There is a new addition to the TJ faculty serving as a special education math support.
Thomas Jefferson High School is recognized for its challenging academic courses, formative student-run clubs, and prospering athletics; most of all, TJ is successful because of the teachers that make it all happen. Now, the special education department has received a new partner in the math field: Elisse Chase.
Chase was born and raised in Colorado and attended CU Denver. Teaching was at the forefront of her mind with a focus on English, yet during college a love for math formed, taking her in that direction instead. Before joining the TJ community, Chase spent a semester at a school solely serving autisitic people. A lot of these students were nonverbal, so they communicated using iPads, which created a unique learning environment. Chase attests to this as the primary difference between the teaching under her belt and teaching at TJ, in addition to the slight age difference as her previous students participated in a transition program, so they were slightly older than the teenagers at TJ. Chase has acclimated to these differences; her clear passion for serving the special education community serves as motivation.
This was evident during college when Chase acquired a job as a paraprofessional (para) for Cherry Creek Schools, which she attended in her youth. This para position supported kids with IEPs (individualized education programs), which are legal documents that mandate extra support for children who need special education. The help Chase provided included assistance in the realm of academics and social behavioral needs that holistically supported these students. Chase specifically accompanied students to classes as a listed service provider on IEPs. She made herself comfortable in the classroom to provide additional services including reading test questions aloud, modifying assignments with the hand of the teacher, taking students to social workers, or running them through coping strategies when experiencing emotional behavior. This position and Chase’s newfound love for math came together to determine her zeal for special education, as she decided to take the next step and get endorsed in the field.
Rain or shine, Chase continues pursuing her teaching career regardless of the stigma surrounding the special education community. Many misconceptions surround the community. For example, neurotypical individuals might believe that students with autism all behave in a specific way, when in reality, two people can have autism and the same diagnosis could not be easily identifiable. Chase’s new position presents its own difficulties, as she joined her first year at a new school in a virtual environment. As unfortunate as this is, Chase has made the best of the situation by recognizing the positive outcomes. The major benefit is learning how to operate technology, as Chase was not very well versed prior to transitioning to working entirely on a laptop. This has simultaneously enhanced her yearning for in-person interaction with students in the classroom, which has been slightly satisfied through the few students showing up in the hybrid learning model. Chase has joined the right community of students and teachers, keying into strong connections and looking forward to everything returning back to normal.
Speaking of normal, teachers live normal lives too, which Chase can attest to. She may be donning a new last name in the upcoming future as she is currently engaged to be married over spring break. This time away from work presents the perfect opportunity for Chase to whip out her Nintendo Switch and play all the video games to her liking. In the meantime, TJ is lucky enough to gain another versatile member to its community, as the Spartan values emanate through Chase.