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A colorful personality
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Anissa Kelley, special needs kindergarten teacher at Oak Hill Elementary, has a demanding job - but she loves it.

Kelley began teaching regular education pre-K and kindergarten classes 12 years ago.

"I found out I could teach special ed on a provisional basis, and I loved it," Kelley said.

So six years ago she started working in special education.

Kelley said her job can be difficult at times because she is charged with making sure her students are learning from the same state-mandated curricula as regular education students in the same grade level.

She has to plan creative ways to teach abstract lessons.

"I lot of what we do is hands-on and multi-sensory," Kelley said.

For example, during a unit about colors she had each student choose a different color. They then had to find different items around the classroom that were their color to paste onto a sheet of the same color paper.

Kelley then had her students paint their hands with the color they had chosen and make a hand print on their paper.

This made a colorful bulletin board outside of her classroom, which reinforced the lesson visually every time the students came in or out of the room.

"It turned out really good - lots of people said they liked it," Kelley said.

During a lesson on positional words - such as on, around and by - she had her students act out the preposition she wanted them to learn such as walking out of the classroom door or sitting on a rug.

Kelley confessed she improvised this particular lesson.

"A lot of times if I see the lesson isn't going well, I've got to modify it on the spot," Kelley said. "I'm always changing it up just so I can meet everyone's needs."

Meeting all of her students' needs can be challenging at times, Kelly said, because all of her students learn differently.

For instance, some of her students had never been exposed to the alphabet prior to attending her class and had difficulty remembering it while others grasped it several weeks ago.

"Some of my kids are catching onto the alphabet really well," Kelley said. "Some need to hear it over and over - lots of repetition - before they'll get it."

To keep control of her classroom and keep her students interested in the day's lesson, Kelley adheres to a strict class schedule.

"I try to stay with a routine," Kelley said. "Children do better when they know what to expect."

She said during down time or transitioning from subject to subject is when she sees student misbehavior, so she tries to keep those to a minimum.

Other challenges include finding time to complete the paperwork necessary for parental and school reports about her students' progress as well as obtaining the funding for all the hands-on activities she plans for her students.

"I try to be creative to get the stuff I need," Kelley said. "I stop at garage sales or if I see somebody throwing out something I might need - I'm going to be going through their trash."

When Kelley is not in the classroom, filling out paperwork, carting her three children around town or stopping at yard sales, she is working on her master's degree in reading from Walden University.