Tiffani J. Turner
Special Education Teacher, Houston Elementary School, Teacher for 4 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.
Tiffani Turner is a primary special education teacher at Houston Elementary School. This is her fourth year teaching, and her third year at Houston Elementary School.
Why is inclusion so important – both for special education and general education students?
Inclusion is designed to give additional support to those students who need it the most. Including students with disabilities in classroom instruction in the general education classroom gives them access to the general education curriculum with support. Including those children also allows them to connect with their peers.
A big misconception about special education students is that they have deficiencies across all areas and need resource support to strengthen their grown areas. This is simply not true. Special education students are great writers, readers and mathematicians. We all need a little help in a particular area and that’s what I aim to provide.
Inclusion gives general education students an opportunity to receive instruction from another teacher who may have a different teaching style that may be more appealing to them. Also, students without disabilities who are considered at-risk can receive early intervention services from a special education teacher.
How do you create the best inclusive environment for your students?
The best inclusive environments require proper planning. Both teachers have to be completely invested in the process. Mrs. Malone (first grade teacher) and I have always had a great relationship and we want the very best for our students.
We looked at the different inclusion methods and chose the one that best fits our students’ needs, our environment and class size, and instructional strengths. Mrs. Malone and I plan together during our designated planning time, but we also steal moments during lunch, in the hallway and on the playground to discuss how we can best serve our students.
Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I know from experience that education is the only way out of poverty. I understand how your environment shapes your mind and how one person can completely change the trajectory of your life.
Teaching young children is important to me because I believe every child has the ability to move toward and master grade level proficiencies. I also enjoy the challenge of teaching. Every day is different just like every child is different.
I continue to educate myself and evaluate the effectiveness of my own instruction because I know that for some of these children, what I instill in them will give them opportunities they may not have had otherwise.
Why is teaching an incredibly important job?
Teaching is an important job because we are the authors of tomorrow. The quality of our instruction, interactions with our students and parents, and our classroom environments help to create tomorrow’s leaders. I attended public schools in the inner city. I now understand the difference my teachers made.
Who knows where I would have been had it not been for their tireless efforts and dedication. One teacher can change a child’s life – forever.
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?
Aside from parent-teacher conferences and IEP meetings, I call parents regularly to discuss their child's strengths and growth areas.
When speaking to parents in person or over the phone, I always have my assessments available so I can give them up-to-date information regarding their child's progress. I also share instructional strategies with my parents so they can continue teaching the same skills at home. My students are more than capable of doing the same type of work and meeting the same standards as general education students.
I want my students to meet and exceed the goals written on their IEPs and to one day be able to work in a general education classroom without support. So, when speaking to my parents, I assure them that I am in the classroom all day and working with their students towards their IEP goals and towards mastering the first grade learning standards.
Find out more information about Inclusion »
Read more teacher profiles from Inclusive Schools Week »