Special Needs Teachers Help Kids Love School


Samyuta Rajagopalan

Students at Tompkins come to school every day and know exactly where they have to go. However, there are some kids at Tompkins who need special attention in order to find their way through crowds and expand their knowledge. This is not because they are less capable than others, but because they need help from certain teachers to able to enjoy the high school experience as much as others.
Other teachers at Tompkins follow a certain schedule as well. They have students come into their classrooms and are required to teach them a certain subject. Special needs teachers do a similar task, but with a few extra steps. Different special education teachers do different tasks, but all of them work together to make the school a more enjoyable place for the kids.

Photo by Daniela Guevara

One of the people who helps special needs students with their education is Michelle Bailey. She is one of the in-class supporters and mostly assists the special education teachers. She goes to various classes throughout the day, works with students and makes sure that their accommodations are met. Another time she helps out is during lunch. At lunch, she watches over the kids and makes sure that they are behaving at all times.
“I enjoy helping these kids focus on their goals and making sure they do well in their classes. I get to know different kinds of students who have different personalities and that is what I love the most about this profession,” Bailey said.

Another one of the people who helps out with the education of these kids is Jacalyn Miles. Unlike Bailey, Miles is one of the special education teachers. She got into teaching after working in the hospitality industry and this is her second year at Tompkins. Last year she was a peer professional who assisted the special education teachers and this is her first year formally teaching. Miles teaches a resource math class and a math models class. She takes what students would be learning in a general math class and teaches it in a way that her students would understand. Right now, her kids are learning how to find the area of different shapes.

“I really like special education because I get more one on one time with my students and I get to know them better,” Miles said.

Photo by Daniela Guevara

Kaitlyn Ryan is another special education teacher who works with children who have been diagnosed with Autism. Ryan’s small group of 6 kids spend the entire day in her class and only leave for lunch and physical education. The first thing Ryan does with her students is practice grooming tasks with them such as brushing their teeth and washing their faces. Then her kids learn about money management and more academic subjects like English, Math, Science and Social Studies. Ryan uses different teaching techniques with each kid because not everyone learns in the same way.

“It is unique to see the different ways Autism exists in different kids. The most exciting part of my job is figuring out the needs and wants of students who can’t vocalize as much. Every single one of my students are so unique and I really love finding out something different about them every single day,” Ryan said.