The newest edition to the Practical Academics and Community Experience (PACE) program at Malden High School, Rachel Hanlon is already getting comfortable in her new position. Coming previously from the New England Center for Children in Southborough, where she worked for three years, Hanlon explained “there is a lot [she has] not seen.”

Hanlon works in the post-secondary education section of the PACE program, a section where students who have already graduated high school continue to receive special education services. Federal law allows it so students can acquire the same services until age 22, so the curriculum is not the same. Her students are taught more functional skills; skills for finding a job and taking care of themselves later on in life. Hanlon commented that her students “[are] great, they are awesome,” even though she is still getting to know them. She praises them for always being excited to come to school and learn, and expressed that they “make [her] day fun!”

Since third grade, Hanlon knew she wanted to be a teacher, but she said that special education “was not where [she] ever pictured [herself].” As a student, she was “involved in every activity [she] could be;” she took up soccer, theater, dancing, basketball, cheering, and was an active member of her church group, to name a few things. Her education eventually led her to Smith College where she majored in comparative literature with a minor of elementary education. Hanlon then attended Simmons College for her graduate degree in special education.

Teaching in the PACE program requires that teachers take a more unconventional approach to lesson plans, and Hanlon is no exception to that rule. She stated that it takes “a lot of prep…you constantly have to be on your toes.” Since the PACE program deals with individual needs, it is “difficult for a full class plan…what works for one student may not work for another student,” Hanlon stated. But teaching does have its rewarding moments. Her favorite part of teaching (especially in the PACE program) is “when you get that moment where a student is struggling, and it finally clicks for them.”

Outside of the classroom, Hanlon still finds time to enjoy her personal interests. She enjoys theater and still makes time for it in her life, and also enjoys travelling. She studied abroad while in college, journeying to France. “[The trip] really put the travel bug in [her].” After graduating from college, Hanlon found her way to Malden from her home in northwestern Connecticut, and began to teach at MHS. Although the PACE program “poses different challenges than a typical classroom,” Hanlon stays calm and confident, and will make a great addition to the staff team at MHS.

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