E4E Teachers Talk Back: Kadyn Velez
Kadyn Velez is a eight-year District 75 7th and 8th grade special education teacher at P369K in the downtown area of Brooklyn, NY. In this conversation with E4E-New York Outreach Director Genesis Tramaine Frederick, she shares her experience as a New York educator.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Genesis Tramaine Frederick (GTF): What inspired you to become an educator?
Kadyn Velez (KV): I became a NYC Teaching Fellow in 2008 with a background in Speech Pathology. I began to think about a career in education during a research project that I was a part of during undergrad. The project centered on students with special needs with limited communication skills. The results of the research were horrendous, and proved that there needs to be a bridge between enhancing student’s communication skills and public education. Students that are unable to communicate effectively are more prone to violence. I wanted to help and knew that I could make a difference by teaching.
GTF: How has teaching students with special needs made an impact on your life and experiences as a teacher?
KV: I teach in District 75 at P369K, and I love my students and the teaching community. The days are long and sometimes difficult, but my students are passionate and deserve good teachers. I make an effort to prepare my students for the real world; I know what my students are up against. I know that in order to navigate the world responsibly, they are going to need specific life lessons early. I make sure my lessons are relevant and fun.
GTF: What is one of the biggest reasons why you still love teaching?
KV: I love teaching because I am good at it. I have mastered many skills as a classroom teacher. I enjoy leading discussions with my students, and I always use the “Socratic Method” when probing. It’s the best thing in the world to see the “light bulb” go off in a child’s mind when they are seeing something for the first time or experiencing a new finding. I appreciate knowing that I play a part in making that happen. Arriving at the answer is fun; however, creating lesson plans to help navigate that process is rewarding.
GTF: How did you become involved in E4E? Why is it important that teachers get involved in what's happening outside of their classrooms?
KV: I happened to go to a bar after work with a few other teachers from my school, and an E4E Outreach Director approached me. She started talking about the organization and explaining membership.
I became a member because it was the first time in a while that I was surrounded by teachers who were excited about education and passionate about students who understood battles I face as a special educator. I could tell from E4E Outreach Directors and members who were there that E4E cares about teachers. The teachers there were engaged in conversations about positive solutions; they weren’t just complaining. I knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger.
I have always wanted to be more involved, but I didn’t know how to access an education policy community. I became a member because E4E helped me to enhance my career and approach to my work.
GTF: How has your involvement with E4E helped you as a professional?
KV: E4E has helped me as a professional educator. I was able to write on the tenure policy paper! That was an amazing experience. I felt empowered by the other teachers who were on the team. I felt validated in my work and affirmed in my classroom. The eye-opening experience made it clear that I could be a part of change. It reminded me that my voice is important. It showed me that my influence could extend beyond the classroom.
GTF: In addition to teaching, what other passions do you have?
KV: I am a mother of an amazing four-year old. I also enjoy singing, performing, playing the guitar, and staying fit. Running helps to stay healthy and focused during the school year.
GTF: What advice do you have for a teacher who wants to get more involved with E4E?
KV: The advice I have for a teacher who wants to get more involved in E4E is that it doesn’t have to feel like a big commitment. Do what you can as often as you can to support your career and students as a classroom teacher. It is worth it to network and build community with educators across the city.