Two teach special-needs children. The other teaches reading at a tough urban middle school. All have been recognized for their classroom efforts. Each one of them shares a love for learning and teaching.
The three teachers you will meet below are examples of why the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, celebrates National Appreciation Day in May.
“The day celebrates the outstanding work and lifelong dedication of teachers nationwide,” according the NEA.
Do you have a special teacher you want to acknowledge? If so, this is the week to “thank a teacher.”
Lauren Breeding, Montgomery, Ala., Public Schools
Lauren Breeding has a passion for teaching children with autism. A teacher at Wilson Elementary for 10 years, Breeding was a 2013 finalist for Alabama Teacher of the Year.
Breeding has worked with special needs students throughout her teaching career, an experience that has led her to become “deeply committed” to the belief that each child has his or her own learning style and personality, according to Montgomery Public School officials.
Creating a community where children with autism are “respected, given equal opportunities and are equally valued through education” are just some of the goals Breeding wants to accomplish.
Breeding was one of the guiding forces behind the creation of a sensory room for autistic students at Wilson Elementary. The sensory classroom is equipped with furniture, materials, anything and everything designed for sensory stimulation of autistic students. The Wilson sensory classroom opened in April 2013.
I’Asha Warfield, Oakland, Calif., Unified School District
I’Asha Warfield has taught English, reading intervention and world history at Frick Middle School since 2000. In 2013, she was one of five finalists for California Teacher of the Year.
In addition to her classroom work, Warfield serves as a coach in the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program. This group guides new teachers through their self-assessment process in order to clear their California credential.
At Frick Middle School, Warfield serves as a representative on the schools Instructional Leadership Team to help assess the instructional needs of the school through data analysis and teacher feedback, according to the California Department of Education.
“It is my aim that students are able to use their life experiences and connect them to the world through analysis and evaluation,” Warfield wrote on her 2013 California Teacher of the Year application. “Simultaneously, I hope that with the skills they develop they are able to look beyond their own experience to critically and creatively engage in this world.”
Alexandre S. Lopes, Miami Gardens, Fla., Dade County Public Schools
Alexandre Lopes uses any means necessary to motivate his pre-K special-needs students at Carol City Elementary School. His success with in getting his small charges “school ready” led to him being recognized as the Macy’s Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year for 2013.
Originally from Brazil, Lopes teaches a “Learning Experience: Alternative Program,” or LEAP, class for children ages 3-5 in an inclusive setting. According to the Miami Herald, many of his students are autistic, cannot speak or cannot use the restroom on their own. He uses music and dance to teach and communicate with them.
Lopes credits a holistic approach to teaching as the reason he is able to reach all of his students and uses singing and dancing as two powerful tools to aid him in his tasks. Making learning fun, he says, is a commonality all of his students understand.
“I always wanted to be a teacher, but back in Brazil I was discouraged from it and encouraged to pursue a career that would make me rich,” Lopes told the Florida International University News as he remembered jobs in the airline industry.
“It was really great, but after a while it wasn’t enough. I wanted to do something that was more emotionally rewarding,” he said. “For me, that’s teaching.”
Tags: Leader Spotlight