About the Writers

Jess Durrett:

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Teaching children the skills they need now and down the road through creativity and understanding is my strength. My experience in and out of the classroom has led me to focus on my passion– working with children with special needs. My perseverance and curiosity serve me well in elucidating the most effective means of empowering a child to use his or her strengths to overcome challenges.

Since 2007, I have been teaching students with various speech and language impairments, ADHD, Autism, executive functioning challenges, anxiety disorders, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. A prime responsibility of my role is to differentiate academic, behavioral, and emotional expectations for each child while maintaining meaningful instruction. Balancing these components, although challenging, is the best part of my work. Over the years, the child’s developing self-motivation and feeling of being understood have been critical for student success.

I am a graduate of New York University’s Childhood Education and Special Education dual Master’s program. I have been teaching for six years, five of which were spent at The Parkside School, the premier school for speech and language impairments in New York City. Fluency with task-analysis, executive functioning skills, and understanding each child’s perspective of the world has prepared me to work with children and their families in the New York City metropolitan area.

Katie Bassett:

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After spending 2 years in the advertising world, I was unhappy, uninspired and unwilling to give my job 100%. I had always thought about becoming a teacher, but was swept up in this fantasy idea of being an “international business woman” who traveled the world, briefcase in my hand and high heels on my feet. Once I realized this was not the reality I was living, I decided to listen to the voice in the back of my mind telling me to give teaching a try.

Two and a half years later, I graduated from Bank Street College of Education with a Master’s degree in General and Special Education. For the past 6 years, I have been teaching at The Parkside School in NYC, a self-contained school for children with a variety of speech, language and communication difficulties.  Every year I’ve had the chance to teach such a unique group of students, each with their own strengths and challenges. At times this can feel as though I’m a first year teacher at the beginning of every year, as my students challenge me in so many different ways. But most of the time, I’m inspired and in awe of the way my students overcome their challenges, learning strategies and using tools to be successful in the classroom.

I’m excited and truthfully a bit nervous to be a part of Jess’s blog. Over the years I have often wished I had written stories and learning experiences down, and I hope I am able to conjure up some of these memories through writing on this blog. I’m also looking forward to growing my personal learning network through this and other teaching blogs, so that I can continue to grow in my role as teacher, mentor and friend to the many students who touch my lives each and every day.

Jennifer Reid:

Jennifer Reid began teaching in 2001, setting out to provide young children with a solid social, emotional, and academic foundation in their earliest years of school. Knowing that success in learning – and success in life – takes root long before a child becomes school-aged, she focuses much of her attention on the emotional development of children in the early childhood years. After teaching in independent preschools in New York City for several years, she shifted her attention to working with emotionally at-risk children at the Lucy Daniels School in Cary, North Carolina where she is currently a therapeutic teacher in the kindergarten program and the Associate Director of Education. She received her Master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from New York University in 2003. In addition, she holds an early childhood teacher credential from the American Montessori Society and the professional credential of Certified Psychoanalytic Educator (CPE).

Caitlin Mandy:

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I am writing this post with a full cup of coffee on my desk and butterflies in my stomach. As a first year teacher, my to-do list is ever growing. “Reflect and record” is always at the top of that list. Ironically, I never thought that would be on a public forum, such as a blog post. Although it’s scary, I must remind myself how important reflecting is in this profession. Throughout undergraduate and graduate school I always thought to myself I want to record my thoughts, reflections, and feelings on a weekly or even daily basis. The first year teaching holds many powerful moments, whether those be ups or downs.

Once I graduated high school, I had a plan. I would attend undergraduate school for a Bachelor’s in Childhood General Education at The College of Saint Rose, then venture off to graduate school for Special Education. The special education piece derived from advice versus passion. Professors reminded my classmates and I that teaching is a very competitive profession. Because of this, it is so important to find things to set yourself apart. Various professors recommended that my class gain some special education experience. “You’ll always encounter students with some special needs,” they would repeat. This was how I made my way to get my Master’s in Special Education at Bank Street College of Education.

