Educators in her life inspired Waldorf to pursue special education

Monticello Middle School special education teacher Sarah Waldorf works with sixth-grader Qwinton Henderson on math classroom work. Waldorf has been teaching with the MCSD for three years now. She enjoys seeing her students progress from the start of the school year to the end. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Panther Professionals
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Panther Professionals is a weekly series highlighting educators, administrators, staff and aides who are dedicated to the future of the Monticello Community School District.

     “My dad was a teacher, and I’ve been positively influenced by a lot of teachers in my life,” shared Sarah Waldorf, 5-8 special education teacher for the Monticello School District.

     Waldorf said she knew she always wanted to work with children.

     Originally from Elbow Lake, Minn., Waldorf said she grew up in a town even smaller than Monticello. Wanting to see what else was out there in the world, she visited Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and liked the feel of the campus and community.

     “I wanted to get away and see more,” she said.

     Waldorf is in her third year teaching special education at Monticello Middle School. While her roster typically spans grades 5-8, she does not have any seventh graders on her list this school year.

     Waldorf works with special education students either one-on-one, in small groups, or supports those students in the general education classrooms.

     “I help those students meet their special education goals,” she said.

     Waldorf works with students with specific learning needs in reading, writing and math. She also provides behavioral support in the classrooms.

     “The idea is to provide support in the least restrictive environment,” she said. “We don’t want to pull (the students) out (of the classroom).”

     Waldorf explained several years ago, special education students were taught in separate classrooms outside of the general education classes. Now, they remain part of the classes with their peers.

     When Waldorf first started out with the district, she was working with Level 2 and 3 special education students. Now, she works across the spectrum with Levels 1-3.

     “It’s a nice change because it means I get to spend more time in the classrooms,” she said.

     Serving just eight students this school year, Waldorf said she’s able to establish and build rapports with those students.

     “It allows for a lot of increased opportunities,” she said. “You get the opportunity to get to know them and their families.”

     She also works with those students throughout their middle school years, rather than just one year.

     “You see their progress,” she said.

     Monticello Middle School has three special education teachers. Waldorf said working for a close, tight-knit school district like MCSD allows everyone to get to know his/her co-workers and students.

     “You get to know a lot of people,” she said. “It’s all about the relationships you build.”

     Prior to coming to MCSD, Waldorf taught K-6 special education for a year at the Dunkerton School District. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Wartburg. She has two endorsements in K-8 special education and K-12 special education. Waldorf is working on her master’s degree from Morningside College (online) in special education.

     “This will just open the door for other opportunities in education,” said Waldorf of furthering her education.

     To gain even more experience, Waldorf spent time in New York City interning throughout a summer at an inner city elementary school.

     “I loved it,” she said of the experience. “I saw the benefits of a big and small (school) district.”

     Similarly, Waldorf said the ELL (English Language Learners) program is seen at both the NYC school and the MCSD.

     “Both districts are working to meet the same needs,” she said.

     When it comes to staying up on the latest and greatest in education, Waldorf said the MCSD is on track.

     “When I was at Dunkerton, we knew about Standards Referenced Reporting,” she said, “but we weren’t using it yet. It was piloted here (in Monticello). We seem to be on the forefront here.”

     Waldorf and her husband live in Monticello, raising their 1-year-old son. They spend a lot of time together as a family, and visit extended family in the area as well.

     “We have a lot of nieces’ and nephews’ activities,” she said.

     For herself, Waldorf takes the time to enjoy reading.



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