DE PERE - A special education teacher at West De Pere Middle School is taking a special approach to forging relationships with her students.
She says those relationships set the children on the path to success.
For Kathy Rodewald, success of her students can be measured one step at a time; even if her methods are a little off-the-wall.
"We still focus on learning. My title is a special education teacher and I focus on kids who have emotional and behavioral needs. So my first priority in my day is making sure my students are ready for their day," said Rodewald.
Most of their lessons aren't found in books.
"My focus is those six kids and how they interact with their classmates," said Rodewald.
She says that includes burning off excess energy: Climbing a rock wall, doing sit ups, and using elliptical machines.
"Just catching that energy along with the challenge they take on and just pushing towards goals. You can kind of apply life skills to that," said Rodewald.
Rodewald says both her parents are teachers, so education was a natural fit for her.
She's in her fifth year at West De Pere Middle School, but has taught special education since 2000.
Eighth grader Topher Duffy is walking proof of Rodewald's effectiveness.
"When I was in sixth grade I was working in here full-time. I wasn't ever going to normal classes and now that I've worked with her for a couple of years, I stay in class the whole time without having any problems," said Duffy.
"I don't get anywhere with them if we don't have a relationship beforehand. And there are some pretty pointed conversations about who we are as ourselves," said Rodewald.
Part life coach, part teacher, part friend: This special education teacher says she's humbled by the special recognition of a Golden Apple Award.
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