LIMA — One small group of Shawnee Middle School pupils celebrated a night on the town beginning with fine dining at The Met and ending by taking in a production of “Miss Nelson is Missing” at the Encore Theater.
Rob Nelson, owner of The Met, prepped the pupils in Debbie Guyer’s multiple disabilities class at Shawnee Middle School by explaining what is expected of people participating in a fine dining experience, the intricacies of planning a menu, and how not to be scared of trying new things. He even had the pupils help him plan the menu, including the dessert, for a typical dinner-theater crowd.
“For at least three of them, it is something they would experience only once in their life and for the other ones, while they may go with family, they went out as a class and it is on a whole different playing field with your class,” Guyer said. “It was something they didn’t have to do with their family, but it was something that was planned fun for them that they planned themselves and they were just able to enjoy the experience.
“Rob Nelson is absolutely phenomenal and they just rolled out the red carpet for us,” she added. “The kids were all dressed up with the boys wearing ties and the girls wearing dresses and they learned they had to prepare for it. They got to sit down and look at the establishment and spend hours with their students.”
Five of the six pupils who attended the event were Chiki Anigbogu, Chloe Groat, Preston Meiring, Evan Thomas and Jonny Lesinski.
Nelson and the pupils named it the “Chikaodili Akumu” dessert after Chiki, who is a student of African descent. Her real African name is Chikaodili and her mother, Dr. Nikoli Anigbogu, called her parents in Africa to find how to say “dessert” in their native African language. The class learned “Akumu” means dessert. Nelson then garnished the pupils’ requests of using strawberries, cherries and white and dark chocolates for the dessert.
Planning the event proved special for the pupils, but also for Guyer and Nelson.
“When I was in the class and I saw what a great and caring job the teachers do, I was really touched,” Nelson said in an email. “In a time when many teachers are still getting a bad rap on things, I think this is a wonderful expression of care that many teachers give to students and how so often, our teachers, who we entrust with our kids, work well beyond the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. stereotype.”
Nelson returned on Thursday after their night out on the town for the pupils to review his service.
Her pupils intially inquired about a special night at the beginning of the year after Guyer told them about her and her husband eating at The Met during the Christmas break. They wanted to know what the experience was like, but if they wanted to go, Guyer would require them to make all the arrangements, to reach a multiplication goal and to earn $10 by working for it by shoveling snow, bringing in groceries or some other household chore.
They did so they could have a night out in Lima. To share the evening, parents, grandparents and even a great-grandmother attended the dinner and theater.
For Guyer, she was rewarded twice.
“My biggest reward is to see the students take how much they have learned in the classroom and to generalize that over into a natural setting and to be able to experience that with family and friends,” she said. “Another one of my big rewards is to watch them grow and to see them put all of those things in place.”
She said she will always remember when she first saw them sitting in the restaurant as young men and women.
“Every single child lived it from beginning to end,” she said.