I have had many educational opportunities through the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh. I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology, M.Ed. In Special Education, and PhD in Special Education/Early Intervention.
There have been many inspirations in my 28 years in the field of education. My grandmother and mother were first grade teachers. My grandmother was the oldest daughter of a large family of steel workers in rural Western PA. It was against all odds that she left the family to attend a teachers college. My mother was a teacher for 35 years and then volunteered for another 10 years at my children’s elementary school. My early inspirations included Torey Hayden, Mr. Rogers, and Dr. Robert Coles. I have been grateful for the many mentors and amazing teachers who I have worked with over the years that inspired me to grow into a better teacher each year.
However, I will never forget my first year of teaching in an inclusive preschool classroom. The children in that classroom inspired me. I marveled at the community that developed over that year. The children embodied inclusion, kindness, caring and active learning. The children in that classroom inspired me to hold high expectations, build strong relationships and look to them for guidance on inclusion and equity.
I am currently a Supervisor for Preservice Teachers and an Instructor at two universities. I have been grateful for the many and varied positions that I have held over the years. I have been a Childcare Teacher, Life Skills Support Teacher, Early Intervention Teacher, Developmental Therapist, Behavior Consultant, and Researcher.
I love everything about the field of education from building classroom communities to watching new teachers grow and begin their journey. A big part of my M.Ed. program at University of Illinois at Chicago was to develop advocacy and inclusion for children with disabilities. I have taken that charge to heart and work towards positive change for high quality educational opportunities for all children and their families. I love building strong relationships with students, families and community. The children and families are why I stay connected to the field.
I have seen COVID highlight already existing inequities for students with disabilities in my community. There exists a real opportunity gap for many students who do not have access to housing, food, and internet that makes it impossible to access learning. The simple truth is that many of our children are food insecure. Until we can create more equitable opportunities for basic needs, we won’t be able to create equitable educational opportunities. I believe we need to shift our educational practices to include a trauma informed teaching lens in order to begin to move towards a more equitable understanding of the disparities that exist. We need to increase our family-centered practices and supports to build community connections to better understand the needs of each individual community. I think we should create interdisciplinary teams including families, students, mental health supports, therapists, teachers, paraprofessionals, school personnel, and administrators to come together to work towards gaining a true understanding of each other and how we might work together towards change.
One day I hope for increased access to opportunity for children of all abilities within our school system. I hope that we can refocus our pedagogy to include love, caring and kindness at the core of our practices. Caring for one another brings hope to our schools and community.