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James Wolfe, Elementary School Special Education Teacher, on Teaching

November 10, 2011


Two words/phrases that describe your teaching persona

crafty, out of the box 

Why teach? Or, how did you become a teacher?

I started my journey to become a teacher by majoring in biology education.  After a semester I decided that I wanted to pursue social studies education, and then audition for music ed.  The summer after my sophomore year, I worked at a summer day camp in Virginia Beach and then decided that I really enjoyed working with elementary-aged children and haven’t looked back since!

What would you be if not a teacher?


What do you do to optimize student engagement in class?

Creating and using games in my instruction is really important.  Any time that I can get my kids to learn without thinking they are learning is a huge success for my students and myself.

Coffee, tea, or caffeine-free?

Coffee, but prefer diet soda

Describe your classroom management style (including a few best practices) in a few sentences.

In order to manage my classroom, I first and foremost make sure to build positive rapport with my students.  This is key in order to earn their trust and respect.  I’m a firm believer in the 3:1 ratio of positive to negative interaction (Safe and Civil Schools).  For every negative interaction (correction) teachers must incorporate 3 positive interactions for every student. 

Favorite Cartoon/TV/Movie Teacher

Jack Sparrow

Favorite Book (to read or to teach)

The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick

Is teaching a science or art?  Explain.

Teaching is a science and an art.  Science: teachers need to keep updated on new best practices and pedagogy in teaching.  Art: Not everyone can be a teacher, truly awesome teachers have a knack for it.

Describe your process of preparing a lesson.

When planning lessons, I take a lot into account: ability level of my students, making sure to include literacy across the curriculum, including multi-sensory instructional strategies, and aligning my instruction to state standards.  It is also important that I differentiate my instruction so that all my students can access what is being taught.

It is also important that the lessons I create are very fun and engaging.  Including games in my instruction is something I really strive for with my students with special needs.

How do you fit differentiation into your lessons?

As a Special Education teacher, it is imperative to differentiate each lesson.  Every student must be able to access a lesson on some level.

Which teacher do you admire most and what makes him/her a great teacher?

My professor in college; Laurie Deyo was probably one of the most influential teachers in my life.  She taught a class that I really wasn’t interested in, but she made it engaging for me and helped me to see the importance of it.  She made it real for me.  She also became a mentor for me as I went through college and grad school at Syracuse University.  To this day, we email back and forth talking about decisions I should make in order to further my teaching career.

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