New ILS teacher experiences new beginnings with ILS program


During fifth period ILS class, Pam Shugarte instructs a student on their chromebook. Photo by Coleton Matics.

    The air was stark and hot as Mrs. Pam Shugarte walked into room J-2 for the first time. A flurry of excitement overcame her as she anticipates the first day of school with the new ILS program she gets to lead and the new batch of students she gets to help nurture.

    “How can I help these people? How can I give these people the best chances?” Shugarte asks herself for her objectives in helping her students grow and develop.

    Early on while in college and in her teaching career is when Shugarte knew that teaching students with disabilities was her calling.

    “I was a psychology major, so I was very interested, in college, child development, adolescent development, and how things sometimes go a little differently. So I started working in a classroom as an instructional aid, in a class similar to this, and I decided from then that this is something I want to do,” Shugarte said.

    Starting out her teaching career at Rocklin High, Shugarte stayed there for 11 years helping with the ILS program until she seeked the opportunity to help grow and lead the new ILS program here at Whitney High School.

    “All these years Rocklin Unified has had one ILS program. So all the kids have gone to Rocklin High. Over the years, our numbers have grown and it was finally time the district said, we have enough kids that we can have two programs. That was very important to me because I felt students should have the chance to attend their home school. And I wanted to be the person to attend to that,” Shugarte said.

    Teaching an ILS class is different compared to teaching other classes such as history, math, or science. However, Shugarte finds joy in teaching students with disabilities and enjoys helping them with their struggles.

    “These are kids that have struggled in many areas, academics being one. But also knowing what they should do in situations, many of my students have communication problems, how do they say something how do they express themselves when they’re frustrated. I have students with physical disabilities, I’ve had students with behavioral challenges. That don’t know how to act when something frustrates them or they don’t know how to express themselves. I’ve always liked the challenge of figuring out the puzzle. Everyone is trying to communicate, everyone wants to get the best out of life they can,” Shugarte said.

    While the ILS program and Shurgarte are new to Whitney, so are the students, and in order to make them feel more included Shugarte is starting the Friends Club  and motions for the rest of the student body to join.

“All my students, even though I have sophomores, juniors, and seniors, we’re all like freshman here because this is new. We’re still learning the Whitney Culture. So we started “Friends club”. It’s usually a fun hangout time. We’ll do things like play games, decorate cupcakes, I’ll bring in the WII and we’ll have competitions. I encourage students to stop by and say hi. Because though ILS is a label, these are all just teenagers who want to have a good time and want to have the full high school experience too,” Shurgarte said.

    However, while Shugarte is out of the classroom, she’s either singing or participating in renaissance fairs.

    “I’ve been in a choir ever since the third grade. I have sung with Sac State Choir, which is a community group that meets Tuesday nights. I sing with a professional group that goes around to renaissance fairs. I do renaissance fairs for fun,” Shugarte said.

    Friends Club meets every Thursday during lunch in the same room.