Teachers aid students with special needs

Anushka Mukherjee | Staff Writer

Teacher Reena Puri (right) works with freshman Jessica Pappachan (left). Puri said that she loves being able to learn new things from the kids she works with, as well as working with her fellow staff.

Mason High School’s special education department takes pride in aiding students with special needs throughout their high school education. 

Christopher Kilgore, an intervention specialist, has been at MHS for the past four years. His interest in the field peaked at a young age when he worked at an inclusion summer day camp. 

“I just got a lot of experience working with kids with special needs and it made me realize that this is something I want to do,” Kilgore said. “I got my masters in special education and then started working in a private autism program, and then moved over to the public school system after that.”

Being in the field of special education can be emotionally demanding at times, but Kilgore said that the rewards balance it out. 

“Because it is a specialized classroom, I love seeing the kids improve on life skills or learning a new task at a job in the community,” Kilgore said. “It’s a big deal to the parents and me, given the bigger picture. Seeing them improve on things that are going to help them out and further their enjoyment in life helps me through day to day. They keep me grounded.”

Reena Puri, a paraprofessional, has been in the department for three years. She’s been through teacher training and volunteer work in the field. She said that she loves working with the kids and they keep her motivated every day. 

“I learn so many new things from them every day like sign language,” Puri said. “They are so passionate and seeing them makes me want to improve myself. Every day we do various activities on rotations like we go for job classes where we take them to Matthew 25, Lifetime to fold towels, and Dominos to fold boxes. Some of them who are more mobile go to gym, math, English, and science with all the other students.” 

As much as she enjoys working with the kids, there are some difficulties that come with the job. But Puri said that the experiences have made her stronger emotionally. 

“Sometimes it gets a bit tricky because they can get out of control and it becomes hard to handle,” Puri said. “But my staff is great and they make it easy to keep the kids under control. They help whenever something goes wrong and I’m so thankful for this experience.” 

Ricky Rettinger, a student teacher from the University of Cincinnati, is also in his third year of the program and is hoping to be a special education teacher soon. Because he is also a football coach, he said that it helps him decompress after coming from a specialized classroom. 

“When I get to football practice I get in the zone right away,” Rettinger said. “I love working out and using that to transition from work and back into my personal life. Especially with this job, it’s important to have an activity to keep you balanced. I prefer to leave work at work and I try not to bring it home with me.”

While maintaining a work-life balance, Rettinger said that he still finds his job worthwhile. He said that his job requires patience and passion, but he likes that he is able to make a difference.

“I just find it really rewarding to be able to help kids every day and this is something I want to do,” Rettinger said. “Yes the student can be a bit unpredictable, but you have to adjust and adapt to that. I think you have to have a lot of patience because it can be a lot more than what a typical teacher does, but I think if you’re somebody that’s this passionate about helping people and making the world better, I think it’s absolutely for you. It’s a good feeling going home every day knowing I’ve done something to help somebody and make the world a better place.”

Photo by Anushka Mukherjee.