Throughout the seven-hour school day, the majority of students are spending their time in English, Math, or even History. Senior Gaby Goldman, however, spends four out of her seven periods with the people she loves the most: her Special Education classes.
Goldman began working with the C.E.C. club freshman year and her involvement with the Pathways program has only grown.
“I started working with the Pathways students during my junior year, even though I was involved in the C.E.C club freshmen year,” Goldman said. “This year I’m with the kids for three to four periods every day. Mainly I work with the Pathways students who require one-on-one attention for hands-on activities and lessons. I’m with them during math, art appreciation, integrated PE, and sometimes special occasions — like themed parties or events.”
Goldman’s desire to work with the program stemmed from a boy in her karate class as a kid.
“I wanted to become a special education teacher since working with a boy with autism in my karate class,” Goldman said. “I knew I wanted to become a part of the Pathways program at school.”
Before working closely with the students during her junior year, Goldman knew some of the students from around the school and knew they would be a joy to work with.
“I knew some kids just from walking in the halls,” Goldman said. “They always had such big smiles on their face and were always saying hi to everyone. I knew that I would have so much fun helping out and getting to know them better.”
Goldman’s experience working with the Pathways program has inspired her to pursue a double major in Special Education and Early Childhood Education at Illinois State University next fall.
“I don’t necessarily have a preference for which grade I want to teach yet, but after working with the Pathways students, high school is at the top of my list. My goal as a future teacher is to make sure that my students look forward to coming to school every day and that they feel loved, respected, and accepted,” Goldman said.
Within the classroom, the lively atmosphere has provided Goldman with lifelong memories.
“My favorite part about working with the kids and the faculty is the fact that every day is a completely different day,” Goldman said. “Each day is always filled with amazing memories, endless laughter, and a new appreciation for the amazing teachers who give up so much to ensure that their students get the best education and experience in our school.”
Working with the students has taught Goldman more than any other class — the program has shown her the definition of unconditional love.
“The kids and teachers have taught me so many important things that will benefit me for the rest of my life,” Goldman said. “One of the most important things that I will take after I graduate is how important is it to love others. I’ve learned that love in the classroom means unconditional kindness while also holding the students accountable and maintaining high expectations for them. ”
Senior Amela Duskic also works very closely with Pathways and believes Goldman is an excellent addition to the program.
“Gaby is a phenomenal peer helper,” Duskic said. “We have been working together in the classroom since our junior year. She has the biggest heart and always puts in effort. I personally admire the way she goes above and beyond for the kids; she’s a great influence and has impacted everyone around her.”
Goldman attributes her positive outlook on life to the teachers and students of the program.
“The kids are so positive about everything they do and walk into school each day with a positive attitude and excitement to start the day,” Goldman said. “The kids all feed off our energy, so it’s crucial that we drop all our personal problems before entering the classroom to make sure it’s a great day for everyone. Because of that, I have gotten a new perspective on life and they have helped me focus on the positives of each day instead of the negatives.”
Goldman’s dedication to the program has served as inspiration for others to join. Senior Sammie Simkins started working with the Pathways students too, after seeing Goldman in action.
“Throughout high school, I always wanted to be involved with the Pathways students, but I didn’t know what my first step would be or where I should start. Gaby was the first one who introduced me to everyone. She helped me with whatever questions I had and was there to help me out in every situation,” Simkins said.
Simkins admits that without Goldman or the program, her high school experience wouldn’t have been the same.
“This program is one of my favorite parts of high school,” Simkins said. “I wouldn’t change this experience for the world. If Gaby didn’t bring me into the classroom, I would’ve regretted not doing it. I can proudly say that Gaby is the reason that my high school experience is one to remember and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Working with the program has been more than an experience she’ll cherish for life. The students, teachers, and everything involved with Pathways have provided Goldman with more than any other class — it’s given her a place she can call home.
“I have a new appreciation for everything in life,” Goldman said. “The teachers are really selfless and really center the students in order to make sure that the kids have a good day. The teachers have been so welcoming and have taught me a lot. They’ve truly made their classrooms feel like my second home.”