Jen Pawelski: New Special Education Teacher and Coach


Emily Mendieta

Special Ed teacher and water polo coach Jen Pawelski is ready for the new school year and upcoming season.

By Emily Mendieta, Staff Writer

Walking through the hallway, Jen Pawelski wears a bright smile on her face, ready to conquer her new position at Niles West with immense enthusiasm. As a new special education teacher at Niles West, Niles North, and Niles Central, Pawelski faces a busy day, which she is extremely excited for due to her love for the special ed program.

Pawelski has been at West for two and a half years, starting with her student teaching. After working as a one-on-one aide for a year, she worked as a maternity leave substitute for a special education teacher.

“I was placed at Niles West for student teaching, and once I started student teaching here I knew I just didn’t want to leave. I was hoping for a job, and I’ve been thankful ever since,” Pawelski said.

Her bright personality and strong ambition has left a lasting impression on the faculty and staff in the special ed program at West. Fellow colleague, Laura Bubley admires Pawelski’s personality.

“[She is] amazing, fun, creative, and a joy to be around,” Bubley said.

Majoring in special education at Illinois State University, Pawelski has always known that she wanted to work with kids. Through a shadowing program in her high school, Pawelski was inspired specifically to work with kids with disabilities as a future career.

“When I was in high school I shadowed a nun that worked in the bottom of a church and she took in the children with disabilities and she didn’t have a lot of resources or support, yet she loved the kids so much and put her heart into her work. It inspired me to do the kind of work she does. I always knew I wanted to work with kids, but I didn’t know what kind of kids. Seeing what she did inspired me to work with kids who have disabilities,” Pawelski said.

The biggest challenge Pawelski faces throughout her day is her hectic traveling schedule. Pawelski travels between three different schools each day: Niles West, Niles North, and Niles Central.

“Traveling is my biggest challenge because I go to three schools throughout the day, but I think the more I do it, the more routine I’ll have and it will become a little easier,” Pawelski said.

Although her day may require a lot of driving, the special ed students are well worth it. Pawelski values each moment with her kids and takes pride in their growth.

“I love being with them each and every day – seeing them grow in the classroom and outside of the classroom. It’s exciting to see them learn something they haven’t done before and when certain things click with them. Seeing their growth is one of the biggest things I love,” Pawelski said.

In the classroom, Pawelski likes to instill her own values in her students for everyday life. She encourages her students to give 110% in each activity they do. Pawelski even introduced a new theme in her classroom, called the platinum rule.

“I always try to instill kindness and make sure that they are doing their best each and every day. I’m trying a new rule in my class called the platinum rule. The rule is treating others how you would like to be treated,” Pawelski said.

Another passion of Pawelski’s, besides teaching, is sports. Pawelski has played water polo for five years and has had experience in coaching both water polo and volleyball. She currently coaches girls water polo at Niles West.

Not only do her students with disabilities appreciate her kindness, but so do her water polo players.

“She understands us and knows how to communicate with us in a way we can understand, especially since water polo is such a hard sport,” senior Claudia Kedryna said.

Another activity Pawelski is involved in is the Special Olympics at West, which combines her love for her students with her love for sports.

“I’ve always loved playing sports and coaching. The Special Olympics is the best of both worlds because I get to work with the students with disabilities and help them complete. Seeing them with their victories and helping them at their practices is so rewarding,” Pawelski said.

Jen Pawelski has not taken her time at West for granted and is thankful for her position, doing what she is most passionate about- teaching students. Although she is the teacher, she happily admitted to learning something new from her students every day.

“I’ve learned that the students that I work with teach me a lot more about myself and about life than I teach them. It’s a blessing to be able to work at West with these kids,” Pawelski said.