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Samuel Kissinger

Special Education Reading and English Language Arts Teacher

Work History

June 2015Present

Special Education Teacher

Desert Mountain School - Deer Valley USD (AZ)

Working with students with a variety of special needs including Autism, Intellectual Disability and specific learning disabilities. Accommodating or modifying curricula and assessments as needed. Providing students with specialized instruction based on students' needs and ability levels. Team teaching with General Education teachers to ensure acquisition of necessary skills.  Data tracking to help guide instruction. 

Aug 2014May 2015

Special Education Reading and English Language Arts Teacher

Barry Goldwater High School - Deer Valley USD (AZ)

Implementing the Read 180 curriculum. Teaching the Standards-Based English Language Arts curriculum to 9th and 10th grade Special Education students. Ensuring students receive proper accommodations and modifications. Assisting with a variety of community service projects.

Jul 2011May 2014

Teacher of Students with Autism

Highland High School - Albuquerque (NM) Public Schools

Working with students with autism displaying severe to moderate maladaptive behaviors. Developing pro-social skills to increase opportunities for employment, post-secondary education and independent living. Emphasis on social communication, life skills, real-world academics and employment skills. Working to curb inappropriate behavior by utilizing peer-reviewed behavior modification and communication strategies and techniques.

Aug 2010Jun 2011

Special Education English Teacher

Highland High School - Albuquerque (NM) Public Schools

Classroom teacher for two special education high school English classes and one General Education class. Responsibilities included following curriculum; teaching reading, writing and the writing process through the exploration of literature relevant to students in the 21st century.

Jul 2009Jul 2010

Reading Support Teacher

Americorps VISTA, Humboldt Elementary School, Humboldt, AZ

Developed strategies targeting specific needs of individual students in the Literacy Enrichment Lab. Building a base of volunteers, raising visibility in the community and fundraising.


Aug 2011May 2013

Special Education Teaching Certification

Central New Mexico College

Dean’s List Spring 2013

Aug 2003May 2008

BA English, Secondary Teacher Certification

Montclair State University (NJ)

My Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is based on positivity, trust, self-empowerment and dignity. Because students with special needs do not always understand their value to society, my teaching philosophy aims to help them see what they can offer the world. I help them learn to see the world positively, then expose them to safe real-world situations where they can practice practical skills. This develops self-empowerment and trust in themselves, and a positive feedback loop is created.

My Interests, and How they Help Me Teach

My two biggest interests are training horses and training in Shaolin Kung Fu.

Each has helped me with my teaching. Training horses has helped me understand teaching behavior better. Much of working with horses is based on an ABA-style of immediate positive feedback. Also, because horses feed off the energy projected by the trainer, my work with horses has helped me be aware of my reactions to different situations, which helps me stay even-keel and keep my frustration or stress in check.

I am currently a Brown belt in Shaolin Kung Fu. Training in this ancient Martial Art has given me tools to help me manage my stress as well as a fun way to exercise my mind and my body. Where horses have helped me be mindful of my emotions, Kung Fu has given me tools to manage those emotions. The use of meditation breathing techniques helps me through stressful situations and I think there are many easy techniques that would be very helpful for students who have difficulty with releasing their own frustrations appropriately.

I also enjoy outdoors activities, writing, and collecting comic books and records.

My Journey From New Jersey to Arizona

I graduated from Montclair State University (New Jersey) in May 2008, with a BA in English and a Secondary Teaching Certification. After graduation, I landed a position as an Editorial intern for Discover Magazine, a national publication. Following the end of my internship I became an Americorp VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) member in July 2009, and served at Humboldt Elementary School in Humboldt, AZ; there I helped organize and run a literacy program.

At the end of my year of VISTA service in the summer of 2010, I moved to Albuquerque, NM. Once in Albuquerque, I was hired to be a one-on-one classroom aide for a student with Autism at Highland High School. Later that same year, I was promoted to teach a Special Education English class.

After that year ended in July 2011, I transferred to a brand new Autism-specific school, the Highland Autism Center. I worked there for a year, and moved, at the suggestion of the Autism Center administrator, to a new Autism-specific class at Highland High School (the two schools share a campus). I have been in my current position, teaching an Autism-specific class at Highland High School for two years. My wife and I moved back to Arizona in June 2014, where I currently work at Barry Goldwater HS as a Reading/English Language Arts teacher for grades 9 and 10.

