Special Education Teacher Named Teacher of the Year

Jennifer Perry Receives Recognition for Outstanding Contributions

February 2016 – Independence High School special education teacher Jennifer Perry was recognized Friday by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) as the 2016 Samuel A. Kirk Teacher of the Year!

This award is given to an Arizona individual or group who have contributed significantly to the education of exceptional individuals through direct student contact in instruction or a training process, said Lisa Aaroe, President-Elect AZ CEC.

“I cannot even begin to count over the 17 years Jen has been a teacher what her sphere of influence has been with how many lives she has touched,” said Wendy Collison, GUHSD Director for Special Education. “The impact Jen makes on students, and the influence she has on peers and colleagues across the district to truly influence system change for people with disabilities, is vast.”

Often seeking learning opportunities to increase her own educational tool box, Perry has concentrated her efforts on inclusive education. This practice allows students with special needs to learn from within mainstream classrooms.

“As a result, in the past five years, every one of Jen’s students has had a more traditional high school career than in years past. Every student has taken one or more classes in the general education setting because of Jen’s high expectations of their skills and abilities, because of Jen’s proactive communication and collaboration with general education teachers, because of Jen’s rapport with families who trust her to keep their child’s holistic education and preparation for life after high school at the forefront of decision-making, and because of the outreach to the student body at large across Independence High School who serve as peer supports in the general education classes as well as provide mentoring supports within Jen’s classrooms,” Collison said.


Her students and their success are at the heart of Perry’s drive, said Nicole Lansing, PT, DPT at Independence.

“As a related service provider in Ms. Perry’s community-based classroom, I have personally witnessed the day-to-day interaction that Ms. Perry and her staff have with students in the learning environment. Ms. Perry has made her classroom an atmosphere of respect for all individuals working and learning in her environment.”

Anita Kratzer, an occupational therapist who has worked with Perry for the last nine years, said there is no one more deserving of this award.

“Ms. Perry is very consistent with student behavior expectations,” she said. “The evidence is in watching an immature freshman grow into a more independent young adult with a new sense of responsibility. She keeps in mind that her students need to be prepared for life after high school and provides the daily experiences they need to become a responsible and more independent adult for success in the community.”

She has a large presence on the Independence campus. Some of her involvement includes serving as a representative for the Glendale Union Education Association, as a member of the GUEA Representative Assembly; annual participation in Unitown, serving on the P3 Committee and serving as the head of delegation for the Special Olympics athletes at the school.

Perry has had an impact not only at Independence but at schools across the nation. She is often sought after to speak at national conferences, where her observations, practices and insights are well-respected and valued.

“She is that rare individual who brings out the best in others, without ever allowing the spotlight to shine on her,” said Estevan Carreon, an IHS teacher and colleague.

Principal Rob Ambrose had these words to say of Perry’s contributions to Independence:

“Jennifer Perry cares deeply for her students and works incredibly hard every day to meet their extremely diverse needs. The challenges that present themselves each day are numerous, yet Ms. Perry cheerfully faces each one and works with each student to overcome obstacles. She cares that the campus has a positive feeling tone and that her fellow teachers are achieving at high levels. She commits time to both of those endeavors. She is an extremely positive and active member of the Independence High School family.”