RSD Team Spotlight – Kate Barker

Kate Barker

Special Education Teacher, Transition Center, Edwin Brown Education Center

Kate has been awarded Outstanding Teacher of the Year 2015 by Oregon Association of Vocational Special Needs Personnel!  She will be honored during their annual conference in Hood River on February 20th!

How long have you been working for RSD and what did you do before coming here?

I have been a special education teacher in the Redmond School District for 20 years.  I started at RHS as the case manager of both the Independent Living Skills (ILS) and transition students.  After five years I moved into a community based location in downtown Redmond with the transition students and we opened the “Heart In Hand” gift shop.  Since then we have moved in and out of the Manzanita Building and into our current home at Edwin Brown Education Center.

What do you enjoy most or find most rewarding about your role?

I love working with special needs students!  They are my soul food.  I am grateful on a daily basis that I have a job that I am passionate about and have the opportunity to work with these amazing young adults every day!

What made you decide to work in education as a profession?

When I was in high school we had a child development class and had a preschool.  I loved working with the kids and received a scholarship for the early intervention program at the University of Idaho.  During my freshman year, I had an internship working with a special needs little boy and was hooked!  I changed my major to Special Education the next year.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your experience working for Redmond School District?

I love living in Central Oregon.  I am married and have two adult children and three big dogs!  I love the outdoors, camping, hiking, and enjoying all the beautiful lakes and rivers that Oregon has to offer.

I have truly loved working for the Redmond School District.  The administration has always been supportive of the Transition Program, they have helped me to develop a state-of-the-art transition center.  I feel fortunate to have worked with an incredible support staff for the past 20 years, I could not do this without them.

The Redmond Business Community has opened their arms and doors to provide invaluable community work experiences for my students.  The agencies in this community; ESD Specialists, Developmental Disability Case Managers, Full Access Case Managers, Vocational Rehabilitation Case Managers, The Opportunity Foundation of Central Oregon, Abilitree, COIC, COCC, Cascade East Transit, Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority and Senior and Disabled Services, have been wonderful partners and members of each student’s IEP team providing support to help the Transition students achieve their goals.

I have also been blessed and supported by many parents, families and care givers who are great advocates and team members for my students.

Mark Keel, Program Director of Edwin Brown Education Center, shares this about Kate…

“Kate’s excitement and passion for her students in the Transition Program make it appear as if this isn’t just a job to her, it’s a calling.  Kate is relentless in her advocacy on behalf of students with disabilities.  She consistently goes above and beyond the call to ensure her students have the skills, training, and education to live as independently as possible.  Kate’s laugh is infectious, when she laughs (which is often), we all laugh, and it really lifts the mood of the entire building.”

Martha Hinman, Executive Director of Student Services, also shares,

“Kate’s compassion for students with a significant impact of a disability and who are transitioning into adulthood is humbling. She meets each student where they are and helps them to navigate an often confusing and challenging process and system.  Kate’s smile and her sense of humor are two strong character traits that help her build immediate and long lasting relationships with her students. The Redmond School District and the students in the Transition Program are very lucky to have Kate’s skills, knowledge, and expertise.” 

Thank you, Kate, for your compassion for our students! And congratulations on being selected the 2015 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by OAVSNP!