We have started a weekly feature on Special Education Advisor called the “Inspirational Teacher Series“. Our goal is to help SEA readers understand the hard work and dedication educators put forth every day. We also want to highlight the positive experiences of educating our students with a disability.
Today is our very first installment of the Inspirational Teacher Series and I couldn’t think of a better person to start with than inclusion specialist, Nicole Eredics.
1. What is your name?
2. What is your education level and credentials?
Bachelor of Education, Elementary Concentration
3. What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?
Dedicated and passionate about the things I love – my family, my work and my life!
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)?
Inclusive classrooms from grades K-7
7. What Research based instruction methods do you use in your classroom for your students with a disability?
Universal Design for Learning, RTI, Assistive Technology, ABA and a variety of other accommodations/modifications as outlined in IEPs.
8. What other educational methods have you used that have been successful for your students with a disability?
Student-Centered teaching philosophy with a proactive, clear set of classroom expectations, Social Skills training through Social Stories, adaptive PE, Music lessons, Art/Drama instruction, on-going & authentic assessment, regular communication with parents through Communication Books, emails, phone calls and class newsletters, modeling of executive functioning skills (ie. Organizational skills), skills instruction with hands-on learning (ie. Centers).
9. How do you create inclusion opportunities for your students with a disability?
The overall teaching philosophy of an inclusive classroom is student-centered with an emphasis on social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of each child. With this approach, students are encouraged to support and respect one another. Students with disabilities are included with as many class activities as possible throughout everyday with the exception of 1-1 focused instruction from another professional in the building. However, the majority of the day is spent in the child’s regular classroom. Class activities are modified and adapted in order to accommodate the child’s needs. The child attends and participates (with an Aide if necessary) in field trips, lunch/recess times, class plays/presentation etc. Inclusive schools also have many extracurricular activities and clubs during lunch hour so that all students have the opportunity to attend. Inclusion happens in the most natural way possible – to exclude would take more effort.
10. What behavior strategies and methods have worked for you in the classroom for students with a disability?
I have an organized and proactive approach to teaching. I make sure all my teaching materials are available (from IEP, curriculum and parent info) and I know what lessons I am giving. I have a small set of clear classroom rules, which are modeled and reinforced with positive attention. Students are kept busy with purposeful work. I try to give the students a 5 minute warning during transitions, clear instructions, and I always countdown from 5 when I want their attention. Basically, I spend the first couple of weeks at the beginning of the school year teaching, modeling and reviewing classroom rules and routines so little time is spent during the year with problems.
11. How do you involve parents in educating their children in and out of the classroom?
At the beginning of the year I have an “intake conference” where parents come in and tell me about their child. They are the experts! From there, I make regular contact with them through notes home, phone calls, emails and communication books. Parents are welcome to volunteer in the class, join us on field trips or stop by after school for a chat. I recommend books, outside school activities and often give them “tip” sheets on how to help their child. I always let them know if there has been a problem at school. In addition, I tell them if their child needs extra support in a certain area and make recommendations for ways to support.
12. How do you communicate with the parents?
Through formal and informal meetings, emails, phone call and notes. My classroom door is always open.
13. How do you collect data to determine if a child has met their IEP Goals?
Data collection is a daily, on-going job. After a lesson is given, I assess the students (both formally and informally through activities, projects etc.) to see if they understood the material. Notes are made in an assessment binder.
14. What is a typical day like in your classroom?
I greet the students at the door to say good morning. Students unpack books, hand-in homework and put their homework planners on their desk. They then begin their independent morning activities (math, reading etc.) I check every planner to see if homework is completed. Students are then gathered and the outline of the day is explained. The day continues on with a mix of direct and hands-on instruction. There are opportunities for individual and group work. There is little time with “nothing to do” as students know what they can do after their work is completed. Students are directed and redirected as necessary with verbal or non-verbal reminders. Positive reinforcement is the cornerstone of my classroom management approach. The end of the day wraps up by having the students fill in their planners (which I check) and pack their backpacks. They line up at the door and leave by giving me either a handshake or a high-five.
15. What is the most inspirational thing you have ever seen in the classroom?
I have seen inspiration in my classroom on a daily basis – everything from a child sounding out a word, learning to play the bagpipes, creating an artistic masterpiece, making a new friend or solving a problem. That’s what I absolutely love about teaching!
16. What advice would you give other Teachers about teaching students with a disability?
A student with a disability is a student, first and foremost. They are a member of the classroom and are treated as such. Their disability means you may have to make some accommodations and modifications; however, it is much easier to include than exclude. Access your resources, talk to senior teachers and rely on your colleagues for support and ideas. Be organized in your classroom, calm, consistent and fair.
17. What else would you like Parents and other Teachers to know that we haven’t already asked?
Inclusive education is the gold standard for teaching children with disabilities. However, many schools and districts employ it to varying degrees. Inclusion is not mainstreaming and inclusion is not participating in one or two class activities and then returning to the special ed room. A fully inclusive school holds the belief that all children are included in the general education classroom for most, if not all, of the day. Paraprofessionals and other professionals are brought to the classroom to deliver the specialized services that a child with special needs might require. An inclusive school supports inclusion in every manner possible – through socialization, recess/lunch times, school assemblies, extracurricular activities and classroom curriculum. For more information about inclusive education, you can visit my website at www.theinclusiveclass.com.
Thanks for the opportunity! It was fun