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Distinguished Teacher Jennifer Waer

What advice would you give to people considering a career in teaching?

(1) kids live up to, or down to, any expectations -- academic or behavioral -- that you set for them; (2) all children can learn, and it's your job as a teacher to find the best way for each child to learn; (3) no matter what any child can or can't do when he or she comes to you, your job is to start there and move forward as much as you can (yes, even if it makes your lesson planning complicated); and (4) the right way is almost never the easy way or the fast way, but it's always worth it in the long run. What that all really amounts to is this: every child will challenge you in some way, but if you expect the best of each child, they will give you their personal best.

What's the best thing about teaching?

The best thing about teaching is the moment when I don't *have* to -- when I can stand back and watch a student do something independently for the first time. Second only to that, and perhaps unique to special educators (and perhaps further unique to teachers of students with moderate to severe disabilities), is the moment when someone says, "I had no idea your students could do that!"