Glacier View eighth grader Louis Mattes is not an ordinary kid. In fact, he’s one in 10,000 according to band teacher Allison Reed.
One day last year while Mattes was in her band class Reed noticed he wasn’t looking at his music—yet he was playing his instrument in unison with the rest of the class. The piece of music was new so she was sure he hadn’t memorized it. When she asked him how he was able to play without looking at the music he replied, “If I hear something I can just play it.” She began playing the trumpet and tested him with some notes. He knew every note.
It turns out Mattes has perfect pitch—something only one in 10,000 people are born with. “He really has this gift that helps him excel in band,” said Reed.
What makes Mattes’ amazing talent in music even more inspiring are the challenges he has faced due to a condition he has had since birth. When he was one year old he could not verbalize and had limited movement of his body.
Mattes is one of many students throughout the district whose primary classroom is the Special Education Support Center. The Support Center classroom is one of a number of programs in the Puyallup School District that provide services for students with disabilities.
He is also a student who is setting an example, proving there are opportunities for students to integrate into general education classrooms where they can be successful. Mattes joined band in the fifth grade. He also attends a general education science class with three other Support Center students.
Mattes with band teacher Allison Reed
As a percussionist Mattes plays the xylophone, snare drum, mallet instruments, wood block, bass drum, triangle, and wind chimes. He played bells at the Winter Concert last December. “I get excited and a little nervous before the concert, but I like playing the instruments,” he said.
Pediatric Occupational Therapist Shari Addleman, who works for the district and has spent many years working with Mattes in the past, said he is a true inspiration. “What people don’t know is the effort that he has had to put forth in order to be able to do the things he does today. He has had to learn to verbalize every word and have the will to make his arms and legs move. Then, he had to put it all together to be able to function,” she said.
“For someone who has witnessed his progress and knows what it took for him
to be able to play music and basketball—Louis is truly a success story.”
Shari Addleman, Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Director of Special Education Karen Van Wieringen said Mattes is representative of how special education teachers are working to help students be successful and reach their full potential. “He is an example where our staff sees the evidence of the collaborative work everyone is doing—special education teachers, general education teachers, specialists, and parents. It demonstrates that successes can happen for all kids regardless of their abilities,” said Van Wieringen.
According to Glacier View Assistant Principal Ben Riippi it’s about working together to provide opportunities for all students. As a junior high student at Glacier View Mattes has access to everything every other student has. “No matter what program a student is in we want to provide the same opportunities,” he said. Riippi was a Support Center teacher at Kalles prior to moving to his position at Glacier View this year.
Bridging the gap between general education and special education has always been the goal according to Van Wieringen. “We make it a priority to build relationships with families, administrators, and teachers to provide students with disabilities the least
restrictive environment as much as possible,” she said.
Support Center classrooms focus on functional academic and adaptive skills. They equip students with life skills which include job training, daily living tasks, following schedules, and community awareness.
At the secondary level there is a focus on life after graduation. “We want students to be independent and have employment. We emphasize communication with the families so we know their goals and expectations. It is important for us to understand their vision for their child,” said Van Wieringen.
Director of Special Education Karen Van Wieringen and Support Center Teacher Luke Zilly
Glacier View Support Center teacher Luke Zilly said Mattes has modeled a key component of the classroom goal to integrate with all students in the school.
“He has excelled in bridging the gap with his peers. Louis is very positive and upbeat.
He’s definitely a leader in the classroom.”
Luke Zilly, Glacier View Support Center Teacher
Those who know Mattes describe him as a happy and friendly person. He has many friends in band and throughout the school. He is also a member of the Unified basketball team. The pep band attends his games and cheers him on.
“He’s everybody’s best friend here. As a new administrator this year, Louis came up to me and introduced himself,” said Riippi.
Mattes is the youngest of four children. His sister attends Emerald Ridge High School and is also in band.
He is credited with being a role model and an influence to those around him. “It’s good for the other kids to see—just because you might be a little bit different you can still excel and overcome some challenges. Everyone loves Louis—he’s a good kid,” said Reed.