Dappen builds relationships with her students from the ground up

Kylie Hughes, Online Editor

Being in the far basement away from other classrooms creates a “secluded feeling,” as Ms. Ariel Dappen, special education teacher at North High School, claims.

Ms. Dappen’s students love visitors, according to Ms. Dappen. However, being located all the way in the basement (room 071), is far away from the majority of the other class rooms.

“[Her students] want to feel like they’re part of the school, and I think that sometimes being down here, we don’t always get that,” Ms. Dappen said. “I want the rest of the school to see that they are still high schoolers and still wonderful people.”

Having her classroom located in the basement can cause Ms. Dappen’s class to be “unknowingly ignored.” Therefore, her goal for the future is to “see more of the general ed. population stop in to say ‘hi’ once in a while.”

However, for Ms. Dappen, she has more connections with the rest of the school, as it is where both of her parents work.

Dappen is a common name at North, as both Mr. Allan Dappen, Ariel’s father, and Mrs. Jann Dappen, Ariel’s mother, work there as well.

While Mr. Dappen and Mrs. Dappen have both worked at North for several years, this is their daughter, Ariel Dappen’s, first year as a teacher.

Though it is her first-year teaching at North, she is very accustomed with the school since Omaha North is the high school she attended. She is also accustomed because of the fact that she grew up with her parents teaching there.

Similar to any other job, teaching has its struggles for those in their first year.

“All teachers have their little first year struggles, but for the most part, I absolutely love it,” Ms. Dappen said.

Originally, through high school, Ms. Dappen had planned on going into the speech pathology field. During her senior year of high school at North she had two open blocks, where she decided to aid for the ACP teacher that was there before she took the job. This was the moment that Ms. Dappen decided that she wanted to change fields when she got to college.

“After the first, literally five minutes, I decided I need to change [fields],” Ms. Dappen said.

She said that it was one specific student who she sat with that really helped her change her mind. All she did was play a game with him and in that moment, she “literally fell in love with everything about special education.”

Every time one of her students have any sort of success, big or small, it enforces the fact that she made the right decision about her career.

“I think that’s the best part. Just seeing them all encouraging each other so much,” Ms. Dappen said.

For her, the worst part of teaching is watching her students get upset. However, she can tell when they feel bad and they feel sorry about what happened.

“The worst part is when my students get upset and I know it’s not always under their control. You can kind of tell when they feel bad and sorry about it,” Ms. Dappen said.

Because of the ups and downs that Ariel Dappen goes through with her students, she works really hard to build a comfortable, trusting relationship with them. She made sure to spend a good amount of time at the beginning of the year working to get to know them.

“I think relationships down here, and in any classroom, are most important,” Ariel said.

Getting to know students on a personal level instead of academic level, creates a better relationship built on trust. Her students aren’t afraid to come and ask her questions.

Not only does Ms. Dappen strive to build a relationship with her students, but she also strives to make sure her students are building a relationship with the rest of the school.

To help build this relationship she is sponsoring Just Friends, an after-school club that meets once a month. This club gives her students a chance to build relationships with other students around the school.

“It just brings the whole school together. Sometimes we’re not always involved, but this gives everyone a chance to see what we do down here,” Ms. Dappen said.

In the afterschool meeting in October, Just Friends got a chance to decorate pumpkins.

“I really enjoyed painting the pumpkins and being able to meet students whom I don’t regularly see,” said Audrey Anderson, 10, who attended the first Just Friends meeting.

Next month, the plan is to decorate gingerbread houses for the Just Friends meeting. As for the meetings next semester, Ms. Dappen is not sure what the plan is yet.

In the future, Ariel Dappen hopes to expand Just Friends to get more people involved. She also plans to have meetings more frequently, possibly once a week.

As more meetings are scheduled and more people come, she keeps one thing in mind about her students—that they really love to meet people and make friends.