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Special Education Teacher Is There for Support Any Way Possible

Being a special education teacher at Pinnacle Academy allows Brittany Zele the opportunity to work more closely with students and their families.

The smaller caseload gives her more of a one-on-one connection than a general education teacher might have. She has toured high schools with students for life after Pinnacle, guiding parents and helping them differentiate which schools can and can’t meet the needs of their child.

Zele and the Resource Room at Pinnacle
Brittany Zele and the Resource Room at Pinnacle Academy.

“I’m just with them all the time, so we become very close,” she said.

Zele has been at Pinnacle Academy for 10 years. She was an academic specialist for kindergarten for one year before working in special education. She has worked with every grade level except for seventh grade and has focused on middle school students the past four years, and credits Dean of Middle School Erin Miko for collaborating over the years.

Zele and Dean Miko
Brittany Zele, left, and Dean of Middle School Erin Miko.

“She’s just done an amazing job with helping me grow my skill,” Zele said. “I love the culture here. I love my caseload. Every year is always a little different, but our relationships remain the same with that.”
In using Kagan strategies, in which students all face each other while engaging and bouncing ideas off each other, Zele has seen students celebrate each other unprompted, giving them a boost in their self-esteem, social skills, and communication skills.

Zele using Kagan monitoring during small group
Brittany Zele uses Kagan monitoring during small group instruction.

“They’re feeling the joy that I get to feel when they’re successful,” she said. “It’s nice to see the roles reverse and I really appreciate that our principal, Katie (Strick), was able to bring Kagan into our school. It’s something that has completely changed my mindset with how I do my small groups. I really encourage everyone to at least try consistently and you’ll start to see the effects of it.”

Zele as the Grinch for story time
Brittany Zele dresses up as the Grinch for story time.

Each behavior breakthrough the students have certainly is worth celebrating, that’s only part of the job. Zele is proud of moving kids out of a deficit designation and into being proficient at Pinnacle, which outperforms the district. It might take a lot of hard work sometimes, but it’s always worth it.

“Brittany pushes students to get to grade level in hopes to exit them off prior to high school,” Strick said. “She has visited high schools with her students on weekends. She is amazing.”

Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Zele!

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About Pinnacle Academy
Pinnacle Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Euclid, Ohio, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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