Other Work Experience

Free-lance writer for Farm and Ranch Living Magazine, DISCOVER Magazine, Racquet Sports Industries, New Jersey Life and Leisure and Tennis Magazine.

Americorps VISTA, in Humboldt, AZ. Developed strategies targeting specific needs of individual students in the Literacy Enrichment Lab. Building a base of volunteers, raising visibility in the community and fundraising.

Editorial Intern at DISCOVER Magazine, a nationally published Science and Technology magazine.

Intern for New York Times best-selling author Allen St. John. Duties included aiding in the research, fact-checking and proofreading of Mr. St. John’s weekly column in the Wall Street Journal. Additional work includes transcription of interviews and research for other projects by the author.

Four years as a summer camp counselor at Camp Skylemar in Naples, ME.

Professional Training and Development

I have formal training in Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), PCI Reading, PCI Environmental Print, Scholastic READ 180, and Non-Violent Crisis Intervention.

I have experience with Wilson Reading System, SPIRE, EPS Making Connections, TEACCH and Tasks Galore.

Additionally, I attended many conferences on Autism in Albuquerque hosted by the University of New Mexico Center for Developmental Disabilities. I also subscribe to Autism Spectrum Quarterly.

Writing Samples

Parent Involvement and Relationships

I work hard to build meaningful relationships with the parents of my students. I believe this helps establish consistency across settings, which can lead to larger gains in learning more quickly. It also fosters trust and buy-in, making parents more likely to trust and use teacher recommendations, which is something that parents can sometimes be resistant to. I know how important it is to build a two-way relationship; parents are such an important resource for me, because when they share what works for them, it helps me build a plan for their child.

Use of Technology

I promote the use of technology in my classrooms. My students use the computer on a daily basis to practice reading, typing and writing. I have also used different math-games websites to give the students an opportunity to practice their skills in a different mode. Through READ 180, my students use computers daily. I integrate technology into my lessons through the use of Smart Boards and ipads. My students use their phones in class for research and phone time is a tangible reward students may buy from the classroom store.

Technology is such an important part of society and learning how to use it meaningfully, beyond playing games and browsing the web, is so important. I give my students every opportunity to engage with it.

Importance of Life Skills

Since I began teaching students with Autism, I've focused on life skills, adaptive skills and functional academics. Depending on the needs, age and ability of my students, I've used the TEACCH method to teach skills that can be translated into job skills or I've based my curriculum on The Syracuse Community-Referenced Curriculum Guide.

In my current position, all of my academic units are based on functional, adaptive and life skills. I believe that the best way to teach students with Autism academics is to teach them through functional skills. I use functional skills almost exclusively to teach all subjects. I understand the importance of these skills for employment, post-secondary education and independent living, which is why I strive to incorporate them into my teaching.

Data Collection

I truly believe that data drives instruction. I am well-versed in a variety of data collection methods. At the start of the year, I prepare a data collection folder for each student which has data collection sheets for academic goals, job skills, adaptive skills and behavior if there is a need. I also assess each students academic skills using the Brigance Inventory of Essential Skills. By tracking and reviewing student data, I get a solid picture of student progress, which helps me see when a student is ready to learn a new skill or needs to have their goals changed.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is so important for students with Special Needs, to teach them both job and recreation skills. I have built relationships with different community groups such as a local Salvation Army store as well as the local University Hospital to provide my students with job sites to practice their skills. We use the bus and go on field trips to different places like restaurants and museums, which helps them learn how to access different places in the community.

I also try to bring the community to the school. I found a local Equine Therapist to donate his time to my class. As an Americorps VISTA, I organized several different community functions at the school.

Community involvement is so important, it helps students learn to access the community and gives them a chance to practice their skills in a new setting.

Teaching Behavior Management

I believe the best behavior management is to teach students to manage their own behavior and I do this using positive reinforcement and clear communication of expectations. Depending on the ability and needs of my students, I use a variety of token economies including "I am working for..." with choice boards or classroom cash which can be spent on tangible rewards or social privileges.

I know how important clear communication, consistency and motivation is for behavior management.