Special education teacher Karen Heresa's expertise, demeanor and leadership skills have helped transform the special education department at Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue. As chair of the department—the largest in the school—Heresa collaborates frequently with regular education colleagues, attending their grade-level meetings to align topics and thematic units for consistency in learning. Whenever a unit includes a culminating event or a field trip, she undertakes extra planning to ensure that her special education students participate alongside regular education students. Heresa works one on one with some of the school's most challenging students, finding ways to reach them and motivate their learning. She has implemented new teaching strategies such as Write Reflections, which have helped students make substantial gains in their writing skills, and was instrumental in obtaining additional computers for all special education classes. Heresa also ensures that parents are informed regularly about their children's progress and provides them with specific strategies and activities to promote learning at home. Her students have made significant gains in reading and writing achievement on the Hawaii State Assessment, their Individual Education Plans (IEP) and the Kauai Writing Project (KWP). A large number of students have been placed back into regular education classes under her care. Heresa is a member of the Schoolwide Student Discipline Team and was one of three co-authors of the school's Hawaiian Value Character Education Program.
1995 State University of New York - Geneseo, B.S.