When it comes to helping children out of the classroom, Sentell said paying attention is vital. Making a successful child takes some tender, loving care.
“Put down your phone and/or device. The years you have to make an impact in your child’s education are few … pick up a book, sit down at the table … make them fill out a daily planner … expect great things and don’t settle for responses like ‘good’ or shoulder shrugs,” she said. “Have conversations with your children about their schooling, peers, teachers, activities, etc. Be there.”
Even after helping with homework, students still have to face the challenges of standardized testing. Sentell said she tries to approach the state-mandated tests with a fresh perspective.
“In the world of special education, standardized testing can be very stressful for students with disabilities. I try to encourage all of my students to do their best but I also remind them it is one score,” she said. “It doesn’t define who you are, how hard you work, or how smart you are.”
She said standardized tests are a different kind of challenge for her students, so she spends extra time making sure they are prepared. Learning skills, such as test taking, are invaluable.
“My students generally struggle on standardized tests, since to qualify for special education your disability has to adversely impact your academic progress,” she said. “I spend lots of time teaching test-taking skills, time management, and how to finish strong.”
When her students are having trouble grasping a lesson, she said she tries to make things more entertaining and interactive. Adding in some technology to her plans always helps.
“I try to incorporate technology or find a fun video or song to help students comprehend or gain a deeper understanding of a difficulty concept,” she said. “I’ve always been one who could remember anything to a tune, so I try to use that with my students as often as possible.”
When she has difficulty balancing her classroom and her personal life, Sentell said her husband backs her up, even while owning a business of his own. She said she tries to include her family in her classroom, since she speaks about them often.
“I have an amazing husband who supports me, my profession, and my passion. He is our superdad. When I need to stay late and complete paperwork, he always swoops in. He puts family first and is definitely my better half,” she said. “My students know my family, so having them visit or come work here with me is just another way I try to open up to my students and let them be a part of my life, so they can see how invested I am in theirs.”