Q&A with Ashley Kitchen, University of Dayton

The teachers of the future need to be prepared and supported along their educational journeys in order to meet the changing needs of their learners. To aid this mission n2y has developed a University Program that helps professors prepare pre‑service teachers to implement high‑quality instruction in their classrooms. While participants and their students benefit from access to n2y’s evidence‑based resources, we gain valuable first‑hand insights that help us continually improve our solutions. In this Q&A, Professor Ashley Kitchen describes her experiences teaching, guiding, and inspiring pre‑service teachers as they prepare to lead their classrooms.

Ashley Kitchen is a special educator in a K–5 setting in the Beavercreek School District and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Dayton.

Why do you think it is important for pre‑service teachers to be equipped with a Teacher Toolbox?

Preparing pre‑service teachers is a significant task I don’t take lightly. In today’s ever‑changing world, pre‑service teachers need many tools in their metaphorical toolbox in order to enter their first classroom with confidence. Students are stepping into our classrooms with diverse academic, social‑emotional, communication, and functional needs. New special education teachers need to be equipped to educate students with varying abilities while meeting the needs of the whole child.

What types of resources do you think teachers should have in their Teacher Toolbox?

Each classroom presents a constantly changing dynamic. My main goal is to ensure my pre‑service teachers have the tools to address whatever student needs they encounter on a given day. I’m pleased to be able to empower them with the resources I use in my classroom because I know they are effective. For comprehensive academic, life‑skills, and communication support we use Unique Learning System®, SymbolStix PRIME®, and the weekly current events in News2you™. And, especially important in these times, we use Positivity® to support students’ social‑emotional learning, empower self‑regulation, and promote independence.

Teacher Toolbox with Unique Learning System, Positivity, SymbolStix PRIME, and News2you

What do you think makes n2y solutions unique and effective?

Having used these solutions for years in my classroom, I’ve seen firsthand how effective they are. n2y solutions work together to meet the needs of the whole child—from the differentiated, standards‑based instruction in Unique Learning System, to the behavior management in Positivity that keeps the focus on learning, to the enriching resources in News2you, L3 Skills®, and SymbolStix PRIME. I ask all pre‑service teachers who take my college course to research n2y and their solutions because there is so much of value, both in the programs and in the expertise shared in the company’s white papers, blog, and webinars.

They learn the vital role a company like n2y can play in their own lives and in the success of their students. And they see how a company with a student‑centered focus is continually building and improving solutions to meet the changing education landscape. A great example is the groundbreaking IEP development solution, Polaris®, which could dramatically improve the IEP process for my pre‑service teachers when they lead their own classrooms!

Polaris Roadmaps dashboard on a laptop and managing student data in Polaris on a tablet

How do you introduce n2y’s solutions to your pre‑service teachers?

I begin by sharing that as a special education teacher I use n2y’s solutions in my own K–5 classroom! This way, they see the real‑world connection. Once they’ve familiarized themselves with all n2y solutions, I ask them to choose the one that interests them the most and research it in depth by reading scholarly articles and teacher testimonials, watching n2y webinars, and then actually using the solution to build student materials for use in their practices.

Finally, using what they’ve learned, my pre‑service teachers complete an interactive project using their n2y solution of choice. Experiencing the solutions themselves helps them understand the relevance, applications, ideas, and outcomes that result from using them.

What types of materials do you see your pre‑service teachers design for their projects using n2y’s solutions?

They have created and implemented a variety of materials to meet their students’ needs. I ask them to share how their materials have benefited their students. Examples of these include:

  • SymbolStix PRIME picture schedule

    A picture schedule from SymbolStix PRIME

  • Positivity Social Narrative

    A social narrative with visual cues from Positivity

  • News2you Scientist's Pizza Slider Recipe

    A collection of recipes from News2you

  • n2y Library book: Collin's Favorite Shell

    A classroom library developed using the n2y library in Unique Learning System

  • L3 Skills game: On the Farm

    Games in L3 Skills for center time

  • Positivity Break Card Reminder

    A break reminder for a specific student during center time using Positivity

Can you share an example of a lesson that your pre‑service teachers chose to design?

One of my teachers created a token economy using the universal symbol supports found in SymbolStix PRIME. The elementary student this was designed for loves the solar system! With over 90,000 symbols in SymbolStix PRIME, my student was able to easily customize this token economy system to match their student’s interest. And, if Positivity is used in conjunction with SymbolStix PRIME, an online version of this incentive strategy can be implemented.

Positivity Solar System Incentive Chart
SymbolStix PRIME Solar System Token Economy

What do your pre‑service teachers say after using n2y’s solutions?

The majority of the pre‑service teachers who have taken my class report back to me after their first year in the classroom. I often hear that they feel a sense of reassurance knowing that n2y is there as a starting place for them. n2y is where they can go for research‑based strategies, materials, and programs designed to ensure the success of all students.

Keep reading to see what else Ashley’s pre‑service teachers are saying about n2y’s solutions!

I was just recently introduced to the n2y classroom resources and software through my college course, and I have been blown away. SymbolStix Prime is the n2y site that I found to be most useful and applicable to my future classroom. I appreciate that there is an option to pin symbols so they can be easily accessed and placed into the different products like schedules, books, games, flashcards, and much more. I could see this used for all students as a means to differentiate instruction and … [provide] multisensory input in assignment directions and classroom procedures.

Claire Garrett

Student at The University of Dayton

As an aspiring intervention specialist, the ‘My Students,’ feature found within the ‘Teacher Dashboard’ may prove the most beneficial to my future classroom. It [helps] educators … [create] individualized profiles by identifying the motor, vision, hearing, communication, sensory integration, social, and behavioral skills of each student. Once complete, [teachers can] access … instructional strategies differentiated for indicated needs … to increase skill performance.

Madeline Cacchione

Student at The University of Dayton

Positivity is a wonderful way for students and their educators to connect on a new level and it allows for more intentional, student‑centered learning. This behavior management solution … lets students be in charge of their learning and their time in the classroom. I will use Positivity, [to help] establish classroom routines and expectations, assist with self‑regulation skills, and help with students’ overall development inside and outside the classroom.

Hannah Vaive

Student at The University of Dayton

Interested in partnering with n2y through our University Program?

Email us at uppartnership@n2y.com and be sure to include your preferred contact information.

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About the Author
Ashley received her Master of Education from The University of Dayton in Educational Leadership. Currently an intervention specialist serving students with autism and behavioral/emotional needs in kindergarten through fifth grade, she has also served on several State of Ohio Board of Education committees and assisted with piloting OTES, the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System for intervention specialists.