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A Day with KIPP Special Educators: Part 1 – Elementary School

Did you know that 19% of NYC KIPPsters have IEPs for special needs? That means over 760 of our students receive additional high-quality support and resources on their journey to college and beyond. We’re extremely proud to provide whatever it takes for our students to reach their individual goals.

This post is the first in a three-part series offering which offers a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of six elementary, middle, and high school special education teachers.

Elementary School Special Education
At the elementary school level, our primary model for special education is Integrated Co-teaching (ICT), which means there are two teachers in every classroom. One is a general education teacher and one is a certified special education teacher. In addition to the ICT classrooms in each grade, we have a team of interventionists who ensure students receive individualized support and that compliance demands are met.

Stephanie Bryant and Jessica Tavares are two rock star elementary school special education teachers. They opened up their classroom doors to give us a glimpse of their typical day and provided their thoughts on special education programming.

Jessica Taveras at KIPP Washington Heights Elementary

Jessica Taveras

KIPP Washington Heights Elementary School, Kindergarten and 1st Grade Special Education Coordinator

Jessica Taveras has been teaching for nine years and is currently in her fourth year at KIPP Washington Heights Elementary School. She spent her first two years at KIPP as a Special Education teacher in a Kindergarten ICT classroom. For the past two years, she has served as a Special Education Coordinator and Interventionist for Kindergarten and 1st grade.

In her current position, Jessica’s schedule varies and there is never a dull moment. Day-to-day tasks include leading IEP meetings, co-teaching whole classes with a push-in model, providing SETSS, and pulling out small groups for Tier 2 and Tier 3 Intervention.

What’s unique about special education at KIPP?

KIPP emphasizes the importance of creating positive relationships with families. At KIPP, no matter your role, you’ll have the opportunity to work closely with our students and the community. I constantly communicate with parents and guardians about student progress, strengths, and areas of growth. Families really appreciate being informed and involved.

What supports help you serve your at-risk students?

I attend weekly professional development and grade team meetings to improve my instruction and effectiveness. I frequently collaborate with our ELL Coordinator and Speech and Language Pathologist to analyze data points and adjust instruction. I have weekly check-ins with our Dean of Support Services, where I receive substantial instructional support. Additionally, our Regional Director of Psychology and our School Psychologist are always available to answer any SPED related questions. We are truly a team and family, and I know I can always ask for help and get support right away.

How does KIPP promote your growth as a professional?

My goal is to have a lifelong career in education. KIPP is committed to providing students and families with a rigorous, yet loving school environment. As I continue to grow as an educator, I am finding more ways to inspire a love of learning in my students. I promote a culture that empowers students to become their own cheerleaders and I encourage their own commitment to learn. I continue to work at KIPP because our mission is to not only educate minds but also foster character. I am strengthening my instructional skills to have a positive impact on students beyond the classroom, and I know I will continue to develop as an educator at KIPP.

Jessica’s Morning

7:37-8:00am - Arrival

Greeting students as they enter is a great way to start the day, and it allows us to monitor behavior and ensure students are safely walking up the stairs.

8:00-8:12am - Morning Program

Each grade comes together as a community to talk about our school values and discuss relevant topics, including Latino Heritage Month and Black History Month.

8:15-9:50am - Morning Literacy Block

I teach guided reading to a small group of students each day. I work closely with our English Language Learner (ELL) Coordinator to modify these lesson plans in innovative ways. I also work with our Speech and Language Pathologist, who pushes in to classrooms four times a week to review sight words and incorporate vocabulary into our lesson plans. This allows us to differentiate for students who may be having difficulty with the material.

9:50-10:40am - Prep

I’ll meet with parents and work on Committee on Special Education (CSE) tasks. I work closely with our other Special Education Coordinator to complete compliance requirements, update trackers, call families, complete SPED billing, and execute other administrative tasks.

