Teaching children with special needs; Clark loves her job

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 2, 2000

GARYVILLE – The December Teacher’s Spotlight for the St. John the BaptistParish School Board shines brightly on special education teacher, Stephanie Clark.

This is Clark’s second year teaching pre-schoolers and kindergarten students at the St. John Child Development Center in Garyville.A transplant from Boston, Mass., Clark is a teacher with the Teach forAmerica Program. She signed up for a two-year stint and was sent here toSt. John Parish to help out kids who need special attention. Her chargesare Headstart students and kindergarten kids. She also teaches aninclusion class in the morning which includes both regular and special education students.

Judging by her cheery attitude and bright smile, Clark really enjoys her job.

“I love being at a school where everyone is under the age of six,” Clark said with a laugh. “There is never a shortage of smiles when you areteaching young children.”Before coming to Garyville, Clark earned her college degree in the history of literature and early childhood education at Wheelock College in Boston.

“I love children very, very much,” said Clark of her choice of career. “Andhere your spirit is challenged everyday.”Teaching young children with special needs can be a daunting job, but Clark takes it all in stride.

“The biggest challenge is that there are so many challenges,” said Clark.

One of the reasons that Clark was picked for the Teacher’s Spotlight is her innovative ways of teaching children. She uses role-playing in herteaching, and the technique has resulted in a lot of progress for her students, and for Clark, that is what teaching is all about.

“Seeing their own joy at their own progress is the best thing about teaching,” said Clark.

In his description of Clark, School Superintendent, Chris Donaldson said of her, “She is noted for her hard work, dedication and super relationships with the children and their parents.”For Clark, the hardest part of her job is getting some of these children to actually be children.

“The outside world has shown some of these kids things that would shock a 50-year-old person,” Clark said, “and even though some of them act like four-year-olds, you know that there is something else going on.”To relax, Clark jogs, plays the violin and reads and writes a lot. Right now,she is reading “Snow Falling on Cedars,” and when the mood strikes her, she likes to write poetry.

Always thinking of children, Clark said that even is she were not teaching she would pick a career that would involve children. She said she would gointo law or public speaking and raise public awareness about the condition of children in the world.

“We need to put as much energy as we can into our children, ” said Clark.

“They deserve our respect and our care.”When asked what she would tell a new teacher, Clark said, “I would tell them to get a lot of sleep and eat your Wheaties, because you will need the energy.” “Plus enjoy the children. That is the best gift for yourself.”

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