#SuperSchoolShoutout: Special Education

#SuperSchoolShoutout - Special Education
Posted on 02/29/2024

Developmental Disability Awareness Month begins tomorrow. We’re showing our CPSD pride by giving a #SuperSchoolShoutout to school psychologist Jennifer Larkin and special education teachers Jesselyn Cruz from Evergreen Elementary School, Shannon Wickwire from Thomas Middle School, and Elizabeth Tarr from Firwood Secondary School!

#SuperSchoolShoutout: Jennifer and Jesselyn

Jennifer works at Four Heroes and Tillicum elementary schools. Her job is to take the results of special education testing and develop personalized plans that support each student’s academic and social emotional goals. “Many people don’t know how much work goes into this, especially with the shortage of school psychologists right now,” she said. 

Jennifer did not know about her field until she was completing her undergraduate degree, but quickly knew this was the career for her. “I wanted to be part of my community and schools are foundational,” she said. 

School psychologists partner with paras, teachers, other support staff, administration, families and the students themselves to make sure CPSD students get the support they need. “I love that I get to work with so many staff members who are really passionate about our kids,” she said.

After completing her student teaching at Lakeview Elementary School four years ago, Jesselyn joined the life skills team at Evergreen. “I actually went here in fifth grade and now work with my teacher,” she said.

Growing up, Jesselyn helped her sister and other family members who had developmental delays, which is why she is passionate about her job. “Many life skills students have severe autism and many of my kids are nonverbal,” she said. “I love being able to connect with them on a level others may not understand.”

Jesselyn works with students from third to fifth grade and is always moved by her students’ progress. “Every student who comes in our classroom usually sees some type of growth,” she said. “I want to cry every time I think about it because I’m proud of them and they’re doing so well.” 

#SuperSchoolShoutout: Shannon and Elizabeth

Shannon became a special education teacher because of her experiences with her cousin who had a developmental disability. “I like helping my students navigate their world,” she said. “Finding different ways to get them to the next level helps them realize what they’re capable of.”


Students experience a period of growth where they fill in their personalities and become more independent in middle school. For Shannon, it’s important to foster her students’ self-assuredness by advocating for them and amplifying their voice. “They are so individual, unique and amazing in different ways,” she said.


Shannon believes the most important skill special education teachers can have is an ability to read others. “Being able to recognize different behavior patterns and emotions and empathize with students is crucial to supporting their growth,” she said.


Elizabeth teaches students who attend the Child Service and Treatment Center at Firwood and need additional mental health support. “They're here for an education, so it’s important to prioritize that while also taking care of their mental health and wellbeing,” she said.


Students from other districts are also bussed into Firwood because it is such a unique program. “When I moved here, I didn’t know this was a job,” Elizabeth said. “It’s very humbling and puts my own experiences into perspective to work with students who have been through so much.”


Elizabeth believes the importance of her job is making her students feel important, valued and capable. “These students enter our doors with past trauma, so it’s important to be present with them and make sure they know they’re supported,” she said.

Go special education team!