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Diverse Thinking Different Learning

Jun 14, 2022

How do differentiated curriculum integrated with SEL support students with learning differences and mental health challenges? It’s safe to say that this type of instruction is fantastic for any student as it targets individual needs and strengths and today’s guest has all the answers.

Joining today is Erika Sneath, a former classroom teacher turned Curriculum Specialist at the unique Pacific Preparatory School where individualized curriculum isn’t only possible, it’s the norm. She is passionate about her job and creates lessons that are engaging, rigorous, and support the needs of all students. In this episode, we dive into those three components of a strong curriculum, why they are important, and how Pacific Preparatory School is able to provide that. She answers questions about flexibility and how students can get what they need in a 100% virtual setting.


Show Notes:

[2:08] - Through her years of teaching, Erika learned so much about kids who learn differently.

[3:11] - There is so much involved in being a student. Erika describes the lessons she learned from her students.

[4:37] - As a teacher, sometimes Erika felt that she couldn’t give every student exactly what they needed as an individual. She learned to give herself grace.

[6:00] - When there’s a relationship, learning soars because it is a safe, collaborative learning environment.

[7:14] - Curriculum and lessons should be engaging, rigorous, and supportive, but as a classroom teacher, Erika felt that she had to pick and choose.

[8:27] - What is appropriate for a student’s access point?

[9:49] - In a classroom, the access point might be all over the place. Where did students start with their learning and where can they go?

[11:29] - A lot of times, students who learn differently can get lost in a classroom of many students and fall behind without the level of support they need.

[12:50] - Erika gives an example of how she learned student behavior is linked to rigor, engagement, and support.

[15:42] - There are some questions teachers can ask themselves about lessons and individual students when individualizing curriculum.

[16:46] - Erika describes how the curriculum works at Pacific Preparatory School.

[17:50] - Customized curriculum looks different for each student and even takes into consideration a student’s anxiety.

[20:40] - As parents, ask questions. Pacific Preparatory School is very collaborative.

[22:20] - Virtual learning can be overwhelming, but reaching out for support is helpful.

[24:23] - How is Social Emotional Learning integrated into a fully online setting?

[25:57] - Growth Mindset is a large component of the curriculum at Pacific Preparatory School.

[27:02] - Social Emotional Learning cannot take place without a safe and collaborative learning environment.

[29:20] - In addition to collaborating with parents, other professionals are brought into conversations to help customize a student’s curriculum.

[31:15] - Pacific Preparatory School includes extracurricular activities that give students opportunities to socialize.

[33:18] - A flexible schedule creates new opportunities for students to socialize.


About Our Guest:

Erika graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Whitworth University before completing her Masters of Science degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University. She was a dedicated elementary classroom teacher for several years, and saw herself continuing along that path, until her passion for creating engaging curriculum led her to become the Curriculum Specialist & Academic Dean at Pacific Preparatory School. There she works with families and teachers to support the individualized curriculum development process. She is passionate about ensuring that lessons are engaging, rigorous, and support the needs of all students. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, working on a puzzle, getting outside, and reading. She is currently in the process of writing her own children's book, which seeks to highlight the ordinary in inclusion and difference. 


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.