05 May WSU Tri-Cities valedictorian aims to improve disabled student opportunities
By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities
RICHLAND, Wash. – Kylie Chiesa, this year’s Washington State University Tri-Cities valedictorian, has always felt she had a special connection to children with developmental and physical disabilities.
She began working as a life-skills helper in high school and with her school’s Buddy Club.
“They learn in unique ways that fit their individual personalities and needs,” she said. “It is incredibly rewarding to see these individuals grow at their own pace in order to make their distinctive mark on the world around them.”
Finding her passion
In college, Chiesa started on the nursing track, but soon realized that career path wasn’t for her. From there, she spent three summers working at a camp for children with disabilities at The Arc of Tri-Cities, and realized that working with disabled children was her true passion.
Chiesa spent three years as a paraeducator at Canyon View Elementary School in Kennewick before deciding to pursue a degree in education with an endorsement in special education from WSU Tri-Cities.
“I loved what I was doing and decided to take the next step to become a teacher,” she said.
During her coursework at WSU Tri-Cities, Chiesa had the opportunity to complete several practicum experiences in the classroom. She served in a variety of elementary school classrooms around the Tri-Cities focused that focused on general education, autism, and life-skills. Currently, she serves as a long-term substitute teacher in a resource classroom at Lincoln Elementary School and Canyon View Elementary School.
“My education at WSU Tri-Cities prepared me for a career as a teacher in many ways,” she said. “Going to different placements allowed for me to see many different teaching methods, strategies and approaches. The courses I took prepared me for teaching various subjects.”
In each class, she and her fellow students were given tools that they could use to stock a figurative tool bag.
“When we step into our first classroom, we will have a tool bag full of various tools to use with our students,” she said. But the learning won’t stop there, Chiesa added, as WSU Tri-Cities also taught her to be a lifelong learner.
First position in Kennewick
Chiesa has accepted her first teaching position as a primary autism teacher at Washington Elementary School in the Kennewick School District.
“Far too often, children with special needs are told what they can’t do,” she said. “Instead of focusing on everything these children can do. I repeatedly hear them described by their limitations. It is my goal to discover what those children with special needs can do well and assist them in reaching their full potential. There is no greater joy than seeing a student meet a milestone that they have been working so hard to achieve.”
Chiesa will graduate with the 2017 WSU Tri-Cities class at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Toyota Center, 7000 W. Grandridge Blvd., in Kennewick, Wash. Doors open at noon. The event is free to the public and tickets are not required.
Kylie Chiesa, WSU Tri-Cities valedictorian, firstname.lastname@example.org
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, Maegan.email@example.com