Presentation on theme: "Coreen Prochnow 2004-2005 Teacher of the Year Oak Park School Sarasota, FL."— Presentation transcript:
Coreen Prochnow Teacher of the Year Oak Park School Sarasota, FL
Coreen Prochnow was selected as the Teacher of the Year for Oak Park School in Sarasota, Florida. While all of the students at Oak Park have a variety of special needs, Coreen's class was composed of middle school students with autism, ranging in age from 12 to 14 years.
Coreen stated her priority for students at this point in their education was “to make their educational program more functional in nature and to use the skills the students already have to promote their independence even further.” This includes the use of daily schedules and personal routines for all students.
Coreen is always thinking of two things: individualizing the instructional activities she creates for her students and promoting self-direction in learning and completing important daily routines. For example, when describing a recent shopping trip with her class, Coreen commented “…because we have such different levels of students, some will be able to count out the money to a cashier. For others, it might just be understanding they need to hand the money over, that would be great.”
As for using individual schedules, Coreen says she wants her students to learn “…what’s a Friday all about, what do we do Friday, what’s different about this Friday or next Friday, not just finding it on a calendar. For us, we go to music on Friday and I want my students to understand their calendar will tell them that, not an adult.”
A third aspect of Coreen’s class is an emphasis on functional curriculum. She feels it’s most important for students of this age to learn reading and math skills in the context of real life activities. “If we’re reading a recipe, isn’t that still reading and comprehension? Let’s focus on those things.”
Coreen acknowledges that maintaining this balance for her students also requires her to work together with other staff members as a team. She depends on her paraprofessionals to take an active part in student instruction, expecting that they will conduct lessons or activities with her supervision.
As a way to support her team, Coreen has designed a master schedule to accompany her lesson plans. This allows each team member to know which students and activities they are responsible for. It also provides an easy way to keep notes or data after the activity has been completed. Coreen says “…it’s a real time saver. I think it gives me and my assistants more independence because we each know who we’re working with and what we’re doing, but we can each gather up our own materials and conduct the lesson how we want to. There’s space on it for us to write down what they did actually work on and how the session went. We can also keep academic scores or anecdotals about behavior with it.”
“It’s important to be a good team member and to also be open to new ideas and situations. You can’t go in thinking you know everything and you can’t be single focused. You have to be a team player, be willing to do things in a different way.”
This is particularly true when working with the families of students. Coreen feels she has a good relationship with her students’ families because, “I don’t act like I know all the answers up front. I listen to them and ask ‘How do you work with it at home and how would you like me to work with it here?’ That give and take really opened the door so they could trust me. They could see that whatever I did was in the best interest of their child and for down the road.”
What advice does Coreen have for other teachers? “Expect it to be difficult at times. You have to love the work, even when it’s hard. You really do.” “There’s so much more to teaching than just one subject. Mind, body, soul…it’s all a part of teaching.”