Recently, Challenge Prep's Executive Director of Communications, Kim Messer spoke to our new Special Education Liaison, Natalie Zadok to discuss her role, history in education, and what Natalie likes to do in her free time.
Messer: Why did you decide to become a Special Education Teacher?
Zadok: I got my start in fashion and merchandising. After the birth of my first daughter, I became interested in education. She had some speech and developmental delays, and so I went back to get my Masters in Special Education and Psychology for Birth-2nd grade. I didn’t use my new degree immediately, but after having two more children, I was ready to go back to work.
Messer: What is your history of teaching?
Zadok: I started at private schools. Then I was a team leader at the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School, and I got to start at the ground level and develop the curriculum. It was definitely a challenge working with Special Ed students who were also learning a second language. After about five years, I started helping families as a SETTS provider through an agency. I loved visiting homes and doing one-on-one consultations, so I started my own agency so that I could do even more by contracting my own providers.
Messer: What made you want to get back to a more traditional school structure?
Zadok: After some time, I wanted to be back in a bigger environment. I was attracted to the culture of Challenge Prep. The the vision of rebuilding the Rockaways, the focus on community, all spoke to me. My heart is about building through hard times, and I find this is a great place to use my experience.
Messer: What is your biggest goal for the scholars you work with at Challenge Prep?
Zadok: My biggest challenge with my role is helping parents understand Special Ed. I want them to know, this isn’t a stigma. There are misconceptions about Special Ed. Some people think, “This is not what my child needs.” It’s really about getting parents on board with their scholars. Through our staff, we can help scholars show their parents how the services help them achieve more than they would on their own.
My fashion experience actually helps me do my work here. In that world, you make clothes for the masses, but you have people who need a custom couture dress, and that’s how I think about the scholars--some need a special fit. I want to get to their level, and then make it accessible for the teachers. I’ve only been here for a few months, but more and more they are coming in now that they know I’m available to help them.
Messer: What would you want a parent considering Challenge Prep to know about the Special Education services we provide for K-5 students?
Zadok: I want parents to know they are in charge. They are the owners and the drivers on this journey. I say, “Parents, let your voice be heard.” And a new parent applying to Challenge Prep should let us know if their child has an IEP. Some parents don’t know that an IEP is valid no matter what school their child is attending.
And on our side, we seek to find the least restrictive, most inclusive environment for a scholar. We want to keep them in the classroom. We aren’t a Special Ed school, but we have the tools to get most scholars what they need. I’m going to be an advocate for our scholars. There’s not one fit for every Special Ed student; it’s complicated with a lot of dynamic pieces, but I want to do all I can to get the services they need.
Messer: What is one thing people might be surprised to know about you?
Zadok: I’m an avid kick-boxer. I come across as a mild-mannered person so that might be a surprise. I also love to ride horses. I’m trying to be more outdoorsy with my kids.