As a Catholic School Resource Teacher of more than 20 years, my mission is to offer unique learners the support they need to realize their full potential in an inclusive, faith-based learning environment.
When I was growing up and attending Catholic schools, coursework was hard for me. I struggled to learn and studied twice as much as many of my peers. I remember sitting at our kitchen table crying because school was so difficult. Yet, there were no resources to help me learn. Sure, there were the IQ versus achievement tests that identified students with learning disabilities, and those students were sent to the public schools for special education. However, for everyone else, it was a one-size-fits-all approach to education. There were no resources for students who learned in different ways or were struggling with comprehension, speech, fine motor skills, attention, retention, processing and more. The only assistance available was through the public school system.
I’ve made it my calling to offer unique learners something other than a one-size-fits-all approach. By providing differentiated instruction, these students may stay in Catholic schools and receive a faith-based education just as their peers do. In keeping with the Catholic social teaching on the dignity of the human person, unique learners are not excluded but rather offered a learning environment that is inclusive. As we educators become better at recognizing students’ unique needs, we’re seeing an increase in the number of students who can benefit from differentiated instruction – instruction that is best suited to their individual learning styles and that will best help them find success.
For example, five years ago, our school introduced a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) for reading. This early intervention program, assesses reading and comprehension skills for all students in kindergarten through fourth grade. These students then receive instruction tailored to their specific needs. The program offers fluidity as their needs change throughout a school year. As a result, our referrals to the public school have declined dramatically. The recent Embrace grant that our school received for a speech pathologist provides another tool for students needing special attention with speech and language – eliminating the need for many of them to leave our building and receive services through the public school.