Metro Parent Top Teachers Awards 2012
Here they are! Meet five fabulous southeast Michigan educators who truly put the 'excel' in excellence – from band to special needs to science
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Kyle Curtis, K-4 Special Education Teacher, Woodcreek Elementary School, Farmington Hills
One mother worried that her son with special needs wouldn't fit in at school – or even want to go. But with Ms. Curtis as his teacher, her son can't wait to go to class.
"It takes something special to be a teacher, but it takes something exceptionally special to be a great teacher for children with autism," wrote Sharon Tonnies in her nomination letter for Kyle Curtis, a K-4 special education teacher at Woodcreek Elementary in Farmington Hills.
Tonnies says it can be hard to see the developmental progress in her son, Carter. But last year, when Curtis worked with Carter, Tonnies noticed changes in his behavior – including that he loved going to school. "School is not always a good experience for kids on the spectrum."
Along with coming up with creative sensory experiences to help her kids learn, Curtis wants her students to feel like they're a part of the school body – and for other students to feel the same.
To help general education students have more interactions with children with special needs, Curtis expanded the school's LINKS program. Each week, general education students meet for 30 minutes with students with special needs. To help generate interest in the program and understanding of children with autism, Curtis wrote a book she reads in classrooms, which explains how and why children with special needs are different. Then she passes out permission slips for those interested in signing up to help. Last year, she even organized an autism awareness assembly, so that all of the students would know about the program.
When it comes to class time, Ms. Curtis says she tries to make learning meld seamlessly into activity. Learning letters might mean an afternoon on the swings, singing the alphabet over and over again. Or she might put words on the floor, so students can move on scooters from one to the next.
"I try to incorporate sensory experiences as much as possible," says Curtis, who followed in her father's footsteps. "My dad was a special ed teacher… and when I decided to be a teacher, my dad suggested giving special ed a try. When I took my first special education class (in college), I just fell in love with it."