Janssen’s passion for education extends to her students

As a special education teacher for the MCSD, Andrea Janssen spends time co-teaching a second grade class. Janssen has been with the district for eight years, and enjoys seeing the different personalities of all of her students. (Photo by Pete Temple)
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.

     Andrea Janssen’s profession certainly mirrors her past.

     “I used to pretend I was a teacher,” she said of her younger years. “So it wasn’t a question that I would end up here. I don’t remember ever wanting to do something else with my life.”

     Janssen has been with the Monticello School District for eight years now. Her current role is that of a Level 1 special education teacher, working alongside three other specialists who serve the needs of K-4 students.

     Janssen divides her day between Shannon and Carpenter Elementaries.

     She explained the job of a special education teacher entails working one-on-one with a student or with a group of students on their various needs: academics, reading or math goals, social needs, or behavior.

     “Some students need more accommodations within the classrooms,” said Janssen.

     This particular school year, Janssen is working primarily with students in first and second grade.

     “Every student is different,” she said of the unique qualities each student exhibits. “My involvement depends on their needs.”

     When working on a student’s social interaction needs, Janssen said she would come into the classroom and co-teach with the core teacher.

     “We involve the entire class with social play and interactive skills,” said Janssen.

     This year’s second graders are special because Janssen has been with the students since they were in kindergarten.

     “I’ve moved with them through kindergarten, first grade, and now second grade,” she said.

     Janssen said she’s seen great gains with the students she’s assigned to in terms of their social skills and academics.

     “It’s great when we’re able to see a few students exit out of the (special education) program,” she praised.

     She said seeing the general education students act as role models for the special education kids is great to see. Inclusion is a huge part of the curriculum within the MCSD.

     “They are great role models and learn from one another,” shared Janssen. “It’s important to keep those students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) in the classrooms versus pulling them out. They all need to learn from their peers, and we need to close those gaps when it comes to socializing, reading and math.”

     Janssen praised MCSD Curricular Director Gretchen Kriegel as being a great resource for the special education department.

     “As a former special education teacher, Gretchen is helpful when it comes to ideas, equipment or any interventions we can use within the classrooms,” explained Janssen.

     For the teachers, Janssen said collaboration is huge when it comes to co-teaching.

     “It’s been neat to work with different teachers, and you get something different from each of them,” she said. “We all learn something new from one another.”

     Janssen said seeing the students’ individual personalities is the highlight of her job.

     “Every kid has a different personality and they bring something new to my day.”

     Having grown up in the Monticello community, Janssen said she’s already developed relationships that have certainly helped her career in education. Working alongside some of the teachers she had “back in the day,” is fun as well.

     “It’s neat because we all know each other,” said Janssen. “And I know many of the families here.”

     Aside from her special education role, Janssen has held other jobs within the school district: softball coach and volleyball coach. She currently serves on SIAC (School Improvement Advisory Committee) and the AIW (Authentic Intellectual Work) committee.

     She majored in elementary education at the University of Dubuque, and minored in special education (reading) and coaching athletics. Janssen earned her master’s degree from Morningside College in special education. She student taught fifth grade and special education in Dubuque.

     In her free time, Janssen enjoys playing sports and spending time with her family.


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