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Connection Before Perfection

Special Education Teacher Builds Relationships to Promote Success

Teacher Kori Jones smiles in her classroom.

In recognition of National Special Education Day on December 2, MUSD’s Community Relations and Engagement team interviewed Kori Jones, an elementary special education teacher. Ms. Jones was recommended by Director of Special Education Dr. Jody Burriss who said “She is always positive, connects with all students, and holds students to high standards. She is a ray of sunshine.”

For Kori Jones, a mild/moderate special education teacher at August Knodt Elementary School, building relationships with her students is the key to their success. “Connection before perfection” is her guiding mantra, acknowledging that students will perform better in the classroom when they feel a sense of belonging. “My kids thrive when they feel they can come and talk to me,” explained Ms. Jones.

When Ms. Jones started at the University of the Pacific, teaching special education was not where she saw herself. Originally a biochemistry major with her eyes set on a STEM career, Ms. Jones changed directions after she and a classmate co-founded a student mentoring program. “It was my first dive into curriculum, and I loved it,” said recalled. “I loved the process of creating curriculum and being in the classroom.”

A Stockton native, Ms. Jones spent her first couple of years teaching general education at a Stockton charter school, where she became very familiar with the needs of students with disabilities after taking on the role of 504 Plan** Manager. It was also at this school where she met Justin*, the student who inspired her to focus on Special Education.

“During my second year of teaching second grade, I had a couple of kids who needed extra help, but the school I was at did not offer the supports we needed,” said Jones. Despite her advocacy, the school did not have a special education program and could not accommodate the students.  “That’s why I left. I wanted to work for a school that could meet the needs of ALL students.”

Ms. Jones is now serving the Weston Ranch community where she lives. “It felt like I was coming into a gold mine,” she said when thinking back on her move to August Knodt. “You have to learn the ropes, because going from general education to special education is difficult. I’m lucky to have a school that is very supportive with an excellent school psychologist and seasoned special education teachers.”

*Name changed to respect student’s privacy

**A 504 plan is a written document that outlines accommodations and support services for students with disabilities to ensure they have equal access to education.

  • August Knodt Elementary