New teacher already familiar with her students

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Cassidy Harrington is a new face in the Kingsland facility now that school is underway, but she has already become acquainted with many of her special education students over the summer.

The new Kingsland teacher is starting up a new self-contained early childhood special education (ECSE) classroom this year in the Kingsland Elementary School building in the morning. Then in the afternoons, she is the district’s birth to 2-year-old services teacher, providing services within homes to children that need help before they are of school age.

She chose ECSE as a career because she loves special education, she said, and she loves working with younger students.

“Put those two together, and I had my perfect job that I was looking for,” she said. “I have always wanted to be a teacher.  I was one of the people my senior year that knew what I was going to school for and stuck with it for that four years.  I worked with kids starting at the age of 13 and just fell in love with it more and more, the more that I worked with kids.  When I started my senior year of high school and completed my senior project in LeRoy’s CARDS Program, I found my passion for special education, and it truly took off from there.” 

Harrington graduated from LeRoy-Ostrander High School in May 2015, then graduated in May from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, studying elementary education, special education and early childhood education. This is her first year of teaching, although she did her student teaching placements in New Hampton, Iowa, and Honolulu, Hawaii, with each placement lasting two months. 

“I grew up not far from town, and all my family and friends are from the area, so when I was presented with the job opportunity at Kingsland, I jumped at it,” she said. “It was also an amazing opportunity to be able to help start the program from scratch.  I am looking forward to the family feeling of being at Kingsland.  Everyone has already been so amazing and welcoming.” 

She’s already acquainted with the majority of her students since she worked with almost all her students over the summer during summer school. Last week, she was anxiously waiting for them to start in her program.

“When it comes to the kiddos that come into my program, it is super important for them to learn about routines, how to be independent within the classroom, along with the academics that other preschool programs incorporate, such as reading and math,” Harrington said. “Right now, I am pretty focused on making sure my birth to 2- and 3- and 5-year-old kiddos are taken care of, as well as making sure this program is implemented, and learning everything that I need to along the way.  If something comes up during the school year that there is a position for, I would definitely help out. 

“I am so excited to make connections with all of the teachers that I am going to be working with, as well as help my students to succeed and watch them grow as the school year passes.  I hope that I can help my students to grow and move forward to a point in which they can be independent.  I also want the program to feel like a home that students come to each morning, and one that they look forward to coming to.” 

She cited that there are some challenges ahead, but none that will be insurmountable.  Since she went to college in Iowa, she became used to the paperwork that Iowa required for special education teachers.  Minnesota is completely different, she explained, so this summer has had a learning curve for her.  However, she said she has “amazing mentors that are helping me to succeed in this area.  It’ll be a great year, and I can’t wait to see what amazing things come out of this year.” 

Harrington said she is pleased to live in the Kingsland school district. She and her significant other, Riley Westphal, bought a house in Spring Valley over the summer after she accepted the position at the elementary school.  They have a dog, Cesar, and a chinchilla, Delilah.  Her parents – Chad and Camri Harrington – own a small lawn and garden business outside of town, and her brother is at college completing his degree to work at that business as well. 

“They have all been super supportive throughout my college career, as well as helping me to get my program set up,” she added. “I love spending time with my family, I’m very much so a homebody since we bought a house.  There are always projects to do and make it our own as time passes, and I love going about doing those projects when I have time.  I also love being outdoors – hiking, biking, going on walks with my dog – so I try to do that as much as possible, too.”