Sometimes an email makes you grimace, other times you smile with delight. When Ann at Strider received the below from Special Education teacher Monti Poulson, she had no idea the fire she had sparked. Monti has taken giant leaps with her students on Strider Bikes. And it all started with this email to Ann …
”I appreciated your enthusiasm so much-you lit a fire under me and I’ve planned 5 camps this summer …You’re AwEsOmE!! I had tried talking to many people for months to get this all going and you were the only person who gave me a plan and made me believe I could do it. Thank You!!”
Monti is an incredible woman who knows how to pursue her dreams. She thought about being a Special Education teacher after high school, but life took her in another direction. She got married, had five children, and spent 20 years as a realtor before going to college and earning her hard-earned degree.
For the past three years, Monti taught Severe Special Education at Mt. Nebo Jr. High in Payson, Utah, where she worked with individuals who have Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities. She is now teaching students 18 to 21 years old at Dan Peterson School in American Forks, Utah, a school for individuals with severe special needs.
After learning about Strider Balance Bikes, Monti submitted and won a Select 25 Grant from Select Health, the insurance arm of Intermountain Healthcare, to buy several 16” and 20” Strider Bikes in June 2016.
With the bikes, Monti started the school’s first bike program and has encouraged over 40 people with disabilities to learn to ride. More than 12 are planning to participate in the Special Needs Race at the 2017 Strider Cup World Championship in Salt Lake City on July 21-22. Intermountain LDS Hospital was a Class Sponsor at last year’s Strider Cup Race, and is a Class Sponsor for both the two and three year old riders at this year’s Strider Cup World Championship.
“These kids get so few opportunities to compete in an event,” said Monti. “Sometimes the Special Olympics programs are too high functioning. Learning to ride a bike is changing and enriching their lives.”
She added, “It is such a good thing that Strider has done. With the bikes, we’ve been able to create recreational opportunities for them. Biking is a good leisure activity with health benefits.”
As part of the bike program, Monti encourages families check out bikes and ride together, sharing, “When parents ride with their child, they learn faster and it works much better.”
Through the Utah State 4-H extension, she started the Ability Buddies 4-H Club, which pairs an age-appropriate buddy with each child who has disabilities.
“Some students may use Strider Bikes for rest of their lives, which is wonderful,” Monti added. “Others have gone on and are riding pedal bikes. One rides like the wind on his pedal bike. No training wheels needed.”
This isn’t the first time Monti has taken a giant leap with a new program. At a previous school, she secured a grant for an archery program. More than 200 kids have been involved since its inception.
Monti is certain of the potential to expand the Strider Bike program at all the schools she works with and to improve the lives of even more young people.
“We would love to have more bikes to train more kids,” she said. “we have 12 students planning to race in the Strider Cup World Championship, but will be taking more if I can get more Strider Bikes. There is no shortage of students who have learned how to ride these bikes that would love to come and compete.”
We don’t doubt that potential – and Monti’s fire and enthusiasm to make it happen.