10:45-11:40 - Intervention: 1st Grade-Push in

Three days a week, I push into 1st Grade ELA Lessons. On Wednesday, I work with a small group , focusing on comprehension. We read a text and answer “wh-questions.” I also attend weekly Kindergarten Math Content Team Meetings, collaborating with team members on instruction and best practices.

11:45am - 12:30 - Intervention: Kindergarten Push in

Three days a week, I push into Kindergarten ELA Lessons. Once a week, I pull a small group to focus on literacy and writing skills. Currently, students are working on drawing detailed pictures, labeling, and using sight words in their writing. Once a week, I also work with 1st grade KIPPsters who need extra support with foundational math skills.

Stephanie Bryant

KIPP AMP Elementary School, Kindergarten ICT Teacher

Stephanie Bryant has been teaching for seven years, and is currently in her third year as a special education teacher at KIPP AMP Elementary School. Five years into her teaching career, Stephanie felt she wasn’t equipped to meet the needs of students who were academically below grade level. She realized that many of these students learned differently and she needed to adjust her approach. Stephanie enrolled in grad school and earned her master’s degree in special education to ensure she could serve all her students at the highest level possible. She now serves as an exceptional Kindergarten ICT teacher.

What do you feel makes special education at KIPP unique?

Special education is unique at KIPP because all students receive the services they need every day. KIPP is great at looking at data to target at risk students to meet grade level expectations. We utilize this data during small group portions of the day – like Reading Mastery and Guided Reading – to target intervention for students. Additionally, we scaffold and differentiate instruction for our students based on their academic performance data during math, writing, and ELA blocks.

What supports help you serve your at-risk students?

Our school has a great Response to Intervention (RTI) team. This team is comprised of teachers (general and special educators), social workers, and leadership members who meet to discuss student needs and different interventions that can be used. Our campus has two full-time social workers, a special education coordinator, and a behavior interventionist, in addition to our two ICT teachers per grade. This forms a strong team of educators who are continually looking to serve the diverse set of student needs.

How does KIPP promote your growth as a professional?

I think that working at KIPP promotes my growth because there are professional development workshops both within and out of network that I can attend to grow in my pedagogical practices. Each Wednesday, we release students early to engage in on-site professional development and I continue to learn new skills of differentiation and refine my instructional techniques.

Stephanie’s Day

7:30-8:00am - Arrival and Breakfast

Staff members take turns supporting with arrival and breakfast duty each morning.

8:00-8:20am - Morning Meeting

Morning Meeting sets the foundation for the day, establishing the climate and highlighting any academic or social skills students will need throughout their classes.

8:20-8:55am - Reading Mastery

Lead a small group of 6-10 KIPPsters, teaching them phonics and decoding skills.

9:00-10:00am - Guided Reading

Lead a small group of 6 students, focusing on word solving and comprehension skills. These groups are formed based on students’ STEP reading assessments and IEP goals.

10:00-10:40am - Story Problems

Co-teach a whole class math lesson, teaching students how to solve story problems using manipulatives.

10:45-11:05am - Lunch

Teachers take turns supporting with lunch duty.

11:10am-12:00pm - Eureka Math

Co-teach a second math lesson, teaching grade level math skills through the use of problem solving and manipulatives.

12:05-1:35pm - Excellence Block

Each day, students go to physical education, dance, music, science, or theater classes. Homeroom teachers use this time for co-planning and prep.

1:35-2:00pm - Choice Time

This is an opportunity for our KIPPsters to develop social skills through dramatic play.

2:00-2:20pm - Nap/Snack

We give our students a moment to relax and refresh for the afternoon.

2:20-3:10pm - Wheatley

Wheatley is our main ELA block. During this time, students read above level texts. My co-teacher and I scaffold our questioning to support students in answering text specific comprehension questions.

3:10-3:40pm - Writing Workshop

My co-teacher and I facilitate writing, where our KIPPsters go through the process of brainstorming, drafting, and revising a story.

3:40-4:00pm - Closing Circle

During Closing Circle, we revisit the day and review any academic or social skill progress or challenges.