Following the transition year back into teaching, I found myself in the elementary school I'd been in nine years earlier when I taught in the PEPSI program. This time I would be teaching a self-contained classroom with children aged 6 to 12. There were other differences too. When I was there in 1976, the program I worked in was isolated and I did not know any of the general education teachers. In fact, I did not know where the faculty lounge was. This time, I got to know all of the gen ed teachers, and became good friends with a few of them. They were interested in the special ed programs, and some of their students came to volunteer in our programs. It was wonderful! The principal was quiet, compassionate and had a terrific sense of humor. He was a great listener and that is how he helped you solve problems; by listening and acknowledging your concerns. Best principal I've ever had!
I enjoyed the students too, as well as the entire working atmosphere. The summer before I started back, I took a Math Their Way course. Boy did I love that program! All "hands on" learning, free exploration of materials for more than a couple of days, children figuring out patterns; I could go on and on! My students loved it as well and learned so much with it. Together with Edmark for reading and Slingerland for writing, they were learning a lot. The parents were surprised and pleased. For some of the oldest students in the class, this was the first time they were doing work that looked like "school".
This school year, 1985-1986, was also the school year of the Challenger disaster. We were all watching on that January day when the shuttle was destroyed. Words cannot express the sorrow and shock we all felt. No one was sure what to do or how to help the students process. So two weeks later when we were celebrating the 100th day of school, the entire student body released balloons in memory of the astronauts. That is one of those memories that will never fade.
Finally, I made some amazing friends that year. Two of the teachers taught in special ed rooms, and one taught fifth grade. We really enjoyed each other's company and I stayed in contact with these ladies for many years after I moved. In fact, if we had not moved, I've often wondered if I would still be there today!