Spade On The Street – Kelsey Ferguson, Special Educations Teacher

Assisting in shaping the human mind is an ability that is, understandably, both remarkable and expedient in today’s society. I give such ovation to any teacher I meet who influences and helps students both young and old to develop into the best versions of themselves. To me, an outstanding teacher goes beyond what is expected of them and has this natural inclination, as well as this remarkable competence, to not only leave a lasting impression on their students, but are able to systematise and manifest methods that benefit their students INDIVIDUAL needs and personalities.

For individuals with special needs, this would seem to present a challenge, and a special educations teacher is not only someone who is a specially trained professional, but someone who is patient, gentle, strong, and has a tremendous amount of heart. They are incredibly understanding, resourceful, creative, and fun!

Today, I introduce to you all my good friend and Special Educations Teacher at the reputable Kohai Educational Centre, Kelsey Ferguson. She is about to embark on her 6th year of teaching, having studied at McMaster University, Trent University, and is also presently completing her Masters at Brock University in Applied Disability Studies.

I am so delighted and inspired when I hear her relay the wonderful activities she does with her incredible students. She creates an environment for them that is filled with fun, allowing her students to exercise their abilities to be inventive, adventurous, productive, and happy. I have personally attended one of Kohai’s student concerts, and loved watching the teachers and students perform their own wonderful renditions of popular songs.

What Kelsey does for her students is truly incredible. I am constantly in awe with her great mixture of enthusiasm, dedication, and joy for what she does, and this world needs many more people just like her.

Q – What is most rewarding about your craft?

KF – Being a teacher of children with special needs, I am driven by one pervasive question, “Why not?” Why can’t these children learn and achieve? Why can’t they learn how to communicate? Why can’t they learn to live independently? I ask myself these questions often, and this is what drives me to become a good educator. I strive to find solutions for my students, not problems. I strive to challenge them in a way that society may not. I strive to make them valuable members of their families and communities. And I am rewarded greatly for my efforts. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a student finally achieve something that we have been working so hard on. Better yet, when a student achieves something and is proud of themselves.  The look on a students’ face when they feel pride is all the reward I need. My job is difficult, but the rewards make it so worth it.

One of the most valuable skills I have achieved as an educator is to never blame the student. Now, let me be clear, this does not work for all educators, and eventually we have to ask that the students have ownership of their own lives and goals. However, with the young children that I work with, blame does not work. All students want to learn, and it is my job to set up the environment in such a way that they can be successful. For example, a student may throw a tantrum every language class. They are not doing this to be bad. They are doing it because something about the environment that has been have created isn’t working for them. They aren’t getting the rewards they need to work at the task I have assigned. It is not my job to blame the student, It is my job to figure out how to make it work. Maybe he needs to sit on the floor. Maybe the work is too hard and we need to back it up a step. Maybe we should put some music on and have a movement break before class. Maybe he needs a really powerful reward, like ipad time, to make it through the challenging class. There are so many maybes, and it is my job to sift through them all to find what will work for my student.  Giving up is not an option.

It is a challenge. And sometimes, I feel like I’ll never get it. I have cried more than once in frustration, trying to figure out how to make something work for my student. But with the frustration comes the greatest reward. When I finally figure it out; When we make it through a language class with no tantrum, I am on top of the world! I did it! I got through to this kid! I helped to make a difference in this child’s life. He can now sit and learn a valuable skill because I figured out how to teach it to him! It is such a great feeling.

I recently had someone ask me “What are the two greatest things about being a teacher?” I responded honestly, and he replied “July and August”. It was a joke. Funny, I guess. There are a lot of teachers out there who work very hard, and we are privileged enough to get a lot of vacation time. I see this time as a reward for hard work, not a right. But any teacher that I know who is in any way good at their job will never list summers off as the most rewarding part of their career. We do what we do to make a difference. We want to see children grow up to be conscious, thinking, feeling members of their communities. We want children who are inquisitive, who ask “Why not?” on a regular basis, and who challenge the status quo. That is why I am a teacher.