This month, we’re featuring Lynette Richau, an elementary school educator of the deaf and hard of hearing. Lynette is an active member of the Empatico community, and has participated in several Empatico programs, including Kindness Champions and Empathy Across the USA: Race and Identity. Read on to learn more about Lynette!
- Tell us about yourself!
I have been a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing for 16 years. I teach in a public school in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This is the first year I have had only k-2nd grade, in previous years it has been k-5th grade. In my classroom, I use both voice and sign language. I am originally from Northern New York. I am a huge Tinkerbell fan!!
- What is your favorite morning circle activity to do with your class?
Everyone always has so much they want to share, so giving everyone the opportunity to do that or tell how they are feeling!!
- What sparked your interest in the education sector?
My second-grade teacher had a huge impact on my wanting to become a teacher! She was such an amazing role model! We are still in touch! So since second grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had several teachers influence that decision over the years. Teachers can really make an impact on a student’s life!!
- How have you been able to stay grounded in your work during the highs and lows of the pandemic?
The pandemic has definitely brought some unique challenges. My students and doing all I could for them is what has made me grounded during this time. Being able to focus on them and their needs was important. I was able to visit them at certain times, we did online lessons when we weren’t in person. It was so important to them to continue doing the “normal” daily activities that we would do in person. Not being in person made it challenging at times but we figured it out! We were all SO excited to be back in person!! Through everything, our personal relationships were what mattered most. If nothing else, keeping those relationships the focus was key.
- We’re at a turning point in education. What is exciting you most about the education landscape right now? How would you like to see education change in the next few years?
Wow, those are really big questions! I think the one thing that excites me most is the awareness of inclusivity and how that has become a focus. As far as how I would like to see education change… True inclusivity. Making sure all students truly feel welcome and accepted for who they are. Having empathy and kindness being a driving force. ALL educators need to be involved with Empatico. This amazing resource for teachers has brought SO much to my classroom. It has helped me grow as an educator. I have watched my students grow and use so many skills they will need to be successful in life! We have fostered friendships all over the world and it is amazing!!
- Why is empathy important to you? When do you find yourself using empathy skills in your daily life?
Empathy is extremely important to me. As an educator, I teach students from all types of backgrounds as well as having special needs. I need to be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective or at least show empathy even if I don’t fully understand someone’s point of view. We need the world to be a kinder place to live. A place where we can learn and grow together. We need to be able to stop and think about someone else’s feelings. I use empathy skills every day as a teacher and outside of school. I try to treat others how I want to be treated, with kindness and respect. My classroom is built on kindness. That is our number one golden rule. In order to teach it, I first have to show it. I am known as the Kindness Queen!
- Why is it important to expose children to peers from different cultures and backgrounds?
First and foremost this helps build empathy. The world is a very big place and some of my students have never been outside of the town they live in. It is my job to teach them how we are alike but also how we are different and how to appropriately respond to differences. It is such an amazing learning opportunity. I love to watch my students interact with someone they have never met before, ask questions, and develop friendships! They get so excited! I am helping to prepare them to communicate, collaborate and problem-solve with others!
- Why did you choose to work in special education? What are some of your favorite parts of your work?
I knew from when I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher. As I got older I was drawn to deaf education. I took a class in college and loved everything about deaf culture and the students. I knew that was where my heart was and still is! I wanted to make a difference in children’s lives, even if it’s the slightest difference. I have such curious learners but I love it when I teach them something new and they get so excited!! I also love reading so storytime is my favorite. I also love singing and dancing with them, actually just about everything is my favorite! I love what I do!
- What are some practices in your work that you think should be used in all fields of education? Why?
Discussing and showing empathy and kindness would be top of my list! Students need to know how to develop relationships with EVERYONE and need to be able to see/understand different perspectives.