"We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color." Maya Angelou


In my recent decade as director of an Arlington, VA cooperative preschool, I worked to optimize each child’s preparation for a successful and happy kindergarten year and beyond. One of my principle responsibilities was assessing students’ child development milestones and serving as liaison with Parent Infant Education (PIE) and ChildFind programs in Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, and Alexandria. As such, I participated in student studies and IEP meetings with both organizations and coordinated in-school services for occupational, physical, and speech therapists as well as behavioral assistants for students diagnosed with spectrum disorders and Downs Syndrome. In addition, in fulfillment of continuing education requirements and an innate interest spurred by my students, I enrolled in workshops and attended seminars at many institutions in the DC metropolitan area including the Lab School of Washington, the Ivymount School in Rockville, NIMH, Stanley Greenspan’s Floortime Center, and the Kennedy Krieger School. I have also been lucky enough to attend many workshops by Carol Stock Kranowitz on sensory processing disorder (a particular personal interest).

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I also have experience in integrating cultural diversity into the classroom. I have embraced an international perspective in my previous interactions with student populations as a teacher in international schools, a preschool administrator, and as a parent in diverse schools in Asia and the United States. In these roles, I have worked to incorporate diverse traditions into lessons and activities and to respect students' individual perspectives in their classwork.

My placement classroom at Matoaka Elementary School is comprised of twenty-three third graders who of course each have their own individual interests, needs, learning styles and challenges. Effective teachers discover the means to connect with their students and differentiate their curriculum for each student who walks through the classroom doors. However, administrative and statistical data classify students more broadly based on social constructs. In those terms, my class is comprised of fourteen boys and nine girls, twenty white students and one Asian-American, one Hispanic, and one African-American student. No students in the class have either an IEP or a 504 plan and none receive ELL support. Thirteen students attend a Visions class for children who might likely be invited to enroll in a gifted program later in elementary school. Four other students have received Response to Intervention (RTI) during the school year.

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Students work in a collaborative group to construct a compound machine

Differences in Approaches to Learning
In order to address intrinsic differences in student learning styles, I varied my instruction. In my student teaching students had opportunities to work both individually as well as in small collaborative groups. These structures included brief "Think-Pair-Share" with shoulder partners, more in-depth brainstorming sessions in table groups, and formal teacher-organized investigative groups where each participant was given a designated collaborative role. For example, in a language arts lesson about informational resources, I divided the students into small groups to review atlases and then to present their findings to the whole group.

In my autumn practicum, I developed lesson plans that incorporated read alouds into both the science and math curriculum. These science literature connections
and math literature connections engage students who might not otherwise naturally be drawn to these curriculum areas.

Provisions for Individual Differences in the Classroom
I planned differentiated lessons in order to provide for students' individual differences. Groupings for guided reading were determined by reading level. I structured book discussions and lessons around comprehension packets that emphasized different skills for each group. For example, I provided more advanced students with a higher proportion of supply response items such as those found in the booklet I wrote for "The Kid in the Red Jacket". In contrast, I tasked students who were more challenged by reading comprehension with SOL-format select-response questions such as those found in the booklet I drafted for "Harriet's Hare" and "Lily and Miss Liberty."

Collaboration to Meet Students' Diverse Needs
As detailed above, I have previous classroom experience working with specialists in an educational setting. During my student teaching placement, I had the opportunity to work with the school math specialist once a week. We collaborated on a lesson on decimals, incorporating manipulatives to support some students' needs and additional written work to extend more advanced students. I have also been fortunate to observe the school-based specialist assist students from my classroom in their word study RTI session. This winter, I shadowed a special education teacher during her work with many different students in many distinct settings. My reflection conveys my understanding of the need for close collaboration and systematic communications in order to best serve our students. Finally, in my William and Mary coursework, I was tasked with synthesizing my classroom experience and research into an evidence-based intervention lesson plan.