Kesia Micheletti is a 2007 Secondary Dual Educator Program (SDEP) master’s graduate who is already making a significant impact on the community. Three years ago, Kesia and her supervisor created and implemented LEAP (Life Education for Adults of Parkrose), the Transition Services for Parkrose School District. The goal of the program is to help 18- to 21-year-old students with disabilities learn the life skills and vocational skills necessary to transition to the adult world. Since its inception, the program has seen great success. Kesia has helped students transition to paid employment by partnering with community agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation and local business internship sites, such as Parkrose Hardware and Firwood Garden Residential Facility. In addition to helping students through the LEAP program, Kesia leads trainings for high school staff on how to access community service agencies such as Ridewise, Developmental Disabilities, and Brokerages for their students. She gives trainings to staff about transition district-wide, including presenting to the Parkrose Educational Board.
This spring, Kesia received a teaching award from the Miller Foundation, whose hope is to “provide public high school teachers with opportunities for growth and development, with the goal of strengthening their commitment to, interest in, and effectiveness in a long-term classroom teaching career.” Kesia plans to use the award to travel to the Council for Exceptional Children’s annual conference and exposition in Denver next year to learn more about transition on a national scale. She will spend time collaborating with her high school special education department to develop a continuum of supports for all high school special education students towards transition.
How did you transition into the field after your graduate studies?
My passion for working with people with disabilities started when I was very young, when I spent a few months working for Americorps NCCC at a camp for students with severe disabilities. During my undergraduate years, I worked for the Office of Disabilities at Humboldt State University, where I drove a bus and worked with blind students on computers and Braille writers to access curriculum. I spent one year in an elementary school as an Educational Assistant, which led me to investigate being a teacher. Portland State’s Secondary Dual Education Program was attractive because I could further my education to teach special education and spanish concurrently.
What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?
The SDEP program’s most useful tool was allowing me to learn what it was like to be a general education teacher, as well as a special education teacher. By being given the chance to wear both hats, I have a better understanding of what is expected of students in the general education classroom and a clearer perspective of the jobs of my colleagues at the high school.
What accomplishment in your career are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the success of LEAP, the transition services that were started three years ago for Parkrose School District. I see great success with students gaining independence toward adulthood that was not evident when I first began teaching at Parkrose School District. The program continues to grow, becoming increasingly efficient and encompassing of all student needs.
The GSE strives to make an impact on our community through the work of our students, faculty, and alumni. What does the term “impact on the community” mean to you?
Giving back to the community that we live in is one of my passions and ethical beliefs. The SDEP program really helped me to grow stronger in this belief through trainings on person-centered planning, collaboration with parents, and classroom management that is student-centered and positive.
How do you try to incorporate this concept into your daily work?
In my daily work students and parents are the center of my efforts. I am lucky to work with an age group that is about to transition to adulthood and many parents are very accepting of support and suggestions for the next steps in life, making my job more enjoyable. My students’ commitment to bettering themselves is all the motivation I need.
Did you have a favorite course, professor, or project while at the GSE?
Being the first class of the SDEP program to graduate in the GSE was an accomplishment in itself! The advisers of the program—Sue Bert, Barb Ruben, and Stephanie McBride—were great at leading us to become true dual subject teachers. They will always have a fond place in my heart as great influences on my teaching philosophies.
What advice would you give currently enrolled or recently graduated students?
Do as much student teaching as possible! The more practice you have, the better you will be prepared for what it is really like to be a teacher. Also, it is vital to establish a strong and healthy relationship with your administrators in order to best meet the needs of your students.