English and speech teacher C.J. Matthews employs various forms of writing and communication, such as poetry, songwriting and designing video games, to encourage students at Walnut Creek Campus in West Des Moines to express themselves with the hope that each one of them will find their inner voice.
“It’s a well-kept secret, but we have some amazing students here who are very creative,” she says. “They’ve been sent here for a variety of reasons, but their creativity is limitless, and it’s fun to watch their progression during their years here.”
Matthews has taught students at Walnut Creek Campus for the majority of the last 14 years, save a few years spent working elsewhere. She has been an educator since 1995, but says that her most rewarding work has been at Walnut Creek Campus.
“Teaching at a comprehensive school, you don’t get to see the fruits of your labor as much as you do here. Often I get students for all four years, and you develop friendships with them to the point that they stay in touch with you after they graduate. You have a bond with them and the kids appreciate the attention you give them,” she says.
In March, Matthews says she will be working with students on writing blogs, designing video games, songwriting and completing their autobiographies.
“I’ve asked students to write their autobiographies from their birth to the age of 25 so that they can think about their futures in a positive way because we want them to visualize that,” says Matthews. “I ask them to write about their future weddings, or children. It’s a fun exercise.
“Same thing with songwriting. We don’t have a music teacher, so this is a way for some kids to best express themselves in a positive way.”