Teacher Stories: Alison Meskin, Special Ed, 3rd – 5th Grade, Cedar Grove Elementary School, Toms River.
“I have been a special education teacher at Cedar Grove for eighteen years. While I was in college, my major was in psychology, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with a psychology degree. I came across a private school in Monmouth County and got a job there working with kids with special needs as a para-professional, and I fell in love with the profession and with the kids. I decided to go back to school to be a special ed teacher.
Some of the kids at the school were non-verbal, there were some behavioral kids, but it was so exciting to see the kids learn and grow from what I was teaching them. The progress I could see was so great. I was so inspired from working with them that I just knew that was the career for me.
In my current class, we use ABA techniques, which are steps broken down into smaller steps so the kids can learn in smaller increments. We expose them to different incidental teaching and different experiences that are not always academic, as we work with them on social skills as well. Things we take for granted, they may not have thought about, and we take the time to make sure they understand it.
I have some great memories as a teacher. I had one student who graduated, who while he was my student, was lower functioning. There were a lot of steps involved in teaching him, and I worked closely with him, breaking things down for him. I had him for four years. He wasn’t very verbal, but you could see that there was something there, and I would work with him to draw it out. Years later he was here for Special Olympics. I happened to walk in the gym. This one student came running over to me, ‘Mrs. Meskin! Mrs. Meskin! Do you remember me? I was in your class!’ I told him of course I remember him. I couldn’t believe how much he had grown. I hear stories of how he still talks about me to this day. So it makes me so happy to know that even if I cannot see it at the time, there are kids I am impacting.
The special ed teachers here at the school definitely work together. We are a small community and there is a tight bond. We talk about ideas, and if anyone has a problem in the classroom, we will talk to a colleague about it. We all have unique experiences compared to the rest of the school, so it’s good to have that support system in place. And my para-professionals are a great support too. We are a good team and we build off of that.
It’s not always easy, the job we do, but there can be amazing results at the end. That is why I love my job, the impact I can make. My hope is that my kids can generalize the skills as they get older. My hope is that through all the changes they go through in life, the foundation I had laid stays with them.”
Interview by Gregory Andrus
Portraits of the Jersey Shore