Sandy High teacher focuses on job skills, creating daily routines for students

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Laura Moyer has worked with special needs children for more than 20 years. Around the time most people are looking ahead to retirement, Laura Moyer took on a whole new career — as a special education teacher.

The Gresham native first caught the teaching bug while working with special needs children at her children's private school. After 11 years, Moyer found herself called to pursue a master's degree in teaching from Portland State University.

She's now been working at Sandy High School for nearly 18 years, six of them as an educational assistant and 12 running her own classroom.

"My experience at Good Shepherd, working with kids with disabilities, led me in this direction," she said. "I thought I found an area that was good for me."

Since Moyer teaches students with learning and development disabilities, her curriculum is somewhat different than that used in a traditional classroom.

"We do academics, but they're more functional academics. It's more practical things," she noted.

In Moyer's classroom, students learn job skills and how to interact and adapt to life after school. Each student is assigned a job or task to complete on a regular basis, such as taking out the recycling.

"I try to teach them how to be independent in that job," Moyer noted. "So I teach them a routine ... not just so they're doing the recycling or cleaning the commons, but they have some real-life job skills. A focus is to get them to be independent in any routines they have during the day."

Though she is in a self-contained classroom, Moyer still has plenty of help during the day.

"The staff I work with is amazing," she explained. Those who aid in her classroom regularly include: Pam McCormick, Jay Marsh and Jennifer Gaines.

Besides her colleagues, Moyer noted that the largest reward of her job is "seeing the kids make progress."

Moyer said when she started teaching "I didn't even feel like it was a job," and that sentiment still rings true.

"I get to show up, hang out with these really great kids, and go home," she added. "The kids are fun. I enjoy being around them and helping them figure out what their strengths are."

When she's not in the classroom, Moyer likes to run, garden, read and spend time with her grandchildren.

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