Jessica Sheridan, M.Ed., has been fostering a love of discovery, exploration and learning in young children since 2003, when she began working with children with special needs at the Whitmore Lake Early Childhood Center in Michigan. Later that year, she was hired to serve as the lead teaching assistant in an innovative early childhood program inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education, which views children as natural researchers who harbor an innate curiosity and desire for knowledge—and sees teachers as collaborators and guides who harness that natural curiosity by encouraging children to work on projects that interest them.
Inspired by the exciting explorations and discoveries that her students made each day, Sheridan relocated to the Chicago area and completed her master’s degree in early childhood education, with an emphasis on special education, at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009. That same year, she began teaching children with profound developmental challenges at a Chicago-area elementary school. During her four years in this role, Sheridan was one of the first teachers in her district to pilot a first-grade co-teaching classroom initiative that bridged the gap between general and special education teachers and created a truly inclusive classroom experience for children of all abilities.
In 2012, Sheridan took a break from teaching when her first child, Maggie, was born with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)—a rare genetic bone disorder characterized by fragile bones that break easily. Over the next six years, she helped raise awareness of OI, became a mother again, launched a freelance writing career and devoted herself to creating fun and exciting learning opportunities for her children each day. Currently, this dedicated and dynamic educator is supporting children with developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders at a Chicago-area elementary school as she continues her quest to make learning fun and exciting for all kids.
Read Jessica’s blog, The Adventurous Life of Maggie Shae, which chronicles her daughter’s journey with osteogenesis imperfecta and raises awareness about this rare and underfunded disease as researchers work to find a cure.