Teacher Sarah Kesty works with special kids at Oakdale Elementary School in Sacramento. She is part of The Learning Center, a resource specialist program for students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Kesty always knew that school can be a challenging place for kids both academically and emotionally, and made it her life’s work to help. She got a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential, and then went on to earn a master’s in special education. This training provided a strong foundation on which she has continued to build throughout her eight years as a teacher.
At the Learning Center, Kesty works with students from a variety of backgrounds and home situations. Her pupils may have learning disabilities, autism or other issues. The commonality is that they need some assistance in order to be successful.
Kesty also works with students from the GATE gifted and talented education program, and with fourth through sixth grade student government members. They recently created a haiku book with themes of peace for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary, and participated in fundraising to replace a fellow-student’s bicycle that was stolen.
Kesty says that courses she took in school about behavior modification and social skills coaching have been invaluable.
Students can become overwhelmed by frustration, sadness and anger related to the personal challenges they face. These feelings are also effected by how adults and other children view them and respond to them. According to Kesty, “getting real and facing the issues head on” is a good tactic.
She tells students that “it is okay to have those feelings or to be mad. Take a minute and then we’ll figure out a way to deal with it.” Kesty notes that even negative reactions have a purpose, and once the purpose is identified, they can learn to replace it with something more positive.
She credits part of her success in teaching to what she learned in school. While working on her thesis, she researched many innovative, non-traditional approaches to working with kids. This has helped her develop creative ways to reach out to each student as a unique individual.
Kesty has written a children’s book called “Everyone Has Something” and is in the process of raising funds to self-publish it. Experiences with her students made Kesty realize that children, like adults, often feel isolated because of challenges they face.
The book, geared towards children between the ages of eight and 12, aims to show that every person has something that is challenging or uncomfortable for them. It can be easy, Kesty says, for kids to become so overwhelmed by the challenge that they essentially get stuck.
Instead of letting it define them, Kesty helps students view their challenges like speed bumps that can be passed over. Changing how a child views and responds to their personal “something” can make a big difference in their future.
Kesty has launched a one-month “Kickstarter” program to raise the $9,300 needed to publish the book. Supporters can pledge to make a donation of $1 or more. If $9,300 is pledged by March 16, the publishing project will be funded and the pledged donations will be collected. For more information, visit Kickstarter or sarahkesty.com.
Valerie Heimerich is a freelance writer out of Sacramento. She typically covers animals and community issues. She has volunteered and worked for many organizations helping animals and people.
Her work can be found at Examiner.com.