TYHO EDUCATOR SPOTLIGHT
At Teach Your Heart Out, we know that Teachers work hard to make magic across the world! Lesson plans, extra study sessions, creation of games, study aids, dramatizations, phone calls to parents, preparation for parent night, confidence talks, walks to the school nurse…. Whatever it is, educators are there for the cause!
Because we know the many hours you put forth to make our world a better place, one educator at a time, we want to spotlight educators around the globe!
Today’s spotlight is the magnificent Rebekah Poe!
Rebekah is currently a sixth-grade special education teacher in the inclusion setting. She teaches in the general education classroom with her students who have learning disabilities. Inclusion allows her students to be in the class with their peers to maintain healthy relationships with them and the general education teachers.
Rebekah feels that the middle school setting is enjoyable and allows her to teach things she dreamed of doing as a paraprofessional.
Life Before Now
Before taking this position as a Middle School Special Education teacher, she taught Kindergarten and 4th-grade special education.
She has taught grade levels Kindergarten through sixth. The only grade level missed here has been 5th grade.
When inquiring what intrigued her about the field of Special Education, she replied with the unexpected. She told us, “I never intended to be a special education teacher. When my husband got hired at a school in the Birmingham, Alabama, area, I needed a job. The principal was in need Of a paraprofessional. I thought these were good hours, and I had worked with kids before. I said yes, and I loved it. While doing this job as a paraprofessional, I saw the need for teachers who would Advocate for these students In special education. In that position, I could not do everything I wanted to for these children because my job would not allow that. I decided I would do something about it, so I went back to school and got a master’s degree in special education. I fell in love with the process. I wanted students to understand they could do far more than they realized they could. During this time, I worked as a para for seven years. That was what I did before now. I also worked at a gym, at a pizza shop, at a car dealership, at an after-school program, and taught art classes. I never found a love for any of those things, though. I have a bachelor’s degree in English, but not English education. I never found anything I really loved until God directed me To this paraprofessional position. It was there I would find my passion. Through this I have inspired students as well as myself.”
Things You Hear as A Special Ed. Teacher
She noted that people frequently tell her that she must be so patient if she is a Special Education Teacher. Mrs. Poes says it is less about being patient. It is more about recognizing that children learn differently and being willing to meet them where they are. So often in special education, the focus is on the students’ deficit and not the Strengths. Many times this is applicable in many classrooms; special education isn’t alone in these ranks.
Rebekah says she noticed that when you focus only on students’ deficiencies, It’s becomes draining for students in special education. No one wants to focus on areas in which they perform poorly. This proves true whether it’s subject matter or life skills.
Good Teaching Strategies
When asking Rebekah Poe to describe a few teaching strategies that were successful in her classroom and worth sharing with other educators; she lit up with excitement!
She says What I like to do no matter what subject area I try to make sure it multi-sensory. Studies show that people remember: 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see. The human brain processes visual cues better than the written language. “Anytime she can incorporate different strategies into one task, students seem to master the task at a faster pace.”, Rebekah says. “For instance, if we were singing a song, incorporating motions and looking at visuals at the same time. They seem just to get it. It causes their brain to work on all of those together. It helps them learn faster and also remember the information longer.” Rebekah stated she knows this works in her class because she can still tell you the preamble to the Constitution because she learned it as a song. She made sure to let us know that it had been over 20 years ago, and it was fresh in her memory. If we can get all of those brain areas working together, we learn more efficiently and effectively. She also noticed that she could simultaneously reach all of her students with different learning styles by differentiating lessons.
Another creative way that Rebekah teaches is to print things on Sticky notes for students. She says this idea came from an Instagram account she follows. This brillant Special Education teacher saw this years ago and decided to tweak it a bit to fit the needs of her learners. She shared this idea on Instagram from @theliteracydive. She noticed the idea and loved how it could work for her in her Special Education environment. Now she even uses sticky notes to write accommodations, exit slips, and extra encouragement for students. Her students think it is the coolest thing ever because it is with intention and last minute or on the spot handwritten.
Rebekah also let us know there were some changes in how she teaches and communicates since the pandemic began. At her school, they taught remotely and traditionally. They to use a new online system which included her IEP meetings. Mrs. Poe said this works great for some families because they feel pressured to take time off work or find a sitter. It fits better with their schedules.
Last year she taught remotely, and classes were only 20 min long. She said that trying to fit a lesson into 20 min made her quickly realize that she needed to figure out what parts of her lessons she could cut and what parts she needed to keep. Educators everywhere had to quickly decide the most efficient and effective way to teach students in this short amount of time. Rebekah told us that she said to herself, “I just need to give them the meat of the lesson and what do they really need.” She thought about What she could give them to take away and allow it to stick. “It challenged me to get outside of my comfort zone and explore technology and collaborate with other educators with best solutions for students who were not in a building with me.”, Rebekah stated.
Outside of Education
We asked Rebekah when she is not working on student achievement what activities or outside interest does she partake? She responded, “I am married, and I have one daughter. We have a Saturday morning tradition. We go to the Farmers Market on Saturday and get brunch or lunch, depending on the time. I try to do things that don’t include teaching because our identity can become wrapped up in education. I try to be intentional with my family time when we have it. I try to use this time to recharge so that I am ready for Monday morning.
Teaching Her Heart Out!!
Rebekah Poes says her favorite part about working with Teach Your Heart Out is the people she meets. Meeting people from all over the nation is always exciting. Since Rebekah has only lived in Alabama, meeting other teachers from all parts of the world and learning what works in their schools with different demographics is amazing. She always thinks about what ideas teachers can borrow from one another.
As we closed our conversations, Rebekah shared with us a bit about Lessons and Lattes. She said her Instagram page Lessons and Lattes started because she was following so many teachers from her personal page, that she was losing her friends’ pictures. There were so many teacher centered things that her personal friend stories became washed out. When she noticed, she thought to make a separate teacher page and join the ranks of these teachers she looks up for inspiration. Mrs. Poe thought maybe they would like her ideas and she can still get ideas from them, so it will be a WIN WIN! Three years later, the Lessons and Latte page has grown to 100K followers. It’s a daily mind boggles she said. She told us that was never her intention. “It was never something I even thought would happen! I love it because I can take my ideas, passion, and knowledge of special education and share it with so many people whether it is parents or related service providers, general education teachers, or special education teachers. I have so many people I can reach. I can offer suggestions. I know these things work for my students and I am able to take that and generalize it in a way that other teachers can use it. Meanwhile, I get to follow some amazing teachers in the meantime which is another Win Win for me !”
Catch Rebekah at TYHO Early Learning Conference in December with a session covering Multisensory Learning as discussed in this article!
Find More About Rebekah on
Facebook @Lessons and Lattes with Mrs. Poe
Thank you Rebekah for shining your light on students and spreading your TEACHSpiration in the classroom!
Author, Blog Content Creator, Educator/Presenter of Student Engagement and Executive Functioning Matters, Book Junkie, Self Help/Care Enthusiast, Mother & Calligraphist