1. What is your educational background and what are you teaching?

I attended The Ohio State University for both my undergrad and graduate degrees. I have my master’s in special education. I recently earned National Board Certification in Exceptional Needs Specialist-Early Childhood through Young Adulthood-Mild/Moderate Disabilities (ages 5-21+).

I have taught in the West Genesee Central School District for the last 25 years. I am a sixth grade special education teacher at West Genesee Intermediate School. I push into English, math, science, and social studies. I also teach small groups of students in a resource setting.

2. How do you keep your students engaged?

To keep my students engaged, I create lessons with a variety of components. I incorporate technology, interaction with their peers, and time for demonstrating independent mastery. I use a mix of direct instruction and a gradual release model, so my students learn a new skill through modeling. Then we work together as I guide them in using their new skill. The students are excited to be able to independently demonstrate their understanding of the skill. 

3. What is most rewarding about special education?

The most rewarding thing about teaching students with special needs is helping them to feel successful. Witnessing my students’ growth and progress is the most rewarding part of being a special education teacher. It has always been my passion to help students to reach their full potential. 

4. What are any obstacles you have had to face, if any, and how did you overcome them?

By working together as a team, we create a successful learning environment for every student. We overcome any situation as well as celebrate successes.

One obstacle is that there’s never enough time in a day to get everything done.
Also, the unpredictability that can occur. I have a visually impaired student. And I got him glasses, which was huge. The joy he had when he put them on was so sweet, it tugged at my heartstrings. Then yesterday, I found out he is moving to Texas. It felt like a rug ripped out from under me because we build these close relationships with the kids as if they were our own.

Know an educator who deserves a mention? Email courtneyk@familytimescny.com.

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