As a first semester graduate student commuting into Manhattan two days a week for night class, I was overwhelmed and felt out of place. While the staff and students were kind and eager to collaborate, I didn’t feel like I was truly meant to be there. I was there based on advice given to me from my college professors. Special education wasn’t my passion… not yet. It wasn’t until a Tuesday evening in October that I was sitting in my Developmental Variations class that that spark of passion occurred. My professor, just a few years older than me, made a statement that transformed me as a teacher. “Special education is just good teaching.” I remember these words each day as I prepare lessons to support and engage my students. I know them so well, so why not add their special interests and strengths to my lessons? It excites them, which in turn excites me. After sitting through that class, I knew that my plan was going to be different than I thought a few months prior.

After completing my first year of my program, I was given a student teaching placement at the Parkside School in a third grade self-contained classroom. From the first day I entered the red doors of the school, my life has changed. I learned from the students as well as my mentor, Jess Durrett, endless lessons, strategies, and insights every day. This year, I am lucky and thankful to say that I still enter those same red doors and that very same classroom door. The difference is, this year I am one of the classroom teachers for an incredible group of children.  Our class is full of students with various language and learning needs. They are the most incredible and brave children. They face their difficulties, and showcase their curiosities, questions, and strengths everyday.

As I continue to venture down this path as a first year special educator, I am both eager and nervous as I join this forum with some amazing and brilliant teachers. I am so looking forward to reflecting, sharing, and learning as I continue down my ever changing and exciting path as a teacher.

Katherine Parker: 

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It’s been a long road that led me to a career in teaching. Throughout college, and for several years after graduation, I sought the answer to that elusive question of “what I wanted to do with my life.” After several unfulfilling jobs, I felt the desire to do something more meaningful with my time. As a result, I began volunteering as a tutor at an after school reading program. After years of searching for the right profession, the meaningful moments I found when tutoring were when it finally “clicked” that teaching children is what I wanted to do with my life.

Wary of making yet another career change, I began taking classes at Bank Street College of Education, just to test the waters, but it wasn’t very long until I was hooked. Nearly three years later I find myself with a Master’s degree in General and Special Education from Bank Street. For the past year and a half I have been teaching 2nd grade at The Parkside School, a self-contained school for children with a variety of speech and language impairments.

I was drawn to Parkside because of its philosophy to educate the whole child. I aspire to create a learning environment that supports the diverse learning needs of my students. I believe it is crucial to play off of students’ strengths in order to provide the ideal learning context for each individual student. I feel so lucky to be teaching at a school with so many amazing students; every day I am awed and inspired as my students rise to overcome the challenges they face. I hope that I can continue to grow in my practice, as well as find new ways to engage and support my students. I come to the blogging world with hopes to  reflect on my experiences, as well as learn from the experiences of fellow teachers.

Anthony Lisi:

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My name is Anthony Lisi and I am so excited to be writing for this blog!  Since I was little, I knew that I wanted to work with children. When adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would reply by saying that I wanted to be a “kid doctor”. I guess that is where I ended up in a sense because the end result is that I am helping children.

My path to teaching began by working with children at summer basketball camps in high school. I loved being able to instill my knowledge and love of the game into children that had just picked up a ball. As a junior in high school, I began to assist my friend’s father in coaching a 7th grade boys basketball team. At that point, I was hooked. I knew that I wanted to be a coach, and ultimately, a teacher.

While finishing up my undergraduate degree, I began work as a counselor at a morning and after school program in the area I grew up. The appeal to this program was that it was curriculum based; I was not just a “glorified babysitter” for three hours a day as is the case with most morning and after school programs. I was able to lead groups in math, science, technology, and cooking, amongst other subjects. While working at this program, I was also able to coach 8th grade and 7th grade basketball teams in two separate years. These two experiences fueled my passion for educating children and I knew that I wanted to devote my life to teaching.

Upon moving down to New York City last summer, I began work at The Parkside School as a shadow teacher. I worked in two classes last year to help manage behaviors and support both the teachers and the students within the classrooms. I had no idea what to expect, as this was my first true experience in special education. Once again however, I was absolutely hooked. I loved working with these students because of all the little “victories” that can be celebrated every single day.

Currently, I teach in a first grade self-contained classroom and I am loving the experience. I wake up excited and enthusiastic to come to work every day. In addition, I am enrolled in the Childhood Special Education program at Hunter College with a focus in behavior disorders.On Saturdays, I teach basketball to 3 and 4 year olds at the DRIBBL basketball program. Even though some days feel longer than others, I know that I have made the right career choice. I look forward to sharing any insights, stories, and opinions with all of you and I look forward to contributing to this blog!

 

 

 

 

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