Crystal Campbell: Teaching from the Heart

Crystal Campbell’s uncle, Dexter Campbell, a beloved teacher in Letcher County, has much to be proud of his protégé.

At the urging of her uncle, now retired, Crystal went into education, and her success as a well-regarded special education teacher at Breckinridge

Elementary in Lexington serves as a tribute to “Uncle Dexter.”

“In the school setting, he was the teacher everyone wanted,” Crystal said. “He encouraged his students and expected only the best from them. He is a really positive person and everyone knew him…He was a real father figure for me.”

So when she had the idea to teach and asked his advice, he encouraged her to enter the field. That marked the course for Crystal, who has focused her studies on recreational therapy, special education and assistive technology and started at Breckinridge seven years ago.

Campbell unites all three of those disciplines in the classroom, which is a key to her success, colleagues said. “Because of her background, she creates lessons that engage the students and make the lessons fun,” said Anna Crenshaw, who has 27 years experience as a special ed. teacher.

Of course, it helps that students work extra hard for Campbell.

“She always develops authentic relationships with the kids, so they’re willing to do more for her, take more risks and try harder,” Crenshaw said.

What distinguishes Campbell are her commitment to students and willingness to stretch the learning experience beyond the classroom, according to Principal Mike Price.

“Teaching is not just a job to her,” he said. “She understands to make a difference in these kids’ lives, you have to go beyond the classroom. She’s committed to her students and that’s what makes her special.”

Campbell works with children whose disabilities range from autism and Down syndrome to learning disabilities.

Three are non-verbal. For those students, she has introduced iPads to the classroom, which has dramatically changed the life of at least one.

“This has unlocked his brain,” Campbell said. “He knew way more than anybody thought…Now, he can participate in classroom discussions and even ask friends questions.

“I just love celebrating the successes of my students. They’re up against so much. These kids really get inside my heart.”