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Ten Minutes with…Rachel Sargeant

Position: Early Childhood Special Education Teacher for students ages 2-5
Local Assn.: King George                                                                              
Years worked in education: 2

What is a typical school day like for you?

I have 5-8 students and a teaching assistant to help with all activities. Throughout the day I can be working individually with each student, with 2-3 students, or with the whole class. Our daily schedule features activities such as Circle Time with music; movement; pre-literacy book time; gym time with tricycles, cars, and balls; learning how to play appropriately with toys; problem-solving; sharing; helping peers; and increasing language and listening skills. I use sign language while I’m talking, along with visual cards, to model ways to communicate. I collect lots of data, and also send home a daily sheet/checklist with notes of our activities and information for families. The afternoon includes prepping lessons, IEPs, creating materials, and staff development. My day may include a visit or two to students' homes. The students love this.

What do you like about your job?

Seeing how the students grow and change. Preschool is so rewarding because there can be rapid change with early intervention and parent involvement. The students are all at different levels, and it’s fun to figure out how to get everyone to work together. It’s also fun to see their personalities emerge at such a young age. Last year, all my students were new and 2 or 3 years old. They all started so quiet, like shy toddlers, but by the end of the year they were best friends, waiting for each other to arrive in the morning, sharing toys, and helping each other.
What is hard about your job?

You have to be prepared for anything. The day can change completely if a preschooler is sick or didn't sleep well the night before. Although I enjoy networking with other specialists, it’s often difficult to connect with very busy community folks like the pediatrician, audiologist, ophthalmologist, or social security staff to exchange information. Their information is a key to guiding my teaching decisions.

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job?

My first day of teaching was my birthday and I told the students. For one activity we had clay, so we all made some “cakes” and blew out the candles. All through the year the students remembered this when we had clay, so it was fun to see them get excited and pretend it was a birthday again. Students also enjoy making “coffee”; they like doing things they see Mom and Dad do. I also use an audio card reader where the students wear headphones and are encouraged to repeat the word they see/hear. One student was convinced that his mother was the one reading the cards to him and said, “Hey Momma!”
How has being an Association member been helpful to you?

I was a Student VEA member and from the beginning VEA provided opportunities to attend trainings and conventions, network with other educators, and gain resources to use in my college classes and now my classroom. I attended the SPARKS retreat during my first year of teaching. This summer I attended the Reggie Smith Organizing School and learned more about what I could do to stand strong for education. I also attended the VEA Convention and volunteered at the NEA Convention.

As a cyberlobbyist I can get messages to legislators in under a minute. VEA is about joining as one voice to advocate for our students. Another aspect of NEA/VEA: This summer NEA Auto Purchase eased my new car buying experience and saved me more than $4K!

Although I only have two years in my teaching career, I already know that I will never let my NEA membership lapse. No special educator should try to teach without NEA coverage. No other organization offers VEA's UniServ rep for questions and concerns.

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