Special Education Teacher
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Kansas Master Teacher Award
2015 Kansas Master Teacher
During her 35 years of teaching, Barbara Clark has been drawn to schools and districts with lower socioeconomic populations.
“These students come with such eagerness to learn and such excitement for all the opportunities ahead of them,” Clark said.
Clark received her bachelor’s in education in 1979 and a master’s of education in 1983 from the University of Florida. She taught in elementary schools in Florida and Texas and has been teaching at Northview Elementary in Manhattan, Kansas, since 2005.
For Clark, teaching is a collaboration allowing her to learn throughout her career from mentors in special education, administration and other classrooms. An early mentor taught her to hold high expectations for students and to look closely to determine what they truly need. This extra insight led to interesting lesson plans.
At one school, Clark said, many of her students were responsible for getting themselves and their siblings to school every day.
“I tried to weave the other skills that they would need in their daily life into the curriculum. I taught measurement lessons through cooking and baking. I taught them time by giving clocks to those students that needed them.”
Clark’s students often felt as if their classroom was a second home. One mother told how her son changed from not wanting to go to school to being excited about what he would be doing each day.
When she asked him what he liked about Clark, he said, “She treated me like I was her own kid, and when I accidentally called her mom, she always said, ‘Yes, son.’”
Other parents appreciate collaborating with Clark. “Mrs. Clark also does a great job including parents in the education of their children,” one parent wrote. “She sent a weekly letter to parents letting us know what lessons the class studied, and new lessons for the next week. She would include behavior compliments and things that needed to be worked on to make learning easier for the rest of the year.”
Clark feels a strong sense of responsibility to her students and knows effective teaching requires commitment outside the classroom.
“Ultimately I come back to the fact that exceptional teachers are exceptional in their classrooms on a daily basis,” Clark said. “The relationships, the experiences, and the memories we make are essential. However, it takes much more than what is done in the classroom to make a child’s education a quality education. We must be willing to become involved in the leadership and decision making in order to make a difference.”