Facing Challenges the New Prague Way

Isabel Podratz and Julie SpindlerFacing Challenges the New Prague Way

When Falcon Ridge 5th grader Isabel Podratz was just three years old she suffered a stroke during a medical procedure that impaired the use of the left side of her body. Her life drastically changed at that moment and she has faced countless physical challenges throughout her young life as a result.

One of the decisions students have to make in 5th grade is whether or not to join band. When you only have the use of one arm that decision becomes much more complex. That didn’t stop Isabel from wanting to be in band.

“Isabel wanted to try something new. I was hesitant but proud that she wanted to be in band so we talked to Julie Spindler (5th grade band teacher) about it,” said Ana Podratz, Isabel’s mother. “Not only did Julie say “We’ll make it work,” she came back with researched ideas and said “Here’s how we’ll make it work.”

Spindler consulted with several others to put a plan into action for Isabel. Barb Zweber, occupational therapist, and Becky Wolf, special ed teacher at Falcon Ridge, designed a stand to hold a trumpet so Isabel could play with one hand.

The next challenge

Isabel Podratz

Isabel was out of school for most of December. This put her behind in band and feeling like she wanted to quit. As the Panorama of Bands Concert approached in February, those feelings intensified.

“I shared with Julie how Isabel was feeling,” said Ana. “She was very understanding. Julie encouraged Isabel and greatly boosted her confidence.”

The day of the concert arrived and Isabel was excited, but that quickly gave way to apprehension when she arrived at the High School. The gym was packed with over 550 students as the concert featured every band member in the school district.

“I think it was divine intervention that Isabel’s teacher, Lisa Josephson, was one of the concert chaperones,” said Ana. “I am always nervous when I have to leave her, but Lisa texted me to say she was watching Isabel and she was doing fine. Lisa's time and attention to her all afternoon until I had her back in my sights was such a comfort to me.”

For Isabel, the concert could have been a source of frustration and perhaps some embarrassment. But as a result of NPAS staff going the extra mile, Isabelle’s first major performance was a positive experience.

“When there is almost no scenario where we don't worry about how Isabel will manage or feel included, this experience was perfection,” said Ana. “Julie’s job as band director did not have to mean all the behind the scenes research and extra efforts she made for Isabel. Her passion, not only for music, but for teaching students of ALL abilities has been the perfect fit for Isabel's first experience as a musician.” 

We are proud of our teachers and staff who exemplify the New Prague Way every day to make a significant difference in the lives of our students!