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Kelly Clifford, ’17 and ’18, on Inclusion, Co-Teaching, and Working with Special Needs Students

News, Student

Kelly Clifford


May 3, 2017

Kelly Clifford, ’17 and ’18, on Inclusion, Co-Teaching, and Working with Special Needs Students


Kelly Clifford, a graduate student in Adelphi University’s Scholar Teacher Education Program (STEP), is working to complete her degree in Elementary Education with advanced certification in Special Education as well a Middle School Extension for English. Her current work as a student teacher with the Mineola Residency Program is prepping her professionally with invaluable relationships as well as real world experience.

As a fifth year, Clifford looks back on her time in STEP with deep appreciation and gratitude, especially for the stellar faculty under whose guidance Clifford attributes much of her success. “The professors and instructors make all the difference. I don’t know where I’d be without Devin Thornburg’s guidance and support. Mary Jean McCarthy, too, bent over backwards for us all as our student teaching supervisor. They both continue to remain a positive influence and resource for me as I navigate the transition to graduate student.”

And the Mineola Residency Program is doing just that for her. Clifford taught fourth grade in the fall and this semester, is teaching second grade. Each resident is paired with a mentor teacher with complimentary certifications and the student residents also are able to attend the superintendent’s conference day, weekly professional development, professional learning community meetings within individual grade levels, parent-teacher conferences, IST meetings, and field trips. Clifford had the opportunity to work in both inclusion classes and co-teaching classes and says she feels prepared thanks to the exposure of so many different STEP instructors. With each faculty member bringing unique experiences into the classroom, Kelly felt better equipped to adapt to a new classroom environment with each term. “I think this type of program eases the transition because of how involved we are in the school, in the classroom, and with our students.”

One of her best experiences with STEP came in the fall, when the cooperating teacher had to leave for medical reasons, putting Clifford into the lead role in the classroom. “I got to make the class mine, in a way, and I’m truly grateful to STEP and the district for having faith in me and trusting in my abilities.” She’s always known she wanted to teach, even from an early age lining up her dolls and conducting class, but this was confirmed for Clifford as she took over the classroom. “Seeing how the children responded to me, how I was making a difference in their lives that validated my passion.” She was able to differentiate mathematics lessons and use self-created tricks to aide students in comprehension. About teaching, Clifford says “the most important thing is understanding your students and finding a place for everyone in the classroom community.”


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