As a kindergarten teacher in rural Mississippi, I have had the privilege to serve young children coming from diverse life circumstances and varying ability levels. With this incredible opportunity has come immense responsibilities that I could have never imagined when I arrived in the Mississippi Delta. Throughout my teacher preparation courses in college, I was only required to complete one class focused on serving children with special needs. Despite the very limited instruction I received in this area, I felt relatively ready to serve children in my classes with special needs. Looking back, I now realize, no new teacher is fully prepared to successfully assist so many special needs students in one class; especially since most of those students have not had any preschool experience.
When I received my very first roster of students prior to my first day as a new teacher, my principal informed me that she had placed all of the kindergarten students for the entire entering kindergarten grade with IEP’s into my classroom. This meant that of the fifteen students on my class roster, five of the students had severe learning disabilities and developmental delays. I quickly realized that the lack of resources, time and teacher experience needed to serve these students was going to be the least of my worries. I soon recognized that there were four other students in my class that were in need of intervention services.
Since most of my students did not attend any type of formal pre-school education before entering my classroom, they did not have access to early intervention services, and were now in danger of falling behind. This eye-opening experience made it clear to me that high-quality early intervention services are critical to children’s success in school. It is heart wrenching as a teacher to know that had these students been born into more affluent areas of our country, they may have received the intervention services needed to enhance their development.
The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center reports that high quality intervention services can positively change a child’s life trajectory and improve outcomes for children’s success in the future. Furthermore, research demonstrates that high quality early intervention programs can drastically reduce future problems in a child’s development. I am frustrated by the fact that had my students been given access to such services before entering kindergarten, the problems and challenges they face on a daily basis could have been greatly reduced. It is for these reasons that I believe it is essential that ALL children have access to a high-quality pre-school education that includes early accommodation services. Without these services, the likelihood that they will remain on grade level throughout their school age years is quite remote.
Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina
Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Delta State University
Teach For America Alumni (’11) currently teaching in Sunflower County, Mississippi