New Special Ed Teachers Look to Impact Lives

Ms. Morris assists a student in Living Environment.   Photo Credit: Sherry Chen

Ms. Morris assists a student in Living Environment.

Photo Credit: Sherry Chen

By IHTSHAM CHAUDHRY and HONG WEI CHEN

The special education department welcomed several new teachers this year, two of which are Ms. Julissa Morris and Ms. Kiera Graham.

“I love working with kids,” Ms. Morris said. “I really want to help them and be a role model for people who can’t speak for themselves. I want to be involved. I have a younger sister who is a special ed student, and she inspired me to become a special ed teacher.”

“The best part [about teaching] is when students come back and let you know that you really made a difference in their lives,” Ms. Morris said. “You really need to put in extra time and patience.”

During her free time, Ms. Morris likes to paint, knit, and “watch anything that’s on Netflix.” Her interest in painting especially inspires her to bring creativity into the classroom.

“Painting is really therapeutic, and it allows you to relax and be creative,” Ms. Morris said. “You can show your painting to others and they may feel inspired. I love arts and crafts myself; I want to allow my students to be creative and multitalented.”

Her teaching style includes “a lot of visuals,” she said. “I also help students start conversations about things in the real world and relate it to what we’re doing in class. It helps students to see the bigger picture.”

Midwood is also welcoming back another special education teacher, Ms. Graham, who grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and attended Midwood as a student.

“I think it’s really amazing how many things can change about Midwood, but all the core values, and even the smell of the building, can stay the same for all this time,” said Ms. Graham.

Ms. Graham studied psychology at Hunter College then went to LIU Brooklyn, where she majored in Urban Adolescent Education for Students with Disabilities.

“I always had an interest in psychology in general,” Ms. Graham said. “Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be like my professors. I realized that all my professors were teaching something that they loved.”

Before coming to Midwood, Ms. Graham spent two years teaching at Sunset Park High School. 

“I remember the first day in my first year, I gave a tour of my old school to my first students, and I had to give myself a tour first because I was new to the building, too,” Ms. Graham, said smiling.

“I guess students and teachers would describe my demeanor as casual,” she said. “I go up to students and ask them about their day. If I notice they’re not doing something, I’ll jump in and see why they’re not understanding.”

Ms. Graham’s two biggest hobbies are going to concerts and staying organized.

“My favorite band is 21 Pilots,” she said. “I went to see them 22 times.”

“I also really like keeping a planner,” she said. ‘If it’s not written down, I will probably forget about it, so I like to keep track of things. I like stickers and papers and pens. It’s a very ‘teacher’ thing. Even as a kid, I loved going school supply shopping.”


FeaturesCasey Levinson