The Teachers in My Life Made Me Who I Am Today and Why I Chose Special Education
Why Special Education?
Why I Became a Special Education Teacher
©LaDena Campbell 2012 aka justateacher
People ask me all the time “Why did you get into special education?” My simple, quick, smart-aleck reason is always “‘Cuz I’m special!” The real reason is much more than that.
I have always wanted to teach. When my older sister began school, she would come home and
“teach” me all that she had learned. We played school every day, and she was almost always the teacher. I wanted to be the teacher. When my little sister was born, I was able to be a teacher for the first time, and I loved it!
When I began first grade, I loved my teacher. Her name was Mrs. Sealy and in my young eyes, she was at least a hundred years old. She was probably closer to sixty, but to me she was just old. And she was the coolest lady ever! She taught me to love reading. She taught me that when I picked up a book, I could go anywhere! She read Amelia Bedilia and Pippi Longstocking and I fell in love with the written word! She let me read in front of the class sometimes – encouraged me to come out of my shell and read to the others – and I loved it!
My family moved a lot when I was growing up. I think I counted at least thirty two different schools from first grade through twelfth grade. Only three times in my school career did I stay at one school for longer than one year – first and second grade, once for fifth, sixth and part of seventh grade and my high school years. In my high school years, I moved at least four times. I was always the “new kid.” I was small and never had the “right” clothes, so I was always picked on. I was such an easy target because I never fought back and I never told. Even some of the adults in my schools would pick on me. In fifth grade, Mr. Wasinger made sure that no one picked on me. When a lunch aide was sending me to the office for “backtalking” he stepped in to save me from a swat from the principal. He told everyone that I was a good student and wouldn’t even talk and that there was no way that I could be backtalking. He also taught me the wonderful world of poetry and let me shine by showcasing my poems in our class library. He encouraged me to help others by showing them how I wrote my poems. He encouraged me to teach them – and I loved it!
When I was thirteen or fourteen, my little sister and I practically lived at the skating rink next to our trailer park. We were there every day – sometimes two or three times a day. It was a great way to have fun and it was cheap. One evening there was a special skate – I don’t remember what the occasion was. In the group there was a girl that had cerebral palsy – she was in a wheelchair. She wanted to skate really bad, but the officials at the skate rink wouldn’t let her. I finally had enough. I went to get her a pair of skates and with the help of my sister, lifted her up and held her as we skated around the rink. We did this for several hours. Even though the little girl had difficulty talking, we knew that she appreciated our efforts. I had stood up for someone with special needs – and I loved it!
I was seventeen when I got pregnant for the first time. I married my daughter’s father and finished high school, but I never thought I would be able to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher. My then husband made sure to tell me many times a day that I would not make a good teacher and that I just needed to stay at home at take care of him like a “good wife.” It was only out of desperation years later that I went back to school to get my teaching degree. He refused to work and I wanted a better life for my two girls.
I graduated from college with a teaching degree and went to work in a special needs preschool. I was just the teacher’s aide, but was given much of the responsibility of teaching the children. We had children with physical, mental and behavioral disorders. I was challenged with diversifying the lessons to fit all of the students. I taught children with special needs – and I loved it!
The next year, I applied at the school district. The first principal I talked to told me that the second grade position I was interviewing for was already taken. She asked me if I had ever thought of teaching special education. I told her that I wanted to do that eventually – when I had the money to go back to school. She asked me if I would do it if the school district would pay for it. Of course, I said yes. I taught my first year of special education with absolutely no training – but I loved it!
Since that first year, I have taught every grade from kindergarten through fifth grade. I have taught children with learning disabilities, mental retardation, physical impairments, and behavioral disorders and everything in between. I have taught at only one school, but with many different teachers and principals. I have taught special education for fifteen years – and I still love it!
For all of these reasons and more – I love teaching special education!