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Special education teachers enjoy one-on-one relationships

Staff writer

The three special education teachers at Centre have one major thing in common: they love forming close relationships with their students.

“I don’t think just anyone can be a special education teacher,” Centre first-year special ed teacher Amy Pagenkopf said. “Almost all teachers love to teach because they love working with kids and watching them learn and grow. Special education is all that, plus much more!

“It’s all about forming close relationships with students to really get to know them on a more personal level and understand where they are coming from.”

She was a regular classroom teacher before becoming a special ed teacher. She was a para-educator of 10 years. She works with sixth through eighth-grade students.

Joseph Kvas teaches high school students. He has taught in special education 15 years, and this is his second year at Centre.

“I believe the most important attribute of a special education teacher is an understanding of the individuals you are working with and what their aspirations are for their future,” he said.

Kim Smith has been a special education teacher for many years. She is involved with children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.

She isn’t sure if it takes a certain personality to work with special education students, but she does know that she loves her job.

“I love it and can’t imagine teaching any other group,” she said.

All three look at themselves as part of a whole.

“We are an integral part of a team that works to provide students with opportunities for success,” Pagenkopf said. “We are a link for resources available for families and students.”

Kvas said their work is most effective if everyone on the team has the same goal.

Pagenkopf said the rewards she receives are not tangible.

“The reward is having students contact you many years after they have completed high school or college and have families of their own to thank you for what you did for them when they were struggling students.”

Kvas said he receives satisfaction from seeing a student grow into a person who has the ability to achieve his or her dreams and aspirations and contribute to society.

Pagenkopf and her husband, Brad, both are Centre graduates. They have been married for 23 years and have two sons: Braden, who is in the Army National Guard, and Garhett, a senior in Centre’s virtual program. They operate a small family farm and enjoy camping or traveling.

Kvas and his wife live at Council Grove Lake. His wife is director of the emergency room at Newton Regional Medical Center. He enjoys working on their lake house, having fun on the lake, gardening, traveling, and spending time with family.

Smith has two children who are students at Centre and one who has graduated. She and her husband, Eldon, are remodeling their home in rural Tampa and enjoy taking in their children’s sports activities.

Last modified Oct. 26, 2017

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