Alumni Spotlight: Jessica Rockhold


Jessica Rockhold completed a B.S. in Early Elementary Education with a track in Moderate and Severe Disabilities, an M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership with a concentration in Special Education, and a Graduate Certificate in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis at the CEHD. She is an Early Childhood Education/Autism Teacher at Field Elementary School and is a team lead at her school for the Kentucky Peer Network/Support Project.

"The Special Education program prepared me very well for my career as a teacher. The dedication and passion exhibited by my professors inspired me to work harder and to be reflective of my teaching practices," said Rockhold. She went on to state that when you are in a class and the professor speaks about their profession with such excitement and passion, it really inspires you.

Field Elementary is a pilot site for the Kentucky Peer Network/Support (KPNS) Project that is conducted by the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky. The goal of the project, now in its final year, is to create peer networks and support systems among students with disabilities and their typically developing peers. As a team lead, Rockhold was the liaison for Field and KPNS. She collected and submitted data for the project, managed social groups, and assisted in developing programming.

Rockhold has provided school-wide trainings on Autism and strategies for instruction at Field. She also supervises UofL/CEHD practicum students as they complete their field experiences. To raise Autism awareness, Rockhold works with FEAT of Louisville to coordinate activities in the school during the month of April. She helped create the Autism Awareness Sensory Experience in which FEAT and other volunteers work with 3rd – 5th graders to assist them in understanding many of the sensory experiences that children and adults on the spectrum may encounter.

"At Field, we consistently work year-round to raise autism awareness, and teach acceptance and friendship. We focus on inclusive practice and building a positive and diverse learning environment," said Rockhold.

Rockhold has served on the Sibling Panel Discussion at the U.S. Autism and Asperger Association's annual conference and is a recipient of the Jefferson County Public School's Golden Oar award. The award recognizes individuals and teams who are moving the district in the right direction by exemplifying a district Core Value.

"When I graduated from UofL/CEHD, my professors remained as contacts for me whenever I needed resources for my work or access to research studies. I can't thank them enough for their support," said Rockhold.

"My advice to future students would be to absorb everything you can. Use the classroom resources, cultivate relationships, and encourage growth. My advice to new teachers is to breathe. Take time to truly get to know your students and build relationships with them."