Terri Edinburgh: Sacramento County Teachers of the Year 2013 Interview

Uploaded by sacramentocoe on 17.08.2012

I'm Tim Herrera with the Sacramento County
Office of Education, here with another Teacher of the Year profile. We're speaking with
Terri Edinburgh, who is the Teacher of the Year for the Sacramento County Office of Education.
Thanks for being with us. Thank you for having me.
Well, first of all, congratulations. Thank you. What was it like to be named the Teacher of the Year?
Exciting. Surprising.
The day that my principal, Carmen,
and Robin Pierson, Dave Gordon, came into my classroom, it was
in the middle of a school day, so I was in teacher mode.
And we're in the middle of lunches, in fact.
And they walk in. And it was funny, too, because I was getting ready to leave the classroom when
our secretary Stephanie told me, "Don't go nowhere."
And I'm going, "Okay?" And so, I'm standing there waiting. And then, all of a sudden,
in walks Carmen and Robin with a
bouquet of balloons and Dave Gordon with a plant and
they tell me I'm Teacher of the Year! Quite exciting.
Very exciting. Even my students
-- the nice part in it was that it happened with my students there.
And they were smiling and I had a couple of them clapping their
hands. And they may not have know quite what they were
celebrating, but they knew they were celebrating. Well, let's talk about your students.
Explain where you teach and what you teach -- the type of students.
I'm a special education teacher and I work with students
with severe disabilities. I teach in a special day class at
Prairie Elementary School in the Elk Grove School District.
And the nice part about having my class housed on the Prairie campus
is that we can integrate our students with the regular education students.
But, my students are kindergarten through 4th grade.
They have severe disabilities, so I deal with
autism, down syndrome, a myriad of
disabilities. Seizure disorders.
I have some students who have a lot of medical issues, so we
deal with trachs and tube feedings.
I have a student that
-- we have heart problems. So, with my population,
we have a whole
gammut that we deal with on a daily basis.
So, you're dealing with medical issues as well as educational issues. Exactly.
Exactly. And not only just medical issues, but
because my students do have severe disabilities,
we're also dealing with orthopedic issues,
so we're dealing with students who don't walk, who
we're teaching to sit and stand, so my
educational program doesn't look like your typical teacher's program.
We do teach the curriculum piece. We do work on
ABCs, 123s. We teach them to write their name.
You know, looking at books,
learning letters, learning words. But in addition to that,
we're also working on their, what we call activities of daily living skills.
So we're teaching them how to feed themselves. We're teaching them how to go to the bathroom.
We're teaching them how to groom. How to brush their teeth.
We're also teaching them how to sit, how to stand, how to
walk. And we're developing those fine motor skills as well.
And that's where the eating comes into play, and things like that.
So it's kind of education skills and life skills. Exactly. Yes.
What kind of special challenges does that bring about in the classroom?
One of the biggest challenges that we can deal with
is the behaviors. Because a lot of our students
are learning how to communicate.
And behaviors is all about communication. So, one of our biggest
challenges is developing the communication piece. Because once we can develop the
communication piece, then we can extinguish a lot of those behaviors.
In addition to dealing with communication with our students,
it is dealing with the physical needs and meeting those
needs, as well as the medical needs.
And helping, not only the student, but the families with those, as well.
What's it like for you as a special education teacher when
you're working with a student and you see that lightbulb go on that they
may not communicate to you that they get it, but you know they get it. Exactly. And it's exciting.
It's so exciting and so rewarding.
And a lot of our students' gains are real minute.
They're small. They attain their goals in small increments.
And then there are times where they just jump from
the baseline to where we want them to be.
But, you're right. A lot of times they can't communicate, "I got it." But we can see
it in their eyes. And when they do get it, it's
so exciting. But, even moreso,
what's most exciting, is when they can transfer that skill
to the home. And to the community. Because then we know
they truly got it. It's one thing to be able to do it in the classroom, but
if they can't transfer it to the home and to the community, then
they really, truly haven't gotten it yet. We want them to be able to do it
across the board. So when they do transfer it to the home, to the community,
how does that impact the child's life? Oh, it's great.
It opens up communication. It opens up the
ability to sit with the family and watch TV.
If I can share a funny story, we were teaching one of my students
to sign. We were teaching "I'm finished. I want to eat.
I want a drink." And she was getting it.
It had been a year and a half of working with her. And then, finally,
it just clicked for her and she was signing all over the place.
Well, I forgot one little small piece, which was
to let my parents know what she had
accomplished at school. So, we get to her IEP a few months later.
And we always start out our IEPs asking the parents
if they have any questions, if they have any issues, if they have any concerns.
So, dad says, "Well, I do have a -- it's not a concern,
but it's a question." And we said, "Okay, what was the question?"
He says, "Well, lately my daughter's been doing this all the time."
And he goes, "We don't know what it is!"
And I realized that I blew it because she was telling dad
that "I'm finished." He has said she does it after he eats, she does it when she
goes to the bathroom, and they're trying to figure out
"What is she doing?" And I had to apologize to my father
and let him know, I'm really sorry. That was my fault.
But that was her sign for "finished."
And the smile and the joy on the father's face was priceless.
Because he looked at us and he went, "She signing?"
Yes, she is. And so, I was able to put together
a little book for the family so that they could see all of the signs she
had learned. But the beauty in it, because it had
transferred to home, she can now communicate to her family and they can communicate
back to her. So what inspired you to be a teacher? Especially
in special education? Well, it goes way back
to when I was in the 6th grade.
I was one of the top students in my 6th grade class.
So we were chosen to become tutors for students
who were behind in 1st and 2nd grade.
And where we had the tutoring set up was in this
small room, kind of set off to the side
in the main office. And we would go into that
room and we would tutor our students.
Well, there was one student in there that always came. And she had a disability.
She sat in a wheelchair, but they never wanted us to work with her.
It was almost like, get her out of the classroom, someplace for her to be.
And she fascinated me. And I would always ask questions.
And it really bothered me, too, because they were all, "Don't worry about her. She's fine."
But, I'm like, "Well, she looks like she wants
us to read to her." She would try to inch
her wheelchair to get closer to what we were doing. So that sparked my
interest. And I pursued special education
as far as getting involved in the Special Olympics,
doing things at my school when we had different programs
that included kids with disabilities, tutoring
students, even though my desire
when I went to college was to become a physical therapist.
So, I went off to college, did my thing,
but I still maintained that connection with special education.
It wasn't until I left, after finishing college, I got
a job at Napa State Hospital. It wasn't until after I left Napa State
that I got a job as a para ed in
a classroom, working with students with severe disabilities. And then
the opportunity presented itself where I could start teaching.
And I took it, got my credential, and have been doing it
ever since. And now, you are a Teacher of the Year. And now I am a Teacher of the Year.
Well, congratulations to you. Thank you. We've been speaking with Terri Edinburgh, who
is the Teacher of the Year for the Sacramento County Office of Education. Thanks for joining us.
Thank you for having me.