Profile of SEN teacher Nikki Clark
Teacher Nikki Clark from Corby Business Academy has been specialising in special needs for nearly 20 years and she loves the job as no two days are the same.
Nikki, who trained as a secondary school maths teacher taught A Level maths in her first post and moved on to combine this with special needs teaching in her next post. She decided that she loved SEN so much that she made it a permanent specialism. She moved to Corby in 1999 and started to teach in the Designated Special Provision Unit at Beanfield Secondary School and then transferred to Corby Community College before joining Corby Business Academy when it opened.
She said: ‘Every day is different so it is rewarding to see the small steps and progress of the students. I enjoy the variety of lessons I teach both in classroom settings and out in the local environment. It is important that these students experience a wide range of learning opportunities in different settings. To work in the Unit you have to be very flexible and be willing to support each other. It is a real team effort with the students at the heart of everything we do.’
Nikki still teaches maths but it is her work with the older students as they transition into adulthood that she finds especially rewarding.
‘It is important for the students to be part of the community because when they hit adulthood they need skills to function as independently as possible due to the support network that is offered in the school setting being withdrawn. I really enjoy this stage with the older students. We develop their life skills through a range of lessons including practical cooking activities, learning to use public transport, basic road safety awareness and supported work placements. The students really enjoy their work experience at the sweet shop where they embed skills for life through enjoyable tasks. I teach across all year groups including Key Stage 3 maths so we still play to our strengths within the Unit. Our maths sessions focus on everyday maths skills which can include shopping tasks and learning to read bus timetables in the local community.’
Nikki’s work as the Link Teacher for Young Enterprise means that she is heavily involved in the scheme and can see the many benefits it offers young people: ‘Happy Hands gives them greater confidence, a better understanding of the world of work and opportunities to develop teamwork skills. The students have to talk to familiar and unfamiliar people which helps them to develop their social skills and self-esteem.’
Nikki’s training and remit is wide ranging: ‘I have undertaken various courses to improve my knowledge and expertise over the years in SEN including TEACCH, Makaton, PECS and Team Teach to name a few. I am also AQA Unit Award Scheme Coordinator and represent CBA at the Northamptonshire Special Schools Sixth Form Consortium. I organise a range of activities to support our learners including Unit Enterprise events, annual Special Needs Choices Event, supported work placements, college taster days and fishing with the MTSFC. We are a great team in the Unit, we all pull together and support each other which is really important. It is an amazing job to do and I haven’t looked back at my teaching in mainstream as the rewards always outweigh the more challenging days!’