Duncan Guild goes above and beyond making the students in his classroom feel loved, appreciated and engaged.
For the past 30 years, Guild has taught special needs preschool students in Jefferson County. The past decade, he has taught at Columbine Area Preschool in Littleton.
"He is an expert at building trust with children who find that very difficult to accept," School Director, Kelly Kennelly, said.
The students in Guild's classroom have sensory systems that are unique and require extra attention. The class I visited consisted of a little girl with Rett Syndrome and four boys who are autistic.
"With a lot of our children, the visual sense is one of their strongest senses. Their auditory may not be quite as strong. The whole connection of their brain to their output of their language may need a lot of support," Guild explained.
Guild works hard to engage the children.
"If something doesn't have meaning for a child, they are going to lose interest. I will introduce something that is high interest, that I know they're going to like that will keep their attention. I add music, laughter and fun. They can pick up on it if we're having fun," he said.
Guild goes from one topic to the next. The children may finish up reading picture books to start "circle time." That is when Guild will read a book to the children or lead them in a song, prompting them to help him tell the story.
"We like to focus on the situations when the kids have to use pragmatic language. Some of our children will start to use language but are speaking out or reporting. They don't focus on people so we have the kids focus on a person, call their name, touch their shoulder," Guild said.
If a child points, for example, to a ball and says simply "ball." Guild will lead them to state what it is they want with the ball.
The kids understand what he wants and will say "I want the red ball." The "I did it" reaction among the children screams confidence.
Guild credits the other teachers and therapists at Columbine Area Preschool in helping the learning process come together.
They are equally as appreciative of him. One of them said Guild's classroom is "a haven for children who journey though childhood without language, social skills or special friendships."
One family that nominated Guild for the "9 Teachers Who Care" award says because of his guidance, their son can deal with classroom situations, has friends, can use seven-plus word phrases to communicate and can sit for extended periods and focus on a meal or playtime.
"Duncan Guild has changed our lives and the lives of many other families with special needs children," Maggie Scena said.
Guild readily admits the impact on him is just as great.
"We all, as a staff, change their lives, but there is no doubt about it, they change our lives. What they have brought out in me makes me feel so good," Guild said.
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