Educator Spotlight: ESD’s Stephanie Hart. 

February 14, 2022

Stephanie Hart

Educator Spotlight: ESD’s Stephanie Hart. 

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Educator Spotlight is a presentation of is a presentation of Smith & Eddy Insurance, with offices in Scottville and Manistee, offering discounts for MEA members and school employees.

AMBER TOWNSHIP – The West Shore Educational Service District has served hundreds of students over the years for many different purposes, one of those being for speech and language services. Stephanie Hart, a speech and language pathologist (SPL) for the ESD has been working in the field for 15 years, with the last six being with the WSESD.

She graduated in 2001 from Anchor Bay High School in New Baltimore and earned a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders in 2004 from Central Michigan University. She then attended graduate school at Eastern Michigan University, earning a master’s degree in speech-language pathology in 2007.

Before moving to Ludington, Hart and her family lived in Virginia, where she started her career as a SLP.

“I worked as a speech-language pathologist in Fairfax County Public Schools in Alexandria, Virginia for nine years,” she said. “While working for FCPS, I serviced students in grades seven through 12th. I had a unique opportunity to collaborate with over 200 speech-language pathologists that were serving students in Fairfax County. I held various leadership positions in the Fairfax Speech-Language Pathologists Association.”

Many may think that SLPs work with children who have speech impairments, but there is a lot more to the job than just helping students speak clearly.

“An SLP does far more than just work with speech sound errors; we help students with receptive and expressive language skills, speech fluency, voice disorders, social language skills, and play,” Hart said. “We are a vital member of the multidisciplinary team and student support teams so that all students can succeed. While working for the ESD, I have had the opportunity to serve students in preschool through age 26. In addition to my work as a speech-language pathologist I have been able to partner with Betsy Dotson, the literacy coach and coordinator for West Shore ESD, on building a connection between phonograms and articulation.”

Hart said she knew she always wanted to have a career that involved children. During her time in high school, seeing what her mom did for a living sort of helped her really realize that a career with children is where she was meant to be.

“I think that I always knew that I wanted to be an educator,” she said. “At an early age, I enjoyed working with young children. In high school, I was able to shadow my mom, who was a job coach for adults with autism and I had the calling to work with students that have special needs.”

Like most educators, connecting with students play a huge role in Hart’s daily work and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love working with students,” she said. “It is amazing to see students grow and develop their communication abilities. Our scope of practice is large and includes a variety of communication impairments that I get to work with each day. I would consider myself to be a lifelong learner and I enjoy learning about the best practices in our field. It is gratifying to see students generalizing their skills that are taught in the small groups into the classroom or playground settings.”

Currently, there are many jobs for those looking to become an SLP and schools across the country are hiring more and more. Hart stated that those looking to go into the field should take a moment and talk to a SLP to see what the career entails to get a better idea of everything they actually do from day to day.

“It is a great opportunity to hone in your altruistic values,” she said. “There are many rewards that come with a career in education. I encourage high school students to reach out to the SLPs in their districts to learn more about the profession and I encourage college students pursuing careers in education to join their professional organizations on campus to begin networking.”

Working with students has and always will be Hart’s favorite part of her job, but she also stated that it’s not just making those relationships, but it’s also about seeing growth in her students.

“I have the responsibility to support students as they become confident communicators, helping them find their voice to share their thoughts, ideas, and needs in the classroom,” she said. “In my position, it is important that I collaborate with classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, other ancillary staff members, special education staff, and administrators to best meet the individual needs of all students.”

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