Mary Beth Past, Special Education Teacher at Camillus Middle School

Educator of the Month

1. What is your background and what do you teach?

I received my bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo and continued on to Syracuse University to obtain my master’s. I am certified in special education. I taught mostly younger kids in the Syracuse City School District for 14 years. When I had my daughter, I took some time off from teaching. I decided to go back when she entered kindergarten. I saw that the West Genesee School District was hiring. I was hired and immediately felt like a part of the family. I teach ELA and math in a fifteen to one classroom. West Genesee is amazing and has such a great community, something that was demonstrated during these hard times.

2. How have your students adjusted to the changes this school year?

Kids are resilient in general. My students have done really well with the transition. Everyone’s been great with wearing masks and social distancing. We’re all just happy to be back to school and with each other. Everyone is doing such a great job at working together to make this year a success.

3. This has been an unpredictable year for everyone. What has surprised you?

In terms of how we are newly using technology, having to wear masks, social distancing, etc., the pandemic has made all teachers feel like new teachers in a way. Despite all of that, as a teacher I was surprised at how great and normal it felt to be back in front of the kids. It reminded me of the passion I have for teaching. The amount of support from the community and the families is incredible and reinforced my passion and hope. The important aspects of teaching have not changed. Connecting with students and building relationships is the most important thing we do each day. We need to focus on this now more than ever!

4. What advice would you give to other special education teachers during this time?

Work with the families. They know their child the best. Teachers tend to be hard on themselves, so be gentle on yourself. Also, be gentle to others. Lead with kindness because you never know what someone else is going through or how this is affecting them. Make sure to show gratitude. There is a lot to be grateful for.

Know an educator who deserves a mention? Email [email protected]

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