Making the grade
Jennifer Blevins knows how lucky she is to be working as a special education teacher at Summit High School.”It’s my dream job,” she said, during a break from her responsibilities teaching reading and life skills to students with special needs.”Every day is different and challenging,” the 30-year-old added. “I love to figure out each individual child and what makes them learn.”Finding herself in special education was somewhat of a surprise to both Blevins and her parents. The native Ohioan grew up with a father who taught high school music and a mother who was a former special education teacher. Neither parent pushed a teaching career onto Blevins, but somehow she found her life’s calling anyway.A psychology major in college at the University of Miami, Ohio, Blevins said she had no idea what she wanted to do when she got her degree. Her first summer after graduation, she worked at a camp for children with severe needs.
“I was regretting my decision until I started the job,” she said. “I fell in love with the kids there on day one.”After camp ended, she traveled to Europe for what was intended to be a six-month trip, but turned into a three-year stay. She worked for a year as a nanny in London, and two years as an after-school teacher in Garmisch, Germany, before returning to the U.S. to become a social worker in Denver.”My best friend had moved to Denver and told me she had 300 days of sun a year,” Blevins said. “I’d never been to Colorado, but after living overseas, it was no big deal to move.”She spent a year in the Front Range, and, although she enjoyed her job there, found she really wanted to get more involved in outdoor education. A summer internship at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) brought her to the High Country in 2001.Blevins stayed with the BOEC for a year after her internship, but the desire for a more structured education program eventually attracted her to the high school. She worked for two years as a paraprofessional in the special education department before getting her own classroom two years ago, much to her mother’s astonishment.”My mom couldn’t believe it,” she said. “She was shocked.”
Blevins credits her parents with instilling in her a belief in every child’s potential.”My parents both have nurturing attitudes towards kids,” she said. “They sit down and listen to kids, and the kids really respect that. Each kid is an individual and they approach them from a point of respect.”Although they encouraged their children to choose whatever career they wanted, Blevins’ parents must have been very powerful role models. Her only sibling, a younger brother, is also a special education teacher.At Summit High, the students in Blevins’ classes range from those with mild learning disabilities to children with severe challenges. Her appreciation of small victories is evident when she talks about her job.”Almost every kid comes in here saying ‘I hate to read,'” she said. “And I really enjoy seeing a kid’s face light up when they read a book they’re interested in.”When asked if she’d ever done anything in her life her students would be surprised to learn about, she admitted to once jumping off a moving train while traveling in Austria.
“We missed our stop,” she said. “It was barely moving, but it did hurt.”She continues to travel during vacations, but the Summit Cove resident has no plans to be moving on anytime soon. She’s currently working towards an online masters degree in special education, and, although she’d like Summit County to be more affordable, she and her dog Mya are comfortable here.”I love the community and all the outdoor opportunities,” she said.Following in her parents’ footsteps, Blevins’ commitment to her students is obvious in her response when asked what goals she has for them.”(I want them) to realize they all have amazing potential, no matter what their limitations are, and to approach life from that position,” she said.
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