Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

Bringing the Joy of Learning to the AC Classroom

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Meghan Lindsey in her elementary school classroom

Meghan Lindsey greeted each child in her elementary school classroom with a wave, a smile and a “Good morning” song before gently guiding them through the morning lesson. Gathered in a circle and working in a group, the students used words, sign language and auditory devices to respond as they learned words, colors, and numbers and shared information about the world around them. When asked how they were feeling, all five students said, “happy.”

Lindsey is a senior in the Adapted Curriculum (AC) Special Education program at the Watson College. The program, coordinated by special education professor Linda Mechling, prepares teachers to provide instruction to assist students with moderate to severe disabilities who are not enrolled in the general education curriculum. Most teaching is done one-on-one or in small groups in a self-contained classroom. Instructional techniques include breaking tasks into very small increments, teaching sight words and prompting students with hints, gestures and modeling. Through coursework and field placements, pre-service teachers also learn assistive technology, sign language and how to assist with the medical needs of students.

The daughter of two educators, Lindsey always knew she wanted to teach. One summer she volunteered in a pre-school in New Bern and worked with a child with autism. No one had been able to relate to the child, but Lindsey did. She says it’s an experience that touched her heart and led to her choice of a career.

Meghan Lindsey teaching her elementary school class

(above) Ms. Lindsey and Jack practice counting.
(top photo) Ms. Jansen and Ms. Lindsey share a 
snack with students Meree, Mackenzie, Jack, 
Breia and Anthony.

Coming into her final internship semester, Lindsey asked to be placed in Merla Jansen’s daily living classroom in Topsail Elementary School. Lindsey had completed a field placement with Jansen during her junior year, and found they shared a love of children, a belief that all children can learn and a desire to bring creativity to efforts to engage students in learning.

The students are making great strides, said Pender County EC curriculum coordinator Donna Martin-Leutgens. The class has become a model for the county.

“Ms. Jansen and Meghan are doing many innovative things,” Martin-Leutgens said. “That’s so important, because if we don’t give students an opportunity to learn, we’ll never know what they can do.”

Lindsey recently helped Martin-Leutgens conduct a county-wide training for special educators, where they partnered to demonstrate literacy skill building techniques designed and implemented in Jansen’s classroom. 

Martin-Leutgens tapped Lindsey for the leadership role after observing her work in the classroom with eight-year-old Jack, a student with Down syndrome. Jack joined Jansen’s class last year after moving to Wilmington from California.

“He’s a challenge, but he’s also a sponge for learning,” Jansen said.

Jack can now recognize 37 sight words, loves to work on an iPad and is beginning to verbalize words. Jack’s mom is thrilled he’s in a class where teachers focus on his potential rather than his limitations. Although progress comes slowly, Martin-Leutgen’s calls Jack’s progress “remarkable.”

Lindsey and Jansen work hard to develop creative assignments to engage students. One recent project involved making pizza. The children were “in training” to become pizza makers at their favorite pizza places. Steps were written in words and pictures on a poster. Jansen made a three-dimensional kit that included a baking tin, sauce jar and baking mitt for students who are visually impaired. Lindsey and Jansen lit up as they relayed the story, saying, “The kids loved it!”

Lindsey, Jansen and Martin-Leutgens agree that one of the most positive attributes in the classroom is that students never hear “They can’t.” Instead, it’s always, “Let’s try.”

Lindsey will graduate in May with a B.A. degree and licensure in adapted special education. She plans to teach elementary students in a daily living adapted classroom and hopes to begin her career in Pender County. She plans to continue collaborating with Jansen and Martin-Leutgens on innovative approaches to student learning. The educators hope so, too. With a smile and a hug for Lindsey, Martin-Leutgens said, “She’s a keeper!”

In a recent email that reached Watson College Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum, Ms. Jansen wrote of her experience with both Lindsey and WCE professor Linda Mechling, Lindsey’s internship supervisor.

“Dr. Mechling is doing a super job preparing students for the classroom,” Jansen wrote. “All students I’ve worked with from UNCW have been well-prepared, excited to work in the classroom and eager to learn.”

Jansen has had several students for field placements, but said this is her first experience with an intern. She wrote, “Dr. Mechling is very good about keeping the lines of communication open with teachers who receive her students in the classroom. This type of collaboration keeps the doors open for me for future interns.  I have had a very positive experience with Meghan and great support from Dr. Mechling.”

Jansen ended her email, “My hat is off to Dr. Mechling for a job well done.”

For more information on the Adapted Curriculum program at the Watson College, visitwww.uncw.edu/ed/eemls/sped