Kelly McLaughlin is a special education teacher at James Hubert Blake High School, Silver Spring. She was interviewed at the school Feb. 1.
Tell me about the Special Services Department. What do you do at Blake?
That is another name for Special Education. I teach three biology classes, a ninth-grade Matter and Energy class and upper-level Matter and Energy. As a special educator, I support the students with special needs in the general education classes. I ensure that all teachers are aware of the accommodations and goals of the students on my case management as well as those in the classes I am in. I maintain contact with parents or guardians of both the students on my case load and the students with special needs in my classes. While it isn’t “officially” part of my job, in the classroom I also aid and assist students without special needs.
I like to help the core content teachers as much as I can, so helping to grade papers is another fun job as special educator. It gives me an opportunity to see how students are doing and what material might be needed to be retaught or reviewed. A large part of a special educator’s job is also being available outside of class to reteach material, as often students with processing challenges or memory concerns and/or written expression difficulties may not have been able to grasp all of the concepts.
How many students are on your case load?
I manage about 14 students. All of our special educators do.
How long have you been teaching?
In January I began my 15th year as a teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools. I taught middle school for 10 1/2 years and decided a change might be nice. I was terrified at first but quickly found I love it here.
What made you decide to go into teaching special education?
I have visual dyslexia and ADHD. My mother is an ex-special educator, and she was able to work with me. I grew up LD GT (Learning Disabled Gifted and Talented). It helps me relate to (the students) because I’ve been there.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
Checking in with all my students’ needs as frequently as I would like to. There are never enough hours in the day to do it all.
What is the most rewarding?
The smile or the thank you or even the “oh” moment that might last only 30 seconds, but after all the patience and effort, it is all worth it.
What is one thing you most hope to leave your students with at the end of the year?
Feeling better about themselves, feeling there are people who care about them and (for them) to always remember that when considering what choices they are going to make. To always remember, “this too shall pass,” and that what challenges us always makes us stronger tomorrow.
If you had one super power to help you with your job, what would that be?
The power to multiply myself so I could better serve my students. I would (also) want to be able to see into these kids’ world, like a fly on the wall, so I can relate to them better. We don’t know their home situations. Relationship building is so important to me because the more you know about [the students], the better you can reach them.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
My job is amazing. Blake offers students an opportunity to shine through art, dance, music, drama and even computer gaming. When students see success somewhere they demonstrate strengths, growth and progress in areas they may never know they could, [which translates to] academics.
Blake staff works together to do all we can for each student. I look forward to my 45-minute commute every morning because it’s Blake!
“Voices in Education” is a twice-monthly feature that highlights the men and women who are involved with the education of Montgomery County’s children. To suggest someone you would like to see featured, email Peggy McEwan at firstname.lastname@example.org.