Kenneth Ward, Newark Central High School, Special Needs Teacher

I didn’t choose to be a special needs teacher; it kind of chose me. Teaching was something I thought I would never do, but it became my calling. I thought I wasn’t the teacher type. I started out teaching pre-school and after pre-school I went to Montclair State and I got a double master’s in early childhood education and special education. The district was in need of special education teachers at the time, and I haven’t looked back ever since. If you have good insight, and you can build good relationships with the kids, that is the core of what teaching is about. I am an ABA teacher as well. The first thing I tell everyone is that I treat their kids like they are one of my own. I don’t define my students by their disability. You see, I have my own disability.

I am from Paterson, which is an urban area, and I had a speech impediment growing up. I got picked on, and had a rough childhood. I was a target, and it definitely affected me. As I grew up I had low self-esteem. A lot of the kids I teach struggle with their self-esteem as well, so I have insight into how to reach them. I had to be an adult as a kid. Childhood was very hard for me. My mom helped as much as she could, but she was addicted. I didn’t have a father growing up and all of that.

I am now five classes away from a Doctorate degree, I have my own educational company, and I just wrote my first book, I Will Be Accountable and Responsible: The Five Areas of Personal Development. I have come full circle. The steps that I took to learn personal development and about myself was from learning from inspirational authors like John Maxwell. What I learned from him and others I have applied to my own life, and now I am a John Maxwell Independent Certified Speaker. But the number one thing that turned my life around was having a personal relationship with God and learning that He had a purpose for my life. So mixing that with my personal development has made me who I am today. So with my kids at school, I teach them that there is greatness within them. They might not have had anyone ever telling them that before. And once they see that greatness in themselves, it is their responsibility to do something with it. I was fortunate and blessed to be able to beat the odds, and I believe my students can, too.

To learn more about Kenneth Wards book, go here:

  • Photo and interview by Gregory Andrus.

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