My desire to work with students with disabilities stems from a childhood history of cerebral palsy. I was born with cerebral palsy. I was paralyzed on the left side of my body. I also suffered from seizures and a left lazy eye. After, two eye surgeries, more than ten years of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech, most people cannot tell that I ever have a disability. I no longer suffer from seizures, I wear glasses to correct my lazy eye, and I have regained about ninety percent of motor function on the left side of my body. Through it all, my mother and my physical therapist were there to guide me. It is now my turn to give back and I cannot think of a better way than becoming a special education teacher. Because of the childhood experiences I endured, I know first-hand what it is like to be a child with a disability.
I think the two most important features in a great special educator are flexibility and patience. The standardized "one size fits all " type of classroom is not conducive for a child with special needs. Students with special needs need individualized, student -focused instruction. This is my favorite part of teaching. I love creating and implementing lessons that really relate to the students interests and instructional level. Furthermore, I love seeing the students faces light up when they are excited about what they are learning. I think as educators we can sometimes get too focused on covering as many standards as we can, that we fail to recognize the students' educational interests. In addition, I believe that educators should be flexible in how and when they present their lessons. I learned this from working in a long-term substitute assignment as a recreational therapist in a therapeutic learning classroom, which included students from elementary to high school. In this position, I worked with students with serious behavior and emotional issues. In this position, I learned how to plan my lessons to meet the emotional and behavioral needs of the students. For example, when I saw that the students were having trouble with self-defeating behavior, I planned lessons that focused on recognizing the positives. When I saw that the students needed movement, we would do an activity in the gym.
Another thing I learned from my time in the TLC program is patience. Because of the nature of these students, perfect and immediate compliance was not to be expected. I learned that when a child is struggling, it is okay to let him/her to step away and take a break. Furthermore, from my own experience, I know that the learning process can take time, and that we as educators must give the students the time they need to master a skill.
My experience in the resource room as a student teacher provided another opportunity for skill development. The most important lesson I learned from this experience was how to juggle all of the duties of a special educator successfully. In this position, I was in charge of maintaining and progress monitoring thirteen IEP's without the support of paraprofessionals. This included teaching multiple small group lessons each day, grading and recording over seventy prompts and tests a week, monitoring the data collected on each student each week, and participating in roughly ten IEP meetings. In order to be able to juggle all of these tasks successfully, I learned how to prioritize my work. I systemized how I collected and recorded the necessary data in order to minimize the time it took to record all the data.
Finally, my experience as a full-time secondary special educator at an alternative school in Saint Joseph, MO was my most challenging feat yet. My students came from all different backgrounds. Many had parents that are incarcerated or have been incarcerated themselves. Most are severely below grade level in reading. Moreover, my classes were broken up by personality instead grade level. I taught specialized history. Each grade level has a different content area that I have to teach. Therefore, in each class, I would have to provide multidisciplinary lessons that cover a variety of standards in multiple content areas while still providing accommodations necessary for those with low reading levels.
Undergraduate Degree: Northwest Missouri State University - Bachelor of Science, Special Education
I like being outdoors, going on hikes, swimming kayaking, walking my dog etc.