Kellie Katelman may not be sitting at the front of the classroom with an apple on her desk, but she’s definitely teaching this quarter. Her setting is a second-floor office in Vodec’s Omaha development center, and some of her students are learning from their homes across the metro via their laptops.
Kellie began her new duties as a special education teacher at Vodec Sept. 10. Her classes are part of the Omaha Public Schools (OPS) Transition Program, which offers a variety of individualized services for secondary students with disabilities age 18 to 21, including vocational development, independent living skills, community participation, recreation and leisure, and post-secondary education or training. OPS transition students have either received their high school certificate of completion or have not yet received their diploma.
An Omaha native, Kellie graduated from Chadron State College in 2014 with a B.S. in Mild/Moderate Special Education K-12. She taught at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and for the K-12 school system in Oelrichs, South Dakota, before returning to Omaha to be closer to family. After three years of teaching at Omaha’s NOVA Treatment Community, she saw the opening at Vodec and told herself she needed to pursue it.
“I went into special education with the hope of being able to make a difference in kids’ lives,” Kellie said. “I was fortunate to work in a life skills house while I was in college, and I fell in love with it. Vodec really allows me to work with individuals with disabilities and teach those life skills they need to be successful in the workplace.”
This quarter, her class curriculum is focused on careers. Students spend the first part of the session working on a repetitive task supported by verbal and visual encouragement from Kellie. They then explore potential careers where the work tasks are used.
A large bookshelf in the Vodec teacher’s office is neatly stacked with bags of lesson plans. Each bag contains all the material needed to execute an individual plan.
A recent session focused on becoming a chef. The repetitive work task was counting – a must if you’re going to be successful at cooking – so she prepared a “to go” bag for each student that included a counting board and a series of unique items to count. The bags were dropped off at OPS for distribution to the students’ homes prior to the session.
“I plan for a career to take about three days to discuss and show videos on,” Kellie said. She also prints a series of photos related to the topic that serve as visual aids. “I talk about what a person in that career field wears, what tools/machines they use, if they have to work as a team and where they can be found in the community,” she noted.
Vodec Services Development Director Daryn Richardson said Vodec has been working with the OPS Transition Program for almost 20 years. “We love the compassion and innovative problem solving they bring to the table,” he noted.
After a month of teaching in her new environment, Kellie said she’s thankful for how accommodating her colleagues have been. “If I have a question or need to find something, I know I can always rely on Beth (Joslin), Micky (Jackson), Trish (Sheffield) or anyone I come across in the building,” she said.
If Kellie’s students have a question or need something, they know she’ll be just as accommodating.
For more information about student services at Vodec, contact Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KELLY’S VODEC WISH LIST:
- Extra grocery bags, which she uses to package the materials being sent home to her students.