Kathryn Quigley's 2nd Place Essay

I am a Special Education teacher at an inner city school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The high school I teach at is a Title I. Approximately 80 percent of my students receive free or reduced lunch due to their families' socio-economic level. The students in my class are considered to be cognitively the lowest functioning students within the school; they are diagnosed with either mental retardation or autism.

Due to their disabilities they tend to be visual and/or tactile learners, learning best when provided with hands-on materials. The past couple of years, due to financial constraints within our school district, my classroom has not received money for new supplies. The hands-on materials, which I need to teach my students, I have created or bought myself. While I love my students and teaching, during this tough economic time I cannot always afford to buy the materials myself. Unfortunately I know their families cannot afford to buy the materials either. Given the age of my students, my curriculum focuses on teaching them real-life functional skills. My students are learning vocational, communication and daily living skills.

If my classroom were to win the "Tools for Teaching Contest," I would use the money to purchase functional items, which could be used to directly teach them in the classroom. For example, I could purchase a variety of vocational task sets, where my students could get hands-on experience practicing sorting and packing skills. I could purchase computer programs [about] community signs and menu math so that I could incorporate using technology within their curriculum. I could purchase board games so they could practice communication skills and age appropriate leisure skills. And most importantly, I could purchase books and reading materials so that my students could have a library of age appropriate books at their reading level. They could access their library during their breaks and classroom leisure time. Since my students stay within my classroom three quarters of their day, I feel that it is important to provide them with an environment not only where they feel comfortable but where they have fun [with] interactive materials.

With the help of the "Tools for Teaching Contest" I could provide these materials for them. I want my students to have fun and to be as excited to learn as I am to teach!