Teacher Feature: You need flexibility for life's curveballs: Naperville North special ed teacher
Kristen Massoni didn’t have to look far in order to find her career path. In fact, the Naperville North High School special education teacher found her passion at home.
“My younger sister has Down syndrome and she is my inspiration for pursuing a career in special education,” Massoni said. “I saw how teachers positively impacted her life and I wanted to be able to make a difference in others’ lives in the same way.”
Massoni graduated from Naperville North High School before heading to Purdue University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in special education. Now a teacher in the same school where she once was a student, Massoni said she is grateful she gets to do what she has always wanted to do.
“The best part about being a teacher is without a doubt the daily interaction with my students,” she said. “Throughout each day I work with about 70 students and each of them is amazing in their own way.”
We sat down with Massoni to learn more.
What do you teach? I am a ninth-grade special education teacher at Naperville North High School.
Number of years teaching: 10 years total, five at Naperville North.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and master’s from Benedictine University.
What do you enjoy most about working at North? We have a student-centered culture at Naperville North and I love collaborating with my colleagues to reach our common goals (of) student progress and student success. I co-teach my instructional English class twice a week with one of the speech pathologists in our building. The environment we have created in the classroom is one that I am so proud of and it is greatly due to my collaboration with her.
What’s the best advice a fellow teacher ever gave you? ‘Flexibility is the key to success.’ As a teacher, things don’t always go as planned. Actually, it’s more likely that things won’t go as planned and that’s OK. Flexibility allows me to be successful with my students no matter what curveballs the day may bring.
What have you learned from your students? My students have taught me the importance of resiliency. They encounter challenges each day doing things that come easily to others. I am always in awe of my students’ ability to be resilient and how they overcome the obstacles they face.
How has school changed over the years? School has become more individualized for students over the years. The opportunities and support (systems) that are offered ensure that there is something for everyone. The amount of technology utilized throughout the school day to enhance students’ educational experiences is incredible too.
What do you like to do on your time off? I love to spend time with my family, be active and plan my wedding (that will take place) in September with my amazing fiancé.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? People would be surprised to learn that I am Puerto Rican, I am from Long Island and that I know how to surf.
Three words that best describe you: Passionate, dedicated and patient.
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Jane Donahue is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.