Tui Harned

Tui Harned of Rockford has 10 years of teaching experience. She has taught Pre-K at Rockford’s Nashold Early Childhood Center for the last 4-1/2. She finds inspiration in the motto, “You’ve got this. We’ve got you,” shared with new families becoming part of the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network. As a mother to a child with Down Syndrome and a teacher to many children, Tui embraces the motto, changing the “We” to “I” because she wants “students, parents and colleagues to realize the power and potential they have and I want them to know I am here to support them in any way I can.” Nashold implements the inclusion model, with students who have developmental delays, autism, cognitive or medical diagnoses learning alongside peers. Tui’s class contains 20 students, five of whom are special education eligible and more than half who are English Language learners. Her afternoon class includes students whose first language may be Spanish, Laotian, Burmese, Karen, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, French, Turkish, Arabic or Korean. Tui handles all challenges with patience and understanding. “I know they have it in them to succeed and I am here to support them along the way.” Tui says that, “trying to figure out the reason [for a behavior issue] and meet a need when students are not quite verbal is the tough part.” Sometimes, it takes years to see some students progress, but Tui knows that with effort, patience, resourcefulness and persistence, they can and will make gains. She works with families, colleagues and specialists to ensure that they do. She communicates with families daily at drop off/pick up time, as well as weekly through Class DoJo, meetings, intakes and conferences. One day, a student’s mother said that her son had been complaining that he was so “mad at Ms. Tui”! Instead of troubling Tui, this information excited her. He had verbally expressed himself after years of her working with him, modeling language, consulting with resource teachers, social workers and speech therapists. “Mom and I laughed and high-fived each other. It had been a long time coming … but we supported each other so we could each support him in any way we could.” In Tui’s classroom, the students also support each other. Nashold Principal Erin Salberg describes Tui’s classroom as a community of trust and cooperation, in which the students “are held to an extremely high standard of accepting others’ difference, acknowledging all strengths and working together.” She added that, “It is not often that one can walk into a classroom of 3- and 4-year-olds and listen to students tell a new student, ‘we don’t act like that in this classroom; we listen.’”