Meet Vinnie Page, One of Our Mighty Special Needs Teachers of the Year

Vinnie and her students

Vinnie Page is a 31-year-old teacher who grew up in Rome, New York. As a cheerleader in high school, she frequently went to events at the New York State School for the Deaf, a local school for children with hearing difficulties. Now, Page has returned to the school and teaches second grade. She has a small class with four boys.

This school year, The Mighty asked its readers to nominate a special needs teacher who made a difference in their or their loved one’s life. To nominate, they submitted an essay to us. Our staff then picked five teachers, and Page made the cut. So we reached out to her to learn more about what makes her so Mighty.

Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a special needs educator.

I remember in elementary school we had a career day, and I always knew it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to teach. I think I really knew I wanted to be in special education when I was in middle school. I knew then that was my passion.

How do you communicate with students?

I teach students who have cochlear implants and hearing aids. I use voice and sign language all day, and I use a voice amplification system. It’s a piece I wear around my neck, and it has surround sound throughout the classroom. We do a lot of visual, hands-on things, whether it be on the promethean board or other technology like laptops or iPads. I use a lot of visual manipulatives.

Students using technology in Vinnie’s classroom

What specific technology do you use? It’s similar to a SMART board, but it’s a promethean board. It’s an interactive white board. It’s really neat. I can display anything from my computer screen onto it. The kids can actively use it up on the board as opposed to sitting in front of the computer. It’s a huge motivational piece to not have to sit. They want to interact.

What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out as a special needs teacher? Your former self?

The biggest thing I stick by and the one thing I think is most important for myself and my students is building a relationship with them. A key factor is being able to relate to your students and build some sort of a relationship other than just being their teacher. I give my kids a hug every day when then leave and every morning when they arrive. We talk about what they did the night before. It lets them know you care and that you’re there for them.

Describe a moment when you were satisfied with your job.

Always. I love what I do. I love my kids. I love the people I work with. I feel so blessed to be working where I am. I’m thankful every day because I enjoy everyone. All the students, all the staff. I’m just fortunate. Knowing the kids come in with a smile and that they want to be here, that just makes my day.

If you had a $1,000 grant for your classroom, what would you buy?

Any sort of technology, like interactive tables.

IMG_4692 What can parents of special needs children do to ensure their child gets the most out of school?

Being a part of every aspect of their education. Being involved and making sure they’re getting what they need. That’s important. Educators want parents to be involved.

What’s one way you make learning fun for your students?

Asking them their opinions and ideas so they feel like they have a part in deciding.

What’s the most memorable thing either a student or a parent has said to you?

Students telling me how much they love me and that they love coming to school. I actually had a student write to me, “Thank you so much for giving me a second chance.”

How do you motivate a reluctant learner?

By taking something of interest to them and turning that into a lesson. For example, I have a student who loves Mario and Luigi. We were trying to learn some vocabulary words the other day and we were talking about heroes. He just wasn’t interested at all so I said, “OK, how about Mario and Luigi? Who do they save?” And he said, “Oh the princess, and I said, ‘He’s kind of like a hero, he saves her.'”

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? Being able to work here every day with these kids. They’re awesome.

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