Tiffany Massie named CRI's Teacher of the Year
 Tiffany Massie, Canyon Ridge Intermediate's Teacher of the Year, works with student Kaiden Welch on matching. 


Many of Tiffany Massie's students at Canyon Ridge Intermediate struggle with basic skills the majority of the other students take for granted. They may suffer from severe cognitive or physical disabilities. Walking may be a struggle. Others are completely nonverbal.

The world may see everything these students cannot do on their own. Massie, who was named CRI's Teacher of the Year, sees nothing but their potential. Every achievement, no matter how small, is celebrated. She can't talk about what her students mean to her without crying.

"I see what's in them and it's up to me to try to get it out of them," she said. "Everyone has knowledge inside of them but not everyone can get it out."

Massie started her career in speech pathology. She worked three years in Cache, Oklahoma as a speech teacher. She couldn't shake the idea that there were many students who needed help with speech all day. She gravitated to the children with the most profound disabilities.

"When I was at Cache and I moved from speech to the severe profound classroom, it was liberating to me," she said. "I started with 76 kids. I went to six different facilities doing speech and then I went to teaching eight kids. I knew I could impact those eight kids significantly. It was an 'ah-ha' moment for me."

 This is Massie's ninth year in Mustang. She left for two years to work for the Oklahoma Assistive Technology Center. She traveled to districts across the state, helping teachers evaluate what kind of assistive technology would help their students. Some who couldn't talk might speak through a device that says the words for them. Another technology might help students with little movement of their hands be able to write.

When the contract was over, there was no question where she wanted to be.

"I love Mustang," she said. "If I'm going to be in the classroom, there is where I want to be."

Massie offers a monthly baked-potato day at Canyon Ridge Intermediate. Her students have learned the ins and outs of getting the trays ready for condiments and filling orders. She's also started a "Parents' Night Out." Special needs students are dropped off at the school gym to spend the evening with a team of volunteers. For the holiday season, the students wrapped gifts while the parents enjoyed a free evening. At the last event, high school Key Club students came to help.

"I gave them a rundown," she said of the mainstream students. "We have kids who are not potty trained. We have others who are nonverbal but they're just like you and I. Don't be afraid to treat them like everyone else. They're not babies so don't talk to them like babies. Talk to them like they're fifth and sixth graders. The students who volunteered were so helpful. They weren't afraid to jump in."

In the classroom, Massie's patience seems never ending. She meets each student where they are socially, academically and emotionally.

"There's so much life in them and so many people overlook them," she said. "I pray all the time that everybody else has the same heart and a desire to get it out of them."
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