Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Beth Kaltsulas, a math educator at Yankton Middle School in Yankton, SD.
One year, a student entered my class with a spatial disability – a disability that prevented his brain from communicating where his body was located in space. He had to touch everything as he moved.
He was a good student, but the school environment was very scary because it was so open, big, and crowded with moving children.
After building a relationship with him, he felt safe sharing with me his difficulty with school life. I learned that his tantrums started because he was afraid and frustrated. He shared that his favorite place to sleep was in his family’s clothes hamper; he felt best in thigh, enclosed places.
So I began working on ways for him to feel that safe in school. Whenever he was required to do written work, I’d wrap him up in a big quilt like a burrito. He would lay on his belly with his arms outside the quilt and complete his work on the floor. Anytime he was scared, he would ask to be a burrito.
We got through the school year like that, and he made above-average progress. His has since graduated from high school and is working successfully. I am proud to share he has learned to work outside his burrito and enjoys his adult work.