Surprise Squad honors LPVEC teacher helping special needs students

This month, we surprised one teacher who has been making a difference in those students lives for over a decade (Sponsored by the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers)
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2023 at 5:11 PM EDT
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(WGGB/WSHM) - School is back in session in just a few days for many, but some students and faculty worked hard all summer long. Our Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad stopped by the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative to check out a special education program that works with students with severe disabilities and, this month, we surprised one teacher who has been making a difference in those students lives for over a decade.

The nomination email indicated that “She specializes in autism with severe disabilities. Kim is one of the hardest working people I know often work long into the night while everyone else is heading to bed...She is truly one of the special people that are always giving.”

It was surprise to remember for the kids, parents, and staff who came out to show their love for one of Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative’s best.

Kim Markham was visibly emotional as she was met with more surprises thanks to the Hyundai dealers.

“Congratulations. Thank you for everything you do,” said Gary Rome, president of Gary Rome Hyundai.

“On behalf of the Hyundai dealers, we have a check for you for $500 to do whatever you want to enjoy the summer,” said Brian Houser, general manager of Balise Hyundai.

“…And we are also donating $500 to LPVEC in your name,” added Mike Paquette, general sales manager at Country Hyundai.

“Wow, this is wow,” Markham said.

Markham originally went to school to be a physical therapist, but after 10 years of that, she had a change of heart and made the decision to pursue special education.

“Since college, my undergrad, I have always been into education, so this is where I ended up and I’ve only taught here at LPVEC, even my student teaching. I’ve never been anywhere else, so it’s a lot about the school,” Markham noted.

While there are some challenges doing this kind of work, she loves seeing the strides her students make.

“They are funny. They always have something new to say and do. Keep us on our toes,” Markham explained.

Markham told us her dedication to her work over the past 13 years isn’t about the recognition. She comes in each and every day with a smile on her face thanks to the team of support.

“We are so close. We are very tight with our families. We have a lot of communication. I have had a lot of these students since they were in third, fourth, fifth grade, and now they are going into 12th. We service them until [age] 22. I have a lot of communication with our parents and to share their kids with me every day. It’s just really special,” Markham noted.

Some of Markham’s fellow teachers, who nominated her for the Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad, credit her for their passion and careers in special education.

“She’s a wonderful mentor. She had told me that I can keep going when the days get frustrating. She’s here for all the kids. She puts 110 percent in every day of her life. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Kristen Lavalley.

Lavalley said Markham prompted her to go into teaching and now, the two are co-teachers. She credits her success to Markham and said she is not only a teacher for the kids, but also for the staff.

“The kids, when they make strides in life and their parents thank you and it is just very rewarding to see them make it in every step and if it wasn’t for Kim, they would not be making all those strives because she teaches us every step of the way,” Lavalley explained.

It was a sentiment that Sarah Allen echoed.

“She definitely has a lot of confidence, but also, just a lot of knowledge. She literally taught me everything I know. I went through a master’s program after I met her and through her encouragement, but nothing could’ve taught me the way that she did,” Allen said.

Allen had Markham as her supervisor when she was a student-teacher and told us that Markham has not only been a mentor for her, but for the kids they teach as well.

“Everyone here shows up and that is what she has in stilton us from the very beginning. She has always been, the most important thing to her is that every one of our kids, even though they have a lot of complex challenges, that they are treated with respect and that they have dignity at all times,” Allen explained.

The Hyundai dealers were thrilled to be able to give back to Markham for the difference she’s making in our community.

“Kim, the amount of patience and having such dedication for these kids. These kids are definitely a challenge and it’s great that there are people in the society that step up to the plate and take care of these youngsters, and take care of them throughout,” Houser said.

“I am very grateful that we had the opportunity to recognize someone who is as special as Kimberly and what she does every single day, so it is really, really important,” Rome added.

“It was absolutely awesome. It was a pleasure to be here and honor her. Someone who comes to work every day in and day out to celebrate the kids and be here for them,” Paquette said.

However, for Markham, it’s all about those that support her in and out of the classroom, especially when things get challenging.

“It’s not all smiles know. A few key players here to get me through the day and I have my family at home. I have two boys. They are great and they distract me as young boys do,” Markham said.

Segment sponsored by the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers