While most teachers were settling into their summer routines of sleeping in later and forgetting which day of the week it was (as I have in the past), I decided to go a different route and take two classes towards my master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Kansas as well as engage myself in a variety of professional growth opportunities.
Since joining the team at Noble Academy in January, my passion for working with students with learning differences has been ignited in a variety of new ways; inside and now outside of my daily classroom setting. It all began when I was approached by several faculty members at Noble Academy that have been involved with the NC Summer Program for Kids (NC SPK). A conversation then developed with Hallie Rojeski, Head of the Lower School and Junior High, and soon afterward an offer to teach Language Arts was laid on the table. Rojeski, who has worked side by side for three years with the UNCG ADHD Clinic and Dr. Laura Rhoads, now Director of NC SPK, briefed me on my responsibilities and I immediately jumped at the chance to work with this wonderful program. During the school year I teach 9th and 10th grade English and Learning Strategies at Noble Academy, but I have always had a soft spot for elementary aged students. Elementary education is where I started my career, and this program brings me right back to them.
My responsibilities included teaching a 45 minute Language Arts lesson each day to students diagnosed with ADHD and a variety of learning differences ranging in ages 7-13. To many people this may sound challenging, and at times it could be, but this has been one of the most rewarding summers I have ever had and I know there are several NC SPK students that would agree with me.
So what did a day at NC SPK look like in my classroom? Learning, reading, writing, and some fun too! I approached each lesson plan with two goals in mind, for the students to take away some kind of new knowledge or skill and to enjoy the short time I had with them each day. The joy of working with students with learning differences is that no class looks the same for two students. My students did not learn the same and I should never expect them to. They each have their own unique way of running the race and as long as we all cross the finish line I am perfectly fine with that. I wanted to provide a structured environment in order for them to learn how to use self-control and follow directions, but I also wanted them to feel comfortable to share their thoughts during class, ask for help when they need it, and learn to love reading without the stress of a grade hanging over their head. The freedom that this program provided me as an educator also allowed me to give each of my students MY very best.
With such a wide variety of ages and intellectual strengths and weaknesses, lessons for the Language Arts class rarely looked similar. Utilizing the wonderful technology provided at Noble Academy such as Smart Boards and computers for each student, I was able to teach whole group lessons, split lessons based on academic achievement, or reading lessons as a whole group with follow up assignments individualized to each student. By allowing the students to work to their strengths, I was able to build confidence in an area that many of them are coming to us feeling down about. The best part of my job was to watch my students learn, grow, and have fun while doing it.
In addition to working with NC SPK, I also have spent my spring and summer providing private tutoring to public school students. Before joining Noble Academy, I worked in public education for four years (one with Guilford County Schools). Having the background knowledge from my work experience along with the education that I have, and am still receiving, I feel that I am able to create and execute a plan with the parents and students that I work with in order to reach their maximum potential, even when I am not with them at school. Providing additional support and teaching them innovative and cutting edge methods and techniques to use in the classroom has made all the difference for these students.
So summer break was not the break it has been in the past for me as a teacher. My grandfather once told me a man who loves his work never works a day in his life. If this is true, this summer has been the best break I have ever had.
Amanda Lippard is a teacher in Noble Academy's Upper School. She wrote this article for the Guilford County Women's Journal June/July 2016 Edition.