Gloria Westover of Salt Lake City retired June 2011 after 38 years of teaching special education students. She has taught students with all kinds of disabilities in reading, math, written expression, speech and language, behavior issues, and social challenges. She has worked with students with special syndromes such as autism, Tourette’s, Asperger’s, separation anxiety, hyperactivity and some mental disorders. Her students have very demanding needs and she has continued to provide services for them. Besides the time it takes to prepare lessons and teach students, she spends countless hours completing the paperwork involved in running a special education program. The paperwork is completed after regular school hours. Nearly every day her car was the last one to leave the parking lot.
Ms. Westover has been involved in trying to make sure that her students have the proper placement in special education. If one student needs more specialized instruction than another student, she spends the necessary time (20+ hours) it takes to qualify them for the proper placement within the educational system.
Ms. Westover meets with each student and their parents several times each school year setting up and reporting on the students’ progress toward meeting the goals on their Individualized Educational Program. This is done before and after school hours. During the school day, she works with students on their specific goals. She helps them feel better about themselves as they develop more skills. She encourages them to work hard and rewards them by teaching money concepts. She developed a store where they can spend the “points/money” they earned. She includes art and visual aid projects in her lessons helping to make the constant review more enjoyable. When necessary Ms. Westover makes home visits. When parents are not able to come to the school to review paperwork, she goes to their homes, thus enabling the students to continue to receive vital special education services.
The last year and many previous years, Ms. Westover has had more students in her classroom than any other teacher in the school. Presently, she is teaching 36 students during the day. Some of them receive services for 30 minutes and others up to 3 hours. Some of them are serviced for just one subject while others are serviced for reading, math, written expression, behavior interventions, social skills, and task completion. Most of the time she will teach the same students from 4th through 6th grades and many of those students come to see her after they have moved onto junior high school. They will tell her that they want to come back and be in her class again.
Ms. Westover is an avid reader and that spills over into her teaching as she introduces her students to the world of books. If she EVER has a free moment (at lunch time) you will find her with a book in hand.
Ms. Westover has a quick wit and great stories to relate. She fills tense moments with humor. This exceptional talent and ability includes writing humorous poetry. Many of these poems have been directed toward the difficulties related to special education. Other special educators have enjoyed her talent. She is known for her love of a good joke and many have been recipients.
Ms. Westover has not only helped students at school but members of her family. Children in her church have also benefitted from her teaching ability.
Gloria Westover truly deserves to be recognized as KSL’s Teacher of the Week!