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Running head: M4: INTERVIEW PAPER

M4: Interview Paper


Jennifer Gamble
University of Kansas

M4: INTERVIEW PAPER

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M4: Interview Paper

Teachers Name: Sharon Miller


Current Position: Special Education Director
School Name(s):

Hancock School Department & Lamoine School Department

Age of Students & / or Grade: K-12 in both Hancock and Lamoine School Districts
Grades Previously Taught: Grades 6-8, Educational Technician & Special Education Teacher;
Grade 1 general education setting
Number of Years Teaching: 8 years
E-mail: smiller@hancockgrammar.org

M4: INTERVIEW PAPER

Sharon Miller, Special Education Director for the Hancock and Lamoine School
Departments, is a passionate professional with eight years of teaching experience. She began her
teaching career as a special education educational technician in a middle school setting. From
there, she became a middle school special education teacher. Last year, she lived in Kansas City,
Missouri and taught grade 1 in the general education setting in a private Christian school. She
returned to the state of Maine this summer and began as the special education director for the
Hancock and Lamoine School Departments in August 2014.
It was a pleasure to interview Sharon. We both believe that all children are capable of
learning when their needs are appropriately met. In addition, Sharon spoke about methods of
teaching that related directly to the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (CAST,
2011). Sharon shared a memorable experience involving a middle-school student with autism.
He struggled with writing and explaining emotions in his writing. She knew he was into video
games and through the principle of representation they created a sensory dictionary correlating
video game sounds to emotions. Then, she used the UDL (CAST, 2011) principle of expression
by using this dictionary to find the sound of a video game and pinpoint the emotion it would
show, allowing him to express his knowledge through a familiar and comfortable point of view.
Through the use of this dictionary, the student was able to incorporate the emotions of characters
in his writing. Furthermore, Sharon used the third principle, engagement, by allowing him to
write, building upon a motivating interest, video games.
Recently, I have also used the three principles of UDL (CAST, 2011) with my students. I
presented content to my students using a book about the Jr. Iditarod. This built upon their
background knowledge about the Iditarod. I then incorporated expression by guiding them in
creating a PowerPoint presentation of the information learned in the book. Finally, the students

M4: INTERVIEW PAPER

engagement was fostered through their ability to collaborate with one another. They were also
motivated because the project was relevant, as it coincided with their study of the Iditarod in
their classroom. Through this interview, I learned there are many ways to incorporate the
principles of UDL in our teaching. I have printed a one-page guide to UDL and keep it in the
front of my plan book for when I am designing lessons to meet my students needs.
Sharon believes it is important to know your students strengths and weaknesses so you
can teach to their strengths while building their weaknesses. This statement directly relates to
the article on supporting motivation that we read in Module 3 of SPED 775 (Anderman,
Andrzejewski, & Allen, 2011). The article studied the characteristics exhibited by teachers who
engaged their students cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally. I strongly believe that in order
to accomplish this, teachers must take the time to get to know their students. Sharon stated,
play on their strengths and identify supports they need to be successful. I feel when teachers
do this, their students feel the teacher believes they are capable of learning.
One reason I enrolled in this program at KU was the course offerings. One thing that was
apparent to me was the emphasis on relationships between students, parents and the teacher. I
believe this collaboration is essential in meeting students needs. We saw this when we learned
about the MAP process in SPED 730, interviewed parents in SPED 743 and learned about the
relevance of students backgrounds in their literacy development in SPED 741. Sharon echoed
this in our interview, sharing that it is vital to have open communication with parents, as they
know their child and their childs learning history. They also know about their childs strengths
and needs and how these affect their learning.
Sharon has had a variety of experiences in the IEP process, including: case manager,
proof-reading, checking deadlines, writing IEPs, assessing goals, and setting up and conducting

M4: INTERVIEW PAPER


meetings. In her current role, she is often the administrator in the meetings I run. I believe that
her vast experience with IEPs has made her aware of the value of each team members
contributions and the importance of coming together to support a childs learning.
Currently, Sharon is conditionally certified as a special education director. She still
needs to take courses in special education law. There are times she may not know the answers,
but she has many resources to tap into to get them. Through this interview, I developed an
appreciation for her role as a lifelong learner.
Another area Sharon and I agree on is the important role of the family in a childs
education. She believes that we need to contact parents with positive information as well as
about student needs. I agree that that investing time in many ways with a family builds a
positive, collaborative relationship. The MAP process we learned about in SPED 730 and will
practice in this course incorporates the use of collaboration with families. Im excited to try it.
Im hoping the MAP process is one that will become part of the IEP process at my school as a
take away from this interview and my coursework.
In addition, Sharon shared that each of us are human and need to be aware that there are
different students we may click with. We are reading How to Differentiate in Mixed-Ability
Classrooms (Tomlinson, 2001) as a school. This book speaks to this, as well. I plan to
incorporate this knowledge in my teaching, remaining cognizant of this fact to ensure that I give
each student supports they need. In addition, Sharon shared that we need to stay up on the
research. My graduate school experience has brought energy into my teaching. I plan to
maintain this energy by staying on top of new ideas. The fourth idea I plan to incorporate from
my interview is to continue to learn about functional behavior assessments (Umbreit, Ferro,
Liaupsin, & Lane, 2007). Sharon shared that this is vital to be a successful teacher. I agree that

M4: INTERVIEW PAPER

the more I go through the process of collaborating with colleagues to complete FBAs, the more
aware I am of ways to help students. Finally, Sharon added that by being cognizant of students
cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, we better fill in gaps, are sensitive to their background,
plan instruction appropriately, and meet their needs. I hope that I can be unassuming and open
minded when learning about their backgrounds. I hope to find the positive and build on the
supports parents can offer and experiences children have had to help them reach academic,
emotional, social and behavioral goals.
I find that I can learn from seasoned professionals by collaborating with them. They each
have their strengths and are able to contribute vital information to effectively planning and
teaching students. I will use my own strengths and theirs, tapping into these to meet students
needs. In addition, I also plan to keep a running list of questions about the processes and
procedures of the special education system that I do not understand. Then as I work with
someone who has this knowledge, I can ask these questions and learn from their experiences.
Finally, I plan to be a vital part of the committees in my school, as these provide a chance to
collaborate with my colleagues in a structured setting, having rich dialogue and learning
together.
I found this interview experience to be both fun and engaging. I have worked with
Sharon this year in my new role as a special education teacher and hers as a special education
director. We have worked through the FBA process (Umbreit, Ferro, Liaupsin, & Lane, 2007)
together. We have collaborated to better meet students needs in IEP meetings. However, I did
not know about her vast experiences prior to this job. This interview has opened my eyes to
more of the things she has lived through in the world of special education. She was already a
valued administrator and colleague, but has become a friend, as well.

M4: INTERVIEW PAPER

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References

Anderman, L. H., Andrzejewski, C. E., & Allen, J. (2011). How do teachers support students
motivation and learning in their classrooms. Teachers College Record, 113(5), 969-1003.
CAST. (2011). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate in mixed-ability classrooms (2nd ed.). Alexandria,
VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Umbreit, J., Ferro, J., Liaupsin, C. J., & Lane, K. L. (2007). Functional behavior assessment and
function-based intervention: An effective, practical approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Press.