If you ask Linda Pawson, she has the best job in the building at Northeast Elementary.
As a K-5 special education teacher, the Iowa State grad heads up the team that helps guide students with disabilities through their day.
“Teaching our students takes a village. I am fortunate to have them. We’re a family; we work as a team” she says of her eight associates.
Living with a disability herself (Pawson was born missing her left hand), the youngest of four children is glad her mother did not baby her, or cater to her disability.
“I just had to figure it out. I never saw myself as being disabled. Other than doing a cartwheel, there is really nothing else I can’t do” she explains.
Though her mother taught special education, it was not a field Pawson ever thought of entering. It wasn’t until college, after a friend convinced her to take a job at a residential facility for adults with disabilities, that she found her calling.
“Suddenly, I found myself doing something I never thought I would do. Something I didn’t know I would love,” she says.
Students in Pawson’s class have a wide range of disabilities. Many are non-verbal.
“They are all so different,” she says. “There are no textbooks to teach me how to educate them. We have to find what fits for them as individuals and then blend that together to make a cohesive day, so each of them can get the education they deserve.” When she finds something that works, and a student responds, it’s an amazing feeling.
Her students regularly struggle to meet the developmental milestones of other children their age, so when any achievement is made, it is a big deal.
“We have daily celebrations,” she says. “They work hard, and the road isn’t easy. No matter how large or small the accomplishments, they deserve to be celebrated.”
Pawson is thankful for the programs provided at Northeast.
“Students are all integrated together, and when regularly developing students leave the building, they are more confident, comfortable and accepting when they encounter others who may be different, or have disabilities,” she says. In a time where teaching children to be more accepting of those who may be different from themselves is more important than ever, the hard work and dedication of educators like Linda Pawson is invaluable.