We are excited to introduce you to our February Vizzler of the Month, Kelsey Smith! Kelsey is the SOAR Teacher (Social, Occupational, Academic Readiness) with Northwest ISD in the great state of Texas. Kelsey and her students have played over 2,300 Vizzle lessons so far this school year!
Tell us what your students think of Vizzle and how you use Vizzle in your classroom.
I use Vizzle for a majority of my classroom lessons. It’s a quick and easy way to find lessons and activities geared toward specific TEKS that their general education peers are covering but is still relevant to my students. I also use it to assign individual work, as well as track IEP progress for all of my students. My students enjoy the automatic reinforcement they receive after each question and at the end of the lesson. Many of my students will count down the rocket ship or imitate the sounds or movements they hear and see in those reinforcers. Because Vizzle will read what’s on the screen to the students, it also provides them with more opportunities for independent work which they don’t get much of.
What is your favorite subject to teach?
Daily Living Skills/Vocational Skills
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I’ve always wanted to work with students with severe disabilities, preferably high school age. While working on my degree in special education, I was unsure of what exactly I wanted to do. All I knew was the population I wanted to work with. I considered physical therapy, speech therapy and other routes similar to that. While student teaching, I was placed in a high school self-contained classroom. After one week, I knew this was the job I wanted. I loved being able to work day in and day out with the same students, giving me an opportunity to build deeper relationships with them. My job is tough. My paraprofessionals and I do a lot of toileting, hygiene and kids can get aggressive at times. However, I love doing those things and letting my students know that they’re worth it through my actions.
What is your daily inspiration?
Working with students with disabilities, especially severe disabilities. It’s not uncommon for my students’ needs to be an afterthought because the population is so few. For me, it’s a constant battle of making their needs heard by others and fighting for their rights. It can get exhausting. After one particularly hard day, I was crying to my dear friend, Kiesha, and she said to me, “…that’s the truth of injustice, but it doesn’t mean that we stop fighting, stop educating and don’t get tired. Every day, ask the Lord for all the strength, fight, courage and wisdom that you need to get through just that day.” I have this written down on an index card and taped on my desk so that I see it every day. It’s a wonderful reminder for me of why I do what I do.
What is the most important thing that makes your classroom work?
Schedules: I have spent a lot of time creating and reworking schedules, both for my students and my paraprofessionals. Everyone needs to be on the same page and my students need structure. If everyone isn’t on the same page, it can make even the best of teachers feel helpless and lost.
Paraprofessionals: I am lucky enough to be at a school that allows me the opportunity to be a part of the interview process for the paraprofessionals in my classroom which is incredibly important to me. My classroom would not function without hardworking, dedicated and caring paraprofessionals. Our jobs are dirty and hard and I need people that aren’t afraid to do things outside of their comfort zones for the betterment of the students.
What advice would you give a brand new teacher?
Find a solid support system. Find people that you can vent to, cry to and celebrate the victories with. Find people both at school with you and outside of work.
Congratulations, Kelsey! It’s been great getting to know you! Your students are fortunate to have you on their side!!!