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“Through use of her talent for children, Rebecca has allowed our daughter to step out of the frightening and lonely world of an autistic child into one of friendship and understanding.”

Rebecca works with Kiera Romo at Starline Elementary. Jillian Danielson/Riverscene
Rebecca works with Kiera Romo at Starline Elementary. Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Patience and dedication are traits that most teachers and mentors possess but one Lake Havasu teacher at Starline Elementary is going above and beyond by ensuring children with special needs are understood and have the best possible experience at school.“Being a teacher for children with special needs doesn’t only mean working with just a child but having a constant connection with their families as well,” said Rebecca Pehling, a teacher at Starline Elementary. Pehling began teaching at Starline 20 years ago. She started as a substitute teacher and resource teacher before focusing on special needs classrooms.

Prior to teaching, Pehling worked in a corporate setting and later left the career to focus on caring for her daughter who is a child with special needs.“I was told that my daughter wouldn’t live to be 25 years old and would be a child that had a learning disability,” said Pehling. “I wanted to have more time at home with my daughter so I began substitute teaching.” Pehling says what she wants people to understand about children with special needs is that they are smart individuals and says many misunderstand the way they learn.“Kids with special needs, like autistic kids, think in pictures and look at things from a different angle than most of us do,” said Pehling. We just have to teach them how to process things and guide their learning.”  Pehling said.

Jorge Valdez goes through a compression roller during class. A compression roller is used as sensory integration to strengthen a child's sense of touch, space, and balance.  Jillian Danielson/Riverscene
Jorge Valdez goes through a compression roller during class. A compression roller is used as sensory integration to strengthen a child’s sense of touch, space, and balance. – Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

In order to make children exceed in her classroom Pehling says she never yells at a child and learns to be patient and compassionate.  She says working with the children is really rewarding and challenging all at once but is passionate about what she does.

“When I see a breakthrough and see a child accomplish something, it is so rewarding,” said Pehling. “There are often times a child may not be in the best spirits and I have to learn not to take it personally if a child is frustrated or having a bad day.”

Other special needs staff say not only is Pehling a great teacher she is easy to work with. “We are all like mothers here at Starline and I also have a child with special needs I love that I can help children,” we are all a good team said Jennifer Lee who has worked with Pehling and at Star line Elementary for four years.

“I love working with the kids and Rebecca,” said Elizabeth Bergman who has worked at Star line Elementary for ten years. “Every day is rewarding. Just to see the smiles on their faces is amazing.”

Pehling says the success of the children is a team effort and is fortunate to work with great staff.

“It is an honor to work with these kids and these ladies. We all get along and we are all very caring compassionate people.”

Stephanie Chapin works with Asher Kalauli during class. Jillian Danielson /Riverscene
Stephanie Chapin works with Asher Kalauli during class. Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

When Pehling is not in the classroom, she enjoys playing the piano, reading and taking nature hikes. Her daughter has overcome her obstacles and works as an executive for a major retailer.

Teacher Chris Wickham works with Nathan Hawkins in the classroom. Jillian Danielson/Riverscene
Teacher Chris Wickham works with Nathan Hawkins in the classroom. Jillian Danielson/Riverscene

Do you know someone that would be an exemplary person for RiverScene Magazine to interview and write a story about?

We are looking for nominations for our weekly teacher community spotlight articles. Please use this form to submit your idea to us: Spotlight Nomination Form

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