What inspired you to become a teacher?
When I was 12 years old, my youngest sister was diagnosed with autism. At the time, she was believed to be "unteachable". I began volunteering in her classroom and this led me to realize that everyone CAN learn. I realized that all it takes is a skilled teacher who understands and believes in the strengths of the learner.
How long have you been teaching and what is your favorite style of teaching?
At this time, my teaching experience spans 20 years and includes public schools, a private school, individualized home educational programs, and residential facilities. After I graduated from the magnet program at my high school with full honors, I went on to obtain bachelor's degrees in psychology and child development. Later, I specialized in autism and developmental disabilities for my master’s degree in special education. I had also been working in schools during this entire process. To date, I don’t think I have come across a learner that is not capable of great accomplishments.
I don’t have one favorite style of teaching. I've been trained in nearly all of the methods including Montessori, Reggio Emilia, ABA, Waldorf, FloorTime and more. My focus is to first develop a relationship with my students. I then determine which styles and strategies work best for each of them. Even then, it is rarely only one specific style. I learnt that I need to be flexible and do what is best for each child on any given day. I think that is going to be one of the most phenomenal aspects at Sankalpa Academy: I will be working closely with the school psychologist and other staff to come up with an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) for each of the kids in my class and that ILP will be a valuable tool in ensuring that I will be meeting ALL of the academic and social needs of my kids.
Out of all of the schools in the greater Austin area, why did you choose to be a teacher at Sankalpa Academy?
Throughout my career, I have worked at both phenomenal schools as well as schools that were not the best fit for me. At this point in my life, I was looking for a school that recognizes my skills as an educator and allows me the autonomy to adjust my teaching based on the interests and skills of the children, and does not limit me and the children to specific testing requirements. Ultimately, I wanted to teach at a school where the overarching goal is to develop children into life-long learners. I am thrilled that I am able to work at a school that takes a research-based approach to teaching and focuses on the strengths of each learner.
Would you choose to send your child to Sankalpa Academy?
I'm so glad you asked! In fact, my son will be in the second grade classroom at Sankalpa Academy. My son's academic and social skills span a wide range of age levels. After multiple meetings with our local public school, we were informed that he was "too smart" for them to teach and that there was no funding to make any accommodations for him. While we had heard that public school teaches to the lowest denominator, we were mortified to learn that this was not simply some parents’ fears. Our son has a strong passion for learning and life and we were afraid of what would happen if we put him in an educational environment that stunted or slowed his learning. My husband and I began an intensive search for an educational environment that would be able to cater to his academic thirst, while also providing intentional experiences for social and emotional learning. Sankalpa Academy fit all of those needs. I personally love the fact that learners at Sankalpa Academy will be receiving an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP). This ILP will help ensure that my son will be appropriately challenged in all academic and social areas.
What do you like to do when you're not at school?
My family and I love to be outdoors - biking, hiking, and camping. When we are at home, we often read or play board games (and some video games). In my spare time, I do photography, specifically for families where a family member has a disability.
What do you find most rewarding about teaching preschool learners?
I absolutely love their zest for life! Everything is still so new and fresh to them. They find immense pleasure in the everyday life, such as rain drops, leaves sprouting, or a roly poly crawling in the dirt. Seeing their joy in the simple things helps to keep me grounded and is a constant reminder to not be overwhelmed by life. They teach us the importance of pausing to appreciate the little things. The other thing I absolutely love is their eagerness to learn how their world works. They are not daunted by tasks that may seem insurmountable such as learning to read, write, and speak in multiple languages! They look at life with unjaded perspectives and have so much optimism. They believe they can change the world for the better and I try to do everything I can to support that belief!
How do you envision your typical day will look like at Sankalpa Academy?
I envision working closely with all of my learners to determine their interests. I'd like to focus on an over-arching theme that the children help select and then provide them with multiple opportunities to delve deeper into those topics. As the students learn more about their specific interests, I will encourage them to teach others about what they have learned. For example, if my class chose to learn about space, I may have some students focusing on the planets, some focusing on the effects of gravity, some focusing on rocket propulsion, and still others focusing on astronaut training. In the end, all of the kids in the class will have been exposed to all of those topics based on the enthusiastic joy of their peers sharing what they have learned about them. I feel it is incredibly important to expose preschool children to a wide range of ideas, topics, and activities. Since they are still so new to life, they need this opportunity to see what excites them. However, being exposed to new experiences is not the only important thing in a classroom. I am a huge supporter of documentation. I work with the kids to determine what they feel should be documented such as a piece of writing, a new skill achieved, and more. Each child in my classroom will have a digital portfolio and a "hard" portfolio. These will chronicle their educational journey and be a wonderful reminder of all of their accomplishments.