Class time will soon be made a little more exciting for Fair Oaks Special Day Class teacher Elizabeth Thompson and her seven students. Thompson was recently awarded California Casualty’s $2,500 Academic Award to use toward the betterment of her classroom.
Thompson, a first year primary SDC teacher is passionate about not only her work, but her students as well. In keeping with her passion for what she does, she spends much of her free time (and money) attending conferences and seminars on teaching students with learning challenges.
“I was at a conference and I applied,” she said of the opportunity. “I was just lucky enough to win it.”
She learned of her ‘luck’ during a recent staff meeting at Fair Oaks, sharing that a California Casualty representative attended the meeting and presented her with a large check.
“I had no idea,” she said of the award. “Kathy ... Ms. Pinol was sharing with the group that we had a ‘mystery’ guest. That it was ‘very exciting’ news. I had no clue until she said my name.”
It is a sum of money which will go a long way for her small class.
Thompson is currently in her third year as a teacher with Oakdale Joint Unified School District. She completed her classes in 2012 and is in her last year of Induction. Her first two years at Fair Oaks were spent as a resource teacher. Prior to that, she tried her hand in a few different career paths.
“I always knew this was what I wanted to do,” the educator said, “but I had to try other things. Then when I had my boys, I decided to do the stay-at-home mom thing.”
“Both of my parents were in Special Ed,” she said. “Then one day my mom said, you really should go back and get your credential.”
As Thompson speaks of teaching and the various personalities of her students her passion for them becomes more apparent.
“My kids are really hands on,” she said. “My class is SDC K-3, but right now I only have second and third graders.
“For me, it’s just where my heart is. What they’re going through and how they learn, I can break it down.”
Much like any other classroom, no two children in Thompson’s class are the same. Their challenges, however, require a bit more creativity and a special type of patience not all possess. As she speaks of her ‘kids,’ she occasionally catches herself and corrects herself with the word ‘students.’ Six out of her seven students have some degree of a speech challenge. This requires them to spend time working in Speech Class as well.
“There’s lots of rotating,” she said of a typical day in her classroom. “They have to learn to be flexible. I try to switch it up, whenever possible to help them with this.”
A survey conducted by California Casualty found that 99 percent of teachers spend $500 on average out of their own pocket for supplies and classroom projects. Thompson estimates hers to be in the $1,500 range.
“My students are very hands on,” Thompson shared. “This is how they learn best. This money is going to go a really long way in my classroom.”
Her shopping list for the award money includes: a special learning rug, an iPad or two and a stockpile of snacks for the classroom.
“I know some people think ‘snacks?’ that’s silly,” she confessed. “Some of my kids are hungry and not all parents are able to donate, even if they want to. This can help with that.”
“Helping educators reach their full potential is part of California Casualty’s commitment to the communities we serve,” said California Casualty Vice President Mike McCormick, via press release. “We want to do more than just say ‘thank you’ for the important job they do.”
In the end, Thompson’s goal is simple … to leave a positive impression on the lives she is able to touch.
“The really good teachers are the ones you remember,” she said. “They stick with you all your life.”