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Tag Archives: work-based learning
After graduating from college in 2007, I moved to Maryland and learned about Kennedy Krieger’s special education program and knew instantly that I wanted to work there. Kennedy Krieger schools are geared towards preparing students to transition back into their communities and lead successful lives after graduation. I have been working at Kennedy Krieger High School (KKHS) for three years and my students never cease to amaze me. Today, I want to tell you about one of those students whom I’ve known from the start and has impressed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I first met him.
I was lucky enough to meet DeVante—a shy, reserved student with an autism spectrum disorder—during my first year here at Kennedy Krieger. When I first started at KKHS I was a teacher’s assistant in an Academy II classroom. During my first week, DeVante visited our classroom and asked to speak with the new staff member, Ms. Bates. He approached me with his head down and in a soft voice, he asked me to sign his “autograph book”. Timidly, DeVante explained that signing the book authorized him to share drawings with that person throughout the school year. As a teaching assistant, I was eager to get to know not only the students in my classroom, but all of the students at KKHS, so of course I said yes! This marked the beginning of learning exactly who DeVante is and who he wants to be. Continue reading
As a special education teacher in the industry program at Kennedy Krieger High School, I have an opportunity to see our students in a different light than many of my fellow teachers. While they help the kids tackle academic skills and life skills, I teach work readiness skills in Café James—a unique environment where we arm students with critical job skills for careers in the hospitality and food service industry.
This marks my third year teaching in Café James. It’s a huge reward to watch my students become more and more independent in their work. One class, in particular, impresses me daily because I’m especially proud of their progress in the face of the obstacles their diagnoses present. If you walk into the café during this period, you’ll find me grinning with joy at my students who are “running the show” with minimal support. This group of students is what we call an Academy 3 class. Students in this Academy present the most significant need for special education or related services support in a classroom setting, with a disorder or disability which has a significant impact on academic or cognitive function.
Each student has a specific role in Café James, which complements their abilities and offers them opportunities to overcome their personal challenges. The students must each excel in their roles to successfully run the café for an entire class period. Let me take you through a typical day in Café James during fifth period. Continue reading
During the two years that I have worked at Café James—a classroom at Kennedy Krieger High School that teaches students job skills in the hospitality industry—I’ve been so privileged to work with Jerome. His shining personality is always hard to miss, even in previous years, just in passing, when he would walk down the hallway past my homeroom. At first, I didn’t know Jerome at all, but I instantly liked him a lot.
As time went on, I watched him interacting with his peers in the halls and in the cafeteria, and I began to realize what made Jerome so special: He is one of the kindest, most truthful, and heartfelt people there is. Everyone likes him and he is friendly and respectful to everyone he meets.
After he was diagnosed with a learning disability, Jerome was enrolled into Kennedy Krieger School’s Fairmount Campus. Now about to graduate from Kennedy Krieger High School, he has been working hard ever since.
When I first started working with Kevin Sargent, he was a freshman in high school, and I was his science teacher. I knew even then that he was incredibly bright young man, who possessed immeasurable potential and a wealth of information that lay stored away, almost dormant.
But, as is so common in students on the autism spectrum, he struggled to apply his knowledge in the real world.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in elementary school, Kevin scored well on tests. However a huge part of high school learning takes place not at a student’s individual desk, but in groups that require participation and engagement. For kids like Kevin, that presents a significant challenge.
And so, for a long time, we struggled to convince Kevin to come out of his shell and join the class. He preferred solo activities and hated classroom tasks that required cooperation with others, like lab assignments. He struggled with public speaking even in small groups, didn’t want to try new things, and he couldn’t pick up on the simple social cues that many of us take for granted. You could tell that there was tremendous potential there—I never doubted his academic abilities. But there were times that many of us at the school worried about whether he’d ever be able to fully make use of that ability to build a future for himself.
That was Kevin then.