Often, there are children that don’t develop as quickly or don’t process information the same as their peers. Students with learning disabilities aren’t less-capable than other students, but at times different methods might be required to learn. That’s why it’s great that the students of South Haven Elementary School in Valpo have a caring and supportive mentor in Sharon Kinsey, South Haven’s Learning Disabilities Resource Teacher. Kinsey’s role in helping youngsters who may need just a little more help to achieve their best leaves a lasting impact on those she teaches, providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
Kinsey isn’t a Northwest Indiana native and was born in Easton, New York. When she was 3 years old, her father got a job with Bethlehem Steel and her family moved to the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she eventually grew up and lived for 21 years before moving to Buffalo, New York in 1991. After 4 years in Buffalo with plenty of snow, Kinsey and her family moved to Valparaiso, where they live today.
“It was a bit of a rough adjustment moving to Indiana from the East Coast, but we all love it now,” said Kinsey about her family’s move to The Region. “Two of our sons married girls from the area and Valpo is a wonderful, family-oriented community.”
Kinsey and her husband, Jack, both graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970. While her husband immediately signed up with the National Guard out of college, Kinsey herself started teaching Elementary school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After moving to Valpo, she received her Master’s Degree in Education from Valparaiso University, where she also taught for many years as an Adjunct Professor.
Her experience in working with students with learning disabilities started early in her career. While still living in New York, she began working with preschool-aged children with developmental delays. Later, after she and her family moved to Indiana, she began working with Opportunity Enterprises as a developmental therapist, paying home visits to young babies and toddlers with developmental delays. Working with young people with disabilities is something that’s near and dear to her heart- Kinsey herself has progressive hearing loss, which can make life difficult. It’s not just a positive experience for her, it feels good knowing that she can help impact the lives of these children for the better.
“There is nothing more rewarding than teaching a struggling learner how to read and write,” said Kinsey. “As a person with an invisible disability myself, I understand how tough it is for kids who look like every other student, but learn differently.
For Kinsey, every day is a journey to find the best ways to teach her students, who she views as the real heroes.
“Each day is so interesting as we try to find instructional strategies that are attainable, but still challenging for our students,” she said. “I think of my students as heroes – they have to work harder than their non-disabled peers to achieve at the same level, but many of them have an extraordinary work ethic and always strive to do their best.”
Kinsey loves to work with her students and her coworkers, who work together to make sure that each student’s individual needs are met.
“I love my job,” exclaimed Kinsey. “The students are wonderful, and I work in a building with amazing teachers who collaborate with the special education staff members to provide differentiated instruction that meets the needs of all kids.”
A day In Kinsey’s life is, in her own words, “Non-stop action.” Often, She’s helping children with challenging behaviors develop positive social skills, adapting learning materials to suit individual students, and engaging students through hands-on learning. This year, she is even dabbling in general education and learning a lot about teaching general education.
“This year, I am co-teaching during a 5th-grade literacy block,” said Kinsey. “And I have learned so much from my general education colleague.”
In her free time, Kinsey enjoys going fishing with her husband and spending quality time with their 7 grandchildren. She’s also an avid reader and holds her faith close to her heart, having served as the Moderator of Deacons at her church.
Our children are our future, and even though some may need more help than others they’re still one of the most precious resources Northwest Indiana has to offer. When caring for something as precious as that, there’s no one better to care for them as Sharon Kinsey.