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Stories from the Field

California Casualty Awardees Beth Kaltsulas: Spacial Awareness

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.

Meet more of the 2018 NEA Foundation awardees here. We’ll celebrate them at the 2018 Salute to Excellence in Education gala in February. Hope to see you there!

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