Extension educators earn recognition for special efforts on behalf of youths

Group photo with award-winners holding plaques
Bret Hess, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Mary Kay Wardlaw, UW Extension associate director-east; Mary Louise Wood, 4-H youth educator; and Abby Rux, Cent$ible Nutrition program assistant

Special needs students in Molly Martin’s class at Laramie Middle School learned teamwork, gravity, motion and food choices last year from Albany County University of Wyoming Extension educators Abby Rux and Mary Louise Wood.

For adapting and delivering science (Wood) and Cent$ible Nutrition (Rux) programming to students of varying skill levels and abilities, the two received the diversity enhancement recognition award from UW Extension Nov. 7 at its state conference in Casper.

“The students I work with have disabilities that vary from moderate to profound,” said Martin.

“Mary Louise engages them in lessons full of discovery and exploration and brings lots of fun and positivity to my classroom,” she said. “Abby uses visuals and props and is very dynamic as she educates students about making smart food choices in their daily lives.”

Eloise Riley, who nominated Rux and Wood for the recognition, said, “The cool part is the programming they do is traditional 4-H and Cent$ible Nutrition, but they make adaptations.”

Riley is the Wyoming senior family readiness support assistant with Cybermedia Technologies, Inc., a special needs contractor to Albany County School District #1.

School professionals and paraprofessionals described development of fine motor skills and goal setting and interaction with caring adults as outcomes of the extension education for these students in grades 7-9.

“This group is not generally considered your average 4-H population but can gain the most from the 4-H experiential model,” said Wood, who joins them at least once a month.

Rux first worked with the students last year, bringing weekly lessons for 16 weeks throughout fall and spring.

“I am a great advocate for the work of UW Extension,” said Riley. “And I think their work is exemplary in the world of really good work.”

For more information on University of Wyoming Extension in Albany County, see wyoextension.org/albanycounty.