Amanda Gagnon Village School, West Windsor, Speech Language Specialist
Amanda (Left): “I work with children with special needs. They have an IEP, and if they require speech therapy, I will come and pick them up from their classroom, and we do group or individual therapy. We will work on things like articulation if they have a hard time making a sound, or work on language if they cannot express themselves.
“I like to make speech feel like a game to them, because it helps them to feel less inhibited and enjoy the process of learning more. We use rewards and highly motivating activities, and build structured activities into their play.
“A lot of times I will get students who are completely non-verbal and will come to me very frustrated, and it will be up to me to help them express themselves so an adult or another child can understand them. So after working with a child for a while, when a parent tells me that their child has started interacting with other kids on the playground, that is very rewarding to me.
“Going into college I wanted to work in elementary education, because I used to go into work with my mom when I was young, and I really enjoyed the classroom setting. So I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am doing if it wasn’t for my mom. She was a lot more routine and structured than I am, and she was great at getting the kids in line, and I am kind of like, ‘Oh, there is Johnny running around the classroom again.’ So she taught me how to be more structured as a teacher.
Rae: “I am very proud of her. I taught for 32 years in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and I have seen how teaching has changed, and I feel that paperwork is [now] more important than the kids. And that was one of the reasons I retired. So, when she said she was going to be a teacher, I wanted her for her whole life to be a teacher, but I wasn’t happy that she going into that kind of environment in the school system. But when I saw how happy she was as a speech therapist, I was so happy for her.”
Amanda: “One of the most important things you taught me, Mom, was that teaching is about the kids and not the paperwork. The paperwork is important of course, but at the end of the day, the children are why we teach.”
Rae: “I think she is fantastic with the kids. At the end of her school day she will come home and sometimes tell me how it went, and I can share my experiences with her and what has helped me. You can see how proud I am of her.