Archive for Thursday, September 21, 2006

Student accomplishments thrill autism inclusion instructor

September 21, 2006

To Michelle Watkins, patience and education go hand-in-hand.

Watkins just began her first year as Lansing Elementary School's autism inclusion teacher.

The best part of her job comes when a child accomplishes a difficult task - no matter how long it takes.

"It might take six months, but when they've mastered it, it's a great thrill," Watkins said.

As the school's autism inclusion teacher, Watkins visits the classrooms and monitors students' progress.

She approaches her job with a simple philosophy.

"They're all capable of learning," Watkins said. "It's just figuring out what that unique way is that they learn so that they can thrive in society."

Growing up in Beaver Dam, Ky., Watkins said she knew she would be an educator. Her dad was a high school principal and her mom worked in the guidance office.

Watkins won a four-year college scholarship for an essay she wrote about why she wanted to be a teacher.

"I grew up in the field," she said. "It just kind of sticks with you : as I got older, I started working with children with disabilities and continued on that path."

Watkins and her family recently moved to Leavenworth from Georgia.

Her husband, Bruce Watkins, attends Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College. They have three sons: Bradley, 12; Zachery, 10; and Noah, 6.

Watkins began her career last year - 11 years after her college graduation - so she could stay home with her sons until they began their own educations.

Away from the classroom, she stays busy with her children and their activities, which include soccer, tennis, hockey and tae kwon do.

Watkins said she was most impressed by Lansing's close-knit community.

"Everybody seems very concerned about the welfare of not just their child, but the community as a whole," Watkins said.

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