Kate Petrusnek is a senior at Auburn University majoring in special education.
“I knew I wanted to stay close to home and that I wanted to go to a bigger school. I was deciding between Ole Miss and Auburn, and it wasn’t until I attended the Auburn vs. LSU game in 2008 that everything clicked. I was in the stadium and just knew that I would be really happy at Auburn University.
Petrusnek came to Auburn knowing that she wanted to be an education major.
“I knew that Auburn had a good education program and have always wanted to be a teacher,” said Petrusnek.
Petrusnek was in elementary education until her junior year of college where she then switched into special education.
“ I realized I did better when working individually with students and that it was a strength of mine. I realized that I enjoyed working more with students that had challenges when it came to learning and school,” said Petrusnek.
When Kate was younger she volunteered at Mitchell’s Place, a school for autistic kids.
Everything fell into place for Petrusnek her junior year at Auburn.
“I knew around then that special education fit my personality better than elementary education and that it was what I needed to be doing with my time,” said Petrusnek.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday Petrusnek works with 8th and 9th graders at Auburn Junior High.
There are usually around six to eight kids in her class.
“During a period we will work on makeup work, homework, tests and quizzes. The hardest thing is definitely their age because they are adolescents and it is hard to get them to respect me,” said Petrusnek.
Kate has been working at Auburn Junior High since August.
She mainly works with children that have specific learning disorders or attention deficit disorders.
“I have formed relationships with each student and cannot imagine doing anything else with my time at Auburn University,” said Petrusnek.
Ms. Pennisi is Petrusnek’s cooperating teacher who she has learned the most from.
Pennisi has been teaching for over 20 years.
“I am learning from her day to day experiences. One of the main things I am learning through her is effective parent teacher relationships. Our goal is to work to make sure each child receives the proper education they deserve,” said Petrusnek.
This past summer as apart of Petrusnek’s requirement for Auburn University, she facilitated lessons at Drake Middle School.
“The first day I was really overwhelmed because it was my first experience teaching students with severe disabilities,” said Petrusnek.
Petrusnek quickly realized that every day was a new day no matter what had happened the day before.
The students had a different outlook on life, which constantly reminded Petrusnek how special the little things in life truly are.
“Each day I was relieved of any stress I had coming into Drake Middle School. They took me away from the world around me and showed me how important the little tings in life are,” said Petrusnek.
Petrusnek believes that Auburn University has an extremely strong special education program.
“The teachers are very passionate about their work and the courses that they teach. Practicum is extremely demanding, but it gets you ready for what life as a teacher really is like,” said Petrusnek.
Overall, Petrusnek feels that nowhere else would have prepared her better for the future than Auburn University has.