Student Teaching Memorable Moment by Tresa (Tesin) Gnalian

Student Teaching Memorable Moment Narrative

I have developed a passion for helping individuals with disabilities. So you can only imagine how excited I felt when I learned that I would be spending half of my student teaching semester in a multiple disability classroom at Pittsburgh Public’s Pioneer Education Center. I knew that this would be an exciting semester of change, challenge, growth, and reflection, but my time at Pittsburgh Pioneer took me on a whirlwind of an adventure that I will never forget.

It did not take me very long to fall in love with the students of room 111. These students inspired me everyday, they are some of the strongest individuals I know and here is why, these are students with severe and profound disabilities. Some of these students spend days to weeks in a hospital recovering from surgery; some students need a feeding tube, others a tracheotomy tube, one student of mine walked around with an oxygen tank. Some of these students will never be able to walk or talk, but yet when these students come to school they have a smile on their face and a sparkle in their eye. These students are superheroes, they may not have x-ray vision, or the power to turn fire into ice, but they do have the ability to warm your heart, make you laugh, and make you think.

It was so nice to walk into a school that was all about the students. The teachers designed lessons based on their students’ strengths and interests. It was such a caring environment full of love and laughter. There was never a dull moment in my classroom. Every student has such a unique personality; there is the charming Vinnie: “Miss Tesin, Miss Tesin! Yes Vinnie?! Hi! Miss Tesin” There is the clever Star Wars obsessed Jacob: “Hey Jacob, what are you going to do if you get scared? Close my eyes and sing the national anthem” There is Mariyah the diva who loved the Muppets and will never let you forget it, Cody who wanted to talk only about Mario, Callum who couldn’t be late, Larissa who just wanted a hug and Reese who could not stop smiling.

The hardest part of this student teaching experience was not the lesson plans or research projects. The hardest part was learning about some of the things these students of mine have had to go through in their young life and knowing that some of these students were going home to an unstable situation. Upon learning this, I made it my mission to make the most of these eight weeks, which meant capitalizing on the strengths of my students, understanding their needs, taking the time to learn about their interests, and listening to their stories. I have to admit that I spent some of my weeknights researching Star Wars, the Muppets, and Lalaloopsy.

Through this experience I have realized that as a teacher you really do have to be prepared to put on multiple hats throughout the day. You could be a nurse taking care of a student who has just had a seizure in the morning, a social worker dealing with CYS during prep period, and a cheerleader by math class. In addition, I have learned that you have to break down those barriers and realize that all students can learn. I also realized that a lesson is not always going to go according to planned, snow days and two-hour delays are inevitable in Western Pennsylvania, laughter is the best medicine, you must wash your hands constantly, use the restroom any chance you get, have a positive attitude, but above all I have learned that a teacher has to be extremely thick-skinned because there are students who will break your heart.

Some of the highlights during my time at Pioneer include celebrating the letter P with pajamas, pancakes, and popcorn, listening to Mariyah read a level one reading book from cover to cover for the first time, seeing Jacob’s face light up after creating a Star Wars themed math game, Introducing oobleck to my students during Dr. Seuss week, and building on the students’ comprehension skills by reading books such as Noisy Nora, The Grouchy Ladybug, Love, Splat, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, The Napping House, The Sleepy Owl and so many other heart warming tales that teach valuable lessons about friendship, love, and happiness.

I went into this classroom thinking that I was there to teach these students; little did I know that they would be the ones teaching me. I truly think it is important to educate others to look past the disability and focus on the abilities of an individual. The great Dr. Seuss, once said, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” And how right he was. Room 111 will forever hold a special place in my heart and further reinforced my want to become a special education teacher.

Editor’s note: This is an outstanding Memorable Moment in Tresa”s life. I am looking for more essays of inspiration. Education is not just about reading, writing and math. It is about our experiences that impact upon our soul and make us who we are. If you have a story share it with everyone. Positive Memorable Moments keep all of us moving forward and they help to outweigh the negatives in our lives. Education must be a positive experience for everyone. Let’s make the trail we follow a happy and positive one. Happy Trails to you–Herb

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