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Kristine Shepard Begins her Journey as a New Teacher at North


By Liy Taliaferro, Staffer

Kristine Shepard is beginning her first year of aiding students in speech and language therapy after serving as a student teacher for the now retired Karen Nolte.

Shepard is a part of the special education department. Her job focuses on assisting students with understanding various language concepts such as figurative language, words with multiple meanings to them, and vocabulary. Shepard also works to help students with their social skills. 

“I work on more of those language concepts,” Shepard said. “If you think of what you kind of learn and like your English classes, and the vocabulary and all of your other classes, things like that.”

Students take time out of their classes to get additional help from Shepard on what they are learning in their classes, and language concepts that they might’ve learned in the past but still struggle with. 

“All of what I do is kind of based on students’ goals and their needs at the time,” Shepard said. “So I think a big thing for me is building rapport with students. I think that’s super important to build that rapport. I think it’s when they let you in, that way that you’re able to accomplish those goals when you have that rapport. So that’s really important to me. I like to find out what [students] interests are, what makes them happy, what makes them frustrated, and kind of work through those things.”

Shepard has four or less students in each class, so she can get to know her students on a more personal level and use that connection to better help them achieve their goals. Seeing her students make these achievements is important to Shepard because her family had close connections to a speech and language pathologist through Shepard’s brother, Jordan Shepard.

“My brother [Jordan] had a speech teacher whenever he was in elementary school, and really, throughout middle school and high school, and she made such a positive impact on his life,” Shepard said. “She was just such a helpful person and when I graduated high school, I wanted to give this a try. So I chose speech language pathology as my major, and I stuck with it, and here I am.”

Shepard wants to make an impact on her students the same way that her brother’s speech therapist did. She aspires to be a mentor and a role model for them as well. 

“I want to be seen as a teacher and be respected, obviously,” Shepard said. “But I think it’s super important for me to give that same respect to my students, and so I think that’s a really big thing for me. I’m really big on respect, and not just receiving it, but giving it as well.”

Shepard has already gained the respect of her colleagues in the Special Education department, they anticipated that she would become the speech and language pathologist who would be taking over Nolte’s position. Shepard particularly earned the attention of special education teacher Yvonne Kehoe, who says she got to know Shepard by eating lunch with her during her time as a student teacher. 

 “I got to know her and know her abilities and her personality and all that,” Kehoe said. “So I got to see that she had something special, and when that position came open, when Ms. Nolte retired, I was crossing my fingers for Ms. Shepherd to get the job.

“So I was pleased that she got it. Not that we don’t have a lot of good student teachers in speech language, but she really stood out above the pack.”

Kehoe believes that spending time with other educators will help Shepard understand and abide by all of the rules and regulations that apply to special education teachers.

“There are a lot of things like an IEP for example, that’s a legal document, and things that you put in there are binding,” Kehoe said. “So I think it’s very daunting the first year, you have to do something like that. They don’t really prepare you for that in college, so much of the paperwork that comes with it.”

Kehoe has experience as a speech language pathologist and is confident in Shepard’s abilities as a teacher and believes that Shepard will be successful. Kehoe’s faith in Shepard is the reason why she wants to help put Shepard on the right path this year.

All Special Education teachers have to know the right standards and procedures in order to be qualified to serve their purpose for their students. These standards, rules, and procedures are put out by the state, and are found in what the department calls, “The Blue Book,”.

“I don’t want her to get burnt out,” Kehoe said, “Special Education is very demanding, I talked about the laws and the deadlines that you have to meet. It’s not the parents, it’s not the students, it’s the state and federal guidelines that you have to follow. Sometimes it can be overshadowing, and sometimes you get lost in all of that, and lose the fact that it’s the student [you’re] here to help, not the paperwork. So I don’t want her to lose sight of her duties as a speech language pathologist because of all the federal and state requirements. You could get very, very swept up in all that legality, being a special education teacher, and I don’t want that to happen to her.

“But she’s kind of shown me that fortitude that she’s got, and like I said, I kind of snuck a little peek at some of her work. She’s showing me already, that she’s going to be able to handle both of those things. So I see a long future for her.”