Natasha Dardashti staff writer
With a bright future ahead of her, special education teacher Sharon Kirkpatrick is retiring after 11 years of service.
Kirkpatrick began her career in newspaper and magazine work, then switched to work in the film industry. Eventually, a series of events in Kirkpatrick’s life lead her to take up work at the Boys and Girls Club, where she then decided to go back to school and get her teaching credentials at the age of 50. Initially, Kirkpatrick planned on teaching English or drama, but she ultimately decided on teaching special education.
“I myself am pretty passionate about learning and being a life-long learner, and I think being able to instill that in my students is really exciting to see. Being in special ed does not mean you’re not capable,” Kirkpatrick said. “It just means that somebody has to figure out what makes you click, and help you find the tools you need to succeed that we’re not teaching in other classes.”
Kirkpatrick has been teaching at multiple grade levels for 11 years. Before teaching at Beverly, she taught at schools in Lawndale and Manhattan Beach.
“When I was teaching the lower grades and saw someone learn how to read for the first time on their own, [I would think about how] it’s a magical thing when someone learns how to read, and that carries over into instilling that love of learning,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s just really rewarding.”
Seven of the 11 years Kirkpatrick spent teaching, though, were at Beverly. While teaching special ed, she has fostered relationships with other teachers.
“Within the special education department we share students, strategies and best practices. Sharon is always eager to share and collaborate. She has developed strong relationships with her students and has been a valued member of the team,” special education teacher Molly Peterson said.
All things considered, Kirkpatrick is most reluctant to leave behind her students. Because she is a special ed teacher, Kirkpatrick has the same students for four years until they graduate. Her favorite aspect of teaching her special ed students, though, is watching them graduate and go on to college. Kirkpatrick has had students go to USC, UCLA, Boston College, University of Arizona, University of Bangkok, San Francisco State and various community colleges.
“To see some of my students go on to further their education, it shows that what I’ve been trying to teach has been going through, and that’s exciting,” Kirkpatrick said.
After her many years of teaching, Kirkpatrick realizes that she has learned just as much from her students as they have learned from her. Out of all the things Kirkpatrick feels as if she has learned, the greatest thing is patience.
“A lot of [teaching] is the patience to listen to what the students need and to try different things,” Kirkpatrick said. “Sometimes you have to go through two, three, seven, eight different ways of approaching something or explaining something for a student to get it, but that doesn’t mean you give up. You just keep trying to find another way until you get through.”