Teachers are so important to our kids’ education and every once in a while you come across one that stands out. Jodi Gedansky is one of them. She is a special education teacher at Seattle’s Eckstein Middle School. She has taught many children with Down syndrome over the years and is currently teaching 4 students from our community. We wanted to learn more about Jodi and what makes her so passionate about being a special education teacher.
How long have you been teaching?
This is my 15th year teaching, but I have worked with students for 20 years. I was a Dance Movement Therapist at a transitional day program and therapeutic day school prior to and while I was earning my Masters in Special Education.
Why did you become a special education teacher?
When I was in 4th grade, I remember buying “The Story Of Louis Braille” and being so impressed that a person who could not see was creative enough to design an accessible alphabet. That lead me to read “The Story of Helen Keller”. My mom then took me to the Lighthouse for the Blind in NYC where I was able to ask questions and learn more about how people who were blind and deaf accessed learning. I was amazed that people who had different challenges and abilities were not talked more about in my everyday world, since clearly, they were so creative and smart people. I wondered why I did not see these students in my classes, as I thought I could learn from them and they could learn from me. Looking back, I am surprised I did not think of becoming a teacher back then. I always volunteered around education and learned about educational psychology in college. It was not until several years later that I realized becoming a special education teacher was my calling.
What have you learned from people with Down syndrome?
I am always inspired to be my most positive and best self when I am around people with Ds. People with Ds have to work extra hard to learn things that come easily to many others and they do so with a “can do” spirit, an amazing amount of perseverance, and lots of humor and joy. Though there are tough times, people with Ds do not let the tough times and challenges define them and we could all learn from that approach to life.
What do you find most challenging as a teacher?
I find most challenging honoring each student’s individualized learning style in a system that is not very individualized. I am extremely fortunate, however, to work at an amazing school where our amazing team is allowed to be as creative as we can be to meet the needs of each learner.
What do you find most rewarding as a teacher?
Watching students have that “aha” moment after years of working at an academic or social skill is extremely rewarding. But, I think coming into my class every day and working with incredible students, staff, and families makes me feel fortunate on a daily basis.