by Elizabeth Anzevino
As a double elementary and special education major at Saint Joseph’s University, I had already experienced seven weeks student teaching in a Kindergarten classroom. I conducted lessons, created assessments, and practiced behavior management techniques. But I knew student teaching at Easter Seals would be an entirely different experience. I did have a background in working with students with Autism and developmental delays from my job as a substitute teacher back home in New Jersey, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect on my first day here back in March. But between then and now, as my time as a student teacher is finished, I learned more than I ever could have imagined from my cooperating teacher Megan Guthrie, the staff, and most importantly the students of the Bear Cubs classroom that I got to spend every day with.
After that first day I quickly understood the team effort that went into teaching this group of preschoolers. The coordination and planning between Megan, her assistant Robin, and all of the therapists that came through the door that day amazed me. I always knew that these team members worked together in order to carry out goals of an IEP and to manage a class, but I had no idea how dedicated and involved everyone truly was. As I took more of an observing role the first week or so, I quickly became integrated into the every day activities of the classroom, and I learned that a great deal of planning, structure, and attention to detail had to be given in order to get through the day as smoothly as possible, and in order for the kids to gain as much out of the day as they were able.
Throughout the seven weeks that I was a part of the Bear Cubs I learned more and more about each of the individual students, and it helped me as a teacher. Megan gave me the responsibility to take over circle time as well as whole and small group lessons, and I facilitated transitions from one activity to the next. With my lesson planning I truly got to implement what I had been learning about differentiation for the last four years; and I also saw how challenging it could be. Although I did a lot on my own I truly learned that talking to other teachers and therapists helped with making accommodations and modifications for each of my students. I learned firsthand how the IEP process worked, took and interpreted data on functional routines within our class, and I even got to conduct assessments using the Star Program. Megan and I made many changes to our classroom throughout my time at Easter Seals and it taught me that things will always be ever changing, and as a teacher I will need to be flexible. As much planning as we do, there are always things that pop up unexpectedly that we as teachers are responsible for handling, and in the end it makes us better educators.
The experience I received from Easter Seals is one that I will keep with me always. The environment there is so positive and energetic and made me love going each and every day. Now that student teaching is over and graduation is approaching, I truly miss every second of it, and it makes the time I spent there that much more special. As I start graduate school, I know that Easter Seals has taught me so much I will be able to take with me. I feel more than prepared for my future career because not only did I learn and observe while I was there, but I did it. I was the teacher. I will be forever grateful to Easter Seals and am so happy that I was placed there.