Our Ms. Sarah has been profiled in the “Inspirational Teacher Series” on the Special Education Advisor, a great website featuring interesting perspectives on and new developments in Special Education.
Check out what she had to say to their questions!
1. What is your name?
2. What is your education level and credentials?
Masters level teacher with a Degree in Early Childhood Education, Reading Specialist Endorsement
3. What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?
Children should have access to an education that is tailored to their individual needs- No Matter What!
4. Do you have a website?
5. How long have you been a Teacher?
6. What type of classroom do you teach (i.e. General Education, Special Day Class, etc)?
Private Independent Special Needs School
7. What Research based instruction methods do you use in your classroom for your students with a disability?
I use the Orton- Gillingham Method to teach phonics in my reading classes. I also love using Handwriting Without Tears materials with my students with Dysgraphia.
8. What other educational methods have you used that have been successful for your students with a disability?
Our school has recently created a time during the day for “Buddy Time”. This inquiry-based learning workshop provides a structured opportunity to practice social skills. During Buddy Time students work together to follow each other’s ideas and create a project based upon their area of interest. Students work on skills such as following a peer’s idea, problem solving, verbalizing and categorizing ideas, taking turns, and cooperation.
9. How do you create inclusion opportunities for your students with a disability?
During each unit of study, the teachers in my school allow time for students to go out into the community , participate in service projects, visit with other organizations and interact with other groups of children in facilitated environments to practice social skills and to learn experientially.
10. What behavior strategies and methods have worked for you in the classroom for students with a disability?
At my school, we recognize that many of our students have social emotional challenges that greatly impact their daily lives. We understand that our students need direct instruction, structured practice and daily reinforcement to master the skills of interacting with others and their environment in a courteous and positive way. Therefore, our schedule includes one hour of explicit social skills instruction and practice each day. To help manage behavior, our students set goals and earn stickers throughout the day. If their goal amount of stickers are earned, they earn special privileges, such as time playing the piano or computer time before pick up. This has worked very well this past academic year. We also allow our students frequent breaks which helps with regulation.
11. How do you involve parents in educating their children in and out of the classroom?
I believe that parents know their children better than anyone else. I like to keep communication open and support parents as much as I can when educating their child. Our parents attend a student led conference at the end of each quarter and are always welcome in and out of the classroom to volunteer or visit.
12. How do you communicate with the parents?
I have noticed that face to face communication is best. Being available to talk before and after to school also works well. I will occasionally email with parents or even talk over the phone.
13. How do you collect data to determine if a child has met their IEP Goals?
I keep written notes, do fun assessments and take photographs and/or videos to collect data.
14. What is a typical day like in your classroom?
Most of my students enjoy having a routine that they can count on. The teachers at my school have mastered the art of balancing structure and flexibility. There is a lot of moving around in my classroom- from the floor- to the table- to writing under the table- to going outside or doing work out in the community. At The Cloverleaf School, we have a non-traditional day full multi-sensory and experiential learning opportunities. Our students can always count on knowing what subjects come first, second and so on but we always trying to find new and exciting ways to engage our active students.
15. What is the most inspirational thing you have ever seen in the classroom?
There is nothing more amazing than intense eye contact. I have read recently that eye contact is the most powerful and personal of all cues. I have been blown away with the intensity of the eye contact from one of my students that had originally not given me any. Now when I interact with this student, I am inspired to keep my expectations high, believe that silent communication is extremely powerful and will never forget this connection that is building between me and this student.
16. What advice would you give other Teachers about teaching students with a disability?
Keep your expectations high, laugh, be supportive and know that you have just as much to learn as your students do.
If you’d like to read more of Ms. Sarah’s unique perspectives and insights, some of her other posts include Hope, A Tailor-Made Education, Orton-Gillingham in Your Home (Tuesday Tips series), Appreciation, and some awesome book reviews (THERE, BLUELOON, and DO UNTO OTTERS).