Developing as an Educator/ Staying Connected

Hi my name is Kari Hillwig and I teach Adapted Physical Education for the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District. I am the only A.P.E. Specialist in the district so I can be found at all sites throughout the week. I teach students ages 6- 22 years old. Most of my students have Moderate to Serve disabilities but I do have a few General Education students also. My job comes with a decent amount of paperwork and can be physically demanding but I love it! It's fun to work hard all week and then take an hour out of the weekend to go and watch one of your students playing in a recreational league or sport. It helps to remind you about how important you are!

As a professional, I strive to make sure that my students can always be involved regardless of their disability. My students are different but NOT less and they deserve a quality education and it is my goal to provide that for them.

I became a teacher after first choosing the route in college to be a Physical Therapist. While studying Physical Therapy, I realized that my passion was working with students who have disabilities. I then decided to change my major and pursued my degree in Kinesiology- Pedagogy with credentials for General Education P.E.and A.P.E. Authorization. I wanted to know more about the population I would be working with so I continued on to complete my Master's In Education- Special Education Option for students with Moderate to Severe disabilities.

My goal as an educator, in the coming years, is to always stay knowledgeable so that I can be the best professional possible. That means that I may have to put extra time in to my career by going to conferences and extra classes but I'm excited to do so because that will keep me connected and on my "A" game. I always believe that the more time and effort that you put into yourself  for career purposes, the more likely it is that you will feel confident in what you do and will love what you do! 

As an educator that works as a specialist, I am continually focused on assessment and IEP related resources. Resources that have been helpful to me are not necessarily the typical website resources. In the Inland Empire, the A.P.E. Specialists get together about three times a year to discuss new ideas and strategies for doing our job. It's called the SWAPE Workshops. If you are interested in attending, you can contact Nicole- Lombardi-Risen at: Another resource I have relied on was my former A.P.E. professor at Cal State San Bernardino. She is the go- to person for all assessment questions. She can be contacted at: The last resource that I have found helpful is joining the A.P.E. Gang on Facebook. By joining, you receive notification on new legislation for Special Education that pertains to A.P.E. and you can find out when and where all of the A.P.E. conferences are. I like that being a part of the group makes you feel connected to other A.P.E. Specialists throughout the state.

To people hoping to pursue this field, I recommend that you love working with kids, enjoy sports, and are knowledgeable about how and why the body works especially in the area of disabilities. As an Adapted Physical Education Specialist, it is your job to ensure that students have access to the General Education curriculum and it takes your modifications and accommodations to keep them participating with their General Education peers. The more you know, the more fun and positive interactions you will have/ get to see with your students!

After only 1 year in this profession, my colleague/ Induction Coach says, "Kari is very knowledgeable about her subject area and is outstanding at modifying for all students; she is well organized and dedicated to her students." Like I said, I love what I do and this job can connect you to great people and provide wonderful experiences.