Kristine Stonikas, Special Education Teacher (LBS1) 

Why did you choose this specific field?

Originally, I was going for my bachelor’s in Secondary English Education, but ultimately decided that a general education setting was not for me. God guided me to High Road School of Bloomington about a year after graduating with my Bachelor’s in English Studies, and I started at High Road as a temporary Administrative Assistant in August 2015 At the end of my contract I was hired on fully as a 1:1 aide in October 2015; It was my first experience working with special education students. I ultimately chose to go back to school within a month of starting at High Road and began researching and interviewing teachers and related service professionals that would also work with the students. Through talking with individuals and learning “on the job,” I felt that it was the perfect field for me. It satisfies an innate need/responsibility I’ve always felt to help others, offers a variety of challenges, and also offers continuous opportunity for growth and development within the field.

Kristine Stonikas has her Master’s Degree in Special Education and her Bachelor’s Degree in English Studies

What's a day like for you at High Road School?

Every morning when the students come in, we start with a thought-provoking question or “ice breaker” to get the students’ brains fired up and interact positively with one another and with staff. From that, we jump into math and reading rotations that are each comprised of 20-minute rotations with the teacher, a teacher’s assistant, on a computer education platform, and an independent rotation to assess student progress on IEP goals. We follow up math and English language arts rotations with lunch and P.E. proceeding afterwards. In the afternoon, students gather together for social studies, science, and elective of the day; depending on the day, we do health (as part of their P.E./health grade), art, and cooking (also incorporated into their P.E./health grade). Students end the day with an assigned chore and balancing their student account sheets based on their ability to maintain their color level that day though obtaining points for work completion and positive behavior. Staff works diligently though out all rotations to ensure students have proper support and encouragement though all rotations; We have one staff member monitoring each rotation to supplement each rotation. My classroom works well though delegation and organizing what needs to be done by order of importance.

As a teacher, I find it important to touch base with students’ parents every Friday to let them know how their week progressed; this can include anything from work challenges, challenging behavior that we’ve been seeing, to positive strides in progressing along in regard to their academic and behavior goals.

What do you enjoy most about coming to school every day?

I enjoy being met with obstacles or challenges and finding ways to break through and make a more positive impact that can be shown either through a student’s behavior or academic progress.

Can you give an example of a ‘Little Victory’ you’ve seen a student achieve?

Recently, we had a student drop to Red, on our Behavioral Leveling System, who had stated to staff that “if I drop to red, I’m going to be your worst nightmare.” When the student did drop to Red due to refusing to complete work rotations, they sat at their desk, and refused to do anything because the incentive of having computer for free time was gone; they communicated this to staff. After a period of time that had passed on their second day of being on Red-1, staff sought to explain to the student that if they completed all of their work and kept on track with their behavior points, they would be able to move up to Red-2, and be on track to regain computer privileges soon. The student, normally opposed to staff engaging with them, appeared to appreciate the “matter of fact” tone the staff member used, and also seemed to appreciate that it was not done in a loud voice, but rather at their desk. The student said ok, I’ll get on it during the next rotation. The student progressed and moved up. This is the first time that I can remember when this student has not had to be escorted while on red.

Can you describe something special about your team and the school?

We have been told by many staff members that our classroom and school runs similar to a family. We have disagreements, we complain, and we may even bicker at times, but ultimately, we all have each other’s best interests and safety at heart; and we all ultimately want the students to be a successful as they can be.