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Shaler Area educator named Teacher of the Year semifinalist

| Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 2:18 p.m.
Julia Igims
Julia Igims

Shaler Area School District teacher Julia Igims is a Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year semifinalist.

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the National State Teachers of the Year, with the Pennsylvania Department of Education's guidance, has chosen the Marzolf Primary School teacher to advance to the next round of the selection process.

Igims has taught within the district for 20 years and currently teaches in an intensive support classroom. Her students may require “positive behavior development, social skills, functional life skills, sensory supports, language development and academic skill acquisition,” she said.

“I've been very fortunate to have been working with children on the autism spectrum since I began my career 20 years ago,” she said. “I've been blessed to evolve and change along with the autism population and adjust my pedagogical styles, accordingly.”

During her first year at Shaler Area, she taught fifth grade learning support.

A 1993 Shaler Area alumna, Igims earned her bachelor's in elementary education and special education from Slippery Rock University in 1997. She returned to the university to receive her master's in special education with autism certificate.

Her background led her and April Ford, special education teacher at The Watson Institute, to the co-creation of the Harbor Protective Sleeve, sold exclusively through TFH Special Needs Toys. The sleeves are made of durable foam, moisture-wicking fabric and have adjustable tabs. They are designed for individuals “who may exhibit sensory-seeking, self-injurious or aggressive behaviors, as well as their caregivers.” Igims said that she and Ford hope the sleeves are used in homes, schools and therapy settings, but also by nurses and patients who may require added supports in senior care facilities.

Igims said that she has known since childhood that she wanted to teach.

“Both of my parents were educators, so I grew up surrounded by teachers' manuals, activity pages and a large-sized homemade chalkboard that my grandpa made. Most often, my childhood ‘invisible' classroom consisted of elementary-aged children, which helped shape my love for this age group.”

She requests that people consider getting to know children with special needs.

“Practicing kindness and demonstrating acceptance in places like the mall, the local swimming pool or area playgrounds may mean so much to our children and our families.”

She lives in Avonworth with her husband, Jeff, a physical education teacher and fellow Shaler Area graduate. She has four children, ranging from 8 to 18 years old.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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