Making a homecoming at Atchison Elementary School, Ashley Funk relies on a career that has seen a breadth of experiences as she prepares to teach special education students.
At AES, a significantly larger school than she’s used to, but with smaller home-room class sizes, Funk will work closely with other teachers. Funk talked about her plans and experiences on Tuesday at the AES Back to School Night event, which saw hundreds of students and family members patrol the halls meeting staff, collecting supplies, discussing lesson plans and chowing down on hot dogs and popcorn.
While teaching the past four academic years in Oklahoma, Funk routinely taught classes numbering more than 30 children at times, while also participating in Oklahoma Education Association efforts to improve state support for teachers and schools. In particular, she learned how important it is for each student’s needs to be met via teacher teamwork, a sort of preparation for AES’ co-teaching methods used by special education teachers and home room teachers in tandem.
“Co-teaching is so important to ensuring that special education kids are included in the classroom,” Funk said. “That way, they aren’t excluded. It’s much nicer to stay in your own classroom and give them the support that they need where they are among their friends and the teacher they know the best.”
Mollie Ambuul is another “new” teacher in that she’s perfectly familiar with Atchison, having studied education at Benedictine College, performing student teaching with Atchison Public Schools USD 409 all three years. The Martinsburg, West Virginia, native is a fifth-generation teacher and she knew early on in her studies that she would be inspired to stick with this career for the long haul.
“When the kids trust you and engage with you and you feel like you’re really helping them, that’s when I decided to stick with it,” Ambuul said. “And it’s been really fun.”
During most of her time at Benedictine, Ambuul worked as a student teacher in the very same classroom that will form her full-time fourth grade room now.
“My goal is to become comfortable with having charge of 19 completely different kids,” Ambuul said. “I think that our curriculum and the resources we have here at AES will make that easy, so I want to focus on meeting individual needs. It’s not difficult to engage with a student if you are determined to reach out to them not just as a student, but as a kid.”
Personally relating to her pupils in this way is Funk’s favorite part of the job.
“When special education students meet their goals, there’s nothing that can compare to how that feels,” Funk said. “As far as how exciting that can be, there’s nothing like it.”