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Jessica Kahn ('91)
Special Education Teacher
Jessica Kahn vividly remembers walking into her first classroom as a professional teacher. One girl was engaged in a striptease, one child was hitting himself, one was talking to his crayons, and another was crying in the corner. Jessica took a deep breath and vowed to make positive changes in the classroom, starting with building trust among children who have known mostly failure and frustration. In the ensuing years, she has done just that. "You've got to catch students being good," Jessica says, repeating JMU professor Dave Herr, whose techniques involving emotionally disturbed kids and discipline have stayed with her. "You have to tell them they're being good because they may not even recognize that they are doing it right." In 2001, Jessica became one of the first special-education teachers in the country to earn rigorous National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. That's on top of California's regular state certification. It makes her one of the top teachers in the country. Jessica has raised the level of excellence in the teaching profession. Because of her, children with autism and other emotional disturbances have a chance.
"In my classroom, it's the little successes that count."