Nominated by parent, Jennifer Klump:

Our son came to Mrs. Baird's Life Skills classroom to get more individualized attention for his complex needs. I was hesitant at first that our son would be leaving the mainstream classroom and going to a Life Skills classroom. Mrs. Baird met with us in our IEP meetings to answer any questions and invited us to observe her classroom before making a decision. She told me at that time, that her goal was to have our son educated as much as possible with his peers, but that her classroom could provide him a home base to come back to when he needed to. In the past two years, Mrs. Baird has been a full partner in our son's learning; constantly communicating with us about his day via a communication book, email and phone conversations. She is always strategizing to problem-solve our son's many complex issues. She offered to sit on his school bus to get to the bottom of an issue between him and other children if she could not get to the bottom of what the problem was. She has been a huge support to our son and us through our son's first two years of school. It is also obvious that the strategies we have laid out in his IEP are being followed, as end of year notes came back with much progress toward meeting his goals. Thank you so much Teacher Leah for helping our son through a difficult year.

Congratulations Leah, from all of us at K103!

What inspired you to become an educator?

I grew up in Bellevue, Washington and part of my school’s community service was to volunteer. I was drawn to volunteer at schools and fell in love with special education when I was volunteering in a program for children with special needs. After that experience, I knew that I wanted to help all children, no matter their ability level or background be successful learners and citizens.

What do you like most about teaching?

I love to collaborate! I think it is so important to work closely with families to support the needs of students. In my current position I work with students in kindergarten through 2nd grade. Transitioning to Elementary School is a big step for families, especially families with children who might not be able to verbally tell their parents how their day was. Collaborating with parents, families and IEP teams is so enriching. It makes a better learning environment for all of those involved.

What has changed the most since you began your career in education?

Reflecting over my teaching career thus far I would have to say that support services outside of the school system have changed the most. Schools offer a great deal of services during the school day; yet it appears that at the community level there aren’t the plethora of services, clubs and classes open to families with children who have special needs.

What would you like parents to know about your job?

I would want parents to know that I truly want what is best for their child and I will try my best to create the best learning environment for their child to be successful while acquiring new skills. I believe that teaching doesn’t happen just in the classroom, but in the lunchroom and out a recess too. I want parents to know that even if there is a conflict, I am so honored to work with them because it shows how much they care for their child. Parents are their child’s biggest advocate.

Share a favorite story about your years in education.

I was a resource room teacher in Washington state and there was a 5th grade overnight field trip to the Seattle Science Center. One of the 5th graders on my caseload has never been on a sleep over type trip before and with collaboration between her family, the school and the Seattle Science Center she was able to attend. This was a big step for everyone involved. It was awesome to watch the student have a typical experience with her friends on the overnight as a student in 5th grade, not as a student with a disability. It was also kind of fun to sleep in the Science Center! Special education can impact so many facets of a person’s life, not just the 8-2:30 time period that a person is at school. I love to help make connections between people of all abilities that will enrich everyone’s life in the long run.