Sharing My Knowledge with the Education Community
I didn’t start out to write a book. There was a need in our school.
I work with kids with behavioral issues. Some of them have high-functioning autism, and they have a really hard time fitting in with peers. What we used to do is teach them social skills, but in isolation with the child. Then we’d then send them out into a school environment that didn’t really welcome them; the [other] kids weren’t having conversations with them, and [our students] were either ignored or bullied. So we started to experiment with peer education, teaching peers about, for instance, Asperger syndrome—one of the syndromes some of the kids have—and teaching them how to interact with them, how to have conversations, how to call them to sit with them at lunch, and that sort of thing. It’s called “Circle of Friends,” and we involved our kids in extra-curricular activities.
As a result, I started to share the things we had done at our school with other schools. Teachers are very interested in the subject. I was handing out my PowerPoints and doing my little workshops and thinking it’s not rocket science, that they would just go do it. But people had a lot of questions. What do you say to parents? What do you say to students when you do peer education? What do you do at your circle meetings?
My packets of information got thicker and thicker and the lady at school who makes the copies got a little impatient with me [laughs]. So I submitted the manuscript for publishing and it was picked up right away. That’s how I ended up with a book.
I get a lot of requests to speak at conferences nationally and at the state level, and to do professional development for other schools. The Teacher of the Year [award] just gave me an even bigger platform to be able to do that. My special cause is helping the hardest kids, the kids with behavioral difficulties, fit in in an inclusive environment.
I had this great platform to be able to share things that I knew worked, and teachers were very receptive to hearing it. It was very nice to have an even bigger influence. I knew it worked in our school; now it’s great to be able to share that with other people at other schools—in state, out of state, and in the bigger world, too. I have received emails from people using the program in Israel, Pakistan, and Germany. It’s had a far-reaching effect. It’s been very exciting.