I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education from Washington and Jefferson College, a Masters degree in Special Education N-12 from Duquesne University, and I am passionately pursuing a doctorate in Leadership and Administration from Point Park University. I am currently working on writing my dissertation.
There hasn’t been one specific person who has inspired me to be an educator, but my family said they have always seen the signs that this was my path. To be honest, I always thought I would be a high school English teacher. However, when I substitute taught in a few districts, I found myself being assigned to Special Education classrooms. Sometimes they were the classrooms that other substitutes were afraid of, but they were the classrooms where I felt most at home.
I am currently a junior high and high school Learning Support English teacher in the Hopewell Area School District. Prior to working in the Hopewell Area School District, I spent nearly six years in the Woodland Hills School District where I was an Autistic Support and Life Skills teacher as well as a Track and Field assistant coach. Outside of public schools, I have also worked at the Pressley Ridge School for Autism and substitute taught in various school districts.
My love for volunteer work and community service has always shaped me as a teacher. I served for one year in the Keys Americorps Pittsburgh where I acted as a mentor, tutor, and community leader, and have been a big sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters for over 11 years. Additionally, I have traveled to Antigua, Guatemala and Muizenberg, South Africa to teach physical education classes to elementary aged children and serve in after-school programs and orphanages. Finally, I had two summer experiences that have positively impacted me as a special educator including volunteering at Camp High Hopes (through the YMCA) for children and teens with disabilities, and the Florida Elks Camp (through the Muscular Dystrophy Association) for children and teens with muscular dystrophy.
I am still in the field of education because the children are inspiring. Over the past thirteen years, I have had the opportunity to teach students from grades kindergarten through twelfth grade. I have worked with students who have varying diagnoses including Learning Support, Emotional Support, Autistic Support, and Life Skills Support. These students are my passion and my purpose.After I complete my doctorate, I am hopeful to become a professor that leads by example and assists other teachers in the field to reach their full potential as educational leaders.
I think that there is always work that can be done to combat injustices and inequalities in our schools. First off, we need to see the unique attributes of our students as strengths. We need to find better ways to include and listen to students from different races, cultures, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. We need to continue to look for unified opportunities and mentoring opportunities for our regular education students to foster friendships with our special education students.
One of the changes I am currently working on with some other special education teachers in my district is creating a sensory room for our students with disabilities in the high school setting. Although these students are older, they still need the time and flexibility in their schedules to meet their sensory needs. We are hopeful this will diminish some problem behaviors while also serving as a place of safety and zen for our students with disabilities.
I hope future educators remember that just because a student doesn’t have a voice doesn’t mean they don’t want to communicate. Instead, we need to search for creative ways to reach them. Just because a student has a physical disability, doesn’t mean they don’t want to play and participate in sports and recreation with their peers. Instead, we need to find ways to increase accessibility and adapt. Just because a child is acting out or aggressive, doesn’t always mean they need discipline. Perhaps they need a mentor in their life to guide and support. In the future, I hope to inspire future leaders to advocate for individuals with disabilities and continue to foster positive change.