Ruffner Elementary School Special Education Teacher Alexa Morton said her favorite aspect of her job is working with so many wonderfully unique students.
“They each have their own set of strengths, passions, and interests. It is fun to find different ways to motivate them, instruct them, and challenge them based on their individual characteristics and learning styles.”
An educator since 2018, Mrs. Morton said she first became interested in the teaching profession in high school when she volunteered in a special education classroom.
“I became very passionate about working with students with various abilities. My experience in this classroom brought me so much joy, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to see the students learn and grow.”
Although she has many favorite moments as a teacher, one of the most memorable moments occurred during her second year of teaching when she collaborated with coworkers and classroom parents to determine the most successful way for students to participate in the school’s winter performance.
“We were unsure how the students would handle standing on stage with lots of lights and loud sounds in front of a large audience, as this can be a very overstimulating experience. However, we still wanted them to have an opportunity to display their talents. We practiced singing and dancing for a picture of an audience blown up on our classroom TV screen, we looked at pictures of the stage, we read social stories, went over a visual schedule for the performance, and talked about just having fun,” Morton said. “The night of the performance, my students blew everyone away. Two students naturally gravitated towards the microphones and began singing immediately. One of those students was nonverbal a couple years prior to this, so you can imagine what a special experience this was for him and his family. All of the students had a blast, singing and dancing with big smiles on their faces. They absolutely stole the show! This will always be one of my favorite memories as a teacher.”
Perhaps one of the most fulfilling parts of being an educator has been cultivating a relationship with her classroom service dog, FOREST. She said FOREST is very popular and loved by many staff and students at Ruffner Elementary.
“FOREST is a Canine Assisted Education Facility Dog trained and certified by a nonprofit organization called paws4people. I took some courses and volunteered with paws4people as a college student, and before graduating, FOREST was placed with me,” Morton said. “FOREST and I began our careers together in our self-contained classroom for students with autism spectrum disorder in August 2018. FOREST is a huge asset to not only our classroom, but our whole school. FOREST’s job is to assist, comfort, and motivate students and staff throughout the school. He motivates students in our classroom to communicate utilizing their AAC devices, sign language, and/or verbal skills on a daily basis.”
Thank you FOREST, and thank you Mrs. Morton for all you do for West Virginia students!