Special education instructor teaches to never give up
Peter King had a homecoming of sorts three years ago when the Prospect High School grad returned to Northwest Suburban High School District 214 to work as a special education teacher at The Academy at Forest View. Overall, he's in his ninth year of teaching.
Q: Technology is becoming a big part of classroom teaching. How are you using technology to work with special education students?
A: I have found that technology in the classroom has really helped enhance the learning that occurs at the Academy. Since District 214 is so rich with technology, it allows me to really get more students engaged in the content that is being taught.
Students use iPads daily. Different apps I have used with my students are Kahoot, Classkick, and Sketchpad. Technology is just another avenue to try to reach students that don't learn best through the old school paper-and-pencil method.
Q: What's something different special education students are doing with technology that their peers aren't doing?
A: District 214 has really been on the forefront of going above and beyond the call of duty.
Last year, they started an initiative to have students be college and career ready by incorporating coding in the math curriculum. At the Academy, we have followed suit just like the other schools in District 214. But the biggest difference is that, starting in the spring of 2017, students at the Academy will learn how to code spherical drones and build different obstacle courses using the content they learned in their math classes.
This hands-on approach will have students thinking critically about solving problems and how to work as a team to accomplish a specific goal.
Q: Describe your favorite special education technology lesson and why it works?
A: My favorite lesson using technology with math has to be when we review for tests.
The lesson is student-centered in the sense that students are creating the review for their classmates and having them solve math equations they made up. For our review games, I have different pods/centers that students start at and then they rotate as time passes.
One pod focuses on using the app Classkick. Classkick is an app that students can work through equations and interact electronically with how to solve those equations. Another pod is a group of students writing their own problems on iPads and shuffling them around to then distribute new, original problems they have to solve.
Lastly, I have a pod of students work on a Kahoot game for their classmates to play the next day.
Q: What drew you to work in special education classrooms?
A: Two things drew me to becoming a special education teacher: 1) Growing up, my stepmom was a special education teacher, and she would come home with stories of how she helped her students and how rewarding it was for her.
I loved hearing those stories and seeing how happy it made her, and the idea that a job can be that rewarding and enjoyable was something I wanted for myself.
2) Growing up with an identical twin, he and I had a special language that the two of us only understood. With this special language, also came some hard times that he and I had to face. We grew up with delayed speech and language, and so we had to see a speech specialist a couple times a week to make up for lost time.
Overcoming that type of adversity wasn't easy, and I knew throughout primary school that we were behind our average peers. I felt firsthand what it was like to not be like my friends or the other students in my classes. I hope to instill that type of attitude with the students I work with each and everyday and send the message to never give up.