Yes, she can

Local kindergartner wins 'Yes I Can!' award for academics
By 
Sam Klomhaus – Enterprise Staff Writer
Monday, April 12, 2021
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Enterprise photos by Sam Klomhaus 

Teacher Stephanie Walker, second from right, leads her kindergarten class in practicing their letters Monday morning at Washington School, with Grace Talley participating via Zoom on the laptop screen.

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Washington School kindergartener Grace Talley talks with paraprofessional Nikki Hawkes via Zoom on Monday.

All the kids in teacher Stephanie Walker’s kindergarten class want to Zoom with Grace Talley.

Grace, a kindergartner at Washington School, recently received the “Yes I Can!” award from the Montana Council for Exceptional Children. The awards recognize kids in six different categories; Grace was nominated for academics.

In Walker’s class at Washington School Monday, Grace participated in exercises and did worksheets with her fellow students. The computer Grace was Zooming on got passed around to different students so they could talk to her.

Monday, the class was learning about the letter “X.”

Washington School Paraprofessional Nikki Hawkes said the kids like Zooming with Grace because they like talking to her, and also because they get to see their faces in the Zoom window on the computer screen. Sometimes, Grace’s cat, Oreo, will make an appearance on the screen.

Grace, for her part, said she likes Zooming with the class because she likes saying hi to everybody.

Her favorite part of school, however, is reading in the library, because there are so many books.

“And I like books,” she said.

When she was 9 months old, Grace was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy Type 1, a genetic disease that affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord, according to Grace’s award application, taking away the ability to walk, eat or breathe. There is no known cure for the disease.

Despite the challenges Grace faces every day, according to the application, she continues to strive academically.

“You just blow us away with what you can do,” Hawkes told Grace during class.

“She’s just super special, so we decided we needed to nominate her for this award,” Hawkes said.

Award winners will be recognized at an online award ceremony Thursday, receive a certificate and plaque, be featured on the Montana CEC’s website and be nominated for the national Yes I Can! awards for 2022.

“I feel so good about it,” Grace said about winning the award. “Because I work really hard.”