Going global: Mariner teacher speaks in China

Kim Perisho teaches special ed at Mariner HS
Feb 14, 2018
Courtesy of: Kim Perisho Kim Perisho speaking at the Summit of International Inclusive Education in Nanning, Guangxi Province, in China in December with her translator, Echo. Perisho spoke about the benefits of inclusive education and her work at Mariner High School.

If you’ve done something for over 30 years, there’s a chance you’re pretty good at it.

When you’re nominated to speak on your skills and experiences across the world, it’s almost a certainty you’re doing something right.

Kim Perisho is a special education teacher at Mariner High School who has been teaching since 1982.

While living in New Jersey with her husband and children, she also lived with her sister-in-law, who had disabilities.

Perisho said this gave her a lot of insight into working with people with disabilities, and drew her toward special education.  She started  working with special needs students in 2004 at Harbour Pointe Middle School as a paraeducator.

“Seeing the moment where their eyes light up and they get the concept and everything clicks, that’s the best,” Perisho said.

During the Mukilteo School District’s last winter break, she traveled across the world to the Summit of International Inclusive Education in Nanning, Guangxi Province, China. During her weeklong adventure, she spoke on how Mariner High School and the Mukilteo School District benefit from “inclusive education,” or when students with special needs or disabilities are in the same classes and settings as other students.

“I was the only non-Chinese speaker,” Perisho said. “I knew principals from schools in China would be in the audience who may be weary of inclusive education, but I talked about how our teachers at Mariner say they have more inclusive and dynamic classrooms due to it.”

Perisho said a goal of the program at Mariner is to enable students with special needs to be able to find jobs.

“We want them to be employed at least part-time, and we want them to feel confident and to give back,” Perisho said. “Kids in our programs work part-time, and our schools are filled with potential future employers.

“If they understand the abilities of these kinds of kids, they may hire people like them in the future.”

Danxia Liu, a psychologist at Mariner, brought Kate Wong, the organizer of the Summit, to Mariner last year to see the school’s special education program, which led to Perisho being chosen to speak in China during December.

Perisho said there were a lot of speakers at the event, such as the head of basic education for the Guangxi Province, which has over 45 million students.

In Perisho’s opinion, the most noteworthy speaker was a university professor, Dr. Wong, who was born with cerebral palsy.

“They call him the Chinese Stephen Hawking,” Perisho said. “He couldn’t pass college entrance exams because he took the tests too slowly. He finally got an opportunity to take the test with no time limit, and he passed easily, and now he works with micro facial recognition technology. He really had to fight through a lot.”

After speaking at the Summit, Perisho participated in a 3K walk at Quangxi Mountain Park, an event she likened to a Special Olympics event, with college students volunteering their time and pushing the wheelchairs of kids with cerebral palsy.

One of the biggest takeaways from her trip was not being able to communicate normally with others, and how she hopes all students will be able to have a voice.

“The parity was I really had no voice because I didn’t speak Chinese, so I couldn’t contribute fully,” Perisho said. “We need to give students a voice in some form.

“I saw how hard Dr. Wong had to fight to reach his potential. Students are unaware of their potential, and we need to make sure we’re not underestimating them.”

Perisho said she’s still in contact with some people she met in China, giving them advice whenever she can.

“It’s mentally challenging, but lots of fun trying to help them out,” Perisho said. “I want to continue to support them.”

When asked whether she’ll return to China, she said she’s not sure yet.

“It’s funny because Kate keeps saying ‘Next time you come,’” Perisho said laughing. “I guess we’ll see what happens.”


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