A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Gayle Frank

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Gayle Frank

Teaching runs in Gayle Frank’s family. Her mother was a third-grade teacher, and her older brother also teaches. Frank is in her 43rd year of teaching special education after growing up in Highland teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

Frank started out teaching special education preschool at the Special Education Learning Facility building for three and a half years. She taught for 17 years at Central Elementary School in Portage before the program moved to Saylor Elementary School in Valparaiso. She currently works for Porter County Education Services and has been teaching applied skills at Saylor for the last five years.

“Applied Skills has a majority of students who have moderate intellectual disabilities,” said Frank. “Academics is one part of the applied skills program. It is academics, social skills, and doing things for themselves.”

Frank also has a lot of students with autism who have varying needs since autism is a spectrum disorder. Her classroom provides a lot more support for the kids that require some more support. Frank has a lot of kids in her classroom and lots of love for them.

“I really love my job. I love the kids,” Frank said. “I like seeing the growth in the kids. Most of the time I have my students from kindergarten through fifth grade, so I can see what level they come in at and where they leave at.”

Part of Frank’s job is to integrate her students as much as possible into the general education setting. The students go to homeroom classes and to specials such as art, music, and physical education. Frank says that the building where she is at is very supportive of her students.

“The teachers are very good about putting them in special activities when they do something,” Frank said. “They'll say, ‘Oh, we're making our Mother's Day gift. Can your three come down to my room at this time?’ They're very good about including them in things.”

Outside of teaching, Frank has been the president of Porter County Association for Handicapped Children and Adults (PCA HCA), an all-volunteer agency that helps get people the necessary equipment, for about three years. 

“We've been in operation since 1957,” said Frank. “We provide a lot of custom equipment for infants, children, and adults. We just got an adaptive bike for a student who's in my room, and his bike cost almost $5,000. It is a custom bike that is not covered by insurance, but it's great for a child with a disability to be able to go out and ride a bike with their family. The nice thing about these adapted bikes is that they can grow with the child, so it can last them 5 to 8 years.”

Frank's hobbies include knitting and walking. Her favorite thing to knit is socks. She also enjoys spending time with her four cats IttyBitty, Fritz, Molly, and Lucy.

“They are an important part of my life. They are all rescue cats,” said Frank. “I had a feral cat who had three litters under my deck. I could not talk anybody into taking the last cat, so she became mine. I couldn't take her to the vet to have a look for a little bit of time. By the time it came to take her into the vet, I had fallen in love with her. IttyBitty was the one who was born under my deck.”

Most of all, Frank is an avid reader with a love of books. Since she loves to read, Frank also enjoys teaching her students how to read.

“I love to read. I have run out of bookshelf space. I have shelves in every room of my house except for the bathroom and the kitchen,” Frank said. “I have embraced Kindle reading because there is no more space to put the physical books at my house.”

More information about Porter County Association for Handicapped Children and Adults can be found on its website at www.pcahca.org.