How being inclusive builds a positive school culture – Episode 11

Group photo of Pit Crew members
PIT Crew members at Timber Creek HS

No matter a  student’s disability, these three teachers work to ensure all students feel a sense of belonging. This episode focuses on the positives of inclusion, from technology to success stories to course codes – you don’t want to miss this one.

Click the play button above to hear how Crystal Carrasquillo, Christy Dove and Kay Turley work to teach students at their schools the meaning and value of inclusion, which is more than proximity.

At Stone Lakes ES, teachers talk to kindergarteners about the students with disabilities and explain what their challenges are and how they can help them. The SWD participate in grade-level specials (like physical Xtness, music and art) and any other educational opportunities that arise. She also uses MILO the robot (click the link to see a news story about him) to help her students learn social cues.

Christy wanted her students to not only be included academically, but socially too. To assist with this, she created the Eagles United club. The 40-50 members have so much fun getting to know one another, doing icebreakers, games and activities together, that it’s helped form lasting friendships.

Crystal also has her students go to general education electives so they can meet other students and they eat lunch in the cafeteria to be with their peers. Outside of the academic day, she started a Best Buddies chapter on campus. This club builds one-on- one meaning friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Kay created Peer Inclusion Team because she agrees with the other guests that inclusion is about building real relationships. The PIT service club focuses on equity. Oftentimes, SWD have not had good experiences in school. They’ve been isolated and built walls to protect themselves. When she trains the PIT Crew members she wants them to learn how to show up faithfully and how to support SWD in class. In time, she sees the barriers begin to disappear and friendships form.

This #OCPSGrads video shares the impact PIT Crew had on the interviewees:

You should also meet Leo, a student who received PIT Crew services:

You must listen to get the full scoop.


Crystal Carrasquillo, from Union Park MS, is in her eighth year teaching students with varying disabilities who are working on a modiXed curriculum. She oversees the school’s Best Buddies program, Green team, CHEER (staff morale program) and Partners In Education program. She’s proud to be a hometown girl. She graduated from an OCPS high school and earned her undergrad and master’s degree from the University of Central Florida.  She absolutely loves working with students with disabilities and considers herself fortunate to have a job she loves to wake up and go to.

Christy Dove teaches students with autism spectrum disorder at Stone Lakes Elementary. She utilizes MILO, a robot that assists students with social cues and calming techniques, in her classroom. She works hard at inclusion, in part by working with their K-Kids group on inclusive activities, but also helps teachers with information/techniques whenever possible.

Kay Turley, from Timber Creek High, began teaching students with disabilities 34 years ago. She started working for OCPS after receiving her bachelor’s degree from UCF. Kay is also a proud product of OCPS. She attended Sadler Elementary, Westridge (Jr. High back then) and Oak Ridge High School. She started the PIT Crew at Timber Creek in partnership with the Florida Inclusion Network about nine years ago. PIT Crew has changed the culture of their school, and she says, “Here at TCHS inclusion is not what we DO; it’s WHO WE ARE.”

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