Teacher Tuesday: WSESD’s Kara Albrecht, a voice for kids.

June 30, 2020

Kara Albrecht

Teacher Tuesday: WSESD’s Kara Albrecht, a voice for kids.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Metalworks, a small, family-run company with facilities located in Ludington and Manistee, manufacturing metal office filing systems. Be sure to show your support by liking the Metalworks Facebook page.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Staff Writer.

AMBER TOWNSHIP – After graduating from West Branch High School in 1997, Kara Albrecht, a speech and language pathologist at the West Shore Educational School District, knew she wanted to go into a field to help people. But, it wasn’t until she was at Michigan State University when she discovered the field of speech and language pathology.

“I always knew I wanted to work in a job where I get to help people,” she said. “In college, I discovered the field of speech language pathology and fell in love with it. I discovered a passion in being able to help people communicate with others.”

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science from MSU in 2001, Albrecht then earned a master’s degree in 2003.

Knowing that the field of SLP was so diverse, Albrecht started applying for jobs and landed in the schools.

“I have been working in education for 17 years,” she said. “I worked for Newaygo County Regional Educational Service District with preschool, kindergarten and Early On (birth to 3) for two years. The past 15 years, I have worked at West Shore ESD. I have worked with preschool through age 26 during my time here.”

Many people have misconceptions of the duties of a SLP. More times than not, Albrecht said the speech part of her job is understood, but not so much the language part.

“I think many people have a perception that SLPs only work with articulation,” she said. “You know, the student working on the “R” sound. Yes, that is part of what I do, but it is by no means the main part. In addition to speech impairments, I also work with students who have been diagnosed with language impairments. For example, students may have difficulty processing and understanding questions and directions or difficulty putting their thoughts into words, phrases and sentences. Some students have difficulty organizing and sequencing information. I work with other students who may have difficulty with grammar and word or sentence structure. I also work with students who have other eligibilities, such as students who have autism spectrum disorder, cognitive impairments, early childhood developmental delays. Some students have no words or sounds at all and are learning to use an alternative mode to communicate, such as a core vocabulary board or an augmentative communication device. I also work with kids who stutter to help with strategies to produce fluent speech and students with vocal impairments (hoarseness, pitch, tone, etc.).”

Along with working with children one on one or in groups, Albrecht has other additional jobs that come along with being a SLP.

The duties of a school-based SLP are many,” she said. “In a nutshell, my services are based around the educational needs of the student in the area of communication. This includes conducting evaluations, consulting with parents and teachers, providing therapy for areas of special education eligibility including; articulation, fluency, expressive language, receptive language and voice. I also facilitate IEP (individual educational plans) meetings and other staffings for students.”

Although she wears many hats every day, Albrecht stated that the hands-on experiences are her favorite.

“I love developing relationships with kids and seeing their growth as they work hard to accomplish goals,” she said. “It is a powerful feeling to help a child find their voice and be able to effectively communicate with others. It is also rewarding to develop relationships with teachers and other school staff and to coach them in ways to help students in the classroom. I get excited when I walk into a classroom and a teacher is using a strategy that is benefitting a special education student that we share. At the same time, I enjoy learning about the activities that students are doing in the classroom so that I can make my therapy materials relate to what they are learning in the curriculum. It is certainly a team effort.”

Because she enjoys seeing her students and working with them on a weekly basis, working from home during the pandemic has had its difficult parts, but Albrecht stated that she was encouraged to see how much her students and families stuck with working on their goals.

“It was definitely a challenge working from home during the building closures,” she said. “I had to be very creative to find ways to reach out to my students through technology. I used different ways to connect, such as sending videos or materials through email or regular mail, Zoom, Google Meet, or phone calls. I was impressed with the ways in which parents got involved with the process. I know it was a difficult adjustment for many, but I think we all strengthened some of our virtues such as patience and flexibility.”

Even though the career as a SLP can be difficult at times, it also can be very rewarding, especially when the individual’s goals are being met. Albrecht stated that the schooling may be longer than the average career’s, but it is worth every class you have to take.

My advice to students who may want to be a speech language pathologist is to stick with it,” she said. “You are required to get a master’s degree to be certified, but it is worth it. There is so much variety in this field. You can work in school, hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. You can work with any population from babies to geriatrics. It is a very rewarding career. Think about the significant impact you could have by helping someone find their voice and be able to communicate with others.” 


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