10 student mentors.

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