***image1***Childhood memories are the history behind the passion of Sandra Ramon-Jenet, Kaiserslautern District 2004 Teacher of the Year. The Vogelweh Elementary School special education teacher recalls one particular discussion with her mother.
“In my neighborhood, there was an orphanage for children that had been removed from quite unfortunate and horrific situations,” she said. “Those children went to my elementary school. I always gravitated to them, wanting to play with and include them in our schoolyard games.”
She went on to volunteer as a babysitter for families who had special needs children and served as a camp counselor for children with disabilities. “Always rooting for the underdog is how mom put it. I believe she’s right,” she said.
Ms. Ramon-Jenet describes her passion using the African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.
“I believe that I have made the most significant contributions in education by serving as a member of the ‘village’ that advocates for children with disabilities. It has been my mission to educate and share my passion for respect and understanding of children with disabilities with parents, colleagues, non-disabled students and administrators in and around my school district and in the community.”
“Her ability to make a lasting difference, not only in her children and their families, but in the professional lives of her colleagues, has enabled our faculty to build an inclusive educational environment,” said Sharon Overstreet, Vogelweh Elementary principal. “Regular educators and special educators make it their job to look for every appropriate opportunity for students with special needs to learn, to socialize, to play and to succeed. Our school has become one in which pullout is no longer the norm and inclusion is now a best practice.”
Ms. Ramon-Jenet also serves as the district’s consultant on autism, inviting and welcoming teachers, paraeducators, administrators and parents to learn together and observe in her classroom.
During the past five years, four of Ms. Ramon-Jenet’s paraeducators were inspired to begin their teacher preparation classes to become an educator. As one former paraeducator, Debbie Carlson, said, “I didn’t know I could do it; she did. She taught me what I needed to know and gave me the tools to be successful with our kids. Because of her, I’ll be a teacher.”
The 2004 Kaiserslautern District Teacher of the Year was announced Oct. 1 at the Air Force-sponsored Educators’ Forum.