Amy Izard teaches in McKinney ISD, and the parents of her students absolutely love her and how she works with their kids. She won the NAA-NT (National Autism Association of North Texas) Angel award for 2018. She is highly respected and loved by her fellow teachers as well for her dedication and great sense of humor. She is known to go the extra mile for her students who want to learn and work with her.
How did you get into teaching special ed?
My original certification is in General Education but after being unable to find a job, I took a position as a paraprofessional in a self-contained Special Education Class and I fell in LOVE. Within 3 months I had taken my Special Education certification test and was on the road to having a self-contained classroom of my own. That was 10 years ago!
What setting do you teach in?
I teach in a self-contained classroom specifically designed for students on the Autism Spectrum. My classroom is a structured setting where we focus on communication, social skills, behavior, pre-requisite skills, and independence building.
What do you love most about teaching students with autism?
I LOVE connecting with my students in whatever way feels most comfortable and authentic for them. If I have a student who loves letters, we jam out to the ABC song. If I have a student who loves spinning, we both spin in spinning chairs. If I have a student who love trains, we build elaborate train routes together. If I have a student who is fascinated by traffic, we watch videos of highways, look at maps, and check out cars together. For me, joining my students in what excites them and being able to make a connection around that is magical.
What is your biggest challenge?
Time is my biggest challenge on so many levels. The daily lack of time to finish everything, the years that fly by with each of my students (I typically only have each student for 3 years), and the time that passes and ages my body and brain. Each day, each month, each year I wish I could do more, be more, help more.
What is your favorite resource to find curriculum if what you have isn’t really working for a particular child?
My first resource is always to reach out to our district BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) staff. Our district has three wonderful BCBAs who are a wealth of knowledge. I check with other teachers in my district who teach in similar classrooms and we are fortunate enough to have two SDIF (Specially Designed Instruction Facilitator) staff members for additional resources. I am also a big fan of Teachers Pay Teachers website for pre-made materials.
If you were talking to a parent who’s new to this whole special ed system, what would be your top piece of advice for them?
When I think about my students and all the individuals who play a part in their development, I am reminded of a sports team, and the parents are always the HEAD COACH. There are lots of players on the team who all fulfill different positions with different expertise, but ultimately the parents call the shots. Like a team, it is important for all members to be able to lean on each other, learn from each other, and follow the same playbook. To a parent who is new to Special Education, I would recommend reaching out to your team, they are there for you, your family, and your child.
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