Elizabeth Loftus, a 2014 graduate of the University of Washington College of Education’s Applied Behavior Analysis Distance Education Program, has been named Northwest ESD 189 Regional Teacher of the Year.
Loftus, one of eight Washington educators to be honored this fall, teaches at Olympic View Elementary in Oak Harbor District.
As a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst who teaches students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), Loftus brings exceptional skills to an expanding population of kids who are seriously at-risk.
Her introduction to special education was in New York, where she taught 7th and 8th graders at a school near a prison. While working with her students, she saw about some of the too common obstacles to learning: poverty, gangs, and abuse. What they learned from her is that somebody cared.
Loftus strives to create community not just in her classroom, but among parents, families and caregivers too because parents of special needs children often feel isolated. Laura Aesoph, principal of Olympic View Elementary, praised her ability to build the kind of trusting and non-adversarial relationships that can be life-changing for both her students and the adults who care for them.
“I come to work, smile, laugh, cry, raise my voice, whisper, share my apples, and talk in silly accents when I teach math,” Loftus said.
Addressing the severe lack of mental health support systems in public schools is a crucial issue, Loftus said. She works with students with autism spectrum disorders, who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or who have been beaten, sexually assaulted, taken into foster care, lost family, or have family in prison.
Loftus said she would like to see “much more funding and … adequate resources to make a real difference.”
Despite the challenges, Loftus shows up every day. She knows she may be the only person in a child’s day who makes sure that he or she feels “special and loved.”
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications