Take a look at one of TJ’s new hires, Stephanie Sturm, and discover her life and the difficulties she is facing during COVID-19 as a Special Education teacher.
For those who are unaware, Special Education is the practice of educating students in a way that addresses their individual differences and special needs. Special Education plays a big role at TJ, with an entire floor of the school dedicated to Art, JROTC, World Language, and Special Education. The amount of space and large staff on board make TJ a great place for Special Education students. Joining the team this year is Stephanie Sturm, a recent graduate, who is dedicating her career to helping kids with special needs.
Sturm was born and raised here in Colorado. As a child, Sturm was educated in Jefferson County Public Schools and graduated from Columbine High School. She graduated from the University of Colorado in May 2020, and soon after, started her career at TJ. “There are a couple reasons why I wanted to become a Special Education Teacher. I have two cousins with Autism who are a huge part of my life. Another reason is Special Olympics Colorado.” Sturm then remarked, “The opportunities that I have been given to work with such great people, students, and athletes has directed me to become a Special Education Teacher.” Obviously, Sturm is very passionate about what she does and is involved in Special Education programs even outside her job. “The reason I joined the TJ staff was because of the wonderful things I had heard about the school. I heard that everyone that worked here was extremely supportive and that the community was like another family. I accepted this job because I grew up in a very similar community. Since joining the TJ team, these are the exact things I have seen and more. The TJ community is definitely a family and the support I have received from the staff has made my first year of teaching even more amazing than I ever expected.”
Outside of work, Sturm enjoys spending time with friends and family. Sturm notes, “My friends and family mean a lot to me and I try to spend as much time as I can with them. When I am with them, we will either go on an adventure or we will spend the night watching something on Netflix.” Sturm also mentioned she enjoys volunteering with Special Olympics Colorado. She’s been volunteering with Special Olympics Colorado for the past six years, and she encourages everyone to come out and volunteer. “Special Olympics Colorado is a huge piece of my life and I spend a lot of weekends with the staff, volunteers, and athletes. This is a great organization.”
Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities, providing year-round training and activities to five million participants and Unified Sports partners in 172 countries. Special Olympics give athletes with disabilities a more fair playing field than competing in the Olympics against those without disabilities. Just like in the Olympics, Special Olympians compete with all they’ve got to win gold, silver, and bronze metals. The Special Olympics were introduced in the late 1950s and 1960s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver who realized people with disabilities were mistreated, so Shriver decided to take action and start the program.
Like teachers and students across the nation, Sturm and her students have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For one, being a new teacher in this year’s situation is hard enough. As one may imagine, Special Education teaching is already a difficult task at hand, and with the pandemic bringing online learning, it seems difficult to effectively teach in that environment. Despite the assumed difficulties, Sturm notes there are more pressing matters that she faces teaching online. “The difficulties my students and I have experienced during our time of online learning is missing out on the moments and stories that are shared during in-person learning.” Like teachers and students nationwide, Sturm and her students have struggled with online learning and coping with the situation at hand.
This school year has greatly affected each and every student and staff member. While many can’t see her in person, wish Stephanie Sturm a very warm welcome into the TJ community!