NJ Teachers’ Lounge is excited to continue its Teachers of New Jersey series in 2017. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the series, it will now come out twice a month. This editorial series is curated by photojournalist, Gregory Andrus, creator of the social media series, Portraits of the Jersey Shore. These stories highlight the joys, struggles, and personal reflections that surround being a teacher.

“I am doing a lead replacement this year. I teach the kindergarten and first grade autism class. The teacher I replaced had a baby, and she will be back next year. So now it is that time of year when I am not sure where I will be teaching next year, so that has been occupying my mind a lot lately. I have 6 kids and an aide for my class. This is my second year teaching. It’s really exciting, and I love it.”

“The path that led to my becoming a teacher started when I was very young, and my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I was only four years old at the time, but my sisters were older. I had always heard about the story when my sister was called on to read in class—she was 10 at the time, in 5th grade. And she got called on to read, and that was her breaking point. Getting called on to read in front of everyone. She had so much going on at home, she couldn’t handle it anymore. And she burst out in tears.That was one of those stories that always stuck with me, that if I ever had a child in class that is not exhibiting a typical behavior, I want to be there for that child, and figure out what is going on. My mom has been cancer-free for 20 years this past Valentine’s Day. She really influenced me with being a teacher. She always thought I would be good at it, and pushed me to go in this direction. I am so glad she did.”

“There is no cookie cutter way to solve a problem when working through a situation with a child with autism. What I do is I join them in their world. If you have a kid who is doing behavior that is not typical, instead of correcting the behavior, I do it with them. If I need to lay down on the floor with a kid in the hallway to get a child to go to gym, I will lay down on the floor of a hallway. I get some strange looks sometimes, because it may not be the usual way of teaching. I will join them in whatever they are doing until I can make eye contact. Then I will say, ‘Are you ready to go to gym now?’ and they will go to gym with me. Because now I have joined their world, and they are like, ‘You do this too?’ and there is an important connection I have made with them. I have built that bond with them. I learned that one needs to join them, build their trust, then redirect them.”

“The kids I teach blow me away all the time. When you see the kids connect with something you try to teach them, it is so special. All the work you have invested in them has paid off, and the feeling you get is not something you can buy in a store.”

~ East Windsor

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