My name is Kimberly Icard, and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up!

Granted, I’m 31 years old, so one could argue that I am grown up, but I’ve never been someone with a clearly defined path in life. I tend to dabble in various hobbies and community groups, jumping quickly in order to satisfy my short attention span. My interests and participation range from music groups to crochet (I can make one pattern), balloon animals (I can make a snake), baking (I can make blueberry muffins), etc. I’ve never felt like I greatly excelled in anything, but I’m drawn to diversity and creativity.

My husband is a different story. He was certain by the time he was 20 years old that he wanted to be a doctor, so he worked hard, applied himself, and got the job done. When we were in college and traveling home from a friend’s wedding, my husband looked at me and asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I floundered for an answer because I was unsure. I didn’t have a stable interest in any specific field. In college, I double majored in music (my primary instrument is voice) and psychology. I was interested in working in a human services field, and I loved the arts and singing. I was a theater kid who felt most at home with the energy and comradery that came from working creatively with other people. My husband knew this about me, (he is a musician himself), and told me, “Why not become a teacher? That way, it’s like putting on a play for your students every day.” From that moment, I felt something in my heart settle, and the idea of becoming a special education teacher was born.

It wasn’t until I was completing field experience hours in a public school, that I found my niche. I was observing a one-one-one teaching session, and the student kept talking about yellow things: yellow umbrellas (of which I had one), yellow moon-pies, yellow sun, and so on. I had looked briefly at the student’s Individualized Education Plan and found that they had a Primary Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. My mentor teacher talked a bit about how autism truly is a spectrum and notable variation exists between students. She mentioned that every day is different, and you have to be creative in your teaching strategies in order to best serve your students. That grabbed my attention, and I suddenly felt like I had found my place and my people.

The next several years, I taught in different settings in public and private day schools. I joined Minnick Schools in August 2014 as the Elementary Adapted Teacher. In the classroom, we filled our days by celebrating different monthly themes, investigated the world with hands-on learning, and got messy on a daily basis with different experiments. Students excel in learning by using multiple-modality and sensory learning, particularly our students with autism. In the last couple of years, I completed an additional certification and licensure in behavior analysis, and I now serve as a BCBA for Minnick Schools. This position allows me to participate and interact with staff and students in multiple classrooms at our different locations.

I get the privilege of seeing, on a daily basis, how creative our teaching staff are, and the passion and hard work that goes into meeting the needs of all our students. I also see how the spectrum of autism is present in the various stages of learning and gifts our students possess. Each one of our students are creative and different from one another, so our teaching must rise to the occasion. I was once in a conference where the speaker made a statement to the extent that no person is an “expert” in autism because it manifests so differently from person to person that it’s a billion-dollar mystery. In my work, I chose to embrace the mystery and variation every day. I exercise my creative genes to support the needs of our students, and maybe just maybe, I can help them achieve what they want to be when they grow up.