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New South Effingham Elementary employee breaking barriers, making history

Michael Holton becomes the first developmentally disabled person to work in a classroom setting in Georgia
Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 3:23 PM EDT
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EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - There was a certain buzz around South Effingham Elementary Monday.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him at our school,” said SEES Principal Mark Weese.

“He has opened the doors. He is a trailblazer,” said Mandy Cooke of B&B Care Services.

“To think that this day actually came to fruition is just a dream come true,” added SEES Technology teacher Kellie Lee.

So, who is this mystery employee that had everyone bursting with excitement?

That would be Michael Holton.

Michael, who has Down Syndrome, is now working full-time in the school’s technology lab.

A job it would seem he was made for.

“He is very computer literate. He knows way more than I do,” said Cooke.

Not only is he good at his job, but he’s also making history by doing it.

“Michael Holton is a first of many. First person with disabilities who’s gained placement inside the classroom in providing instruction. Not only first in Effingham County, but as we know, first in the state of Georgia,” Principal Weese says.

Of course, if you know Michael, like his former kindergarten teacher turned coworker Kellie Lee, this is far from a surprise.

“I knew that Michael would always make an impact somewhere,” said Lee.

And it would seem, only one day in, Michael is already making a big impact on his students.

“I think it’s pretty cool because I know we’re all different, we have different abilities. We can just know that, if we’re different, we can just keep trying and trying to reach our goal,” said 5th grader Shelby Mincey.

While students and staff were more than excited to have Michael in the classroom, it seems he too feels right at home.

“It went great today. Meeting new people, meeting new kids, starting my new career love in schools,” Michael says.

In fact, the only possible downside may be that Michael could be too good at his job.

“I am a little concerned. He’s got the superintendent’s personal cell phone number and Mr. Weese’s. So, I told Michael if I get fired because he gets hired it’s not going to be good,” joked Lee.

If you’d like more information on B&B Care Services, which helps connect those with disabilities with careers like Michael, click here.

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