I am currently teaching 7th and 8th grade autistic support in a public school district. It has been a new experience for me as I am used to working with younger students. Although, because I teach students with disabilities it sometimes feels the same. There are also times when I have to deal with "teenage tendencies" as I call them. That has been a new experience for me with both it's ups and downs.
What is your educational background?
I have been working with children my entire life and have always know that I wanted to work with kids in some aspect. My husband jokes that I will never be able to leave my field because I have no other kind of experience. I'm okay with that.
I went to Millersville University (PA) and received my bachelors in early childhood and elementary education. This allowed me to teach children ages birth to 6th grade. I had a few jobs including two long term sub positions (teaching first grade) that lead to nothing. And a full-time teaching position (teaching pre-kindergarten)with a very low-income district that ended up laying me off due to budget cuts after two years of teaching.
I decided in the middle of all that I needed a new avenue to travel with my career just in case things didn't work out the way I wanted and I was lucky I did. So, I took a leap of faith and started my masters in special education through an online program with Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my career path. Not only did I find out that I love teaching special education, but it has landed me two jobs much faster then I had gotten the jobs in regular education.
Once I completed enough of my masters program in special education to obtain a teaching certificate I started applying. I did not get any school district positions due to it being December when I started to apply. I did however get a phone call from a private, non-profit that had an educational program for juvenile delinquents who had been suspended or expelled from their school districts that still need to be provided an education. This was the toughest job I have had. I went from teaching Pre-k to 6th-12th graders that wanted NOTHING to do with learning or education. I ended up doing this position until the end of the regular school year, building as many connections as I could with the principals and school districts the private, non-profit worked with.
Before the summer was out I had some offers from a few school districts for interviews for positions in special education. Some were of interest for me and others were not my cup of tea but, I needed the interview practice so I still went on them for the sake of getting my interview skills up to par for the positions I really wanted. Luckily that all paid off and by June I was offered the position I have now teaching 7th and 8th grade autistic support in the middle school of the district I live in (gotta love the 5 minute commute!)
By the end of the 2014 summer I will have finished my masters in Special Education from Saint Joseph's University and I will be taking some time off from school. I have already thought about my next steps and possibly trying to obtain my BCBA certification.
Why students with autism?
Well, it was evident when I started teaching that I loved it. My first year I had a doozy of a class with multiple students with disabilities all mixed in a regular first grade classroom. I had two students with autism in my classroom. They both had differences in their abilities but, through out the year I collaborated with the autistic support teacher and really found a fascination of working with children with autism. This then turned my wheels into being interested in getting my masters in special education. I love that no student with autism is the same and that there are different challenges to overcome everyday.
What curriculum do you use?
Last year (2013-2014) I used a lot of different things from TouchMath, Edmark Reading Program, Cooking to Learn, Reading A-Z, TPT products from all kinds of sellers for students with autism or special education. I also created a lot of my own materials to meet the needs of my students and their IEP goals. I also had access to Reflex Math and News-2-You.
This year (2014-2015) I am happy to say that I am getting Unique Learning System on top of all the other resources I had last year. I am really going to focus on incorporating those materials into my teaching everyday. I also plan to use some ABA principles in my classroom this year and utilizing the VB-MAPP to assess my students language abilities in order to teach them as they need.
How many paraprofessionals are in your room?
I am blessed to have two paraprofessionals in my classroom. They are wonderful ladies that help me get through days both happy, sad, good, and bad. We stick together and provide consistency to my students on a constant basis.