Language Arts, 3rd grade, Lafayette Elementary School, Teacher for 8 years
This week, Dec. 6-10, marks the 10th Annual Inclusive Schools Week, which the Inclusive Schools Network has created to highlight and celebrate the progress schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to all students. This year, DCPS is recognizing some of the teachers, classes and schools at DCPS that are working everyday to make sure they have created an inclusive environment for their students.
Ashley Tepfer is a third grade language arts teacher at Lafayette Elementary School. This is her fifth year teaching at Lafayette, and her eighth year teaching for DCPS.
How do you create the best inclusive environment for your students?
Ms. Lundebye is the special education teacher, and she comes into my room for an hour every day and works with our class during my reading time. We first looked at the needs of my entire class.
We tested kids at the beginning of the year to see where their reading level was, and we trained them for a while with routines and worked in small groups. The groups change from week to week and skill to skill. We make use of having two adults in the class, which is really great because we are able to have two groups of students working with a teacher simultaneously.
Ms. Lundebye does not work solely with the special education students, but instead works with groups that are having difficulty with certain skills. We plan together on a weekly basis and modify work for some of the students, so every student is able to participate in all of the activities we do in class.
Why is so inclusion so important – both for special education and general education students?
Inclusion has worked really well in my class because kids who need more academic support get help from their peers and learn really well from them. For other kids, it’s great academically for them to explain things to someone who doesn’t understand it as well – everyone feels like part of the class and not isolated because they have trouble in a certain area. We stress that class is like being on a team because we all work together and make sure everyone succeeds.
Why did you become a teacher?
I had this teacher in second and third grade, and she inspired me. I love helping kids. I love their honesty, and I love watching them grow and being able to make an impact on their lives. It’s wonderful to see their growth and see that I was part of that. And then I maintain relationships with my students and can watch them grow over time.
What is one thing a student has taught you about being a better teacher? How did he or she do it?
My students teach me something everyday. Anytime someone doesn’t understand something, it challenges me to teach in a way that can reach everyone. I constantly am learning everyday to get better – it never ends.
Why is teaching an incredibly important job?
Teaching kids at this age means helping them find success and discover how important it is to learn and continue their education. They need to discover that learning really can be something they enjoy. We are providing a foundation for their future and have the ability to make a positive impact on the lives of so many young children.
Why is Lafeyette doing such a great job at inclusion?
We have teachers who are flexible. They are willing to work together, adapt to different environments, and continue to learn new, better and different ways to teach. It’s our collaboration that makes us great. By teaching in an inclusive classroom, I have learned so many ways to modify my lessons for everyone – both my special education and general education students – and that’s why inclusion has been so successful.
Parents are a critical part of their children’s achievement. How do you engage parents as you work to create an inclusive environment for your students?
Communication is extremely important in a child’s success at school. Everyone needs to be on the same page, supporting one another. We try to keep the lines of communication open through email, notes and by telephone. We also hold conferences with parents, not just on conference days, but whenever needed.
We try to share certain strategies used in the classroom that are successful, so parents can try the same. Consistency is the key. Parents are kept up to speed on what is going on in the classroom and are invited come in to celebrate their children’s successes.
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