Kathryn VanderZiel is new RVHS special education teacher

Troy Krause
Kathryn VanderZiel is working with special education students at the high-school level in the local school district.

As a special education teacher, Kathryn VanderZiel knows more than the traditional educator that there are good days and bad days for students.

VanderZiel, who is a new special education teacher at Redwood Valley High School this school year, not only serves to meet the academic needs of students but also to help with social and behavior skill development, too.

Having graduated from Edgerton High School in 2012, VanderZiel continued her education at Southwest Minnesota State University where she earned a degree as an academic behavior strategist.

While her degree focused in one particular area her college degree is all encompassing allowing her to work with students in all areas of their education.

Personal experiences in special education led VanderZiel to consider a career in special education, and she thinks because of that she can better relate to the students she is serving.

VanderZiel said she enjoys being a teacher, and getting involved in special education means being able to do things differently than what typically happens in a traditional classroom setting. 

As a special education teacher, VanderZiel said she approaches each student differently, adding it is important to teach them the way that they are thinking.

Prior to moving into her role in special education, VanderZiel filled a different teaching role.

“I taught English to refugees in Utah,” said VanderZiel, adding she worked with people of all ages whose first language was Burmese.

No, she added, when that role began she did not know anything about that language.

That, she said, meant adapting to meet the needs of those she was teaching, and what she discovered is along the way she was learning another language, too. VanderZiel said she believes that teaching role really helped to prepare her for what she is doing now.

During the 2019-20 academic year, VanderZiel spent half of the year teaching special education at the elementary school level at Red Rock Central.

Being that much of that time was spent in the distance learning setting, VanderZiel said she felt it prepared her for what has been happening this year.

Yes, she added, being a special education teach-er in a setting where students are not in school every day presents its own set of challenges.

Yet, she added, the 15 students she works with, primarily in Grades 9-10, are working hard.

The biggest challenge is keeping them on task when they are at home but are not “in class.”

VanderZiel appreciates the special education team she works with at RVHS, adding they work well together and complement each other. VanderZiel said much of her education was in a homeschool setting, so she will often talk with her mom about her role.

“She was very organized. She had to be to work with three teens a first grader and a Kindergartner all at the same time,” she said. “I call her all of the time.”

VanderZiel said she is enjoying her role at RVHS, adding things have been going well.

When she is not in class or doing paperwork, VanderZiel likes to spend her time reading and being with her family.