Tiffany Herman loves creating a place where kids feel safe and supported. It’s this underlying desire that drives Mrs. Herman to make the resource room at Ascension into a supportive environment, where she serves kids of all ability levels.
She works at the school partially through the Lutheran Special Education Ministries, an organization designed to support children who have a variety of learning challenges. Her past experience, which includes working as a general education teacher, taught her that collaboration with classroom teachers is crucial for student success.
“I will sit down with the classroom teacher and pinpoint exactly what’s happening and plan what’s realistic for the classroom. Then I’ll check-in to see that we’re reaching our goals,” she explains.
Her individualized approach includes using new methods of teaching, ideal for those students who don’t learn from conventional techniques. Testing reveals whether the student is progressing with these methods.
To measure a student’s reading progress, students at Ascension take a test called the STAR assessment, which measures their reading level according to grade. Mrs. Herman designed a concentrated novel unit to help improve one student’s reading ability by focusing on vocabulary, comprehension and visual comprehension methods.
After taking the STAR reading test before and after the novel unit, the student progressed from a reading level of 5.4 (fifth grade, fourth month) to 9.2 (ninth grade, second month) over the time period of one month. Mrs. Herman admits that although not all students are able to improve that much in a short period, most can make incremental improvements over time.
Mrs. Herman has also implemented whole school activities, like a literacy night, where local author Helen Frost was featured as speaker.
“This year we’re trying to get a grasp on each student’s level and goals and writing a plan for each student. My big push is literacy.”
By creating literacy goals for students and offering special opportunities to encourage reading, all students are encouraged to improve their literacy skills. Teachers follow up on student goals by tracking reading scores so students can be fully prepared for IREAD, the state’s standardized testing program for 3rd graders.
“Each year we do an intensive focus session with third graders. I teach lessons based on skills they need for the test,” she adds, noting that all students without an ISP have passed the test at Ascension.
For teachers like Mrs. Herman, the real goal is creating an environment where she can reach students, no matter what the learning challenges. As a mom, she understands firsthand how advocating for your child’s needs can make a difference in their education.
“Seeing how my kids learn, they’re night and day different. My son gets bored very easily. My daughter, who was adopted from China, needs support because of some bilateral hearing loss and a cleft palate,” she explains. “Being a parent of a special needs child taught me to advocate for my kids and helps me really understand the process.”
Mrs. Herman also recognizes that providing a safe place for students to express their emotions is critical in helping students overcome their problems.
“This room is the safe place for kids,” she explains. “One student had a terrible home situation and came to my room and shared how he felt. There’s a lot of hurting kids and I want to tell them they’re appreciated and loved.”
It’s this approach to caring for students at Ascension that makes it a place where kids can thrive.
“When they’re here, regardless of what happens in the home, this is their place where they can share how they’re doing.”
This is part of Ascension’s success. They care for each student personally while providing them the best learning experience possible.