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Field Observation: Special Education

Maria Reillo

Introduction to Special Education 203

Assignment: Field Observation Paper

Thursday November 28, 2018

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Looking at Special Education

It has always been my dream to observe a special education classroom in the United States.

Coming from an Asian background, I have witnessed different classroom settings in Asia and have

learned different teaching styles that reflect the culture of each country I have been to. It has been

a great opportunity for me to observe the educational practices at the Judith Steele Elementary

School. JSE is located at Eldorado Lane in Las Vegas Nevada. JSE prides itself on being a bully-

free campus. Its core mission is to cultivate a high-quality diverse instructional program, through

a secured and helpful environment, accessible to all students. Based upon my 10 hours of

observation, I can attest that Steele Judith Elementary School has a successful Special Education

program by having an expert faculty, maintaining a student-centered environment in classrooms,

using positive reinforcement, encouraging parent involvement, and respecting cultural diversity in

the workplace.

I was very fortunate to have observed Ms. Julie Richards, who is my cooperating teacher.

Ms. Richards has been teaching in the Clark School District since 2007 and has worked as a middle

school resource room teacher and an Itinerant Specialist for Autism. She is the Intermediate

Resource Teacher at SJE. I spent most of the time observing her classes, but I also I had the

opportunity to observe the self-contained classroom lead by Mr. Joey Vanguardia who also has

more than 10 years of experience in the field of Special Education. Undeniably, JSE has a pool of

highly experienced faculty.

One of the areas that I find important in learning, is the classroom setting. In Ms. Richards’

classroom, the lights are dim but are enough for reading, making it ideal for students who have

autism. The classroom layout is used efficiently. The shelves for students’ folders are right by the

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door, so they can easily grab their things before the start of the class. The reading corner has a

rubber mat, so the students can sit on the floor comfortably. The half-circle table is at the front,

so Ms. Richards can see all the students while they are seated. There is a set of computers on one

side for Math activities. The room is also equipped with a projector and a teacher’s computer.

There is also a sink in one corner, so students can wash their hands. Given these points, the resource

room is a calming space that can regulate students’ emotions.

I also looked at the school’s learning materials for students with special needs. The two

classrooms that I have observed serve students with autism and learning disabilities. Both

classrooms have manipulatives for counting and reading. They have sensory integration toys to

help students with sensory stimulation and fine motor skills. Moreover, the rooms have clocks and

timers to assist with productivity. Both teachers use the whiteboard and projector for instruction.

They also designed their rooms creatively with students’ artwork, colorful charts and letters that

are inspiring to children. Steele Judith Elementary school invests in educational materials that

support different learning styles for kids with special needs.

One of the things I like is the way Ms. Richards and Mr. Vanguardia use positive

reinforcement in the classroom. This strategy is evident in the way the students display improved

behavior. For example, both teachers are consistent with their classroom rules. They give rewards

for positive behavior and use student self-assessment cards to encourage students to monitor their

own behavior. I was amazed by how students respond to consistent praises and rewards. The use

of positive reinforcement in the classroom has remarkably improved the behavior of students with

special needs at SJE.

I have also observed that Ms. Richards keeps parents involved in the learning process. For

example, when a student has good behavior during the day, the student can call his or her mom to

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report their excellent behavior in class. I can see the excitement in the students when Ms. Richards

rewards them with a phone call to mom at the end of the class. This strategy is a way of opening

the lines of communication to parents by reporting to them regularly. Judith Steele Elementary

School promotes the essence of having parents as an advocate for their children’s education.

I might have been in the school for only a couple of days, but I think that the school has a

positive school culture. There is a good relationship among the staff in the Special Education

department as they all seem to be welcoming and joyful while teaching and interacting with the

kids.

Finally, the school demonstrates and models respect for all forms of diversity. The faculty

consists of faculty and staff from different cultures. Mr. Vanguardia is from the Philippines. Some

teachers are Asian-American, African American, and Hispanic-American. The presence of a

diverse staff is certainly good for the students as they can reach out to teachers who can relate to

their culture.

In a nutshell, Judith Steele Elementary School has a great Special Education program that

stems from employing highly qualified staff, having appropriate educational resources that are

accessible, having a positive classroom environment, encouraging parent involvement and

promoting respect for cultural diversity. I really enjoyed my field observation at JSE School. I am

looking forward to working in that school soon.