Having finished her 13th year as paraprofessional under Laura Keathley, Sarah Mair will be taking up the mantle as special education teacher at Avery-Parsons Elementary School.
Mair’s mother worked in special education for over 50 years, retiring a few years ago. She had encouraged Mair to work as a teacher.
“When I started working at Avery-Parsons, I was actually doing substitute work at the preschool,” she says. “When a position opened up for a paraprofessional in the kindergarten, I thought that would be excellent.”
When she applied for the job, however, she was told “they were going in a different direction.” An hour later, she got a call back about an opening for the para-educator position in the special education class. She applied and was hired.
“I just fell in love with the kids in the classroom and with Laura and her teaching style. It was just kind of written in the stars that that was supposed to happen,” she says.
Mair originally got her Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in journalism. After her time with Keathley, she has gone back for a teaching license and a Master’s degree in Special Education.
During that time, Keathley put in for retirement, and Mair was set to take her place.
Teaching in place of Keathley will mean filling some very big shoes, Mair says, but she hopes to do her mentor justice by teaching the students and meeting their needs as Keathley has done.
“Laura is one of the most amazing people you could ever meet,” Mair says.
“She is always wanting to be better for her students and she is such a strong advocate for them that it’s really inspiring to work for her. I’ve come to learn that she has a pretty unique teaching style and a pretty unique leading style when it comes to paraprofessionals because she treats us as equals and she never looks down on us or was demeaning,” she said. “She was a huge inspiration for me to go back and get my teaching license.”
LaRee Bearss, special education coordinator, feels confident in having Mair take Keathley’s place, knowing the two have worked closely together and helped each other with developing educational supports, such as visual schedules, to help with student behavior.
“I think it’s a great transition, and I think students and parents will be excited about Sarah taking over,” Bearss says. “I know Laura was excited about that as well.”
Mair learned so many valuable things while working with Keathley, but among the most important included “making sure that the students are getting what they need,” she says.
“One of (Keathley’s) favorite quotes is, ‘My teacher thought I could be better, so I was.’ That applies in so many ways in her teaching philosophy in that she believes in her students and that they can do anything that they set their minds to. That included me as a student learning how to be a teacher, or the students in her class. I want to be that cheerleader and continue to help students reach their potential,” she adds.