I’m very excited to share our next guest with the BTWR family. Megan Moyer is an Intermediate Daily Living Skills Teacher at Catherine’s school, Notre Dame here in Dallas, Texas. We truly love Notre Dame and it has made a huge difference in Catherine’s growth and independence. Read on for Megan’s perspective on teaching “Daily Living” and the school’s unique mission.
Tell our audience a little bit about yourself, how you came to work at Notre Dame and what subject you teach.
I am from Michigan originally, but growing up I moved around a lot. In high school, I got involved in the club Best Buddies that gave me an opportunity to interact with and support the inclusion of my peers with special needs. During college I worked at two different summer camps, one in an inclusion camp in Michigan, and the other Camp Barnabas in Missouri that is specifically for kids with special needs. Combined, those experiences impacted my life so profoundly they sparked a passion in me to want to work with people with special needs as a career. I graduated from Baylor University in 2017 with a Bachelors Degree in Special Education, and I have been working at Notre Dame ever since! I teach Daily Living Skills in our Intermediate Department for students ages 11-15.
What motivates you to teach in general/teach this particular subject?
Because my life was so positively influenced by working with and learning from people with special needs, I am very passionate about seeing people of different abilities valued and included as vital members in our community. I have found a significant purpose to my life in advocating for and supporting the inclusion and celebration of this population. With full confidence I can say I am better because of the people of different abilities in my life, and I want everyone to see their potential that I am shaped and challenged by everyday. I particularly love teaching Daily Living Skills because I get to equip the students in functional living tasks that promote independence in their everyday life. It is an honor to watch the confidence of our kids improve as they master a skill—loading the dishwasher, making the bed, sweeping the floor, folding a shirt— and they begin to take pride in their ability to accomplish a task on their own.
What makes Notre Dame so special?
Notre Dame is so special first and foremost because of our unique mission. We believe our students are made in the image of God and therefore we strive to educate our students in order to help them reach their full potential. I believe everything we do and teach flows from our mission and therefore each and every student is not only accepted, but celebrated for who they are and who God made them to be. I believe the individualized curriculum at Notre Dame focuses on the whole child—academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually—and because of that our students are equipped with invaluable skills and life experiences. It is our hope that with this approach, every student will be given an opportunity to flourish and reach his/her potential. We also have a handful of extracurricular activities offered at the school that give our students the opportunity to participate in sports and clubs just like their peers.
Can you share activities or special methods used to support “daily living” to students with special needs?
My classroom is set up with a full kitchen, washer and dryer, clothing rack, and a Murphy bed to allow us to practice daily living skills tasks. When teaching these skills, I like to combine multiple teaching styles to support all of our kids and their varying learning styles. I blend hands-on opportunities, interactive Smart board lessons, visuals and social stories, and verbal instruction. The benefit of presenting the information in various facets helps improve retention and gives the student the input of information in multiple ways. Then we practice, practice, practice, because generalization is a crucial, but challenging skill for our kids. It means that the students are able to take the same skill and apply it in multiple settings including at home and in the community. A skill is not truly mastered until a student can display it in various settings, so that is why I reinforce each skill by presenting it in different forms and giving lots of time for practice!
What do you consider the best/favorite thing about teaching your students?
I love so much about teaching and working with my students, but my favorite is when I hear from the parents that their student is generalizing a skill we are working on in class at home or in the community! To hear that for the first time their student is wanting to help load the dishwasher, measure ingredients in a recipe for dinner, wants to make their bed, or is finding their size in shirt at Target makes me so proud! No milestone is too small to me, I love celebrating any and all progress with our students because with every victory I get to see glimpses of their full potential. I have never felt such a contagious joy as I do working with our students—they teach me as much as I teach them!
How do you keep your students interested and motivated?
Taking the time to learn about my students and build a relationship and rapport with them is so important to me. I believe we need a foundation together for them to be interested in learning and for them to trust me enough to listen and follow my direction. I try my best to take the time to talk to them, listen to them, joke with them, and allow a space for them to feel completely safe and supported. I also try to make my lessons engaging and interactive with kinesthetic learning components so they are constant and active participants in learning.