Katelyn’s Story

This blog post is very different than the ones that I’ve written before. This one is actually about one student, and with her mom’s permission, I’m sharing her wonderful story with you. Katelyn is a kind, funny, smart, social, and happy student that I’ve had the pleasure of teaching for three years now. She always says hi to me each morning and goodbye before she leaves. The day’s never complete unless she asks me, “what colour is your shirt?,” and “how old are you?” Katelyn has autism.

I’ve worked for over 15 years with students that have autism, and I’ve learned some important things over that time. Just like most students with autism (and really most students in general), Katelyn needs routine. Changes in routine are hard for her. If the schedule is going to change or I’m going to be away, I need to prepare her in advance. I actually prepare the whole class in advance, and all of the students benefit from knowing this information. It tends to reduce stress and make for a more relaxing day for everyone. Sometimes changes in routine can’t be helped — there’s always the unexpected assembly, the visitor you didn’t know was coming, or the fire alarm that isn’t on the schedule of the day — but Katelyn’s learned to adjust to these changes. Not only can the Educational Assistant (EA) and I talk her through these changes, but she’s starting to talk herself through them as well. She’s learning that changes do happen, and learning how to adjust to them is fantastic!

While Katelyn is more verbal than ever, she actually expresses herself just as much in writing as well. Katelyn has learned the ins and outs of every piece of technology that I have in the classroom. She loves the computer, and is particularly eager to express herself using her blog, a glog, and Bitstrips. It’s through her Bitstrips comics that we really hear her voice. Katelyn creates her own social stories using Bitstrips. When she was nervous about going to the dentist earlier in the year, she made this comic strip:

She even makes comic strips that show social interaction among characters, including in make believe situations. Here’s the comic strip that she made to show point of view for The Three Billy Goats Gruff:

Yes, sometimes grammar can be a problem, but with a choice of corrections, Katelyn will now edit her work. It’s great to hear her voice through all of her writing. Just the other day, she published this blog post during our morning writing routine, and it’s through reading posts like this one, that you can really get a picture of her:

What’s even more wonderful though is seeing how the students encourage Katelyn in the classroom. They really have become her friend. It’s great to watch as they sit down and read with her, or even write her comments on her blog posts, such as this one here:

While Katelyn may not reply to these comments, she does read them, and the choices that she makes next in her writing are often influenced by what her peers say to her. I love this!

More than anything, Katelyn constantly reminds me that as educators, we must set high expectations for ALL students, and do everything possible to ensure that these students meet these expectations. Even though I know what Katelyn can do, there was one thing that I was worried about: our school is focusing on descriptive feedback, and I didn’t know how to get Katelyn to reflect on her own work. After much thought and interaction with some other teachers and my amazing EA, I decided to create a “social story” of sorts. I wanted Katelyn to fill out a weekly reflection, so I gave her choices about her strengths and needs, and I figured that she could choose from these ideas, and eventually just write her reflections without the list of ideas.

Yesterday was only Katelyn’s second time trying this reflection, so I was so impressed with what I saw her do:

For the literacy centre description, I gave Katelyn a list of the different literacy centres, but Katelyn chose to not just write the name, but also a description of what she does there. She often goes on the computer for Word Work and completes glogs or comic strips. She defined that as “playing on the computer,” and I’m happy with that. For what she did well, she chose editing her work for capitals and periods, which is something that she’s been working hard at doing. It was the “next step” thought that I loved. The EA had suggested one to Katelyn, but she chose to write one of her own instead, and while the grammar may be off, the idea is perfect! In class, I often talk to Katelyn about feelings. She understands how different people are feeling, and she wants people to be happy. When Katelyn gets silly (and in her mind that would be “funny,”), she knows that I’ll say, “Miss Dunsiger is feeling angry.” Katelyn likes when I say that I’m feeling happy though. When Katelyn goes to “read to self” (which here she calls, “read to me,”) and then goes on the computer for “word work,” she knows that I feel happy, and this is what she’s going to try to always do. Wow! To make the connection between our discussions and then apply it to her next step is incredible! Friday reminded me that we can never underestimate what any student can do!

So thank you Katelyn for teaching me so much about teaching, and making me a better teacher as a result. What wonderful stories do you have to share? I’d love to celebrate together!


8 thoughts on “Katelyn’s Story

  1. What a wonderful story Aviva. Katelyn and her family are so lucky to have had you in their lives. It also sounds like you’ve be very lucky to have had Katelyn in yours.

    Right now as I watch my student teacher teach my class almost 100% of the time I marvel in how much they have grown and changed through the course of this school year. As I have mentioned in the past I have quite a few anxious children in my classroom (far more than what I’d think would be typical) and I am blown away by how confident they have become in the confines of our little school family. It’s the constant reminder of how important setting a positive comfortable tone for learning is, and how the more successful we are at doing that early in the school year that greater the gains we can make with our students. It makes me think that one of these years I need to keep my entire class and travel up the grades with with.

    Watching my student teacher teach my students also reminds me of how much I love what I do, and i how much I miss my students. I know this is good for my student teacher, and I know it’s important for me to share and help foster new teachers, but some times I wish I was back teaching my entire class.

    I have one last question for you…. what colour is your shirt today? 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Karen! I definitely feel fortunate to have had Katelyn and her family in my life too. I’ve learned a lot from all of them.

      I can completely relate to your story about your student teacher as well. I often feel the same way at the end of a student teaching term too. Isn’t it great though that we love our jobs so much that we do miss the opportunity to teach? I think that this is something to celebrate!

      As for your last question, my shirt is black, green, white, and purple today. Thanks for asking! This question always makes me happy! 🙂


  2. Thanks Aviva for this post. You have shown such deep understanding and care for one of your students. Writing about Katelyn’s learning journey, showing samples of her work, and describing her progress reminds all of your readers of why we teach. Keep inspiring all of us!

    • Thanks Anne! Katelyn has taught me a lot too, reminding me that we have to do all that we can to ensure that all of our students meet with success.


  3. Lovely story!!!!! I too miss my kids when teacher candidates are teaching! I had three at once in my virtual class last round so I really didn’t get much of a chance to ‘teach and talk’… and learn with the kids. However…
    My question to you, Aviva, is what platform do you use for kindergarten blogs… just doing some research to see which might be best for grade 1… I’ve done them in the past but just wanted some other takes on the subject.

    • Thanks for your comment, Joanne! Glad that you liked this story.

      I’ve used a few different platforms in the past, but now I would recommend using a Board supported platform. This is what you see here. These are WordPress blogs on the same platform as my own blog. It’s amazing how quickly children will learn to use a platform, especially with visuals to support them. Then you also know who “owns the content.” I think this privacy consideration matters. Good luck!


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